Jane Campion wins best director but CODA grabs the limelight – and Will Smith the headlines

“They met the challenge of this story with the depths of their gifts,” she said. “And my whole crew who are true hearts.”

The biggest surprise at the Oscars – other than Smith’s emotional outburst – was the best picture win for CODA. With a capitalised title that refers to a “child of death adults”, it centres on a hearing teenage girl who wants to quit working on the family fishing boat and translating for her parents so that she can sing.


As recently as a month ago, CODA was considered an outsider to win best picture. But the warm-hearted remake of the French film La Famille Belier surprisingly won three of Hollywood’s four guild awards – celebrating the work of actors, writers and producers.

Little-known writer-director Sian Heder, who won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, had the film rejected when she tried to make in with a Hollywood studio. But after she made it independently without a distributor for just $US10 million, CODA premiered triumphantly at the Sundance Film Festival last year then appeared lost on Apple TV’s steaming service until it started to gain traction during Hollywood’s awards season.

It became the first best picture win by a streaming service.

After two tough years during the pandemic then war in Ukraine, Oscar voters seemed to prefer a touching feelgood film over the masterfully made but more polarising The Power of the Dog.

One of the high points of the awards came when Troy Kotsur won best supporting actor for CODA. Deaf since birth, he received a silent standing ovation as guests signed their applause.

Kotsur was the second deaf actor to collect an Oscar after his CODA co-star Marlee Matlin won for Children of a Lesser God in 1987.

Greig Fraser in the press room with his Oscar for best cinematography for Dune.Credit:Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Fraser, who shot Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic Dune, became the seventh Australian to win best cinematography at the Oscars. He paid tribute to “Master Denis” who “brought a whole group of unknown actors together to make an amazing movie”.

Dune was the most successful film at the awards, also winning best editing, visual effects, production design, score and sound.

There was Oscars history in two senses when Ariana DeBose won best supporting actress for playing a livewire Anita in West Side Story. It was 60 years since Rita Moreno, who also starred in the Steven Spielberg’s musical, won an Oscar for the same role in the 1961 version – a first at the awards.

De Bose, who described herself as an “openly queer woman of colour, an Afro-Latina” in her acceptance speech, was the first openly queer actor to win at the Oscars.

Jessica Chastain won best actress for playing fallen televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes Of Tammy Faye – beating Nicole Kidman who was nominated for playing Lucille Ball in Being the Ricardos. While nobody’s favourite film last year, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye also won best make-up and hairstyling.

After his earlier outburst at Chris Rock, an emotional Will Smith collects best actor for King Richard.

After his earlier outburst at Chris Rock, an emotional Will Smith collects best actor for King Richard.Credit:AP

An Oscars that went all-out to appeal to a more mainstream audience – in the hope of rescuing the increasingly dismal American television ratings – began with the Williams sisters introducing Beyonce to sing the nominated song from King Richard in their old home town of Compton.


Other moments reaching for pop culture relevance included Korean pop superstars BTS talking about their favourite animated movies, sports stars Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater and Shaun White paying tribute to James Bond movies, on-stage reunions for The Godfather and Pulp Fiction casts, and Lady Gaga presenting best picture with Liza Minnelli, in a wheelchair and seeming uncomfortable, on the 50th anniversary of her starring role in Cabaret.

Hosts Regina Hall, Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer were on restricted duties given there were so many big-name presenters but brought a light touch to their roles.

“This year the Academy hired three women to host because it’s cheaper than hiring one man,” Schumer said, following up with a sight gag about how hard the pandemic had been on Timothee Chalamet, with the camera focussing on grizzled JK Simmons.

Sykes had an early joke at the expense of The Power of the Dog that suggested Hollywood had grown out of love with the western.


“I watched that movie three times and I’m halfway through it,” she said as Campion laughed in the audience.

While Schumer’s idea that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky should appear during the telecast did not eventuate, there was a tribute to his war-ravaged country. A black screen called for a moment of silence to “show our support for the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their own borders” and urged support via “food, medical care, clean water, and emergency services”.

Disney’s Encanto, which is responsible for the viral hit We Don’t Talk About Bruno, won best animated feature film but best original song went to Billie Eilish and brother Finneas O’Connell for the theme song for the James Bond movie No Time To Die.

Masterful Japanese drama Drive My Car, which was also nominated for best picture, director and adapted screenplay, won best international feature film.

The two controversial new awards that had fans voting on Twitter for Oscars “cheer moment” and favourite film were presented quickly – almost in embarrassment – with wins for a scene featuring the Flash zooming in super speed in Zack Snyder’s Justice League and his zombie film Army of the Dead respectively.

It was an experiment that seems as unlikely to be repeated as Will Smith going off script at next year’s Oscars.

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