There are a bajillion commentaries right now on what happened at the 2022 Oscars on Sunday night, when Will Smith halted the entire awkward production to smack Chris Rock on stage and proceed to cuss him out from the audience.
Eleventy billion of those commentaries are on RedState right now.
But I wanted to add my voice to the fray because of all the things everyone is talking about right now, what few people are remembering is that Smith’s bizarre outburst was in response to a joke Chris Rock made while presenting the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. That is a category that hosts a lot of scrappy, hard-working, unknown artists. When you’re talking about accolades in the acting world, you’re talking red carpet, glitzy award shows and a tour of the morning show/night show circuit. It’s a whirlwind of publicity and public adoration. When you’re talking about accolades in the documentary world, you’re talking about word of mouth buzz, funding for your next project and if you’re lucky, a nomination or two during awards season, where you might get 30 seconds to be seen and heard and to thank all of the hundreds of people who made your project possible. It’s the “little guy” award in a way.
And Will Smith ruined it for the category’s nominees.
Do you even remember who was nominated? Do you even remember who won? God bless Chris Rock for that recovery, but it took him a minute or two, understandably. He eventually managed to launch the (thankfully) prerecorded nominee package, but the audience – both live and at home – were obviously still absorbed in onstage drama. All those names faded into the background…the only chance most of those artists will have to hear their names and work read aloud in front of their peers.
The inevitable documentary won. Produced and directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson with partners at Onyx Collective, Concorida Studio, Play/Action Pictures, LarryBilly Productions, Mass Distraction Media, RadicalMedia and Vulcan Productions, Summer of Soul was always going to be the winner, by virtue of the Academy’s voting habits and lobbying practices. It was the glitziest, they lobbied the hardest, it had celebrity attached to it and it followed the Summer O’ BLM. A documentary about a black-driven period of American history? The timing was right. It also, coincidentally, was a great documentary.
Everyone in that category knew that documentary would win. Their closest shot at Academy glory was to hear their name read in the category. Shout out to Questlove, who managed to scrounge up whatever class was left on that stage and made sure to acknowledge all his fellow nominees upon accepting his award.
It should also be noted that the late night musician said about black history what I, and many, have been saying for a long time now. It’s time to treat black history as American history…period.
“…even though most will see this as a Black history film, we also need to start reframing that Black history is American history. And to let people know that you know, we had a hand in building this place.”
I have no idea what went down with Smith and Rock. I bristle at the overanalyzing of my colleagues and fellow pundits who are wringing the “toxic masculinity” or “snowflakeness” out of the whole situation. It was clear to me these two men have other beef and it just spilled onto the stage Sunday night for whatever reason. I honestly don’t even care what Smith’s problem was, or who he thought he was defending. What bothers me the most about his actions is that he pissed on a moment that most artists wait a lifetime in vain to achieve. A moment that he, ironically, got to enjoy himself that same evening.
Will Smith and Chris Rock can work out whatever happened on stage on their own. I have so little interest in awards show culture these days that it is already fading from my sphere of concern.
But Will Smith owes a personal apology to every person in that documentary category. He stole something from them with his outburst. The least he could do is say he’s sorry. And maybe fund their next projects.
Here are the nominees in the category of Best Documentary Feature:
Jessica Kingdon, Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell
The filmmakers examine the contemporary “Chinese Dream” through staggering observations of labor, consumerism and wealth. In exploring the aspiration that drives today’s People’s Republic of China, the film plunges into universal paradoxes of economic progress.
Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry
On September 9, 1971, inmates at the Attica Correctional Facility seized part of the prison and took 39 guards as hostages to demand more humane treatment. Now, on the 50th anniversary, filmmakers mine new interviews and archives to examine one of the most shocking incidents in U.S. history.
Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Bryge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie
Desperate to protect his identity but also needing to unburden himself, Danish resident Amin opens up about his past as a child refugee from Afghanistan. He looks back over his life as he grapples with a secret that he’s kept hidden for 20 years, one that threatens to derail the life he’s built for himself and his future husband.
WRITING WITH FIRE
Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh
Armed with smartphones and tenacity, a fearless group of journalists from India’s only women-led news outlet confronts social injustice while fighting for marginalized voices in the world’s largest democracy.
SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) – WINNER!
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein
Centered around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion in the summer of 1969, the film shines a light on the importance of history and the healing power of music during times of unrest.