Commentary: Forget the slap at the Oscars. Apple’s Best Picture win deserves our attention

LOS ANGELES: It was just after midnight at the lavish Vanity Fair Oscar party when Will Smith, clutching the Best Actor award that he had won a few hours earlier, made his way onto the dance floor.

Until this moment, the guests (me included) had been pretty chill about giving the party’s many A-list celebrities some space. But decorum faded when Smith arrived and a heaving circle of dancers in designer gowns and tuxedos formed around him and his entourage. 

Smartphones were thrust into the air to capture the moment. The room pulsed with energy. Smith danced his way through the crowd to DJ D-Nice, who was spinning Smith’s 1997 hit Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It at the front. They took selfies together.

This perfect Hollywood moment was marred by a raging case of cognitive dissonance. Less than four hours earlier, Smith had climbed up on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock in front of a live audience over a lame joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s close-cropped hair, the result of an autoimmune disorder. 

THE FIASCO’S SOLE BENEFICIARY

As with the ovation that Smith was given when his win was announced, it was impossible to forget about the startling violence of the slap and the failure of the organisers to do anything about it.

The incident at least injected some electricity into the Oscars an element lacking in the COVID-pocked ceremony in 2021 and others before it. Unfortunately, it was the bad kind of buzz, which the Academy has been all too adept at producing in recent years.

The slap may have helped the show’s ratings bounce back from last year’s record low of 10 million, according to early results, but it was still the second-smallest audience in the history of the televised show. 

The Academy’s goal of making the Oscars more relevant hasn’t become any easier after Sunday’s performance.