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Breaking down the major moments from the Academy Awards
Judy Woodruff: Ripple effects continued today after some unscripted drama at last night's Academy Awards ceremony, as actor Will Smith struck presenter Chris Rock on stage.
This afternoon, the Academy of Motion Pictures condemned Smith's behavior and said it will -- quote -- "explore further action and consequences."
All this even as the evening saw several important firsts.
Jeffrey Brown reports for our arts and canvas series, Canvas.
Jeffrey Brown: First, some of the anticipated highlights.
The musician Ahmir Thompson, known as Questlove, winning for his documentary "Summer of Soul."
Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Director: I'm so happy right now, I could cry.
Jeffrey Brown: The Japanese film "Drive My Car" tops in the best international category. Then, some notable awards speaking to a Hollywood that has been heavily criticized for its lack of representation and opportunity.
Woman: Troy Kotsur.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Jeffrey Brown: Troy Kotsur won for best supporting actor for his role as the father in "CODA," the first male deaf actor to win an Oscar.
Jeffrey Brown: Ariana DeBose from "West Side Story" took the best supporting actress award, the first openly queer woman of color to win an Oscar, and just the second Latina to receive an acting Oscar. Rita Moreno won for the same role in 1962.
And Jane Campion was named best director for "The Power of the Dog," marking the second year in a row a woman has won.
Liza Minnelli, Actress: "CODA."
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Jeffrey Brown: Also game-changing, "CODA" became the first film from a streaming service, Apple TV+, to be named best picture of the year.
But the most shocking moment, actor Will Smith walking on stage to slap comedian Chris Rock, after Rock made a joke about Smith's wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who has a medical condition causing hair loss. The broadcast audio went silent, but social media video captured the exchange.
And then, just a short time later, Will Smith was back on stage for a tearful acceptance speech after winning the Oscar for best actor for his role in "King Richard," about Richard Williams, father of tennis stars Venus and Serena.
Jeffrey Brown: Earlier today, I spoke to NPR TV and media critic Eric Deggans.
Eric, nice to talk to you again.
You know, I think a lot of people assumed at the time that this was a planned routine. I know I did. What about you?
Eric Deggans, National Public Radio: I wondered that for a split-second.
ABC had clipped out the audio, but you could see the words that Will Smith was mouthing, and you could tell that he was angry. And you could tell that he was cursing at him in a way that was not intended to be humorous. And, in that moment, I knew that we had seen something genuine.
Jeffrey Brown: You know, it was clearly so shocking in the moment as people began to realize it. And it's led to all kinds of reactions.
Tell us a little bit about what you have heard in the aftermath.
Eric Deggans: Well, there are a few different camps here.
There are people who are condemning the violence at the moment. There are people who are fans of Will Smith who point out that his wife suffers from alopecia, which is an illness that causes you to lose your hair, and that they both may have been very sensitive about jokes about her close-cropped hair, and that maybe he had a reason to be angry.
But I sense that most people realize that responding to a bad joke with violence isn't permissible. And the question is, what should happen to Will Smith? And should have -- should the Oscar producers, the Oscarcast producers, have stepped in to prevent him from giving a speech when he won best actor? Should there have been some sort of punishment in the moment for what he did?
Because if a member of the general public walked on the stage and attacked someone for a joke that they told, they probably would have been arrested. So, it's hard to imagine why the Academy and the producers of the show didn't seem to do anything about it.
Jeffrey Brown: What happens next, do you think?
Eric Deggans: He got his award. He got his moment in the sun. He was able to speak for as long as he wanted to during his acceptance speech, and then he left the ceremony for the Oscar parties.
The commentators like me have talked about, should there be some sort of censure or something that? I have a hard time believing that any of that is going to happen. The punishment should have happened in a moment, and it didn't.
Jeffrey Brown: Let's talk about other things that happened last night. There were other highlights.
You and I have discussed this issue before of Hollywood representation. What hit you last night about some of these awards?
Eric Deggans: Well, that's what's so sad about what happened with Will Smith and Chris Rock, because there were some really important moments, of course.
Troy Kotsur, the supporting actor in "CODA," became the first deaf man to win an acting Oscar, and gave a heartfelt speech. The altercation between Smith and Rock happened right before the best documentary feature was awarded. Questlove, who is the bandleader for "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon," won that award for directing an amazing documentary called "Summer of Soul" that was as much of Black history lesson as it was a concert film.
And, of course, we saw Jane Campion become the third woman to win a directing Oscar for helming "Power of the Dog," and "CODA" won as best film.
Jeffrey Brown: That win for "CODA," the first for a streaming service, is also something we have talked about over the years. It had to happen at some point, right?
Eric Deggans: Well, what's remarkable about it is that "CODA" is an Apple TV+ film. Netflix has spent millions and millions of dollars creating Oscar-worthy films that people thought might have a shot at winning that big prize, and they were in contention with "Power of the Dog," but "CODA" beat them out.
Apple, which spends less money on original series and has less original series and movies, came along and made history, sort of snatching it out of Netflix's grasp. So, even though Netflix did pretty well in the Oscars, there have to be some people over there who are feeling a little bruised because Apple kind of came up and snatched the big prize from them.
Jeffrey Brown: All right, Eric Deggans of NPR, thanks again.
Eric Deggans: Thank you.
Judy Woodruff: And this note: Preliminary numbers show over 15 million people watched the Oscars last night. That's up from fewer than 10 million last year.
But that audience was less than half the audience in 2019, before the pandemic.