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96th Oscars recap: a Kenergetic night

2023 was a wonderful year of films. There were hilarious comedies, heart-wrenching dramas, captivating thrillers and more. On March 10, the Oscars aired live from the Dolby Theatre and celebrated the best of these 2023 films. This star-studded event was full of everyone’s favorite celebrities while also serving as a true love letter to 2023’s movies. Some moments of the event were fairly expected, while others were able to catch people by surprise. In total, there were 23 awards handed out. While some awards may grab more attention than others, all of them demonstrate the importance of every piece of a film. That is what makes this show so special. That being said, this show obviously is not just handing out awards and the recipient going back to their seat. It would be kind of hard to stretch that to three and a half hours. There were some goofy moments, incredible performances, moving speeches and so much more. As far as the Oscars go, this was a terrific ceremony that deserves recognition. Here are all of the best and most notable moments of the night so that you understand everything that made this ceremony so memorable.

This year, the host of the Oscars was comedian and late night host Jimmy Kimmel. This ceremony marked Kimmel’s fourth time hosting. He is a comedian that is safe and non-offensive, so it makes sense why he was chosen for this job, despite the fact that I can think of plenty of funnier comedians. As per usual, the night started off with Kimmel’s monologue. Actually, the night started off with seven minutes of commercials, then it started with Kimmel’s monologue. Kimmel’s jokes included referencing Robert Downey Jr. and saying that “Oppenheimer” was “…the highest point in his career. Well, one of the highest points in his career,” referencing Downey Jr.’s previous drug addiction. It was a risky joke, but Downey laughed and played along. Another great joke was talking about how Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster were nominated for “Taxi Driver” 48 years ago and were nominated again that night, De Niro for “Killers of the Flower Moon” and Foster for “Nyad.” Kimmel mentioned that “In 1976, Jodie Foster was young enough to be Robert De Niro’s daughter, now she is twenty years too old to be his wife,” which is referencing how De Niro is 80 and his girlfriend is 45. The couple laughed, so at least they recognized the situation’s oddness. There were plenty of other good jokes in the monologue, some more that were a little wild and others that played it safe. The safe ones were fine, but they felt more predictable. Overall, the monologue could have been better, but it was decent.

Another moment with Kimmel I have to mention is a couple hours into the show. Kimmel read Trump’s thoughts on the Oscars from a Truth Social post, which included a lot of negative criticism including “Has there EVER been a WORSE HOST than Jimmy Kimmel at The Oscars. His opening was that of a less than average person trying too hard to be something which he is not, and never can be.” Kimmel responded by saying “Isn’t it past your jail time?” which led to a roar of laughter from the audience. The fact this was all unplanned is what made it all even better. While Kimmel may not have been my first choice for host, he was not bad at all. He keeps coming back because he makes sure the show runs smoothly while also throwing a little bit of goofiness. After all, that is the most important task of an award’s show host, so checking that off is an achievement.

While most categories include brief descriptions of clips of their nominees, the best song category is a little different. There are five songs nominated and all five of those songs got a performance and a time to shine. The first song, and the eventual winner, was “What Was I Made For” from “Barbie,” sung by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell. When this song appeared in “Barbie,” I found it to be very moving and was featured at a perfect moment in the film. However, this performance left much to be desired. The song did not sound as good live and the overall performance was underwhelming. It was not exactly a winning performance in my book. The second song was “Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)” from “Killers of the Flower Moon” by Scott George and performed with a group of Osage singers and dancers. This performance was full of excitement and truly honored Osage culture through the language, the drumming and the intensity. It may not be a song that people would typically hear on the radio, but it was still a captivating performance.

The third song was “It Never Went Away” from “American Symphony” by Jon Batiste. The film is about a year in Batiste’s career and life, which includes supporting his wife through her leukemia. The song demonstrated Batiste’s talent and represented the emotions that went into the making of his film. It was a fairly short song, but it still packed a punch. The fourth song was “The Fire Inside” from “Flamin’ Hot” by Diane Warren (performed by Becky G). I want to emphasize the fact that this song is from a movie about the creation of the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto with a fabricated story. It is not like the song is that memorable either. However, it is by Diane Warren and the Academy has decided they are just going to nominate her for random movies but not award her. She has been nominated fifteen times. What secrets does this woman have about the Academy? Finally, the Oscars saved the best performance for last. The last song was “I’m Just Ken” from “Barbie” by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt (performed by Ryan Gosling). This performance was the one that everyone was waiting for and it did not disappoint. It was full of fun dancing, heartfelt singing and a whole lot of Kenergy. The performance just proved that this was the superior “Barbie” song and it should have absolutely won. Nevertheless, these were all unique performances and even though there were some weak ones, the performances always make up some fun moments for the show.

Since this is an award show, I would be remiss to not talk about the winners themselves. The main takeaway from this year’s Oscars was that it was a tremendous night for “Oppenheimer” with its seven wins, which includes a win for the top prize of Best Picture. “Poor Things” was also a big winner, walking away with four awards. “Oppenheimer” and “Poor Things” could not be more different, but they were both well-respected by the Academy and were full of thrills. Basically, “Oppenheimer” was a winner for technical effects whereas “Poor Things” was a winner for aesthetics. They certainly were not the only films that took home awards, as plenty of other movies got their fair share, like “The Holdovers,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” “The Zone of Interest,” “American Fiction” and more. It is always lovely to see all of these films receive appreciation, as it shows that the Academy can recognize the brilliance of all of these films.

On the topic of winners, I want to highlight some speeches and recognition that I thought were special. When you are making a speech at the Oscars, millions of eyes are on you so that moment needs to count. That is why some speeches had great messages. One terrific speech came from Cord Jefferson who won Best Original Screenplay for “American Fiction.” In his speech, he talked about the need for cheap and small films. He emphasized how executives should take a chance on young and new creatives so that we can get more unique films like “American Fiction.” He talked about how not every film needs to be an expensive blockbuster, and I agree. The Oscars are the best place to make this point and I am glad Jefferson shared the importance of this creativity.

On the political side, another fantastic speech was for Best Documentary, which went to “20 Days in Mariupol.” This documentary is a Ukrainian film about the early days of Russia’s invasion, specifically in the city of Mariupol, which was besieged. In his speech, director Mtsylav Chernov mentioned how he wished he never made this film, meaning he wished the topic of this film was never happening and he would not have felt the deep need to make this film. Chernov talked about the deep problems happening in the Ukraine and it is messages like this one that are necessary to make people aware of the atrocities. He called on Russia to release all of the hostages and he expressed how much he wants Ukraine to be safe once again. Chernov expressed deep bravery in his speech and saying he would give up his recognition demonstrates the director’s selflessness, which should be a large example of why this documentary is important.

Another fantastic speech came when “The Zone of Interest” won Best International Feature Film. The film takes place during the Holocaust and through an officer that lived next to Auschwitz, which makes some of the incidents seem harsher. The speech at the Oscars was given by the director, Jonathan Glazer. Glazer used this time to talk about what is happening in Israel. Glazer, who is Jewish, said “Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people.” He is saying that he is not standing for the cruelty being committed and the inhumane treatments occurring right now. Glazer wants resistance. This speech stood out on Oscar night because of this being a big statement on a huge public platform. These are just some speeches that took the time to make statements. While that was not the case for most of the speeches, all of the speeches were full of emotion as they were displays of artists dedicated to their craft. No matter how people phrase their speeches, seeing the passion come through is what helps each speech leave an impact.

While the Oscars are known for their prestige, that does not mean they won’t loosen up their tie and have some fun. The night was full of plenty of goofy moments that I want to highlight. For instance, in presenting the award for Best Costume Design, John Cena appeared “naked.” Of course, he was not actually naked, but with an envelope covering his crotch, who could tell? It honored the 50th anniversary of the infamous Oscars streaker of 1974 and also recognized the importance of costumes. John Cena was a great choice for this moment, not only because of his body but also because he actually has great comedic timing. Speaking of comedic timing, John Mulaney’s presentation for the award for Best Sound demonstrated why he is a great comedian. What started as a speech about why sound’s importance became a description of why “Field of Dreams” is such a fun and unique film (Ghosts playing baseball! How unusual!). The path to that description after starting with sound may seem odd, but Mulaney made it work with the way his words flow. No offense to Kimmel, but Mulaney would do a better job as host than him. Another great presenting moment was Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger presenting the awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Film Editing. Their presentation was a reunion between the two, as they were the leads of the hit comedy “Twins.” These two still have delightful chemistry. They also made jokes of them once playing Batman villains, with them trying to intimidate and insult Michael Keaton, who was Batman. They talked to him as if he actually was Batman and Keaton made the right facial expressions and hand gestures. They all worked together well and it would be fun to see the three of them in a film together.

Then there was everyone’s favorite attendee, Messi the dog. Messi was the breakout star of the Best Picture nominee “Anatomy of a Fall.” Audiences fell in love with this dog and felt he deserved recognition for his hard work, like an invite to the Oscars. Come awards night, there was a happy Messi in the audience. Messi was also seen again later during Robert Downey Jr.’s acceptance speech. Apparently, Messi is a big fan, as he was seen applauding with his little paws. There was news that these segments were actually filmed prior to the awards show, but the help of television magic is always nice. The celebration of Messi finished at the end of the night with a jokey end scene. After Kimmel said goodnight, there was a shot of Messi peeing on Matt Damon’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The joke is that Kimmel and Damon have had a fun “feud” for a while. This cute end was a great way to continue the feud. These comedic moments and more help liven up the night and give everyone something to smile about.

With the end of the Oscars, awards season is now complete. Well, we still have the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) awards, but I would still say that the Oscars are the culmination of the awards season. We have recognized last year’s cream of the crop, so it is now time we focus on a new crop. Will “Dune 2” be the big winner next year? Maybe it could be the sequel to “Joker,” entitled “Joker: Folie à Deux.” On the other hand, perhaps we should focus on some smaller serious films like “Sing Sing” with Colman Domingo or “Blitz” with Saoirse Ronan. The most likely scenario is that our winner will be something that we are not talking about yet, but you never know. There were a lot of shifts in what the predicted winners would be, but at the end of it all, the winners that we got were pretty deserving. Furthermore, the ceremony itself was quite the success. There were some great jokes that made everyone laugh and some touching moments that connected us to some of the winners. There was a little something for everybody at this ceremony. There was some great enthusiasm at this year’s Oscars that made it one of the better ceremonies in recent years. This year’s celebration of movies demonstrates why I keep tuning in. So until next time, keep on movie watching.

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