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Final Review of This Year’s Average Oscars

Finally, the 96th Annual Academy Awards have come and gone. The three and a half hour long award ceremony saw numerous actors, actresses, and crew members being recognized for their incredible work on the most commendable movies released in the last year. Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel for the fourth time, the show went off without a hitch or creating controversies. Almost.

Kimmel was okay as a host, but that might be in comparison to recent hosts’ blunders at award shows. After the abject failure of Jo Koy at the Golden Globes, it is possible that my expectations were lowered to think “not awful” is synonymous with good. The absence of jokes about how Barbieis [based] on a plastic doll with big boobies,” means a job well done in my book.

While not all of Kimmel’s jokes landed, there were no headlines about how bad it was. However, one joke stood out to me and many others as in bad taste. During his opening monologue, Kimmel joked, “Congratulations to Cillian [Murphy]’s costar Robert Downey Jr. This is the highest point of Robert Downey Jr.’s long and illustrious career. Well, one of the highest points.” This sleazily refers to Downey’s infamous past drug use that landed him in jail and nearly destroyed his career in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While Downey was a good sport, engaging with Kimmel, this joke was certainly not a fan-favorite. It seemed like it was a harkening back to a period of his life that he has risen above. To bring this up on a night where Downey was being celebrated for his talents, ultimately winning the award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, it felt inappropriate to joke about the worst time in his career and life. 

As far as the awards go, the majority of them were in line with the largely held expectations. 

Oppenheimer fell short of a complete sweep but still dominated this year’s awards. Christopher Nolan won Best Director for his beautiful magnum opus. Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr. won for Best Lead Actor and Best Actor in a Supporting Role, respectively. Most importantly, however, Oppenheimer was the winner of the award for Best Picture. In my mind, there was no way that Oppenheimer would not win Best Picture. A tour de force in acting and directing, it deserved the highest possible honor at this year’s awards.

For Best Actress in a Supporting Role, the recipient was Da’Vine Joy Randolph for her role in The Holdovers. After completely dominating this awards season with her nuanced and beautiful performance, winning Best Supporting Actress at the Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globes, and Critic’s Choice Awards, it was inconceivable that she would not be adding her first Oscars win to this impressive list. Preceded by a heartwarming introduction from Lupita Nyong’o, an incredible actress and Randolph’s long-time friend from their time in drama school together, the moment she was announced as the winner was beyond heartwarming. Her elegance, joy, and overwhelming appreciation to be on the stage she now has access to was palpable in her speech, and love for her fellow actors and herself radiated from her.

However, one award was a surprise, even to the actress who won it. Best Actress went to Emma Stone for Poor Things, rather than Lily Gladstone for Killers of the Flower Moon. I, along with many others, was beyond shocked at this turn of events. While the two had split the award season, Gladstone had just won the SAG award for her performance as Mollie Burkheart, usually indicating an Oscars win. Stone herself was shocked at her win, apparent in her reaction when her name was read by the presenters. While Emma Stone and Poor Things are both so loveable, I was disappointed to not see the first Native American nominee for Best Actress get to give her speech. 

In terms of controversies, there were not many huge ones reminiscent of the infamous Will Smith/Chris Rock slap or the La La Land/Moonlight Best Picture blunder. To me, the most awkward moment of the show was when Al Pacino announced Best Picture. Coming out on stage, he seemed normal, albeit weird in a Pacino way. However, it quickly went downhill for Pacino, as he seemed to skip the reading of the nominees and simply open the envelope immediately and read Oppenheimer. Everyone was confused: the viewers, the attendees, the live orchestra, and even the winners sat for a minute in confusion about whether or not he was being serious. It was a very uncomfortable pause even for the viewer, so one can imagine how bad it felt in the room. However, the Oppenheimer team quickly went to the stage and got the show back on track, making this less of a controversy and more of a strange moment.

I thought this year’s Academy Awards were good and largely uneventful, and what more can you ask for? As a self-proclaimed movie buff (read: mediocre Letterboxd user), I was waiting for these awards for months. My final review: meh. Nothing of note happened, good or bad, which is fine. It was a nice wrap to the awards season, albeit a fairly-forgettable close.

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Letterboxd enthusiast and international studies major who loves New England in fall, hates traffic, and will drop everything for a concert.