Oscar Ceremony in Review: 10 Moments To Cheer or Jeer At…
DateMonday, March 13, 2023 at 8:06PM
by Nathaniel R
“L Ron Hubba Hubba”
Like, Eric, who felt joyfully optimistic about the Oscars after the 95th Academy Awards, wrapped, I also had a good night. Did you? Overall it was a well produced, well paced, quite entertaining, and often moving night with good speeches and the requisite history being made. Now, in point of fact, history is always made at the Oscars. Each year of an institutional annual event that is super consistent in its approach (far more so than say the Grammys, BAFTAs, and Emmys which all change rules and category names so often that records and stats end up feeling blurry and mostly meaningless), will necessarily alter at least a few nooks and crannies of statistics and records. But we got a few true biggies last night: First Asian Best Actress winner, first film in half a century to take 75% of the acting prizes, first sci-fi action comedy to win the big prize.
But “it was a good time!” isn’t much of a rundown of a three and a half hour glamorous event so herewith 8 things that stuck out for me, for better and worse, in no particular order…
Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue
The jokes were often quite punny. I’ll admit that I chortled at “L Ron Hubba Hubba” when describing Top Gun Maverick’s beach volleyball scene. And the joke of recommending we all try f***ing to the Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack was an unexpected risque guffaw. The ending of the monologue was also a gem as Kimmel threatened people who droned on to long with being danced-off the stage, and off he went dragged by the dancers himself. It was both a relief (those monologues are always too long) and a fun and appropriate joke to usher in the big night.
Best of all there was no sneering at the nominated films as being boring movies nobody was interested in which has become a terrible-no-good-blech-we-hate-it habit of Oscar joke writers and Oscar hosts none of whom seem to actually like movies and therefore should not have the job at all! There was only one joke even remotely like this all night but it was a good one, as Kimmel suggested that no filmmaker better dare criticize the length of the show given their own padded running times this past year.
“Stay strong” Navalny
Handing the end of the Best Documentary Feature speech to Navalny’s wife was a potent emotional moment. Academy voters tend to vote by way of drama and message and narrative more than they love to actually think about what is “best” (if history is any indication) but at least sometimes it results in sobering quality moments like this one which served unexpected friction between the glamour and luxury of this particular event and what this woman’s life must really be like with her husband surviving assassination attempts and now in imprisoned.
No matter how you felt about Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress and Best Actor this season (and temperatures were high online about all three categories given that they were actual races and not locked up) there’s no denying that it’s *always* compelling to watch all the nominees in the same split frame reacting to the envelope being opened. Oscar nerds live for this and love to relive it and debate it for years. So while it might be painful right now to see, say, Angela Bassett lose, or interesting to see how Cate Blanchett responds to a loss people really didn’t see coming early in the season but which she probably was happy for, these things will be less raw but still fascinating 20 years from now, provided the earth is still spinning.
In Memoriam Blues – Why can’t they get this right?
The producers desperately need to step away from their John Travolta fixation (we have no idea why he’s invited every year when so many other huge stars of his generation are not) but since it’s apparently mandatory that he be there they made a solid choice to have him introduce this segment which began with Olivia Newton-John (still hopelessly devoted to her). But once again the exclusions were maddening to the point of ruining it. How do you have an actress leading one of the current Best Picture nominees die and NOT include her (RIP Charlbi Dean, Triangle of Sadness). How do you pass over Anne Heche, one of the greatest talents of her generation even if her filmography wasn’t all that because Hollywood never knew what to do with her. That’s on them, not her. It left a sour taste though Lenny Kravitz sang beautifully.
Worst Choice but an Incredible Speech Moment
An Irish Goodbye was the worst of the five live action shorts nominated in its category but its win gave us one of the most incredible moments as the audience sang happy birthday to one of its stars. A very touching bit and we’ll take it given that that meant fellow Irishman Colin Farrel reaction shots. Since the Academy was just awful to the brilliant Banshees of Inisherin gifting it a total of zero statues, we’ll take any looks at Hollywood’s most underrated male movie star of the moment that we can get.
Speaking of Singing… RRR
We have always believed that the Academy should offer all nominees free workshops in how to give memorable speeches rather than trusting that a live event based primarily on speeches will deliver incredible ones. Upong winning Best Song composer alerted the largely American audience that he grew up listening to the Carpenters and then proceeded to sing his acceptance speech to the melody of one of their biggest hits. It was total “art/music is universal” heaven.
Disney’s Grotesque In-Show Commercial for The Little Mermaid
Despite being one of the best Oscar ceremonies in recent years overall, ABC’s constant attempts to meddle with the Oscars have been bearing rotting fruit for awhile now. Last night was the nadir or their meddling. The Oscars have never allowed commercials for new films so Disney got around the rule by just making a commercial into part of the show and wow what an odor! Halle Bailey (who plays Ariel the mermaid) and Melissa McCarthy (who plays the seawitch Ursula) came out, not to present an award, but just to do a presentation of footage for the live-action remake of the animated musical. Disney’s current policy to remake every possible animated classic in live action (or “realistic” CG animated films if the cast is all animals) started well with the beautiful and entertaining Cinderella but that film notably stood on its own and had a take on the fairy tale rather than regurgitated the original. The films are getting worse and worse and The Little Mermaid looks to continue the disgusting trend of just trying to copy actual frames from the animated film with live actors doing the same blocking in the same compositions like obscenely budgeted karaoke party. I personally worship The Little Mermaid (1989) but hated every second of that presentation and felt terrible for Bailey and McCarthy.
Jamie Lee Curtis & Michelle Yeoh Speeches
With formidable competition neither of these legends have won every prize leading up to the big night. Therefore we weren’t sick of them and they could have theoretically repeated a speech if they wanted to. Thankfully they did not. On the long campaign trail (they’ve been pushing this movie for literally a full year now) both had clearly thought about what they were going to say and delivered their words with appropriate gusto, beautiful messaging, and genuine emotion without getting lost in the weeds of their feelings the way their male counterparts kept doing before the Oscars and at the Oscars.
Best Presenting Duo… Paul Dano & Julia Louis-Dreyfus presenting Best Costume Design
We weren’t expecting Paul & Julia to win “Funniest Presenting Duo” of the night but they did! Other celebrities gave good intro so it’s not like the field of was dire and this was an easy win. Janelle Monae and Kate Hudson, representing Glass Onion, had fun with the canned jokes in their Best Sound intro and Mindy Kaling and John Cho had even better material to work with on Best Original Score. Good pairings, though we have to admit it was extremely strange for the Academy to not mention 4 Weddings and a Funeral when reuniting MacDowell and Grant. Celebrate film history every chance you get, producers? Seriously. This shouldn’t be so difficult for you to grasp. (Note: Warner Bros montages which skip most of their Old Hollywood classics in order to squeeze in MGM films don’t count.)
Lady Gaga’s performance
She’s become a mainstay of the Oscars which nobody would have predicted in her “The Fame Monster” era or maybe even in her “Born This Way” era. But Mother Monster brings it every time and also keeps us guessing. Whod’a thunk she would try to represent the inarguably glossiest hit of the year with this most stripped down t-shirt/no makeup indie approach.
What were the moments that had you gagging (in a good way) or taking a pee break at your Oscar party ?