Tuesday, June 25, 2024

A Recap Of The Historic 95th Academy Awards

The campaigning is done, the speeches are made, the trophies are handed out, and the discourse is over. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t true, but the 95th Academy Awards are officially in the history books. As always, there are celebrations to be had and disappointments to reconcile, but ultimately this was the rare Oscars ceremony that should please most people overall. Before moving on to the films of 2023, let’s take a moment to reflect on this year’s ceremony, good and bad, and what we can take away from the winners.

Jimmy Kimmel returned as host for the third time, his first since 2018. He came in on the heels of two poor ceremonies full of their own divisive elements. In 2021, the pandemic-era Oscars featured necessary adjustments but took a big swing-and-a-miss by failing to give out Best Picture last, which angered many. Last year, eight categories were pushed from the Oscars broadcast and awarded an hour before the start of the ceremony. This and the infamous “slap” generated plenty of outrage. With those big shoes to fill, Kimmel handled the show quite well, balancing good humor and respect for the movies. A few jokes landed with a thud, which is to be expected, but Kimmel hit more than he missed.

Rather than focus on cute bits or skits, the only real detours from the actual awards were the performances of the nominated original songs. Rihanna’s performance of “Lift Me Up” was a highlight, as was the dance number for “RRR’s” “Naatu Naatu.” Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” was stripped back and chill, a nice change of pace for the Oscars, and her performance was strong. The direction, however, was quite distracting. They were likely going for “intimate,” but the camera pushed in so tight on Gaga’s face and remained there for so long that it became awkward and took away from what should’ve been a more powerful performance. Furthermore, it seemed apparent the musical number, a last-minute addition to the show, seemed thrown together. Even so, it was much better than the surprisingly off-key performance of “This is a Life,” which was sadly a mess. Sofia Carson’s performance of “Applause” was perfectly lovely, though a bit stilted.

The primary word for this ceremony was “respect.” Montages honored the nominated films. Presenters and Kimmel both repeatedly praised the nominated craftspeople. So often, hosts feel the need to mock the artists whose jobs don’t get enough love, but that wasn’t the case tonight. No jokes about how “no one goes to the movies anymore.” No jokes about how no one has seen these movies. For the past two years, the producers of the Oscars seemed as though they had something to prove and thus upended all tradition in a foolish effort to boost numbers, and the shows suffered. They drew more attention to the show than the films and the awards. This year’s show, produced by Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner, let the awards themselves be the entertainment.

And entertaining they were indeed. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” wrapped up a record-breaking award run with a historic Best Picture win. The A24 film won a whopping seven Oscars from its eleven nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Best Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis), and Best Editing. In the 95 years of the Academy Awards, no film has ever won this many above-the-line Oscars (acting/directing/writing/producing). “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is only the third film to win three acting Oscars, following “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Network,” though neither of those films won Best Picture.

In the era of the expanded Best Picture lineup, the Academy has shifted toward spreading the wealth, giving fewer “sweeps,” and awarding many movies in a given year. The seven wins for “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is the most wins for a Best Picture winner since “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008, which won eight Oscars. For many of us, it was clear when Curtis won Best Supporting Actress that this would be an excellent night for the film. It would’ve been hard to believe that Curtis could’ve won without Yeoh winning too. And it would be even harder to believe all three performers would win without a Best Picture win.

Yeoh’s Best Actress win may be the most important among the many history-making moments of the evening. She became the first openly Asian Best Actress winner and the second woman of color to win the category in 95 years. Halle Berry joined Jessica Chastain to present the award to Yeoh in a nod to the history-making moment. Similarly, Quan’s win caps off a brilliant comeback story for the former child actor. He’s charmed his way through this season, thrilled and humbled by the accolades. Quan was the first person born in Vietnam to win an acting Oscar, and he acknowledged his history as a refugee as a child. Dan Kwan also became the first Asian-American to win Best Director. So much history was made with just one powerful film.

But it wasn’t just the Best Picture sweeper to be thrilled about. Regardless of how you felt about “The Whale,” there’s no denying the power of Brendan Fraser’s win. Starting from that viral standing ovation in Venice, the desire for Fraser to win an Oscar took hold even outside the circle of typical “film people.” Like Quan, it was a comeback story for a genuinely sweet person. In fact, all four acting winners this year could be attributed, at least in part, to their perceived narrative. For Quan and Fraser, it was their long-awaited comeback. For Curtis, she’s a Hollywood legend who had never received her due. And for Yeoh, it was time for the Academy to finally recognize another woman of color. None of these four won only because of these stories. Without a doubt, narratives alone only amplify attention brought on because of their incredible work.

Aside from “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” “All Quiet on the Western Front” also started its own mini-sweep through the awards. Snagging Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best International Feature, and perhaps most surprisingly, Best Production Design, the Netflix film certainly gained significant momentum through the middle of the ceremony. Many wondered if “All Quiet on the Western Front” might’ve been gearing up to win Best Picture, even though it didn’t take expected wins away from “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” Though Netflix has become the perennial runner-up for Best Picture, they certainly had a good evening regardless. In addition to the wins for “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Netflix received its first win for Best Animated Feature for “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” along with Best Documentary Short for “The Elephant Whisperers.”

While most prognosticators expected “Elvis” to take home at least a few awards, the film went home empty-handed. When “The Whale” won Best Makeup & Hairstyling over “Elvis,” the writing was on the wall that Fraser would defeat Butler. Even so, “Elvis” wasn’t the only Best Picture nominee to walk away with nothing. Exactly half of the Best Picture nominees won zero awards: “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “Elvis,” “The Fabelmans,” “TÁR,” and “Triangle of Sadness.” The last time something like this happened was in 2013 when five of the nine Best Picture nominees failed to win any Oscars. “Top Gun: Maverick,” considered by many to be a threat to win Best Picture, scored a single statuette for Best Sound. Sarah Polley prevailed in Best Adapted Screenplay for “Women Talking,” a sigh of relief when it seemed like “All Quiet on the Western Front” might continue to steamroll through its nominations. “Avatar: The Way of Water” also picked up Best Visual Effects.

Elsewhere, “RRR’s” took home Best Original Song for “Naatu Naatu,” capping off a sensational run for the Indian film. Winning Best Costume Design for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Ruth E. Carter became the first black woman to win multiple Oscars, an incredible feat and a disappointing statistic. “Navalny” won Best Documentary Feature, recognizing Putin’s war in Ukraine in the ceremony. Alexei Navalny’s family was on hand to accept the award alongside director Daniel Roher. “An Irish Goodbye” provided one of the most memorable moments of the ceremony when it won “Best Live Action Short,” and the directors sang happy birthday to their star, James Martin. And finally, “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse” won Best Animated Short, giving Apple TV+ Oscars two years in a row.

While not everyone is a fan of our new Best Picture winner, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” couldn’t make such an unprecedented awards run without some sort of consensus that crossed generational lines. A film doesn’t win PGA, DGA, SAG, WGA, ACE, and countless other awards, leading to seven Oscars if the film only appealed to young people, to “white guilt,” or to “woke” audiences, or any other silly label thrown its way.

For those thrilled with wins for “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and those who followed the film’s unlikely journey to history: hold onto this feeling. Few Academy Awards ceremonies break as many records or reward the favorite movie of the Twitter and Letterboxd crowd. Tonight was rare, even if it signifies the shifting definition of “awards fare.”

The other thing to remember is this: next year, it’s okay if your favorite films don’t win. Your favorites are still valid, and the films that win awards are still valid. Awards are excellent, but they don’t determine a film’s worth. Celebrate when your favorites win, as so many are doing tonight, but remember to be gracious in victory and gracious in defeat.

On behalf of the entire Next Best Picture team, we want to thank everyone who has followed our coverage this Oscar season. Whether you regularly listen to our podcast, our interviews with artists in the race, or read our predictions and breakdowns, we’re grateful for your support. Stick around as we continue to cover television awards season and the Emmys this fall, and we look forward to covering next year’s Oscar race and the journey to our Next Best Picture Oscar Winner.

What were your biggest surprises at the Oscars this year? What was your favorite win of the evening? Did anything genuinely catch you off guard? Please let us know in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account. Thank you!

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

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