Oscars 2023 Review: The Oscars settle down to save face
While the 95th Academy Awards got its highlights from the usual sources—mainly the speeches—the ABC telecast wasn’t exactly shooting for the stars.
After a good three hours and 35 minutes, the 2023 Oscars ended with a wave. With a few seconds of stage time, Best Picture (and Director and Screenplay) winner Daniel Scheinert (followed by “Everything Everywhere All At Once” producer Jonathan Wang and co-director Daniel Kwan) looked directly into the camera and thanked the audience for watching, and waves goodbye. Like his film, the farewells were a bit cheesy, and like the seven-trophy ceremony for the A24 hit, it was delivered with understated sincerity – maybe you won’t remember the wave next year, but that’s okay.
Why? Because it wasn’t a slap.
The less said about last year’s Oscars incident the better—after a year of reacting, analyzing, investigating, and revisiting Will Smith’s attack on Chris Rock, we simply have to move on—but it would be unfair to pretend it didn’t affect it. what we saw from the 95th Academy Awards. After all, “The Slap” wasn’t the only negative aspect of a truly disastrous production that inspired change. It was the only one that the general public remembers. So in 2023, when plenty of feel-good winners are predicted to win (many of whom have taken the stage), it makes some sense for producers to go all-in on an average telecast; for a night dedicated to honoring artistic achievement simply to honor artistic achievement.
Mainly pulled down. Scrolling through Twitter during the telecast and now reflecting on the events, it’s good to go back to making sound decisions instead of putting down an unexpected act of violence. The 2023 Oscars did a lot of things right (every category was awarded, live!), and a lot of things they got wrong. (The trailer for “The Little Mermaid” was a blatant and sinister overreach by Disney.) The headlines should be full of long-awaited success stories and historically positive stories. milestones. With a few years left on ABC’s Oscars contract, the Academy did what it needed to do to restore a baseline of competence. Did it give you hope for the year ahead, not to mention the future of the awards show? Well, that’s another story.
So in the spirit of the night’s big—and generous—winners, let’s start with the highlights. From the start, host Jimmy Kimmel created a relaxed atmosphere, which isn’t as easy as it sounds in a room full of dozens of nervous candidates with two U.S. Navy fighter jets zipping overhead. After parachuting down from the rafters, Kimmel squeezed two Best Picture nominees into his opening line — “Give me a second to set my danger zone — my banshees are hooked on Inisherin.” — before cheering up Nicole Kidman’s AMC commercials, Steven Spielberg doing drugs, and the force that binds all the actors together: “Encino Man.”
That’s not to say the late-night veteran played it safe. He called out “Babylon” for bombing (risking more ire from the film’s cult fans than an industry that didn’t like the film to begin with), jabbed the Academy for glaring nomination gaps (“How can you not nominate the man who directed “Avatar”? What do they think of him, woman?”), and Kimmel even inserted a Scientology study into the same line as a compliment to Tom Cruise. (Referring to the shirtless beach soccer scene in “Top Gun: Maverick,” “L Ron Hubba Hubba, you know what I’m sayin’?”)
Kimmel’s opening monologue isn’t going to be historically hilarious or maddeningly inappropriate — it was solid and has continued to perform admirably in his intermittent appearances throughout the show. His one standout post-monologue segment — “fan questions” as the stagehands prepared for Rihanna’s performance — may have done more harm than good, what with the unnecessary “La La Land” riff. Malala Yousafzaihis first name, and the false revival of his forgery Matt Damon Feud. But it’s also hard to be upset that Colin Farrell was brought into the show, especially since he was robbed of the best actor award.
And that brings us to the Oscars: the speeches. Ke Huy Quan set the bar high as his enthusiasm throughout the long awards season brought many tears of joy when a tearful Ariana DeBose called his name. He was the first of three “Everything Everywhere At Once” actors to win and the first of the two to thank his 84-year-old mother. (Michelle Yeoh, too.) Ruth Carter’s tears continued to flow and the moms cheered; Not only did the “Black Panther” costume designer win her second Academy Award (becoming the only black woman to ever win multiple Oscars), she dedicated her award to her mother. “This is for my mother,” he said. “Chadwick, please take care of mom.”
Sarah Polley’s surprise best screenplay win — and an aptly well-written speech — contributed to the final hour of the Oscars, along with the “RRR” songwriter. MM Keeravaaniher speech, sung to the tune of a Carpenters song, and Yeoh’s triumphant speech to “little girls who look like me” and any woman who has presumably been told she’s “past her prime”. Meanwhile, Brendan Fraser’s raucous jubilation was only compounded by the sweet excitement conveyed with almost total poise by return winners Daniels.
No, the Oscars didn’t do badly with the speeches (although, as usual, there were a number of quickly forgotten duds). There were problems with the construction of the telecast – for example, the advertisement for Disney’s big summer tentpole. in the actual ceremony. “The Little Mermaid” stars Melissa McCarthy and Halle Bailey took the stage to present a trailer for the live-action remake. termination of the line between the Academy and its network partner. It’s a great idea to introduce the Oscars for the upcoming movies, but the blunt promotional tools should be reserved for actual commercials.
On a technical level, pacing was also a recurring problem. After Jamie Lee Curtis won back-to-back “Everything Everywhere” — and gave back-to-back big, emotional speeches — the show didn’t cut to commercials as usual. Instead, they launched into a performance of the first best song. Quan and Curtis’ big moments couldn’t settle in, and Diane Warren’s performance was overshadowed – this was emphasized by television presenter Glenn Weiss, who attacked the two actors backstage while Warren received a standing ovation from the audience.
Best Song performances were also mixed. After Rihanna’s excellent Super Bowl performance, there was a lot of excitement for the Oscars moment, but the track “Wakanda Forever” came and went rather quietly. Lady Gaga’s number strained to recreate the intimacy and impact of her iconic “Star Is Born” duet with Bradley Cooper, but the extreme close-ups felt shaky and disconcerting for a song that was meant to soar. (Even the stripped-down version required a level of immobility that Gaga delivered with gusto, but the camera betrayed her with its laborious attempts to zoom in and track and zoom and track.) Even the much-anticipated “Naatu Naatu” dance sequence drew criticism for it. sticking too faithfully to the film and the lack of South Asian artists in the production. (The stage proved to be an additional visual feature, as thematic backdrops were provided for each winner cool frames for some speeches and spooky choices to others. But I really liked the use of tents!)
Despite this, he escaped the 2023 Oscars unscathed. More than likely, this year’s ceremony will be one to remember for the winners – which is truly ideal for a show that exists only to honor our best filmmakers – although there will be plenty of questions once the ratings are released. Should producers step up amid falling ratings? Or should they double down on the ceremony basics and aim for a polished, prestigious production? These are crucial questions, just not this year. In 2023, the only thing left to do was save face at the Oscars.
As the absent Tom Cruise once said – a bit prescient, of course, but still true: “Mission accomplished.”
The 95th Academy Awards were held on Sunday, March 12 in Los Angeles, California and aired live on ABC.
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