Sorry to anyone anticipating another earth-shattering moment at the Oscars: the 95th Academy Awards was business as usual. There were of course, a barrage of jokes about last year’s incident, courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel, the safest of safe choice hosts. (The ceremony, he joked, went “off without a hitch. Or at least this time, without Hitch.”). But the main event was A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once completing its journey from little indie to full-on juggernaut with a whopping seven wins, all the way up to Best Picture. In between, the broadcast was much like the ceremonies of years past: too long, largely predictable in the awards given, and otherwise unmemorable.
For anyone who was busy watching The Last of Us finale or the Knicks vs the Lakers (looking at you, Denzel and Spike) here are the highlights from this year’s show.
Everything Everywhere All At Once Wins It All
With historic acting wins for stars Michelle Yeoh, Key Huy Quan, and Jamie Lee Curtis, plus the best director, best original screenplay, and best picture trophies, Everything Everywhere All At Once was every bit the Oscar juggernaut pundits anticipated it would be. A24’s multiverse family drama won in all the big categories for which it was nominated, garnering seven total statues and plenty of heartfelt speeches. When it debuted at South by Southwest almost exactly a year ago, the movie was a charming oddity from the dudes who made the music video for “Turn Down For What.” What a difference a year (and a well-run campaign) can make.
Kimmel Proves to be a Steady Hand
After a few years of experimentation, including three hosts and no hosts, Kimmel returned to helm the show for the first time since 2018, arriving at the Dolby Theater by parachute, in a Maverick-inspired opening. And while he was quick to set a positive mood—“we celebrate the artists who make the movies we love,” he said—Kimmel didn’t dodge any sensitive topics in his monologue, either, riffing on the lack of female directing nominations, Will Smith), Tom Cruise and scientology, Nicole Kidman’s campy ad for AMC theaters.
Kimmel’s opener was better than his mid-show skits, which included peppering celebrities in attendance—some of whom were better equipped than others to play along—with awkward questions. (The best joke of the evening? A bit on whether or not to include Robert Blake in the “In Memoriam” section.) Overall, Kimmel did what he was supposed to, which is to keep the show moving along as quickly as possible.
Moving on From Will Smith
Kimmel referenced Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during last year’s telecast five times, but unsurprisingly, the incident went unmentioned in the speeches. Smith was not on hand to deliver the award for best actor. Instead, Halle Berry presented the awards for Best Actor and Actress alongside last year’s winner, Jessica Chastain. Kimmel later reset an Oscars incident counter—a solid bit he could bring back, should he host the show again.
Brendan Fraser’s Big Moment
Brendan Fraser’s best actor win for his performance in The Whale completed the arc of a remarkable comeback story that GQ’s Zach Baron first began documenting in 2018. (Read his reflection on Fraser’s win here.) The award also meant that the independent studio A24 swept the acting categories.
Rihanna Came Outside Again
What did we do to deserve two Rihanna TV performances in the span of a few weeks? Even more visibly pregnant with baby No. 2 than she was last month at the Super Bowl halftime, Rihanna performed her Black Panther: Wakanda Forever track “Lift Me Up”—not her greatest hit, by any means, but she looked and sounded terrific, and as a bonus, we got a great reaction shot of A$AP Rocky cheering her on from the front row.
Marvel Misses Its First Acting Award
With Jamie Lee Curtis’ win for best supporting actress, Marvel missed its first chance to score an acting award. Many believed Angela Bassett’s powerful performance as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was enough to win the MCU a top prize.
Bassett started the awards season strong after winning the Golden Globe, but Curtis gained in recent weeks, especially after her win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which proved to be a precursor to Everything Everywhere All At Once’s sweep. Bassett’s clear disappointment with the result reflected a wider sentiment in a year when Black female performers like Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler and Black female directors like Gina Prince-Bythewood were shut out of nominations in key categories.
The Influence of The Game Awards
The Game Awards—basically the Academy Awards for videogames—is known for its debuts of first-look trailers for upcoming games. This year, the Oscars aired a handful of trailers for upcoming films and studios in the early portion of the show. Disney ran a package toting its centennial, and a dedicated spot for its upcoming live-action version of The Little Mermaid. Warner Bros. also ran a centennial package that ended with brief snippets of its 2023 releases and a shot from The Flash—which, given the controversy around that film’s lead, is certainly a choice. The same could be said of these promotional packages, which felt like a cheap way for the Academy to drum up attention for the broadcast.
Odds & Ends
- Ruth Carter’s win for Wakanda Forever’s costumes makes her the first Black woman in Academy history to win two Oscars.
- Easily the evening’s most hilarious moment: Hugh Grant calling himself “basically a scrotum” over his lack of moisturizer use.
- With no introduction, the cameras cut to Lady Gaga for an intimate performance of “Hold My Hand” from Maverick. Deep in production for her role as Harley Quinn alongside Joaquin Phoenix in the upcoming Joker sequel—and seen earlier on the carpet in a Versace gown and heavy eye makeup—she performed wearing jeans, Converse, and a t-shirt.
- Malala Yousafzai’s perfect no-sell reaction to Kimmel’s faux Q&A should be reviewed by WWE and AEW superstars tomorrow.
- Special shoutout to the bit with Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors, which managed to be both informative regarding craft and funny at the same time.
- For those with a FanDuel over/under to check: three hours and thirty-six minutes was the official run time of the show, after adding back in the categories omitted from last year’s telecast.