Oscars 2023 Aftermath: A safe and focused show gets the awards show back on track
And just like that, the 95th Academy Awards faded out to black.
Last night's Oscars felt safe, a bit old-fashioned and way more focused than in recent years...which is exactly what the awards show needed and wanted. After last year's "slap heard 'round the world," the Oscars were making headlines for all the wrong reasons, and no one was talking about the movies themselves. That slap at least made the Oscars relevant in 2022, after several years of heavy criticism, backlash and declining ratings. But that's not exactly the buzz that is worthy of the Oscars rich history. At 95, Oscar was in serious need of a face-lift, and not of the variety that Will Smith provided to Chris Rock.
The show still clocked in at about 3 hours and 37 minutes, but it was nice to "get back to basics" so to speak. Host Jimmy Kimmel gave a funny if mostly gentle opening monologue, referencing last year's slap but spending most of his time lambasting this year's batch of nominees. He got a few groans when he poked fun at the box office failures of the film "Babylon," and an uncomfortable response when he referenced the Academy's lack of female directing nominees. He did call out the Academy for sitting idly by after the Smith/Rock debacle last year, but mostly, it was tame...and quite funny.
The early moments from there were a sign of where things would go the rest of the night. Ke Huy Quan won the first award of the evening, for Best Supporting Actor in "Everything Everywhere All At Once," and gave what I thought was one of the all-time great and heartfelt acceptance speeches in Oscar history. Through tears, he talked about how he had achieved the American Dream.
From there, Jamie Lee Curtis took home the "Best Supporting Actress" award - snubbing Angela Bassett who was shown not looking all that happy with the results of the category. Jamie Lee Curtis, longtime actor and daughter of Oscar-parents Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, gave an equally memorable speech, thanking her late, famous parents and representing several others out there, claiming "we just won an Oscar!"
Those first two awards gave us early clues that this was the night of "Everything Everywhere All At Once." It had 11 nominations coming in - the most of any movie - and ended up winning a total of seven Oscars, including those for Quan and Curtis, but also one for Michelle Yeoh for Best Actress (the first Asian to win in an acting category), Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan for Best Directing, Best Editing and Best Original Screenplay, and then it continued bulldozing its way to claiming the big-daddy of them all, winning Best Picture.
"Everything Everywhere All At Once" won seven Oscars, the most for any movie since 2008's "Slumdog Millionaire," which won eight. It also became just the third movie ever to win three acting Oscars ("A Streetcar Named Desire" in 1951 and "Network" in 1976).
Perhaps most impressive of all, but "Everything Everywhere All At Once" was the very FIRST movie in the 95 year history of the Oscars to win six of the seven "above-the-line" categories (Acting, Writing, Directing and Picture). It's simply never been done. Finally, "Everything Everywhere All At Once" is now the most decorated film of all-time overall, winning more awards throughout the entire awards season than any movie in the history of movies (a record previously owned by "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King").
The German film "All Quiet on the Western Front" did second-best, landing four Oscar wins, including Best International Feature Film, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design and Best Original Score. Winning for Score was a bit of an upset as one of the losers was living legend John Williams, who at age 91 has now been nominated 53 times, second all-time only to Walt Disney. Williams has now lost his last 23 nominations, having last been recognized as a winner for 1994's "Schindler's List"...he's won just five times, a number that Jimmy Kimmel joked in his monologue, is "really not that good of a number" given his total nominations.
"The Whale" brought home a first-ever Oscar to fan-favorite Brendan Fraser who won for Best Actor, as well as a win in the Best Makeup & Hairstyling category. "The Whale" and "Everything Everywhere All At Once" are both films from the studio, A24, giving the studio an incredible tally of six for six in the acting, directing and Picture categories.
"Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio" won Best Animated Feature, while the documentary "Navalny" took home that category's top prize, in a bit of an upset over the favored Neon film, "All the Beauty and the Bloodshed."
Coming up empty? "The Fabelmans," "Elvis" "Tar" and "The Banshees of Inisherin" all came up with goose eggs at this year's Oscars.
Beyond that and the snub of Angela Bassett, the only other occurrence that could even remotely be described as "controversial" was the omission of Anne Heche, Tom Sizemore and Leslie Jordan (among a few other key stars), from the In Memoriam segment, which was performed on stage by Lenny Kravitz.
Speaking of performances, Rihanna and Lady Gaga also performed, but the Best Song (and performance of the night!) went to the song "Naatu Naatu" from the Netflix film, "RRR." That win also lead to Diane Warren - who was nominated in the category eight of the last nine years and fourteen times overall without ever winning - having yet another empty-handed Oscar night.
There weren't a lot of montages, or extra "fluff" as we are sometimes given, and Kimmel all but disappeared for most of the show after his opening monologue. Yes, the focus was on the movies, and the highlights came from the acceptance speeches...not stars posturing for political or personal reasons, but truly making the audience know how lucky they feel to be on stage living out what is surely a lifelong dream.
Moments like Ke Huy Quan's, Jamie Lee Curtis's, and Michelle Yeoh's acceptance speeches are the sort of magical, memorable Oscar moments that made me fall in love with movies in the first place...in today's climate and given the last few Oscar telecasts, it's unlikely that this 2023 Academy Awards will change people's perceptions of Hollywood overnight...or at all. But if the Oscars are ever going to regain their prestige and popularity of years' past, they have to start somewhere.
The 95th Academy Awards, in my opinion, was a good place to start.
See the Full Winners List here.
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