This year’s Oscar ceremony was all about the Slap.
Don’t get me wrong. No one got slapped during the ceremony. No one got yelled at. There wasn’t any major controversy at all, beyond the question of whether Everything Everywhere All At Once actually deserved all of those Oscars. Most of the awards speeches were nice. Ke Huy Quan was a highlight, calling his story “an American dream.” Much as when Gary Oldman praised America upon winning his Oscar for Best Actor, you could tell the audience at the ceremony wasn’t sure how to react to unironic praise of America but I can promise you that his speech touched the hearts of almost everyone watching. Compared to previous ceremonies, there wasn’t a lot of political blathering and the orchestra did its job and kept people from rambling on for too long. Obviously, the Academy learned its lesson from the Soderbergh Oscars and that guy who wouldn’t shut up about his octopus.
That said, from the start, it was obvious that The Slap and preventing another incident was on everyone’s mind. As opposed to last year’s Oscars, the entire ceremony felt tightly controlled. Jimmy Kimmel kept his jokes light and only poked fun at people who didn’t show for the ceremony, like James Cameron and Tom Cruise. Amongst the presenters, there was a definite lack of comedians or, really, anyone who might threaten to go off script and say something controversial. The show was carefully constructed to keep anything shocking from happening and, as a result, it was a bit dull. For all the drama and controversy that surrounded the Slap, it was probably one of the few truly spontaneous moments that we’ve seen on the Oscars. Certainly, more people talked about the Slap last year than are going to be talking the ceremony this year.
This year was safe and boring, though it was never as downright dull as the Soderbergh Oscars. Most of the victories felt inevitable. I guess the biggest upset was Jamie Lee Curtis winning Best Supporting Actress over Angela Bassett. (Though I appreciated that Curtis epitomized everything that normal people hate about the IRS, I was rooting for Kerry Condon.) There was a brief moment of excitement when it seemed like All Quiet On The Western Front might upset Everything Everywhere All At Once but that ended up as soon as All Quiet lost the Adapted Screenplay Oscar to Women Talking.
As far as the speeches go, Ke Huy Quan won the evening by giving a genuine, heartfelt acceptance speech. The Daniels got to give three acceptance speeches and they both seemed to get just a little bit more impressed with themselves with each speech. (A lot of people are going to have their knives out when the Daniels get around to making their third film.) EEAAO‘s editor went on for a bit too long, which is actually kind of a funny thing for an editor to do. Michelle Yeoh’s speech was classy and should be used as a guide who ever wonders what to say when accepting an award.
I was kind of dreading the prospect of Jimmy Kimmel hosting but I thought he did a good job. Other than throwing in a few heavy-handed political jabs towards the end, Kimmel struck the right tone for the show. Jimmy certainly seemed to have a better handle on things than Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall did last year. Of course, unlike those three, Kimmel didn’t have to deal with any nominees walking on stage and striking a presenter.
As far as the musical performances go, the performance of RRR‘s nominated song was a lot of fun and I also thought Lady Gaga did a wonderful job with her song. The other performances didn’t do much for me, though none of them were particularly bad. They were just kind of safe. The fact that EEAAO got a nomination for that song should have been everyone’s first clue that the Academy was going to love the movie.
The ceremony this year was controlled and boring and, most importantly, it’s now over. Now, we can start talking about what’s going to win in 2024!
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