Following the dramatic events of Will Smith’s ‘Slapgate’ at the 94th Academy Awards in 2022, this year’s edition provided a heart-warming, perhaps safe, watch for viewers. The show was definitively dominated by Everything Everywhere All at Once, which won 7 of its 11 nominations. Feel-good moments permeated through the night, particularly in several viral acceptance speeches, as well as some notable music performances that thrilled both viewers at home and those in the audience.
The 95th Oscars began with an enthralling monologue from chat show host, Jimmy Kimmel, which predictably referenced Will Smith’s infamous slap. Kimmel joked about the new crisis team put in place to handle potential incidents, poking at the lack of celebrity action during the event last year, “If anything unpredictable or violent happens during this ceremony, just do what you did last year: Sit there and do absolutely nothing”. Kimmel wove social commentary into his humour, drawing attention to the lack of diversity in this year’s categories through jokes like “We have nominees from every corner of Dublin”. Kimmel’s speech was a refreshing way to start the evening and bore a welcome sense of honesty by not sweeping last year’s events under the rug.
Welling up throughout, he mentioned his elderly mother watching from home and his childhood spent in a refugee camp
By far, the sweetest acceptance speech was given by Ke Huy Quan – a popular actor in his early career with prominent roles as Data in The Goonies and Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Following a nearly twenty-year retirement from acting, he became inspired to get back into the industry after watching Crazy Rich Asians. Quan’s role as Waymond in Everything Everywhere All at Once won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and delivered to viewers one of the most moving speeches in a while. Welling up throughout, he mentioned his elderly mother watching from home and his childhood spent in a refugee camp, exclaiming that, “I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This, this is the American dream!” Quan’s incredible comeback story moved the audience and made a splash on social media, gaining huge public support.
Equally as viral online, Brendan Fraser delivered an emotional, yet comedic speech after winning the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in The Whale. As a fellow ‘comeback star’, Fraser had risen to fame in the 90s with iconic roles in popular Hollywood movies such as the Mummy franchise, before his career slowed down due to fallout from a sexual assault allegedly committed against him in 2003 by Philip Berk, the then-president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Although some controversy surrounded the film itself as Fraser wore a fat-suit to play a ‘270kg gay man subjected to unending misery and squalor’, Fraser’s speech brought tears to many eyes, as he did not shy away from the unlikelihood of his win by stating “so this is what the multiverse looks like”.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was Jamie Lee Curtis winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once. After four decades in the film industry, she finally achieved her first Oscar nomination and win. However, controversy arose over the fact that Curtis was given the award out of a category full of stiff competition. Some fans contemplated whether Curtis’s win was a legacy award, given her status as a ‘nepo baby’ as the daughter of Oscar nominees Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Many watchers felt Stephanie Hsu, who was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the same film Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Angela Bassett in Wakanda Forever, were more deserving winners.
Ladies don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are past your prime
It wouldn’t be the Oscars without someone making history and this year was no exception, as Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian lead actress to win an Academy Award for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Leading the film that itself won seven awards, Yeoh’s triumph was both anticipated and richly deserved. Her speech offered inspiration, stating: “For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight this is a beacon of hope and possibility,” adding: “Ladies don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are past your prime.” Incredibly, 2023 was the first time multiple Asian actors won Oscars in the same year.
The 95th Academy Awards left us with an assortment of hilarious moments that will be seared into pop culture. One such moment was Ashley Graham’s awkward red-carpet interview with Hugh Grant, that left everyone cringing. The ceremony had an electric live perform of “Naatu Naatu” from the action-drama RRR. The song, the first from an Indian production to be nominated for Best Original Song, featured a troupe of over 20 dancers who took to the stage and energised the audience.
Although falling short on the drama of previous years, the 95th Academy Awards made for a relatively easy and inspiring watch this year. Your typical predictions and snubs were delivered fresh with a side of music, what more can a watcher ask for with the debacle of last year still permeated tension into the night?