Campion wins best director Oscar for Power of the Dog

Dame Jane Campion has won the Oscar for best director for dark Western The Power of the Dog, becoming the third woman in the Oscars' 94-year-old history to take home the prize.

The New Zealander is the first woman to be twice nominated for best director, and joins Kathryn Bigelow and Chloe Zhao as the only women to have received the Oscar for directing. 

Cameron recently described herself as "the grandmother of the women's movement in film."

"I love directing because it's a deep dive into story, yet the task of manifesting a world can be overwhelming," the 67-year-old said in her acceptance speech today, which she read from a sheet of paper.

"The sweet thing is I am not alone," she added, and then thanked her film's cast and crew.

Earlier this month, Campion won both best film and best director at the British Academy Film Awards (Baftas) in London and accepted the Critics’ Choice Award for best director in Los Angeles. She also won Golden Globes for best picture and best director in January.

Power of the Dog (Netflix) was up for a best film Oscar, but that accolade went to CODA, a  heart-warming drama made by Apple TV+ about a deaf family with a hearing daughter, the first time a streaming service took home the film industry's biggest prize.

Power of the Dog was filmed in Central Otago, Dunedin, Oamaru and Auckland, with the sparsely populated, grassy plains and rocky mountains of Central Otago standing in for ranchland in the US state of Montana.

A Western-style homestead, barn, cattle corral, cowboy quarters and saloon were built on Braeside in the Ida Valley, a 5500ha sheep and cattle farm owned by brothers Al and Graeme McKnight and Al’s partner, Philippa Pope. Al McKnight said the awards were special and he was pleased for all involved, but credit went to the whole valley and other locations involved in the filming.

Campion was nominated previously for her 1993 drama The Piano. She lost the directing award that year to Steven Spielberg, who landed the trophy for Schindler's List, but won the Oscar for best original screenplay.

Spielberg was in the mix again this year for his remake of classic musical West Side Story, as was Kenneth Branagh for his semi-autobiographical drama Belfast.

Power of the Dog is a tale of machismo and revenge set in 1925 Montana and based on a 1967 novel by Thomas Savage. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a cruel, twisted ranch owner who sets out to torment his brother's new wife, played by Kirsten Dunst.

The movie was Campion's first since 2009. She recently worked in television, creating and writing acclaimed drama series Top of the Lake, filmed in Queenstown.

Zhao won best director last year for Nomadland, while Bigelow received the honour for 2008 drama The Hurt Locker.

Dame Jane Campion is the first woman to be twice nominated for best director, and joins Kathryn...
Dame Jane Campion is the first woman to be twice nominated for best director, and joins Kathryn Bigelow and Chloe Zhao as the only women to have received the Oscar for directing. Photo: Reuters

Phenomenal effort, says PM

Dame Jane Campion has put "New Zealand on the world stage", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said when congratulating her on the Oscar win today.

"It's a phenomenal outcome and I know we're all very proud of her. Dame Jane to be there again - not once but twice - at this level, it's just phenomenal.

"It speaks to her skill, her talent, but she has used that to put New Zealand on the world stage."

Ardern said members of the Film Commission were in the United States to leverage off Campion's success.

Will Smith hits Chris Rock after a joke was made about Smith's wife's hair loss. Photo: Reuters
Will Smith hits Chris Rock after a joke was made about Smith's wife's hair loss. Photo: Reuters

Will Smith slaps presenter 

Best actor nominee Will Smith smacked presenter Chris Rock in the face with an open hand and shouted a vulgarity at the comedian for making a joke about his wife's appearance at the Oscars ceremony.

Later,  when accepting the Oscar for best actor for his role in King Richard, Smith apologised to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and his fellow nominees, but not to Rock.

The episode with Rock at first appeared to be a scripted joke but turned serious when Smith shouted out, "Keep my wife's name out of your f***ing mouth."

The audio from the show, broadcast on a time-delay of a few seconds in the United States, appeared to have been cut from the live transmission for many viewers because of the language.

Rock was roasting some of the nominees and, after mentioning Smith, said of his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, "Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane II, can't wait to see it."

Moments later, Smith walked on stage toward Rock, who had his hands behind his back when Smith threw an open hand at his face that produced an audible smack.

"Oh, wow! Wow! Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me," Rock said as the audience laughed, thinking it was a skit. "Wow, dude. It was a G.I. Jane joke," referencing the 1997 film G.I. Jane\ in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head.

Smith then made what may become one of the most repeated phrases of Oscar history when he said, "Keep my wife's name out of your f***ing  mouth."

Rock responded, "I'm going to. That's the greatest night in the history of television."

Smith then repeated his phrase, louder and more deliberately.

Jada Pinkett Smith told Billboard in December last year she has been battling the autoimmune disorder alopecia, which can cause hair loss and balding.

The audience initially thought Smith's indignation was feigned, part of the act. It was only after he returned to his seat and shouted that the audience went silent and audibly gasped.

Smith won the Oscar for playing Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. Upon accepting his award, Smith apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees but not to Rock.

"Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family," Smith said. And the last thing he said before he took his seat was: "I hope the Academy invites me back."

Troy Kotsur has worked for over three decades in theatre, television and film for both deaf and...
Troy Kotsur has worked for over three decades in theatre, television and film for both deaf and hearing audiences. Photo: Reuters

Deaf actor makes history

CODA star Troy Kotsur made history as the first deaf man to win an Oscar, taking the Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role as a fisherman and father in the family drama.

Kotsur (53) has worked for over three decades in theatre, television and film for both deaf and hearing audiences.

In CODA, an acronym for "child of deaf adults," Kotsur plays Frank Rossi, the father of teenager Ruby 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 as he accepted the supporting actor honour.

"This is dedicated to the deaf community, the 'CODA' community and the disabled community. This is our moment."

The only other deaf person to win an Oscar was Kotsur's CODA co-star Marlee Matlin. She won best actress for her role in 1986 romantic drama Children of a Lesser God.

Best supporting actress winner Ariana DeBose (left) Best supporting actor winner Troy Kotsur and...
Best supporting actress winner Ariana DeBose (left) Best supporting actor winner Troy Kotsur and best actress winner Jessica Chastain. Photo: Reuters

Chastain wins best actress Oscar 

Jessica Chastain won the Oscar for best lead actress for her mascara-laden title role as the on-air preaching partner and wife of Christian televangelist Jim Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, chronicling the couple's rise and fall.

The Oscar triumph for Chastain (45) virtually unrecognisable in heavy makeup as Tammy Faye Bakker, followed a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance and capped the third Academy Award nomination of her career.

She was previously nominated for an Oscar for 2012 portrayal of a CIA analyst on the hunt of Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty and her 2011 supporting role as a Southern socialite in the 1960s racial drama The Help.

Chastain's latest film charted the real-life story of evangelical power couple Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, who built their PTL Club television ministry into a worldwide Christian broadcast network during the 1970s and '80s. But their lucrative empire crumbled in a series of highly publicized sex and financial scandals in 1987, ending with Jim Bakker's conviction and imprisonment on multiple fraud charges and the couple's divorce.

Tammy Faye later married and took the last name of developer Roe Messner as she rebuilt her reputation through a documentary and reality show before her cancer death in 2007.

Ariana DeBose won best supporting actress for her role in West Side Story , playing the spirited Anita, who sings America in Steven Spielberg's remake of the classic musical.

As she held her gold statuette, the Afro-Latina actress asked the audience to imagine her as a young girl "in the back seat of a white Ford Focus."

"You see a queer, openly queer Latina, who found her strength in life through art. And that’s what we’re here to celebrate. So, anybody who's ever questioned your identity. Or find yourself living in the grey spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us," she added, referencing the moving song from West Side Story.

DeBose also thanked "divine inspiration" Rita Moreno, who earned the best supporting actress award in 1962 for playing Anita in the original movie version of the musical.

Japanese drama Drive My Car, the story of a widowed theatre actor grappling with his past, won the Academy Award for best international feature film.

It centres on an actor and director played by Hidetoshi Nishijima, who is forced to confront the demons beneath the seemingly perfect surface of his marriage after his wife dies. He develops a tentative friendship with his young chauffeur while directing a multi-lingual production of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima.

Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car was adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami.

Beyonce opens show

Pop superstar Beyonce opened the show by performing Be Alive, an Oscar-nominated song from the movie King Richard, about the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. She and her backup dancers, clad in sparkling yellow gowns, performed from a tennis court in the sisters' hometown of Compton, California.

After going three years without a host, a trio was chosen to guide Sunday's ceremony: Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes.

"This year, the Oscars hired three women to host because it's cheaper than hiring one man," Schumer joked.

Jessica Chastain, Nicole Kidman and other nominees donned a rainbow of colours for a ceremony with 2500 gown- and tuxedo-clad attendees and free from last year's pandemic restrictions. Nominee Kodi Smit-McPhee wore a light blue suit, while Chastain picked a lavender and gold gown with giant ruffles on the skirt. Kirsten Dunst and Marlee Matlin chose bright red.

In a bid to draw more viewers, especially younger ones, after years of declining ratings, the show will add two awards, the results of fan votes for favourite film and scene. Some winners were announced ahead of the live show with their speeches to be edited into the show.

Crisis in Ukraine acknowledged

Producers said they planned an upbeat show but acknowledged the crisis in Ukraine, which has killed thousands and driven a quarter of the country's 44 million people from their homes since neighbour Russia launched a full-scale invasion 31 days ago.

Actor Mila Kunis, who was born in Ukraine, was among the night's presenters. Jason Momoa wore a handkerchief in the colours of the Ukrainian flag: blue and yellow.

Text on a screen to ask the world for financial contributions for those suffering from the Russian assault.

But rather than turn the Oscars ceremony into a megaphone for messages about Ukraine, the show's directors opted for a silent message that did not mention Russia.

"We'd like to have a moment of silence to show our support for the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their own borders," read the message posted on screen just before a commercial break.

The message said millions of families needed food, medical care, clean water and emergency services and asked viewers for humanitarian aid.

"We ask you to support Ukraine in any way you are able," read the silent message, adding the hashtag #StandWithUkraine.

- Reuters and ODT Online 


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