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March 11, 2024
Trish Arab

96th Academy Awards - A Night Celebrating Mediocrity (2 minute read)

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OK, so maybe my title is a bit harsh, but after watching (and often writing about) this entire awards season, the ceremony meant to be the crown jewel of it all was a big disappointment.

Let's start with the hits of the night.

I'm so glad the decision to present the acting awards with five previous winners returned (fun fact: this is called "The Field of Dreams" format, and it's not the first time that movie will come up either). Did I realize that this only happened once before, and that was in 2009? No, because I could have sworn it was done every year. Regardless, this year seemed even more touching because of the personal touches each presenter gave to their words to the nominees. The format was touching for all four acting categories, but most of all in the category for Best Supporting Actress, from Rita Moreno (winner in 1962 for "West Side Story") honouring America Ferrera and linking generations of Latina actresses in a symbolic passing of the baton to Jamie Lee Curtis (who won last year for "Everything Everywhere all at Once" who has had a long friendship with Jodie Foster, and was clear in her touching tribute, but no more so than Lupita Nyong'o (who won in 2016 for "12 Years a Slave") and introduced eventual winner Da'Vine Joy Randolph. "Your performance is a tribute to those who have helped others heal despite their own pain. It's also a tribute to your grandmother, whose glasses you wore in the film. What an honour to see the world through her eyes and yours." as Randolph wiped tears from her face. 

John Cena's failed attempt at reenacting the streaker who ran naked across the stage at the 1974 ceremony but still landed one of the funniest bits of the night will be a memorable Oscar moment moving forward, but was one of the obvious aspects of the show which was completely staged and at times very inauthentic (fallout I'm sure from the 2022 ceremony that saw "the SLAP" play out in real-time) Jimmy Kimmel is a funny guy and does a good job hosting. Still, a lot of the jokes felt forced and did not land. Telling when even Melissa McCarthy's bit fails miserably. The best comedy of the night came from Kimmel's security guard (and sidekick) Guillermo, whose toast to the attendees (and his wife Charlize Theron, which, by the way, was news to Theron - that they were "married") had me laughing out loud. A close second was John Mulaney, who may have been there to present the award for Best Sound Editing but easily could have been auditioning for a future hosting gig ( I especially appreciated his off-script synopsis of why "Field of Dreams" should win the award for Best Picture even though it was released in 1989)

"American Fiction" writer and director Cord Jefferson gave an impassioned shot at Hollywood in his acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay: "This is a risk-averse industry — I get it. However, $200 million movies are also a risk, and it doesn't always work out, but you take the risk anyway. And instead of making one $200 million movie, try making 20, $10 million movies." it was the kick in the butt Hollywood needed to hear, and even if it made some uncomfortable, it needed to be said and showed why "American Fiction" was one of my favourite films of the year.

The best part of the evening, however, was Ryan Gossling's Marilyn Monroe-inspired performance of "I'm Just Ken" from the Barbie movie. Everything about it was perfection, and you could tell not only how much fun Gossling was having last night live but also how much fun the set of the Barbie movie must have been. Honourary mentions go to fellow Canadian Ken Simu Liu, who performed alongside his co-star for the musical number.

So now we go to the bits I wasn't impressed with. As I said, a lot of the humor didn't land, and the show felt very forced a lot of the time.  

Aside from that, I was beyond disappointed that Lily Gladstone did not win for Best Actress. I haven't seen "Poor Things" (the movie Emma Stone won for), and I adore Emma Stone, but I loved "Killers of the Flower Moon" and thought Lily Gladstone was the best part of it. Having her lose out was very disappointing. That being said, once again, Martin Scorcese is completely shut out of the awards, which has happened for almost his entire career. Do people not like him? Does he make it look too easy? His films continue to be nominated (and continue to be brilliant, in my opinion) and, except for winning in 2007 for "The Departed," continue to be passed over by the Academy.

Finally, I would say that there seems to be a curse with the "Best Picture" award. For some reason, over the years, it seems like it just can't be announced without some sort of issue, and this year was no exception. Without any fanfare, without any recap of the nominated films, and without even bothering to say, "And the Oscar goes to," he blurted out Oppenheimer, and just like that, it was all over. 

Some climax.

Until next season, I'll just be shaking my head and wondering if we need to reorder the importance of these awards shows.