The slap wasn't the only amazing thing about the Oscars

This pandemic continues to kill us. The virus at its center is that of the body. But it also costs us our wits. A ransacked Capitol b...


This pandemic continues to kill us. The virus at its center is that of the body. But it also costs us our wits. A ransacked Capitol building, a sovereign nation overrun and decimated, a series of refugee crises, more American murders, more overdoses, more harassment – for being Asian, for being black, for being trans, for being in the subway, to wait to drive the Subway. On Sunday, a few hours before 94th Academy Awards, I saw a man driving in the wrong direction on my one-way street. He was not in reverse. His car moved with confidence, with joy, as if this was the way it should be. At the end of the block, he took a right. It was also the wrong way.

So I don’t know why I was shocked when Will Smith got up from his seat that night and slapped Chris Rock. In fact, I wasn’t at first. I assumed, like many other people, that it was partly because, by reputation, Will Smith walks on water. And sure enough, the crack Rock had just made about Jada Pinkett Smith’s short, spiky haircut — that it looked like Demi Moore’s in “GI Jane,” a 25-year-old work of crypto-feminist trash. – wasn’t the kind of joke you risk your reputation for. But these are now the moments of our lives. Anyone could crack, even a man who was once one of Earth’s most beloved humans, even a man who, before he got out of his seat and rocked, was about to enjoy one of the happiest nights of his 53 years by accepting an Oscar for his role. in “King Richard.”

I assumed it was a bit also because of the easy way Smith walked towards Rock and both the compact efficiency of his swing and the physics of him being absorbed by Rock. There was a choreography in it, a second nature. Smith returned to his seat and started yelling at Rock. ABC had muted the sound. But it was clear by then that we were way beyond our territory. Rage had pooled around Smith’s eyes. Lupita Nyong’o sat behind Smith; the agape attention on his face was almost audible. “Keep my wife’s name out of your mouth,” he could be seen saying, plus the expletive I can’t print here.

So why this possible shock? For one thing, it wasn’t Kanye West who lost it. It wasn’t Martin Lawrence. It wasn’t Antonio Brown, whose erratic NFL antics resumed in January when, in the middle of a Buccaneers-Jets game, he took off his jersey and protections, threw his shirt and gloves into the stands, then ran off the field giving a peace sign (this, for Brown, was sweet). The source of Sunday night’s disturbance is the winner of 10 individual Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards. And the shocker was his disruption of the Oscars routine, a routine Smith and Rock were familiar with, as a three-time nominee and a two-time host. The show wanted to settle back into its routine after Smith seemed to calm down. It was also shocking. The show just… went on.

And yet it wasn’t, not with the same disposable exuberance. Smith’s altercation with Rock happened with an hour to go. And that started a journey through a strange entertainment prism of the black male experience in this country. It was dominated by ’90s hip-hop stalwarts and crowned by Tyler Perry, an artist whose films the academy had never recognized but who has recently tended to be something of a dignitary. He kicked off the in memoriam segment with a tribute to Sidney Poitier, who died earlier this year and whose enormous symbolic appeal Smith evokes the most.

Rock had been asked to announce the winner of the feature documentary Oscar. Once he had regained his composure after the slap, he read Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s name for “soul summer– well, what he said was, ‘Ahmir Thompson and four white guys’, which isn’t accurate. Questlove, like Smith, grew up making music in Philadelphia. And he, too, was overwhelmed by where he was – expressing his gratitude to his mother and late father, given the canonical significance of his film, which presents the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival as a continuous outpouring of musical rhapsody.

Then, perhaps, the second most amazing event of the show took place. Sean Combs came along, wiser than I’ve ever seen him. He felt, maybe, maybe we forgot that Rock wasn’t the actual host and that the night had drifted away from Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall and Amy Schumer, the show’s official MCs. , and asked the room to give it up for theirs. He then addressed the incident. “I had no idea this year was going to be the most exciting Oscars ever,” he said. “Okay, Will and Chris, we’re going to settle this like a family at the gold party, okay?” But right now, we’re moving forward with love. If someone had told me that the person who could follow an altercation between the Fresh Prince and the star and co-writer of the rap parody “CB4” with an offer to resolve the dispute was the founder of Bad Boy Records, that this offer would be extended to the Oscars, and that this person had been invited to pay tribute to “The Godfather” for his 50th anniversary, I would have asked if Combs was the last living star. He knows beef. And when it comes to skirmishes, he seems to be a vegetarian now.

This part of the show told me something both about how far black people have come – black men, in particular – after centuries of American entertainment that for most of its existence had ignored their work and their existence. This stretch began in tastelessness, violence and stinginess, included the anointing of divine achievement in non-fiction filmmaking, and ended with a celebration of the life of the dead focused on the gospel. Something had come full circle. Many odds had to be beaten for these men – raised lower-middle class and poor – to converge in this strange moment, as well-to-do culture shapers. But an arc on this circle ruined the whole thing. And I don’t think it’s an overstatement to identify this stain as a tragic drama.

Back in his seat, Smith waited, as usual, for his category, Best Actor. The producers apparently didn’t ask him to leave. His name was called. As per custom, he took the stage and gave a speech which was inspected for expressed contrition (to everyone except Rock) and forged identifications. He used it to explain that playing Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams, awakened in him an understanding of himself as a protector and defender – of women, of black women. A few weeks earlier he had watched Jane Campion insult the meaning importance of the Williams sisters and could do nothing. And last year he reunited with the cast of his show, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ and wept over his failure to save the job of Janet Hubert, who spent three seasons playing Aunt Viv. . At the Oscars, as he spoke through tears and hugged his Oscar, the Williams, standing in their seats, looked like passengers on a roller coaster.

Since November, Smith’s memoir, “Willwas one of the country’s most popular books. His psychological centerpiece involves his guilt over seeing his father violently beat his mother when he was 9 years old. metaphor is the brick wall he learns to build alongside his father, his Daddio. What seemed to break Sunday night was a kind of cycle. He looked at his wife grimacing and maybe saw his mother. Break. Trauma Can’t Exonerate Smith: The combined age of the three people involved in this triangle is 160. But perhaps it can explain that, for a few sad minutes, a wall crumbled – or rose. Smith may have left his body. He was no longer 53 but 9 again; and poor Chris Rock was Daddio.

In the wake of the altercation, Smith said he received some wisdom from Denzel Washington, his fellow Best Actor nominee and a Hollywood sage now, one who has given him advice since the start of his acting career. . As Smith recounted in his speech, Washington said, “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you. A shallow part of me assumed the devil was Rock. But we all understand what Rock was doing that night: his job, not good with that hair joke, but he was working. The devil is deeper than that. When something breaks, it comes loose. He went wild at the Oscars.

Looking at Smith up there on Sunday, burying his behavior in Williams history, I’m not sure he was fully back in his body. I have never experienced a victory that feels so much like a defeat. I suspect he knew that too. He wondered if he would ever be invited back. It just seems right. He wasn’t so much accepting an Oscar as he was trying to surrender.

WHEN SOMETHING BREAK, it’s probably best not to use your hands to pick up the pieces. But there was Smith using one hand. What happened on Sunday will be one of those live events we’ll spend the rest of our lives bewildered by, like Justin Timberlake exposing Janet Jackson’s chest at the end of the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. It’s been 55 years since anyone cared so much about a Hollywood slap. But when Poitier threw his against a haughty white in “In the heat of the night”, it was against racism. Sunday’s incident involved someone going through a private episode that we should never have seen.

It’s a thing about the last two years. We’ve been made aware of all sorts of behavior we’d rather not see, witnessing people’s worst times. Now we have been made aware of one of the Smiths. Most of us don’t know any of these people. Yet we somehow do. We made them part of a cultural family — that’s part of how stardom works (TV stardom, in particular, which, in the beginning, is what Smith, Pinkett Smith, and Rock realized). The reason so many of us wonder what just happened, the reason we’re so disturbed… a reason – is that maybe these three are like a family, and it hurts to see them quarreling. Witnessing intense emotional and psychological fragility (call it narcissism if you must) is like asking as many questions about who we are as who, on Sunday night, Will Smith has become. It’s like all the other mysteries of the last two years. We’ll never know. And compared to him, why do we deserve him?

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Newsrust - US Top News: The slap wasn't the only amazing thing about the Oscars
The slap wasn't the only amazing thing about the Oscars
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