The Oscars 2023 Season Finale

Posters for all this year's 10 Best Picture nominees.

Excerpted from host Jimmy Kimmel’s ABC ad for the event, which also featured Jon Hamm and a very special guest.

Oscar season is over at last! Tonight ABC aired the 95th Academy Awards, once again held at ye olde Dolby Theatre and hosted for a third time by ABC’s favorite trooper Jimmy Kimmel. Coming in at 158 minutes by my clock including end credits, it was nowhere near the longest ceremony ever, but that didn’t stop Kimmel and his writing staff from relying on runtime jokes for half their material. To be fair, runtime jokes are as much an Oscar Night tradition as the lengthy runtime itself. If watching these telecasts is your annual Super Bowl, then you’re used to both of those things.

By and large this year’s shindig contained very little reasons for controversy as far as I could tell, though admittedly I minimized my Twitter doomscrolling this year for a variety of reasons. It’s possible I could be missing out on righteous indignation this very second. I’ll check later and edit if time and caffeine permit. While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tried to steer the festivities back to their factory settings after the past few years’ failed experiments (some pandemic-fueled, some not), ABC and its parent company did what they could to assert ownership of all this with a combination of self-congratulations and poor vetting of Kimmel’s one-liners, a few of which were the worst moments of the entire evening. Some quips landed; several exploded in midair like Maverick’s nameless dogfight opponents.

In all, the field welcomed 54 nominees across 23 categories, not counting the Honorary Oscars, which they stopped including in the telecast years ago because mere honor is not enough. The numerous slighted winners included Michael J. Fox, winner of this year’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which might’ve been nice to see live, but heaven forbid we take time away from Kimmel. On the bright side, at least they drastically limited his comedy sketches to just the one, which was quickly euthanized after three straight flop attempts to make it work. The producers also went back to showing actual movie clips for every category and nominee, even if only for a literal second or two apiece. It’s better than settling for non-motion stills like last year’s proceedings did.

Those 23 awards were divided amongst the following 13 works, all of which we’ve previously reviewed here on MCC:

  • Everything Everywhere All at Once: 7 – Picture, Director(s), Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis), Editing, Original Screenplay
  • All Quiet on the Western Front: 4 – Cinematography, International Feature, Original Score, Production Design
  • The Whale: 2 – Actor (Brendan Fraser), Makeup & Hairstyling
  • Avatar: The Way of Water: Visual Effects
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: Costume Design
  • RRR: Original Song (“Naatu Naatu”)
  • Top Gun: Maverick: Sound
  • Women Talking: Adapted Screenplay
  • The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse: Animated Short Film
  • The Elephant Whisperers: Documentary Short Film
  • Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio: Animated Feature
  • An Irish Goodbye: Live-Action Short Film
  • Navalny: Documentary Feature

Nominees in the major categories that walked away empty-handed: Aftersun; The Banshees of Inisherin; Blonde; Causeway; Elvis; The Fabelmans; Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery; Living; Tár; To Leslie; Triangle of Sadness.

We pause here to present the only part my wife Anne ever cares to watch, the annual In Memoriam segment. This year’s edition was introduced by a very emotional John Travolta (onetime costar alongside the late Olivia Newton-John, who was first up in the segment) with musical accompaniment by Lenny Kravitz reworking one of his old tracks, “Calling All Angels”.

UPDATED 3/13/2023, 1:25 p.m.: Per my wife Anne’s annual tradition, the deep-dive list of omissions from the roll call of the dead from the past twelve months includes, but might not be limited to, the notable folks named below. Some were better known for TV stardom; some died in 2023; neither of these qualifiers were prohibitive in past In Memoriam rosters, like that time they honored TV’s Betty White, costar of Lake Placid.

  • Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan, Strange Days, Heat, that hilarious cameo in Point Break)
  • Robert Blake (In Cold Blood, Mulholland Drive)
  • Anne Heche (Six Days, Seven Nights; I Know What You Did Last Summer)
  • Fred Ward (The Right Stuff, Tremors, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins; The Naked Gun 33-1/3)
  • Joe Turkel (The Shining, Blade Runner)
  • David Warner (Titanic, The Omen, Tron, Star Trek VI)
  • Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas, Romeo + Juliet)
  • Earl Boen (the first three Terminator films, The Naked Gun 33-1/3)
  • Cindy Williams (American Graffiti, The Conversation)
  • Charlbi Dean (Best Picture nominee Triangle of Sadness)
  • Melinda Dillon (A Christmas Story, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Absence of Malice)
  • Stella Stevens (The Nutty Professor, The Poseidon Adventure)
  • Virginia Patton (It’s a Wonderful Life)
  • Leslie Jordan (The United States vs. Billie Holliday, 1992’s Hero)
  • Bert I. Gordon (director of B-movie classics like The Amazing Colossal Man)

I decided to ditch my own annual tradition of live-tweeting while watching, after reviewing last year’s results and realizing they were high-effort/low-yield. I had no reason to expect this year to improve matters in any self-encouraging way, so instead I kept a handwritten timeline of highlights, now presented here with several minutes’ worth of hindsight and a more proprietary presentation, in lieu of fumbling my tiny virtual phone keyboard on the fly for the sake of playing free content provider among a peanut gallery of millions inside someone else’s echo chamber. Please note I didn’t write notes for every award, only moments that inspired any sort of commentary in my head or seemed to merit documenting for posterity. Enjoy!

8:00 p.m.: The usual opening montage inserts Kimmel into just one film instead of all the Best Picture nominees per the Billy Crystal precedents. Naturally they stuck him in Maverick. The usual round of “point out nominees and other attendees, then roast them” noted two former costars of Encino Man in the house (“What a difficult night for Pauly Shore”), congratulated Nicole Kidman for getting “released from that abandoned AMC”, and pointed out the absence of two major names, Tom Cruise and James Cameron (“The two guys who insisted we come to theaters didn’t come to the Theater”). The cameramen kept themselves occupied by noting fun juxtapositions in the seating arrangements, such as Donnie Yen sitting behind John Williams. The monologue ends with Kimmel demonstrating this year’s winners would, rather than being orchestra’d off, be danced away by a squad from RRR. (This, sadly, was merely a joke and didn’t happen again.)

8:16 p.m.: Jungle Cruise costars Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson co-present Best Animated Feature, with the latter giving a stately and dignified salute to animation as an artform, in direct response/contrast to last year’s intro that dismissed the entire field as dumbed-down kiddie-babysitting twaddle. As the second speaker at the mic for his winning version of Pinocchio, co-writer/co-director/co-producer Guillermo del Toro restates for the defense: “Animation is cinema. Animation is not a genre.”

8:25 p.m.: Last year’s Supporting Acting winners Troy Kotsur (CODA) and Ariana DeBose (West Side Story) hand off Best Supporting Actor to Everything Everywhere All at Once‘s Ke Huy Quan, who shouts toward the camera, “MOM, I JUST WON AN OSCAR!” before leading us all together in crying. Then he gets to his speech, in which he emphatically points as You, the Viewer at Home, in his capacity as a former kid refugee reaching the happy ending of his lifelong American Dream: “To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive!”

my wife Anne posing with Ke Huy Quan!

Flashback to that time Anne and I met Future Academy Award Winner Ke Huy Quan at HorrorHound Indianapolis 2017.

8:32 p.m.: Also winning for EEAAO, fellow first-time nominee Jamie Lee Curtis likewise cries, especially when reflecting on her parents who were nominees for their own respective works (Tony Curtis for The Defiant Ones and Janet Leigh for Psycho). Far as she’s concerned, she shares the award with all the cast and crew she worked with, her husband Christopher Guest (in attendance!) as well as the “hundreds and thousands” she worked with in all those “genre movies” throughout the years that led to this moment.

8:46 p.m.: After intros by Riz Ahmed and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (producers of two of last year’s winners, respectively The Long Goodbye and Summer of Soul), the team behind Best Documentary Feature Navalny (including a “Bulgarian nerd with a laptop”) honor their subject, Russian political prisoner Alexei Navalany, and bring along his wife Yulia, who sends out a few loving words that may not reach her husband in solitary confinement.

8:52 p.m.: Ahmed and Questlove stick around to hand Best Live-Action Short Film to An Irish Goodbye. As it happens, tonight was costar James Martin’s birthday, thus inspiring directors Tom Berkeley and Ross White to lead the Dolby audience in a round of “Happy Birthday to You”.

8:55 p.m.: Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy, starring in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, are asked by ABC’s corporate overlords to introduce a new teaser trailer for said product. Given ABC’s contempt for most Oscar traditions, such as the entire ceremony, it’s unsurprising that this free self-advertising was among the numerous concessions made to placate them.

9:05 p.m.: Donnie Yen, costar of the upcoming John Wick: Chapter 4, introduces one of the evening’s Best Original Song performances — Son Lux’s “This is a Life” from EEAAO, joined by co-writer David Byrne and nominated costar Stephanie Hsu. Fans of the film — and we are many — take pleasure in the numerous nods to the film: hot dog fingers, giant bagels, sentient rocks, and, of course, the eponymous star of Racacoonie.

9:19 p.m.: Jennifer Connelly and Samuel L. Jackson bestow Best Makeup and Hairstyling to three credited folks from The Whale. Adrien Morot is allowed to speak; when co-winners Judy Chin and Anne Marie Bradley approach the mic next, they’re orchestra’d away from it.

9:18 p.m.: As if to prove Disney has a shred of humility, Margot Robbie and Morgan Freeman introduce a montage saluting Warner Brothers’ 100th birthday that contains slivers from upcoming releases like The Flash. No tributes to Universal or Paramount are forthcoming to balance out the rest of the telecast or industry.

9:23 p.m.: After the requisite clipfest for Best Picture nominee The Banshees of Inisherin, Kimmel brings out a donkey that he swears is totally Jenny, Colin Farrell’s costar from same. Online sources remain skeptical that she’s the real Jenny.

9:24 p.m.: For best Costume Design, The Batman‘s Paul Dano plays second-fiddle to Julia Louis-Dreyfus but agrees on the time-honored actors’ tradition of stealing their costumes after filming wraps. (Louis-Dreyfus jokes that she’s wearing one of her outfits from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.) Representing as the sole winner from Wakanda Forever, Ruth Carter pays tribute to her mother Mabel, who passed away this very week at 101.

9:29 p.m.: The much-awaited dance number for RRR‘s nominated “Naatu Naatu” is introduced by celebrated Indian actress Deepika Padukone, whom Americans would know best (if at all) from xXx: Return of Xander Cage, in which she costarred with Vin Diesel and Donnie Yen. She calls the song “a total banger” and is proven correct by the 13 men and 6 women who overtake the stage and dance their way into future Oscar Night montages.

9:39 p.m.: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish costars Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek Pinault kick off All Quiet on the Western Front‘s four-award silver-medal showing with Best International Feature. Its entourage includes Daniel Brühl and its star Felix Kammerer, but director Edward Berger takes the mic and tells us all about that time he first met Tár cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister, who’s from the same hometown and who’d just lost an Oscar about 40 minutes ago.

9:47 p.m.: After the requisite clipfest for Best Picture nominee The Fabelmans, Kimmel briefly returns to poke fun on the flawed assumption that we’re all bored: “This point in the show makes you miss the slapping, right?” It isn’t his first reference to last year’s concussive controversy and won’t be the last.

9:48 p.m.: Elizabeth Olsen and Pedro Pascal, beloved guardian of all our favorite TV youths right now, give Best Documentary Short Subject to Netflix’s The Elephant Whisperers, only to see the second of its two winners get orchestra’d off.

9:51 p.m.: Taking home Best Animated Short Film for The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (which one critic aptly described as a “pouty baby seal of a movie”) were comakers Matthew Freud (demurring from the usual thanks: “I’m British, so I’m more comfortable saying ‘Sorry’…”) and Charlie Mackesy, its original graphic novelist, who’s awed by “a lot of brave people in the same room,” which sounds exactly like something The Boy would say.

9:55 p.m.: Lady Gaga is all raw emotion at the piano with three accompanists to belt out her Original Song nominee from Maverick, “Hold My Hand”, which at the end is dedicated to original Top Gun director Tony Scott.

10:12 p.m.: AMPAS CEO Bill Kramer tells us next to nothing about all the other awards unseen tonight because they were handed out in separate, far less televised dinners once again — the Governors Awards, Michael J. Fox’s aforementioned momentous honor, and the Sci-Tech Awards. He rushes through their names without pausing to provide any context or even a courtesy mention of their achievements.

10:20 p.m.: For the sake of presenting Best Visual Effects to the predictable winner (hint: it rhymes with Tár, but isn’t actually Tár), Cocaine Bear director Elizabeth Banks, apologetically hoarse, shares the moment with someone in a seven-foot bear costume. She notes her latest film (Cocaine Bear! now in theaters!) would have been far worse without visual effects artists plying their wares, without which her leading mammal “would’ve been some actor in a bear suit, probably on cocaine.” The bear reminds me of an old Muppet Show sketch involving Fozzie and the phrase “Good grief! The comedian’s a bear!” except Fozzie was funny. Meanwhile, three of Avatar‘s four winners get orchestra’d off because the bear guy’s shtick was deemed more important.

10:24 p.m.: Kimmel stops the show dead with a “talk to the audience” bit, proving he learned nothing from Krusty the Clown. In this segment ostensibly surprising random audience members with questions from The Viewers at Home, he asks an utterly stupid question to Malala Yousafzai (yes, that Malala), one of several producers of the nominated short Stranger at the Gate. She’s understandably confused and/or appalled and replies without playing along, “I only talk about peace.” So instead he goes and bothers Colin Farrell (who redirects him to the previous night’s SNL, which already did the same tired “Irishmen talk funny!” non-joke) and Jessica Chastain, which is just pretext to continue his personal, never-ending Matt Damon insult-fest running gag, which his hardcore fans might appreciate if they ever watched the Oscars. While he’s engaged with Chastain, the Cocaine Bear stand-in crawls behind him on the Theater floor toward Malala for presumably more cheap laffs, but apparently thinks twice, or hopefully dies of shame, before anything horrifyingly unfunnier can occur.

Andrew Garfield in the Oscars audience, bravely mugging for the cameras after Jimmy Kimmel has tried dragging him into one of his jokes.

When you’re humoring Jimmy Kimmel under unplanned duress.

10:26 p.m.: Danai Gurira introduces Rihanna’s Wakanda Forever track, “Lift Me Up”, a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman. Gurira concludes, “Enkosi, kumkani” — Xhosa for “Thank you, King.”

10:35 p.m.: Kimmel points out audience member and EEAAO costar James Hong in his youth was a civil engineer who in the ’50s was among those who designed Los Angeles’ roadways. Kimmel needles him for his apparent failure in that regard. Hong doesn’t seem to dispute it. Kimmel then makes way for Marvel superheroes Florence Pugh and Andrew Garfield to gift Best Original Screenplay to EEAAO writer/directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan. Scheinert thanks his mom for teaching him “to be less of a butthead.”

10:40 p.m.: Sarah Polley picks up Best Adapted Screenplay for the enjoyably writerly Women Talking, and thanks “the Academy for not being mortified by the words ‘women’ and ‘talking’ being put so close together like that.” As she speaks, a giant blow-up of the angry head of Frances McDormand’s old-fashioned dissenter looms overhead and threatens to breathe fire upon us all.

10:48 p.m.: Kimmel offers the audience a chance to call in and vote on whether or not Robert Blake should be included in this year’s In Memoriam segment.

10:53 p.m.: Glass Onion costars Janelle Monae and Kate Hudson are there to see “Naatu Naatu” win Best Original Song and co-writer M.M. Keeravani confess he grew up on the Carpenters before singing his own celebratory ditty to the tune of “Top of the World”. I’ve always loved Shonen Knife’s cover, but Keeravani’s elated take is a contender.

10:56 p.m.: The aforementioned In Memoriam segment rolls, sans Robert Blake and others.

11:04 p.m.: The EEAAO train keeps rolling as Avatar‘s Zoe Saldaña and Sigourney Weaver welcome onstage Best Editor Paul Rogers. “This is my second film, y’all! This is crazy!” he enthuses, yet another crew member absolutely giddy and starstruck over all this.

11:08 p.m.: Disappointed that political jokes have been virtually nonexistent all night, Kimmel pops in for an easy January 6th joke. I mean, it’s on target, but we were so, so close to getting by without one. Then he shuts up so Idris Elba and former AMC captive Nicole Kidman can present Best Director to the Daniels. Scheinert thanks “all mommies of the world”, including his own who never stopped him from “dressing in drag as a kid, which is a threat to nobody!” Applause ensues.

11:17 p.m.: With three awards to go, Kimmel promises, “We’re really gonna stretch ’em out and make a meal of ’em.” Then come Jessica Chastain and Halle Berry to summon one of the night’s most widely predicted winners, Brendan Fraser for The Whale. He’s nearly hyperventilating as he takes the stage and gasps in disbelief, “So this is what the multiverse looks like!” Among those he compliments are snubbed director Darren Aronofsky and nominated costar Hong Chau (“Only whales can swim at the depths of [her] talent”). He’s more than a bit flustered by it all.

11:24 p.m.: Best Actress goes to Michelle Yeoh, who continues Scheinert’s shout-out to All The Moms, calls her statuette “a beacon of hope and possibilities” (apropos of EEAAO) and kisses it. At 60, four years younger than castmate Curtis, she also reassures all women out there, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re past your prime!”

11:29 p.m.: Harrison Ford, never a master of public speaking in front of large audiences, has the honor of awkwardly presenting Best Picture to my favorite film of 2022, Everything Everywhere All at Once. Quan practically rockets toward the stage to reunite with his onetime Temple of Doom coworker. Producer Jonathan Wang, no less floored than any of the film’s other winner/speakers, humbly notes, “It’s intimidating speaking up here!” and flatters his wife out in the audience, again apropos: “I would love to just do laundry and taxes with you for the rest of my life!” The party goes on a bit more before Scheinert speaks to us one last time: “Everyone have a good night! Thank you for watching!” Perhaps he was hoping ABC might cut away and not bother ending with Kimmel if his job were done for him.

11:34 p.m.: Kimmel comes out one last time anyway to thank “the crisis team”, apologize to Matt Damon (ironically, probably? who even knows?), and announce, “We now join Good Morning America, already in progress.” He then goes backstage to a large tote board labeled “NUMBER OF OSCAR TELECASTS WITHOUT INCIDENT” and changes the count to ‘1’.

11:38 p.m.: The end credits end, several ABC/Disney promos later.

…and now, back to watching junk that’s bad for us all. Get back out there and enjoy the magic of movies and whatnot!

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