The power of the man: On toxic masculinity at Oscars

The relevance of movies dealing with toxic masculinity was in evidence at the Oscars

Updated - March 29, 2022 09:34 am IST

Published - March 29, 2022 12:05 am IST

Everything from The Power of The Dog winning only one of its 12 nominations to the silent applause and standing ovation for Troy Kotsur’s Best Supporting Actor win in CODA was swept off the table in the face of Will Smith’s altercation with Chris Rock. Smith, who went on to win the Best Actor Award for his role as Richard Williams in King Richard, slapped Rock when the actor and comedian made a ‘joke’ about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss. The neo-western, The Power of the Dog, based on Thomas Savage’s eponymous novel, apart from other things, deals with toxic masculinity, which is what the Smith-Rock confrontation was at one level. In other Oscar news, the heart-warming coming-of-age story, CODA directed by Siân Heder won all three awards it was nominated for. Denis Villeneuve’s exquisite adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic, Dune, won the maximum awards. Of the 10 nominations, Dune: Part One (as it is titled onscreen), won six. The golden man went to Hans Zimmer’s score, sound, editing, visual effects, cinematography and production design.

Drive My Car from Japan, co-written and directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, had four nominations, which it won ahead of Paolo Sorrentino’s intensely personal The Hand of God from Italy and Bhutan’s Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom. Smith’s fellow nominees for the best actor included Benedict Cumberbatch as the closeted, conflicted rancher in The Power of the Dog, Javier Bardem’s eye-popping turn as Desi Arnaz in Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos, Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s biographical musical Tick, Tick... Boom! and Denzel Washington as Macbeth in Joel Coen’s black-and-white take on The Tragedy of Macbeth. Jessica Chastain’s win in the best actress category for The Eyes of Tammy Faye faced some stiff competition from Olivia Colman in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter and Kristen Stewart as Lady Diana in Spencer. The supporting actress category was also closely fought with Ariana DeBose from West Side Story winning against Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter), Judi Dench (Belfast), Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog) and Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard). Paul Thomas Anderson’s delightfully comforting Licorice Pizza was yet another coming-of-age film with a strong presence at the nomination stage, but did not win. While Jane Campion’s best director win for The Power of the Dog follows Chloé Zhao’s win last year for Nomadland, making her the second woman to win in as many years, the Smith-Rock spat proves that there are miles to go before show business could come of age. Bad jokes, like bad cinema, are best ignored and not put down with violence.

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