The 2023 Academy Awards were about as mellow as an awards show can be. As the first post-Slap Oscars, this was probably a relief to the producers. Maybe that wasn’t the case for the audience, which sat through a 3½-hour telecast with absolutely no drama, as the expected winners took home the top prizes — “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” for the most part — and everyone was on their best behavior.
There were plenty of references to the infamous moment when Will Smith walloped Chris Rock, including this year’s host, Jimmy Kimmel, changing a sign that read “Number of Oscars Telecasts Without Incident” from “000″ to “001.” At the 95th Oscars, showdowns onstage gave way to triumphant comebacks, uplifting speeches and some historic wins.
Here are more highlights from Sunday night:
EEAAO swept the major awards, a huge - and historic - triumph for studio A24
A24′s sci-fi extravaganza entered the night with the most nominations of any film and lived up to its potential with seven wins overall. Among its most notable wins were best picture, best director (the Daniels, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) and three of the four acting categories (best actress for Michelle Yeoh, best supporting actor for Ke Huy Quan and best supporting actress for Jamie Lee Curtis).
Because Brendan Fraser earned best actor for “The Whale,” another A24 film, the studio landed all top six awards of the night - making it the first to do so in Oscars history.
Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian best actress winner
Michelle Yeoh (EEAAO) and Cate Blanchett (“Tár”) essentially took turns winning lead actress awards throughout the season. But as the Oscars neared, Yeoh stood out as the favorite. She ended up winning, becoming the first Asian performer to take the Oscar for best actress.
She acknowledged the broader significance of her accomplishment onstage, beginning her speech with: “For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof that dreams ... do come true.”
“And ladies,” she added, “don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime.”
‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ had quite a good night
The harrowing German film about World War I was the winner for best international feature and landed a few other Oscars, including those for cinematography, score and production design. Those who play close attention to the Oscars race in the preceding weeks may not have been surprised by the success of Edward Berger’s film, but it didn’t earn nearly as much buzz as others in the running.
Distributed by Netflix, the film is the third feature-length adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel of the same name; the first landed the Oscar for best picture in 1930.
Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue (of course) addressed the Slap
Hosting the Academy Awards is generally a thankless job, but Kimmel managed to get a decent number of laughs, particularly in his monologue as he ticked off timely topics with the efficiency of someone who has been reading a lot of Twitter.
He poked fun at that haunting AMC ad (“I’m happy to see that Nicole Kidman has finally been released from that abandoned AMC where she has been held captive for almost two full years now”); the Hollywood weight loss/Ozempic craze (“Everybody looks so great. When I look around this room, I can’t help but wonder: Is Ozempic right for me?”) and “Top Gun: Maverick” star Tom Cruise’s stature within Scientology (“His shirt off in that beach football scene? L. Ron Hubba Hubba”).
And, of course, he went all in on the Slap. He didn’t mention Smith or Rock by name but did make some “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” and “Hitch” jokes.
“If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point during the show ... you will be awarded the Oscar for best actor and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech,” Kimmel smirked, in one of his many jokes about the incident throughout the broadcast. “But seriously! The academy has a crisis team in place. If anything unpredictable or violent happens during the ceremony, just do what you did last year: Nothing. Sit there and do absolutely nothing. Maybe even give the assailant a hug.”
Ruth E. Carter made history
The costume designer became the first Black woman to win two Oscars, as she picked up the best costume design prize for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” (She also won the award in 2019 for the first film in the franchise.) “Nice to see you again,” Carter said as she accepted the trophy.
“Thank you to the academy for recognizing this superhero that is a Black woman. She endures. She loves. She overcomes. She is every woman in this film. She is my mother,” Carter told the audience and said that her mother died this past week.
“This film prepared me for this moment. Chadwick, please take care of Mom,” Carter said, referencing the star of “Black Panther,” Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer in 2020 at age 43.
Ke Huy Quan delivered a moving speech
The tears (onstage and in the audience) started early in the evening when Ke Huy Quan won best supporting actor for EEAAO.
“Mom, I just won an Oscar!” Quan sobbed as he held up the statuette, and reflected on his long Hollywood journey. His family fled Vietnam during the war when he was a child. After moving to Los Angeles and landing parts in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies,” he wound up leaving the acting world for about 20 years when he had trouble getting roles.
“My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp. And somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This is the American Dream,” he said. “Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine. To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive.”
Jamie Lee Curtis finally won an Oscar
It took her entire career, but Curtis - Hollywood’s favorite self-described nepo baby - finally got an Oscar nomination this year, for EEAAO. And she won! The crowd seemed thrilled, and Curtis teared up as she recalled her mother (Janet Leigh) and father (Tony Curtis) were also both nominated for Oscars.
“To all of the people who have supported the genre movies that I’ve made for all these years, the thousands and hundreds of thousands of people - we just won an Oscar together!” she said.
Lady Gaga got her (extreme) close-up
For reasons no one knows except that it’s just Lady Gaga’s world and we’re living in it, she wiped off her makeup and traded her gown for a T-shirt and ripped jeans as the camera zoomed way up into her face while she sang an acoustic version of “Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick.”
The best original song trophy wound up being awarded to Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava’s “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR,” after a wildly energetic performance. Earlier in the night, Rihanna belted out “Lift Me Up” from “Wakanda Forever,” complete with a backing orchestra; actress Stephanie Hsu stood in for Mitski and joined David Byrne in singing “This Is a Life” from EEAAO along with hot dog fingers; and Sofia Carson sang “Applause” from “Tell It Like a Woman,” accompanied on piano by songwriter Diane Warren, who just lost out on her 14th Oscar nomination.
Malala had the perfect response to a dumb joke
About 2½ hours in, Kimmel decided it would be fun to bug the celebrities in the audience with “questions” sent in from “viewers” and first went up to 25-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai: Did she think Harry Styles really spit on Chris Pine during all the “Don’t Worry Darling” drama?!
Malala, naturally, had an answer ready: “I only talk about peace.”
Hugh Grant offered an excruciating red carpet interview
Pandemic social awkwardness came for the red carpet - or at least that’s one way to explain why there were so many uncomfortable interviews this year. But Grant took the prize for most excruciating, as poor ABC red carpet co-host Ashley Graham tried desperately to get something, anything out of their one-minute interaction.
Grant refused to play ball, from his favorite thing about the Oscars (“Uhh ... well ... it’s fascinating”); whom he was excited to see (“No one in particular”) and even who designed the suit he was wearing (“I can’t remember. My tailor.”) Graham tried one more time to get him to talk about filming “Glass Onion,” but he pointed out he was in the film for only a few seconds.
“But still, you showed up, and you had fun, right?” Graham asked brightly.
“Almost,” Grant replied, and the interview mercifully ended.