Leslie Fields-Cruz
MARCH 29, 2022




By Leslie Fields-Cruz

The Slap Heard 'Round the World

Last weekend ended with the national broadcast of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 94th Oscar Awards presentation. Big ups to Quest Love for winning Best Documentary for his film Summer of Soul. I saw it at Sundance last year and was thankful someone saw the value, meaning and importance of this concert to the Black community. The film’s present-day interviews with the artists and attendees who looked back on the concert footage and described what that moment meant to them was a useful approach to connecting historic moments to present day.

I also want to give a special shout-out to Stanley Nelson, whose film Attica was an Oscar nominee. Though he didn’t take Oscar home this time, he’s busy creating new work, so I expect he’ll be back soon, hopefully, for a win! If you haven’t already seen Summer of Soul or Attica, do so NOW! And finally, congrats to Ariana DuBose, the first Afro-Latinx, openly queer person of color to win an Oscar. Because of you, Ariana, I finally watched Spielberg’s version of West Side Story. You certainly earned that Oscar. 

Love it or hate it, aside from the Will Smith/Chris Rock debacle, I thought the 2022 Oscar Broadcast was one of the best I’ve seen. Some critics are panning it, but I sat through the ENTIRE broadcast —  something I haven’t done in YEARS. Ever since social media has been able to keep me updated on the wins and losses and who’s about to perform or what category will be announced, I’ve seen no reason to watch the full broadcast. I watched some of the 2017 La La Land/Moonlight debacle, but that’s ONLY after social media posts told me the Best Picture winner would be announced after the commercial break. 


Image courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

This year, everything from the new set design, the seating, the three women hosts, DJ Nice, and Beyoncé’s opening number to the roster of presenters — Ruth Carter, H.E.R. AND Tony Hawk(?) — was interesting. For some reason, the 2022 Oscar Broadcast finally spoke to me, and possibly to all born since 1980 (for the record, I’m a GenXer). Still, was this Oscar broadcast perfect? HELL NAW!  

The Smith/Rock incident raises serious questions about fans’ insatiable need to know everything about artists/celebrities, and the consequences of no-holds-barred comedy. Chris’ joke about Jada Pinkett was in very poor taste. Her widely publicized struggles with alopecia should not have been the butt of a joke (of course, celebrity roasting has a long history at the Oscars). Based on the scathing eye-roll she gave him, I’ve no doubt she would have chewed him and the writers out behind the scenes. I don’t condone Will’s actions — violence in that context is never acceptable — but I get why he felt compelled to defend his wife. Instead of smacking Chris, perhaps he could have cut him down during his acceptance speech or, better yet, on social media. Should artists’ personal struggles really be fair game for comedic roasts, memes and other inappropriate settings? And how do we free comedians to do what they’re paid to do, without fearing they’ll cross the line or incite physical retaliation from their audiences? Will’s formal apology has been posted. Will Jada ever get one from Chris?  After Sunday’s incident, I think we need more clarity on these issues. 

Then there’s the issue of the tech and short-form categories being denied their moment in the sun. Yes, general audience members may find them boring, but these ARE essential components of the film industry. Without tech, there would be no films and no stars. And without short-form content, no pipeline for emerging directors or producers to cut their teeth. There ought to be a better way to meet the demands of advertisers and viewers without excising the industry’s vital organs from its annual showcase or making the show longer.

Speaking of length, was the broadcast too long? HELL YEAH!!! My husband was in bed, knocked out and snoring, long before the show ended. Considering everything that added time  — the Smith/Rock debacle, some winners’ long speeches and the COMMERCIALS — it’s understandable.  Maybe the answer is to bring the Oscars to PBS. Whatever you do, please don’t resurrect the “traditional” ceremony. If you do, I, and I’m pretty sure the generations after me, won’t EVER watch again. 

I close this week’s dispatch with a shameless pitch for Season 14 of AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange. Next Monday (April 4), I urge you to tune in to WORLD Channel or PBS Online for the new season’s premier episode featuring Everything The Real Thing Story. Did you know Phillip Bailey’s chart topping 1984 song “Children of the Ghetto” was actually a remake of a Black British soul band’s original?

AfroPop Season 14-min

So often stories about the cultural exchanges of art, music, literature and drama within the Black diaspora go untold. But that’s why there’s AfroPoP. Tune in and learn about The Real Thing, then check back every week as we release a new episode exploring the diversity of Black experiences from Africa, the U.K., the U.S. and beyond. If appointment watching isn’t your thing, feel free to stream episodes anytime, starting next Monday, from WORLD Channel or the PBS app. However you watch, I hope you enjoy and tell a friend.

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