Tuesday, April 23, 2024

A Recap Of The 2024 Academy Awards

The 2024 Oscar race is officially over. This season endured strikes, delays, and battles for category placement, yet it’s all come to an end now. The winners of the 96th Academy Awards have been revealed, capping off a thrilling journey with plenty of surprises, even right up until the last moments. Everyone knew “Oppenheimer” would prevail, winning Best Picture and more, but many categories kept us on our toes until the envelopes were opened on Oscar night. Let’s unpack the ups, the downs, and the surprises of the 96th Academy Awards.

Though it comes as a surprise to no one, “Oppenheimer” officially took home the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with six other wins. Christopher Nolan was awarded Best Director by none other than Steven Spielberg himself, which was a perfect choice. Nolan’s career has been shaped to be quite similar to Spielberg’s, though their paths differed quite a bit. Cillian Murphy won Best Actor, ending an up-and-down race. Earlier in the season, many prognosticators believed it was Bradley Cooper’s year before switching to Paul Giamatti later on. However, it was clear after Murphy’s BAFTA and SAG wins that the Oscar would be his. Robert Downey Jr. capped off a phenomenal sweeping season, taking home Best Supporting Actor. He thanked his “terrible childhood, and the Academy, in that order,” in a charming speech. Deserving wins for both overdue performers.

On the crafts side, “Oppenheimer” picked up wins for Best Cinematography, Original Score, and Film Editing. Though it surprisingly lost Best Sound to “The Zone Of Interest,” this is a commanding haul for Nolan’s beloved film. We could’ve done without Al Pacino’s bizarre announcement of Best Picture, though (even though it has given the Next Best Picture Podcast a truly memorable opening for the next year).

While many, including this writer, thought “Poor Things” would go home empty-handed, the Academy had other plans. Though Best Production Design and Costume Design were tight races between “Poor Things” and “Barbie,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ film came out on top in both categories. It’s still shocking that the explosion of pink that cascaded across America didn’t result in a win in either of these categories. Nevertheless, the wins for “Poor Things” didn’t stop there. The vast majority of pundits had “Maestro” easily winning Best Makeup & Hairstyling, yet “Poor Things” triumphed there, too, leaving Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” without a single win. While we all believed that the impressive old-age makeup of “Maestro” would push the film to a win, we underestimated the power of passion in this race. “Maestro” simply didn’t have any, while “Poor Things” appears to have been the runner-up for Best Picture. These three craft wins were big, but its biggest achievement was winning Best Actress.

When Michelle Yeoh announced Emma Stone’s name, she was overcome with emotion. It’s unclear if she felt what many of us in the audience felt: conflicted. On one hand, Stone’s performance is genuinely compelling. She owns “Poor Things” and crafted a truly unforgettable character in Bella Baxter. On the other hand, so many of us, perhaps Stone included, hoped to see Lily Gladstone make history. Nevertheless, Gladstone had already broken ground as the first Native American nominee for Best Actress – a deeply important moment. Stone is beloved in the industry, so it’s tough to be upset with seeing her win two Oscars, even under these circumstances. Lily’s loss though for “Killers Of The Flower Moon” also meant another Martin Scorsese film won zero Oscars out of ten nominations, the exact same result for both “Gangs Of New York” and “The Irishman.”

In the lone win for “The Holdovers,” Da’Vine Joy Randolph took home Best Supporting Actress, completing her sweep of the entire 2023-2024 awards season. While she had been reading off of scripts most of the season, she put the paper away for this one and spoke from the heart. Randolph was crying before she was even announced as the winner, bursting into tears as Lupita Nyong’o honored her performance during the nominees’ introduction. It was the first award of the evening. Still, it resonated throughout the rest of the night, making for a memorable moment that brought a single shining tear to Paul Giamatti’s eye.

The Zone Of Interest” expectedly (and deservedly) took home the Oscar for Best International Feature for the United Kingdom. Its closest competitor, “Anatomy Of A Fall,” was absurdly not selected by France to even contend in the category. However, the bigger surprise came with the announcement of Best Sound, a category many believed “Oppenheimer” had all sewn up after winning at MPSE and CAS. “The Zone Of Interest” prevailed there as well, joining “Oppenheimer” and “Poor Things” as the only films to win multiple Oscars this year. Frankly, it’s also one of the best wins ever in this category. The sound work in “The Zone Of Interest” is so different and non-traditional that it’s almost shocking the Academy went for it, but when your film’s identity is as wrapped up in its sound as powerfully as this is (similar to “Sound Of Metal“), it becomes undeniable.

For nearly two decades, there has been little suspense about what would win Best Visual Effects each year. This year, for a variety of reasons, plausible cases could be made for “Godzilla Minus One,” “The Creator,” and “Napoleon” taking home the win. “Napoleon” fit the mold of the seemingly more prestigious film (despite poor reviews) with a Best Production Design nomination, while “The Creator” fit the mold of the bigger-budget visual effects showcase, despite its own mediocre reviews. Ultimately, neither film had excitement behind it like “Godzilla Minus One” did. Despite the smaller footprint, it was the better-reviewed film and clearly had more passion, similar to what “RRR” was able to achieve with its lone Oscar win last year. This is an undeniably thrilling win and the first ever for a “Godzilla” movie.

In another heated race between “Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse” and “The Boy And The Heron” for Best Animated Feature, legendary Oscar-winner Hayao Miyazaki came out on top. It’s a stunning win for a variety of reasons. For much of the season, “Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse” seemed to be the clear frontrunner, but the Globe and BAFTA wins showed there was still passion for “The Boy And The Heron,” especially from international voters (a recurring theme throughout the evening). It’s only the second traditionally animated film to win Best Animated Feature, following Miyazaki’s own “Spirited Away.” “The Boy And The Heron” is also the first PG-13 film to win in the category, something that truly didn’t seem possible after over two decades of G and PG-rated winners. Though it would’ve been wonderful to see “Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse” prevail, no one can be mad at “The Boy And The Heron” winning.

Thanks to the ever-shifting category placement for “Barbie,” Best Original and Adapted Screenplay races had plenty of ups and downs all season. While “Anatomy Of A Fall” defeated “Barbie” at both the Golden Globes and BAFTA, “Barbie” had moved to Best Adapted Screenplay for the Academy Awards. “American Fiction” won in Adapted at BAFTA but never competed directly against “Barbie” until the Oscars. Both of these Screenplay categories seemed to be ripe for a surprise, yet the obvious winners prevailed. “Anatomy Of A Fall” won Best Original Screenplay, while “American Fiction” won Best Adapted Screenplay. Neither screenplay winner won any other awards, only the fourth time that’s happened this century.

While the three Shorts categories are ballot-busters most years, they were a bit more predictable this year. “The Last Repair Shop” won Best Documentary Short, giving Ben Proudfoot his second win in just two years following “The Queen Of Basketball.” Wes Anderson finally became an Oscar winner for Best Live Action Short for “The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar.” It’s rare for an established filmmaker to win in the shorts. In fact, Anderson is the first person to win Best Live Action Short after being nominated for Best Director. Over in Best Animated Short, “War Is Over! Inspired By The Music Of John & Yoko” won despite its mixed to negative reviews. Many prognosticators begrudgingly predicted this correctly, believing that the worst of the Animated Shorts would win. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but if you guessed all three categories correctly, it made up for it.

The 96th Academy Awards had more repeat winners than usual, with quite a few artists winning only a few short years after their previous wins. Bille Eilish and Finneas won Best Original Song for “What Was I Made For,” just three years after winning for “No Time To Die.” As mentioned earlier, Ben Proudfoot won Best Documentary Short after winning two years ago. Emma Stone won Best Actress after winning back in 2016 for “La La Land,” while Ludwig Göransson won Best Original Score a second time, five years after winning for “Black Panther” in 2018. Both Proudfoot and Finneas became the only two Oscar winners born in the 1990s to win their second Oscar. Eilish was already the only Oscar winner born in the 21st century, and now she’s done it twice.

The Oscar winners may have kept us on our toes, but how was the ceremony itself? Jimmy Kimmel has proved he’s a reliable host who will play it pretty safe, and this telecast was relatively tame (minus a nude bit with John Cena presenting Best Costume Design). While Kimmel’s monologue went on far too long, nearly twenty minutes, he had a few good jokes throughout the night. The funniest was after Emma Stone’s win, Kimmel told someone backstage to rip up the card, referencing the infamous “La La Land” and “Moonlight” Best Picture envelope mix-up. The overall presentation was decent, but having five previous winners return to present each acting award was lovely. These led to some charming moments, like Nicolas Cage poking fun at Paul Giamatti and Sam Rockwell roasting his “Iron Man 2” co-star Robert Downey Jr. While the clips of the performances were missed, this was a nice callback to Oscar history. One criticism would be how the In Memoriam segment was handled as the dancers and singers on stage took away from focusing on the screen, honoring those we lost this past year. This can easily be fixed next year and will hopefully not be an issue again but it was a disappointment the other night.

Yet nothing made as big of an impact on the night as Ryan Gosling’s performance of Best Original Song nominee “I’m Just Ken.” Without exaggeration, this will go down as one of the greatest moments in Academy Awards history. The performance was electric, with Gosling sounding even better than on the recording. Fellow Kens, including Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa, and Scott Evans, joined the massive number, and the entire room joined in, with Greta Gerwig, Emma Stone, and plenty more singing their hearts out while Slash and Mark Ronson played the tune. It was truly unforgettable and a perfect cap on this exhilarating race.

The 2023 awards season has come to a close. While 2024 may see films delayed due to last year’s strikes, there are still so many brilliant films to look forward to. With twelve months until the 97th Academy Awards, the possibilities are endless. Thank you for sticking with Next Best Picture for coverage this year, and we hope this year is even better.

What was your score when predicting this year’s winners? What was the biggest shock of the evening? How did Jimmy Kimmel do as host? Please us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account and be sure to see how NBP did on our Oscar predictions here.

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howathttps://nextbestpicture.com
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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