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The 95th Oscars recap: The dazzle, dancing and donkey

Awards season has unfortunately come to an end. It sure has been quite a season, and it all went out with a bang. On March 12, the 95th annual Academy Awards aired live on ABC. The stars came to look their best and win some awards. Now, as far as Oscars ceremonies go, this was a fairly smooth show. Sure, it went half an hour longer than expected, but we should really expect the unexpected when it comes to Academy Award lengths. There were minimal awkward moments, and plenty of heartwarming speeches. Many films were honored at the Oscars, and it shows that we have had quite a year. This is the biggest celebration of film annually; so the producers and planners have to pull out all of the stops. It was a wonderful combination of electricity and sincerity. While I believe last year’s movies may have been better, I think this year’s ceremony was better than last year’s. This year’s Oscars showed why we should appreciate the beauty and magic of cinema.

Like most award shows, the Oscars started off with a monologue by the host. This year’s host was late night talk show host and previous Oscar host, Jimmy Kimmel. The Oscars began with an homage to Best Picture nominee “Top Gun: Maverick.” A prerecorded video showed him flying a Top Gun style fighter aircraft, until eventually he was forced to parachute into the Dolby Theater, where the Oscars are held. Once that happened, the jokes began. Like most Oscars’ monologues, it involved the host making jokes about the movies and the people nominated. Some highlights include, “James Cameron is not here tonight. You know a show is too long when James Cameron can’t sit through it.” referencing “Avatar: The Way of Water,” and in a “Top Gun: Maverick” reference, Kimmel joking “Tom Cruise with his shirt off in that beach football scene? L Ron Hubba Hubba.” Other jokes about the nominees include a mention of composer John Williams and that “John Williams just turned 91 and he’s still scoring” and a joke about “The Banshees of Inisherin” by saying that “it was some year for diversity and inclusion. We have nominees from every corner of Dublin.” I could go on and on about the jokes made, but I can not just write out Kimmel’s entire monologue. That being said, I think he did an overall terrific job. There were no jokes that made people uncomfortable or groan, and there was a nice amount of sentimentality that shows how much he appreciates all of the nominees and movies. A fantastic monologue should toe that line of comedy and heart, which was achieved. This is Kimmel’s third time hosting the Oscars, so by this point, he knows what he is doing. He also did a great job fitting himself in the rest of the Oscars and do his hosting duties. His beginning showed that we had a great show ahead of us.

The exciting parts of the night came in the form of the performances by the Best Song nominees. At least, for most of the Best Song nominees. The most electric performance was by the category’s winner. “Naatu Naatu” from the film “RRR” was an absolute showstopper. Unlike most of the other nominees, this song was an important part of “RRR” and it involved an elaborate dance. Fans were hoping to see that dance, and this performance absolutely did not disappoint. While that was the stand out performance, there were some other lovely songs performed. Lady Gaga performed “Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick,” and it did not look like a typical Lady Gaga performance. Instead of elaborate makeup and costume, she was recessed down in casual clothes and minimal makeup, and the performance was a close up of her face. It is no secret that Lady Gaga has a wonderful singing voice, which helped make this a delightful song. A thrilling performance could have been fun, but the understatedness still worked. On the opposite side, there was “This is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once” performed by David Byrne, Stephanie Hsu and Son Lux. This was kind of a trippy performance, with Hsu in a fantastical white dress and Byrne in an all white suit. The song was slow and smooth, and the performance was intriguing. It was not my favorite song, but it kept my interest. Speaking of keeping interest, no one can deny Rihanna’s performing power. She sang “Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Standing on what looked like a bale of hay in a flowy black dress, Rihanna did not have to move to hold everyone’s attention. Her powerful voice and presence helped make this song matter. She proved at the Super Bowl and she proved at the Oscars that she is a star. The only dud of the songs was “Applause” from “Tell It Like a Woman,” which was performed by Sofia Carson and Diane Warren. Warren has been nominated for Best Song 15 times, with eight of those nominations from the past nine years. At this point, it feels like a formality to nominate, as nobody has been talking about this film. The performance of this song was very slow and plain, and it seemed like it was building to something that never happened. It was the first Best Song nominee that was performed, which meant for an unenthusiastic start, but it also meant everything went up from there.

While there were a lot of thrilling moments with the awards, it seems there were two films that dominated. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” came out of the night winning the most awards, a whopping seven wins total. The film now holds the all time record for the most above the line awards. It won the main award, Best Picture, as well as Best Actress for Michelle Yeoh, Best Supporting Actress for Jamie Lee Curtis, Best Supporting Actor for Ke Huy Quan and Best Director for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, otherwise known as The Daniels. In addition, the film won Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing. This unique examination on family, alternate realities and the immigrant experience is not the typical film that the Oscars go for. Nevertheless, this film shined and showed that we are entering a new film future. When it came to Below the Line categories, “All Quiet On the Western Front” stood out. This German World War I film based on the classic book went home with four awards. It was the recipient of Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Original Score and Best International Film. War films have struck a chord with audiences for decades, and many elements of this film moved the current audiences.

Of course, those two films were not the only ones that won Oscars. Out of 23 categories, there were many different winners. Even though it was not nominated for Best Picture, “The Whale” went home with two Oscars. It won Best Actor for Brendan Fraser, which he rightly deserves and Best Makeup. So even though nomination day did not recognize this movie fully, the awards got close. There were other non Best Picture nominees that got some love. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” took home Best Costume Design, which made history as recipient/costume designer Ruth E. Carter became the first black woman to have multiple Oscars. As mentioned before, “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR” took home Best Song, which makes it one for one in nominated categories. Maybe if India decided to submit this film for Best International Feature, it could have won more. Then, of course, there were Best Picture nominees that did not walk away empty handed. “Avatar: The Way of Water” won Best Visual Effects, which makes sense when you see the elaborate and beautiful world that was made for this movie. “Top Gun: Maverick” was the recipient of Best Sound and “Women Talking” won Best Adapted Screenplay. Out of the 10 Best Picture nominees, only half of them won an award. It was a cutthroat year, and maybe the non-winners would have been recognized in a different year.

There were plenty of other fun moments of the night. At one point, Kimmel brought out the beloved Jenny the donkey from “The Banshees of Inisherin,” which was a delightful treat. There were also strange moments, like when Kimmel decided to ask Malala Yousafzai if she thought Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine. There were other small jokes of the night, which helped the show flow well. A cute moment was when during the speech that “An Irish Goodbye” gave for Best Short Film, everyone sang Happy Birthday to the lead, James Martin. Speaking of speeches, those made up a lot of the wonderful segments of the night. The first speech of the night was Guillermo Del Toro accepting the Oscar for Best Animated Film for “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio,” and that was a great way to start the night off. Del Toro has always given great speeches at award shows, as you can always feel his passion for movies in his voice. It is entertaining to see his joy. Specifically, Ke Huy Quan’s speech was very emotional and inspiring, and can not be missed. The same can be said for Brendan Fraser, who has been giving emotional award speeches all of Oscars season. He has had struggles for the past decade or so, but he persevered, and now he is back on top, which is wonderful to see. A unique speech was given by M. M. Keervani, who accepted the Oscar for Best Song for “Naatu Naatu.” What made his speech interesting was that he sang it to the tune of “Top Of the World” by The Carpenters, as he said is a fan. No other speech was like that, so that brought a little excitement. The speeches can be some of the most important and captivating parts of the Oscars. So if you want to watch anything from the show, at the very least, check out some speeches.

On a somber note, there was also the In Memoriam segment. This is where the Oscars honors all of those who were involved with movies and the Academy that died within the past year. This was presented by John Travolta, who lost two co-stars this past year. Kirstie Alley, Travolta’s co-star in “Look Who’s Talking” has passed, as did his “Grease” co-star Olivia Newton John. In the words of Newton-John’s character in “Grease,” Travolta wanted to honor those we were “hopelessly devoted to.” Lenny Kravitz performed his song “Calling All Angels” as the montage of the people who have passed on this past year was shown in the background. All of these people were important figures in the film industry, like Ray Liotta, James Caan, Angela Lansbury, Louise Fletcher, Irene Cara, Burt Bacharach and so many more. It was a beautiful tribute. However, it was noticed that many famous names were left out. One of those names was Charlbi Dean, who starred in “Triangle of Sadness” which was nominated for Best Picture this year, so it really feels like an oversight. Other forgotten stars include Paul Sorvino, Anne Heche, Cindy Williams, Gilbert Gottfried, Tom Sizemore and Leslie Jordan. Their names can be found in memoriam on the Academy’s website, but their legacies unfortunately were not shown on screen.

For the most part, this award show was quite the success. With many first time winners and some old favorites appearing, the Oscars showed all walks of Hollywood. Everything looked stunning, especially the outfits. That can probably be said about most awards shows, but everyone was looking shimmery and dressed to the nines. I had a fun time watching this one, and I’m sure the 18.7 million other people watching had fun too. That is 12% more than last year. It is sad that Oscars season is now over, but all good things must come to an end. It looks like it is time to prepare for the 2024 Oscars. “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Maestro” for the win? Maybe there will be wins for the big summer blockbusters “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie”? Alright, so maybe it is too early to plan. However, mark your calendars for next year when I talk about this all over again. Until next time, stay awardsy.

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