Will Smith’s onstage assault on presenter Chris Rock, apparently in defense of his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, will go down in history as one of the Oscars’ most shocking moments. In an evening of crummy contrivance, it made for genuinely outrageous television. But it was also just part of a general chaos that marred a ceremony nearly undone by poor direction.
It was meant to be Smith’s night. His career-best performance in King Richard as the father of Venus and Serena Williams was Oscar nip, a portrait of shambling masculinity touched with pathos and humor. He was the early frontrunner, and his strategically timed memoir, Will, published in late 2021, only compounded his momentum. He won the BAFTA, the Golden Globe, and the Screen Actors’ Guild Award in the run-up to last night. Victory at the Dolby Theatre seemed assured.
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