The Jambar Column: That slap, though

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By Henry Shorr

I shamelessly love the Oscars. As a cinephile, Oscars night has always been a guilty pleasure for me. Growing up, I would watch the red carpet pre-show with my mom and we would comment on who had great outfits and who had not-so-great outfits. The latter was always more fun.

As I got older and more into movies, the technical Oscars became more interesting to me and also led to me taking in movies with a keener eye for how the movie is made and not just who is in it. 

Now, as an adult, I realize the Oscars ceremony is, for the most part, rich people patting other rich people on the back so they can potentially make more money next year, but I still watch them every year. I always remind myself that all those people are good union workers. 

This year’s Oscars ceremony was, for the most part, fantastic. “CODA” and “Dune” won big, we got a weird 30-year reunion for “White Men Can’t Jump” and Daniel Kaluuya gave us a “long live chairman Fred” before announcing the winner for best supporting actress. But then the thing happened.

I really don’t even want to talk about it, because at this point, what is left to be said? But I feel like — even if it is just so I can stop thinking about it — I have to. 

Chris Rock made an ad-libbed, tasteless joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia. Not exactly punching up with that joke, Chris. Will Smith started to laugh but then looked at Pinkett Smith, who was rolling her eyes, and before anybody knew what was happening, Smith was onstage with an open palm ready for Rock’s cheek. 

I was absolutely shocked watching the feed go in and out. Future viewings of the international broadcasts, which were uncut, filled in the blanks. 

Later in the evening, after Smith’s acceptance speech for the Oscar for best actor, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. It was at that moment that I remembered how many times the same room of people had clapped for and thanked Harvey Weinstein. 

I truly, honestly couldn’t care less about this slap. Again, a rich guy slapped another rich guy in front of a bunch of rich people. Who cares? Yes, it sets a bad precedent, and yes, if it had not been a rich guy slapping another rich guy, he would have been escorted out.

I am more upset about the other great moments that were overshadowed. John Leguizamo spoke about how the Oscar statue was modeled after Emilio “El Indio” Fernández, a Mexican filmmaker and actor. He then went on to make the best joke of the night. Google it if you have to. 

Finally, at the end of the show, my favorite moment happened. Lady Gaga and Liza Minelli came out to announce the Oscar for best motion picture. It was clear that Minelli was having some difficulty and Gaga turns to her and says, “I got you.” Minelli turns to her with a simple response: “I know.”

Coming from a family touched by dementia, this moment hit me so hard. I was reminded of Gaga’s friendship with Tony Bennett, whose Alzheimers has kept him from touring. After everything that happened that night, for better or worse, this is the moment I’m holding onto.