And finally… the Oscar goes to… (drum roll please… ‘CODA’!

It’s hard not to think of this year’s Academy Award ceremony as something as competitive as, say, a high-stakes multimillion dollar horse race. The entrants hit the starting gate, settle in, and within seconds…. they’re off!

With an astounding 12 nominations, Jane Campion’s new take on the classic western, “The Power of the Dog,” seemed to be the runaway winner and clear favorite. It was the darling of both Academy voters and critics alike.

It left competitors like Malibu’s “Don’t Look Up,” in the dust, picking up prestigious awards like the Directors Guild honor along the way. Then, suddenly, in the final stretch, sentimental honoree “CODA” (Children of Deaf Adults) packed a punch, pulling neck-and-neck with the longtime favorite. At the last minute, it picked up the pace snagging the coveted SAG awards for actors as well as Producer honors. 

With “CODA” nipping at its heels, suddenly, it was now a two-horse race. And it’s CODA, then the Dog, it’s Coda and the Dog. In the final stretch, they are neck-and-neck. Get out your binoculars, it’s nail-biting time. Producers, cast and crew are on edge. Presented by Malibu’s Lady Gaga in an elegant sequins tux with Liza Minnelli by her side, the winner is … it’s… it’s CODA by a nose!!! 

And it’s all over except the roses and the winner’s circle or in this case, libations at the Governor’s Ball.

The same was true for the most acclaimed animated film with “The Mitchells vs. The Machines.” That film, which comes to us from Pont Dume resident Phil Lord, was way out in front until “Encanto” made a last-minute come-from-behind victory as Best Animated Film at the BAFTA and the Producer’s Guild awards. 

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But first, came the oh-so-glamourous red carpet, which has become as much of a spectacle as those downright lavish, oversized, bowed, flowered and festooned brims at Churchill Downs. 

After last year’s slimmed-down version at Union Station, (due to COVID-19) these were the Oscars as we have come to know them — glitz, glamour, head-turning, heart-stopping, jaw-dropping gowns and tuxes punctuated by a Blackbeard’s chest full of gems. Even the guys got into the act with a rainbow of colorful tuxedos in colors like light baby blue and deep raspberry.

But the air kisses were over and it was time to start the show. After years of going without a host, this production had not only one but three: Amy, Wanda and Regina, who did a fine job of navigating the course. It began with acclaim for Queen Bey, giving it her all on a well-lit tennis court in Compton where legends and champions Venus and Serena began to swing their first Cinderella racquets. Beyonce and her orchestra and backup dancers were not dressed in tennis whites but in a color you might call Penn tennis glow ball yellow. 

It came as no surprise that their on-screen dad,

rapper-turned-TV-star-turned-major-movie star picked up the win as Best Actor for “King Richard.” Outstanding director went to Campion for “Power of the Dog.” Best Actress Jessica Chastain continued her streak with “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”

Local director Steven Spielberg was up for his take on “West Side Story.” He lost out, but the momentum continued for his Best Supporting Actress, Ariana DeBose. Troy Kotsur won Best Supporting Actor for “CODA,” and there was a Best Original Screenplay honor for “Belfast.”

With this year’s ceremony, there was also an unsettling incident when Will Smith charged up the stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock because of a joke he made about his wife’s shaved head. Rock meant it as a joke when he referred to her as “G.I. Jane.” It was a medical condition, but Smith took it personally. He later apologized.

The out-of-this-world thriller “Dune” picked up a plethora of heavy metal men for Visual Effects, Cinematography, Editing, and more, and “Cruella” puckered up wins for hair and makeup. 

Although snubbed by the Academy for “House of Gucci,” Lady Gaga didn’t hold a grudge. She presented the Best Picture Award with Liza Minnelli. 

“You know I like legends,” she whispered into the “Cabaret” star’s ear.

So what are these talented noms, presenters, and honorees up to next? 

Stay tuned and read all about it.  

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