When I dubbed the 2022 Oscars the “Chaoscars”, I didn’t mean it like this! And look, we’ll talk about the biggest story of the night in its own post, but for now, let’s start with everything else and how this was a truly terrible Oscars from start to finish. The whole night unfolded with the energy of a baby pram speeding into traffic, and among all the questions that are and will be asked about what went wrong, how much does basic event planning factor in? For example: the seating arrangement. The Dolby Theater floor was set up like a nightclub, or the Golden Globes, with attendees seated at tables. Amy Schumer made a crack about the Globes in the opening monologue, and they were always known for their looser, more off-the-cuff the air. Well, that looseness came to the Oscars and just look what happened. Ask yourself, would THAT have happened if Will Smith had to get out of a row seats? This isn’t about passing the buck, but the Oscars tried to strike a more collegial tone with the floor setup but maybe the Oscars SHOULDN’T be casual?
But the night started out badly with the eight categories presented off-air while the red carpet was still going on. Riz Ahmed won an Oscar for Best Live Action Short and we didn’t get to see it in real time, and his speech was edited down for the broadcast, so his whole moment—and every other pre-show winner’s—was stepped on by that decision. Which didn’t even make a damn bit of difference because this year’s show ran almost half an hour longer than last year’s. The Oscars are long, LIVE WITH IT.
Then, the trio of hosts—Amy Schumer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes—did their best to start the “official” show on a strong note, with some solid jokes. There were some bad ones, for sure—Regina Hall’s COVID test bit was too long and became deeply uncomfortable when she started groping Josh Brolin. He was probably in on it but still, it wouldn’t have played AT ALL the other way around—but on the whole, Schumer, Hall, and Sykes did a good job, and Schumer, especially, came through during her last segue and almost managed to get the show back on track. Although, the bit with Kirsten Dunst being a seat filler was distasteful. I 100% believe Oscar hosts SHOULD be making jokes about the audience, but it’s all about tone and target. Schumer’s joke about Aaron Sorkin was BRILLIANT, and it got a great response from the audience because they recognized that Sorkin’s self-seriousness is the butt of the joke.
For the Dunst joke to work, it would need to be aimed at a MUCH bigger star, not that Dunst isn’t famous, but that premise only works if it’s targeting someone SO universally famous that they could NEVER be mistaken as anyone BUT who they are. Someone like Nicole Kidman, maybe, could make the payoff work, but in general, that’s just a bad joke and once again, I am BEGGING the Oscars to just stop doing bits. Have an opening monologue and move on. A good comedian like Schumer can ad-lib if something unplanned occurs, that is a valuable skill for a live broadcast, but outside the monologue jokes, none of the bits really worked.
And then there is the problem of flow. I truly do not think anything justifies bumping categories off the live show, but if the Oscars had been brilliantly produced, maybe it would have seemed, if not justified, then at least tolerable. But the Oscars were NOT brilliantly produced. Beyonce’s opening number, yes, of course, she’s immaculate. But everything else? A mess. Case in point: that James Bond tribute that was just a montage presented by Kelly Slater, Tony Hawk, and Shaun White. Much love to these athletic legends, but what have they to do with James Bond?
Perhaps the show producers couldn’t organize anything with the living Bond actors—Daniel Craig is opening Macbeth on Broadway this week and might be resistant to travel and risking COVID, and I can understand if his (assumed) reluctance scuttled a different concept—but Judi Dench, who played M, and Javier Bardem and Rami Malek, two Bond villains, were in the room. You couldn’t find anyone actually affiliated with Bond to present the Bond montage? And then it didn’t even lead into Billie Eilish and Finneas’s performance of “No Time To Die”!
THAT is what I mean about badly produced. There was no flow, no rhythm to the night. Bond actors should have presented the montage which should have segued into Billie and Finneas’s performance, that way it’s a whole Bond block and the “tribute” seems less lame because hey, it all built up to the performance of the eventual Best Original Song winner. This is just one example, but it’s a clear illustration of how poorly managed the whole night was BEFORE that other thing happened.
The tributes in general were sort of weird. None of them felt particularly special or momentous, because most of them were grafted onto award presentations, I can only assume to save time, like how Elliot Page, Jennifer Garner, and JK Simmons presented Best Original Screenplay, the Oscar won by Diablo Cody for Juno in 2008. Unlike the Bond tribute, at least this makes coherent sense, with the connection between film, actors, and category.
Then there was Samuel L. Jackson—recipient of a Governor’s Award, a moment we did not get to see—Uma Thurman, and John Travolta reuniting and doing a little bit before announcing Best Actor. Look, this moment was weird for a LOT of reasons, one of which is that none of these people have anything to do with that category, and it’s not even a milestone anniversary for Pulp Fiction. Usually, this award is handed out by the previous Best Actress winner, I assume Frances McDormand couldn’t be bothered—GOOD CALL, FRANNY MCD—but why not get a previous Best Actor winner, instead? That would make some kind of sense, but there was a real lack of cohesion throughout the show that made every segment feel disconnected from the last.
And we’re not even talking about how tasteless the In Memoriam was, with individual callouts for certain people during the montage. It’s bad enough there’s always an issue with who does and does not make the cut for the montage, but the In Memoriam should be the ONE part of the night that isn’t a popularity contest. Highlighting certain people and not others only diminishes the moment for those grieving the unfamous producers and editors and executives et cetera. And I also barely have the mental space for the pointlessness of the Twitter polls that went to, respectively, Zack Snyder’s Justice League for “biggest cheer moment” for when the Flash enters the Speed Force, a cinematic moment we all definitely remember, and Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead for “fan favorite” movie, because Snyderbros are nothing if not organized and devoted. The Oscars got Boaty McBoatfaced and that’s like, the sixth worst headline of the night, that’s how bad the show was.
In summation, nothing anyone did made the show any shorter, there were a number of distasteful, if not outright disrespectful elements, the Twitter polls were stupid f-cking nonsense that added nothing to the show, and there WILL be questions about how the planning of the show facilitated such a disastrous evening. I don’t know how there could not be MAJOR changes at the Academy, immediately, including but not limited to resignations from people involved with the broadcast and Academy brass like CEO Dawn Hudson. I also wonder if this will be the last live Oscars for a while, maybe ever. One way to avoid many, if not all, of these issues to pre-tape the whole thing and edit it down into a tidy three hours, not unlike how the BAFTAs operate. I just can’t imagine the Oscars experiencing such a bald-faced MELTDOWN on a global stage and emerging unscathed.