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Oscars a social media hit but for all the wrong reasons

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A win for a deaf actor, a best picture prize for the streaming service industry and Will Smith slapping host Chris Rock in the face onstage before tearfully apologising after winning best actor – this year’s Oscars ceremony had something for everyone.

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Heartwarming movie CODA, about a deaf family with a hearing daughter, has won the prestigious best picture prize at the Oscars, the first time a streaming service has taken home the film industry’s biggest prize.

CODA was released by Apple TV+, which beat Netflix’s contender The Power of the Dog, along with entries from traditional Hollywood studios.

“I really want to thank the academy for recognising a movie of love and family at this difficult time that we need today,” producer Patrick Wachsberger said as the film’s cast stood on stage.

Hollywood’s most prestigious awards ceremony returned to all-out glitz at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles after pandemic restrictions limited the event last year.

But the upbeat atmosphere was disrupted when best actor winner Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock onstage over a joke about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Rock referenced the 1997 movie G.I. Jane, in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head.

Smith slapped Rock in what at first appeared to be a scripted joke. But the theatre turned sombre moments later when Smith, back in his seat, shouted back, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.”

The incident, described by critics as the most shocking in Oscars history, immediately caused a global storm on social media channels, replete with suggestions Smith should face assault charges.

Smith later apologised to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and to his fellow nominees as he tearfully accepted the Oscar for best actor for playing the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams in King Richard.

Jessica Chastain beat out Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos) to land the best actress award for playing TV evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

In other awards, New Zealand’s Jane Campion became just the third woman in the 94-year history of the Oscars to win best director, for her dark western The Power of the Dog.

Troy Kotsur made history as the first deaf man to win an Oscar, earning best supporting actor for his role in CODA.

Among his rivals for the award had been Adelaide-born Kodi Smit-McPhee, for The Power of the Dog.

Kotsur played Frank Rossi, the father of a teenager who struggles to help her family’s fishing business while pursuing her own aspirations in music.

“This is amazing to be here on this journey. I cannot believe I am here,” Kotsur, said in a heartfelt speech delivered in sign language.

Best supporting actress went to Ariana DeBose for playing the spirited Anita, who sings America in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story.

Australia’s Greig Fraser scooped the best cinematography award for Dune, in the process becoming the seventh Australian to win an Oscar in that category.

-Reuters

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