Oscars 2022: “CODA” Became the Little Feel-Good Movie That Could

Oscar statuettes. Photo Courtesy: A.M.P.A.S.

If last year was any indication, we knew this year’s Oscars were sort of doomed from the beginning. In the case of the 94th Academy Awards, which were held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, March 27, it was one of those times when things could go in multiple directions — both CODA and The Power of the Dog were seen as the movies that could take Best Picture leading up to the awards. CODA winning the coveted Best Picture statuette, in the end, was neither a surprise nor an upset. And it would have been probably the same had The Power of the Dog won. Contrary to the big Moonlight vs. La La Land mix-up and debacle of 2017, neither of the two titles was seen as the underdog that should. 

The Siân Heder written and directed coming-of-age film CODA won all three awards it was nominated for: movie, adapted screenplay and supporting actor for Troy Kotsur. He’s the first deaf man to win an Oscar for acting. CODA is available to stream on Apple TV+.

Emilia Jones, Daniel Durant, Siân Heder, Marlee Matlin, Eugenio Derbez, Fabrice Gianfermi, Patrick Wachsberger, Justin Maurer, Philippe Rousselet, Troy Kotsur and Amy Forsyth accept the Best Picture award for CODA onstage during the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 27, 2022, in Hollywood, California. Photo Courtesy: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Netflix’s The Power of the Dog, which was the favorite title this year with a total of 12 nominations, ended up only taking one award: Best Director for Jane Campion. The New Zealander made history, becoming the third woman to win a directing Academy Award after Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and Chloë Zhao (Nomadland).

In a way, it was almost as if Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, available to stream on HBO Max, was the other big winner of the night with CODA. Dune took home the most awards, with six Oscars in total for sound, cinematography, visual effects, score, editing and production design.

Jessica Chastain for her role in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Ariana DeBose for her supporting role in West Side Story — the Afro-Latina is the first woman of color who identifies as queer to win this award — and Kenneth Branagh for his original Belfast screenplay were some of the other big winners. As were the film Encanto as the best animated feature, Drive My Car as the best international feature film and Questlove’s Summer of Soul as the best documentary.

But you’ll probably hear the most about Will Smith. The veteran actor was a frontrunner in the Best Actor category and won for his role in the tennis movie King Richard. The victory got eclipsed by something that happened minutes before during the ceremony. Comedian Chris Rock was presenting an award and referred to actress Jada Pinkett Smith — who is married to Smith and has been sporting a shaved head during awards season — as G.I. Jane 2. Pinkett Smith has been open about how she’s had to deal with hair loss and the fact that she has alopecia. Because of Rock’s jab at Pinkett Smith, Smith approached Rock while he was still on stage and slapped him. Smith also told Rock: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f*cking mouth!” but most of the exchange was cut from the broadcast. 

During his acceptance speech for the King Richard award, Smith apologized to the Academy, Venus and Serena Williams, and his fellow nominees. “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people,” the actor said while visibly emotional. He also shared that Denzel Washington had just said to him a few minutes ago: “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.” The incident raises concerns about the pressures of campaigning for an award but also about the disrespect of Black women. The Academy issued a statement on Twitter posting they don’t condone violence of any form. 

Will Smith accepts the award for Best Actor for King Richard onstage during the 94th Oscars. Photo Courtesy: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

In true Oscar tradition, the ceremony dragged for almost three hours and 45 minutes between live performances, video montages commemorating film anniversaries, speeches that ran for the most part too long and numerous commercial breaks.

Once again the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.) tried to pull out all the stops to keep the show relevant and hip. But things had started looking rocky when the Academy made the controversial decision to cut eight categories — original score, makeup and hairstyle, documentary short, film editing, production design, animated short, live-action short and sound — from the live telecast. The Oscars for those titles were awarded before the show, recorded, trimmed for timing and added throughout the regular show, which still somehow felt very long.

Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, on March 27, 2022. Photo Courtesy: Robyn Beck/Getty Images

The list of presenters looked simply impossibly long — Ruth E. Carter, Jennifer Garner, Tiffany Haddish, H.E.R., Daniel Kaluuya, Zoë Kravitz, Lady Gaga, John Leguizamo, Lupita Nyong’o, Elliot Page, Tracee Ellis Ross, Serena and Venus Williams, just to name a few — and the Academy decided on having not one, not two but three hosts this year: the incomparable Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes. The three of them managed to lift the ceremony, especially with an initial stand-up routine in which Sykes joked about having watched The Power of the Dog three times but still had only reached halfway through the movie. The three presenters were one of the most welcome elements of the ceremony, but they couldn’t do much to add rhythm to the broadcast. 

Beyoncé’s “Be Alive” from King Richard opened the show with a live performance from Compton in which all of the musicians, dancers and Mrs. Knowles-Carter herself were dressed in bright tennis-ball yellow. That wasn’t enough music. Billie Eilish and her brother FINNEAS performed “No Time to Die” with rock-star perfection. They would end up winning the Oscar for that theme. Add on top of that the fact that the nominated original song from Encanto, “Dos Oruguitas,” was performed live during the Oscars with the rest of the nominated themes. But we also listened to a performance of the not nominated but definitely more popular Encanto theme — judging by Spotify and YouTube streams alone — “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”

That wasn’t all. The Academy partnered with Twitter to reach out to fans so that they’d choose their favorite movie released in 2021. Twitter voters could nominate a film for the fan-favorite movie using the hashtag #OscarsFanFavorite. The title with the most votes was recognized during the awards broadcast: Zack Snyder’s zombie flick Army of the Dead. Likewise, and confusingly, fans could also vote for their most cheer-worthy movie moment ever using the hashtag #OscarCheerMoment. The chosen moment was Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Notice both fans’ winners were by Snyder and released on streaming — Netflix and HBO Max, respectively.

Full List of 94th Academy Awards (2022) Winners

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

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  • Ariana DeBose in “West Side Story”

Achievement in sound

  • “Dune” Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett

Achievement in cinematography

  • “Dune” Greig Fraser

Best documentary short subject

  • “The Queen of Basketball” Ben Proudfoot

Achievement in visual effects

  • “Dune” Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer

Best animated feature film of the year

  • “Encanto” Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino and Clark Spencer

Best animated short film

  • “The Windshield Wiper” Alberto Mielgo and Leo Sanchez

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

  • Troy Kotsur in “CODA”

Best international feature film of the year

  • “Drive My Car” Japan

Best live-action short film

  • “The Long Goodbye” Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed

Achievement in costume design

  • “Cruella” Jenny Beavan

Original screenplay

  • “Belfast” Written by Kenneth Branagh

Adapted screenplay

  • “CODA” Screenplay by Siân Heder

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

  • “Dune” Hans Zimmer

Achievement in film editing

  • “Dune” Joe Walker

Best documentary feature

  • “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein

Achievement in production design

  • “Dune” Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

  • “No Time To Die” from “No Time to Die”
    Music and Lyrics by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell

Achievement in directing

  • “The Power of the Dog” Jane Campion

Performance by an actor in a leading role

  • Will Smith in “King Richard”

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling

  • “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh

Performance by an actress in a leading role

  • Jessica Chastain in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

 Best motion picture of the year

  • “CODA” Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi and Patrick Wachsberger, Producers
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