9 things you need to know about the Oscars 2023
Compared to last year’s ceremony, nothing really happened at this year’s Oscars. By which I mean, no Best Actor nominees raised out of their seat to smack the living daylights out of the host. That can only be an improvement.
And it’s not to say that the show, which took place in LA’s Dolby Theatre, was boring. There were plenty of fun moments and talking points, from historic awards to a visit from Hollywood’s newest star, Cocaine Bear.
Host Jimmy Kimmel, who has now compered the Oscars three times, entered the show attached to a parachute as part of a Best Picture nominee Top Gun: Maverick skit. He was a serviceable presenter, keeping his material as uncontroversial as possible without being bland. “We have nominees from every corner of Dublin,” he joked, referencing Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan, who were nominated for The Banshees of Inisherin, and Paul Mescal, who was nominated for Aftersun. “Five Irish actors are nominated tonight, which means the chances of a fight just went way up.”
If you didn’t stay awake until the small hours to watch celebs congratulate each other on another year of cinema (AKA you are sensible), here are nine of the ceremony’s biggest moments:
1. Everything Everywhere All at Once won… everything
Everything Everywhere All at Once, an experimental multiverse comedy about a Chinese immigrant who harnesses different versions of herself to save the world, took home seven Oscars – the most of any film on the night. As well as winning the big one, Best Picture, EEAAO directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known as The Daniels) also won Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
The movie’s actors also cleaned up. Michelle Yeoh won Best Actress, Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress nominee Stephanie Hsu only lost out to her EEAAO co-star Jamie Lee Curtis.
Paul Rogers also won the award for Best Film Editing, a well-deserved feat as anyone who was dazzled by the head-spinning final moments of EEAAO will know.
2. Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian Best Actress winner
It was thought that Cate Blanchett was a shoo-in for her turn as composer Lydia Tár in Todd Fields’ Tár, but she was beaten by Michelle Yeoh, who plays Evelyn Wang in EEAAO.
It was a historic win, making Yeoh the first ever Asian woman to win a Best Actress Oscar, and also the first Malaysian to win an Academy Award across the board. She’s also only the second woman of colour to win a Best Actress award since Halle Berry won for Monster’s Ball more than10 years ago.
“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 dream big, and dreams do come true,” she said, accepting her award. “And ladies, don’t let anyone ever tell you you are past your prime. Thank you to the Academy, this is history in the making.”
After winning the award for Best Supporting Actor for playing the loveable and suprisingly violent Waymond Wang in EEAAO, Ke Huy Quan was reunited with former co-star Harrison Ford, who presented the award for Best Picture.
The pair starred opposite one another in 1984’s action adventure Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. While Ford played the titular archaeologist in the second instalment of the original Indiana Jones trilogy, Quan, who was just 12, played his funny sidekick Short Round. What a treat to see the pair back together again after 38 years.
Not long after Temple of Doom, roles for Quan dried up and he pivoted to working behind the scenes in the movie industry. But his role in EEAAO has shot him back into the limelight and he also won a Golden Globe earlier this year.
“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 – this – is the American dream,” he said, accepting his Academy Award. “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.”
4. Jamie Lee Curtis won her first Oscar at 64
Despite only having a small role in EEAAO as grumpy tax clerk Deirdre Beaubeirdre, Jamie Lee Curtis’s hot dog fingers earned her a win for Best Supporting Actress.
Surprisingly, this is not only Curtis’s first win, but also her first Academy Award nomination. Not that her mantlepiece wasn’t already full: Curtis already has two Golden Globes, a Bafta and two SAG awards.
“To all the people who have supported me in all the genre movies I have made over the years, the thousands and hundreds of thousands of people, we just won an Oscar together!” she said on stage. “And my mother and father, who were both nominated for Oscars in different categories – I just won an Oscar!” she added, reinforcing her self-proclaimed title of “OG nepo baby“.
A teary John Travolta introduced the In Memoriam section of the show with a sweet, subtle nod to his Grease co-star and close friend Dame Olivia Newton-John, who died last August.
While he didn’t mention Newton-John by name, he did make a reference to “Hopelessly Devoted”, one her most famous songs from the 1978 musical they both starred in and which Travolta walked out to. “Each of them left an indelible mark that shared and informed us,” said Travolta. “They’ve touched our hearts, they’ve made us smile, and became dear friends, who we we will always remain hopelessly devoted to.”
Lenny Kravitz played “Calling All Angels” while a video reminded us of who Hollywood had lost in the past 12 months. Among those featured were actor Ray Liotta, director Jean-Luc Godard, musician, songwriter and composer Burt Bacharach, actor Kirstie Alley and singer Irene Cara. However, the ceremony has been criticised for leaving some notable names out of the tribute, including Triangle of Sadness star Charlbi Dean, Leslie Jordan, Anne Heche and Paul Sorvino.
It was only a matter of time before someone brought up last year’s slapping incident. “We want you to have fun, feel safe and, most importantly, we want me feel safe,” host Jimmy Kimmel told the crowd of celebrities at the top of the show.
“If anyone in this theatre 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,” he added, cheekily referencing the fact that Will Smith won a Best Actor Oscar after hitting last year’s host, Chris Rock, on stage. Smith has since been banned from the ceremony and did not receive a nomination for his performance in Emancipation, though many believe it was an Oscar-worthy turn.
Thankfully, the slap content didn’t last long (haven’t we all had enough of that conversation?), with just one more quip from Kimmel: “Hopefully it goes off without a hitch. Or without Hitch.”
She might have pitched up in an Atelier Versace gown and a full face of make-up, but Lady Gaga stripped it all away for her performance of “Hold My Hand”, her nominated song from Top Gun: Maverick.
Wearing ripped jeans, trainers and a plain black T-shirt (which looked to be inside out, but that wouldn’t be the weirdest thing Gaga has worn), the pop star also took off all her make-up for the performance. It might not be in line with the Oscars’ black-tie dress code, but it’s better than no Gaga at all – the pop star wasn’t due to appear at the awards as it clashed with her filming schedule for the Joker sequel, but confirmed her performance last minute.
“Hold My Hand” didn’t win Best Original Song, however. Neither did Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. That accolade went to “Naatu Naatu” from Telugu-language film RRR (an undeniable banger), making it the first Indian song from a movie to win an Oscar.
8. The Brenaissance came to its natural conclusion
Haven’t heard news of Brendan Fraser’s comeback? How’s that rock you’ve been living under? After months of celebration over the Mummy actor’s return to the spotlight, the so-called Brenaissance finally reached its peak as Fraser picked up the Best Actor award for his part in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale.
The actor became emotional while giving his acceptance speech and threw in a number of maritime clangers. “I’m grateful to Darren for throwing me a creative lifetime and hauling me aboard the good ship The Whale. It was written by Samuel D Hunter who is our lighthouse,” he said before addressing his fellow nominees: “Gentlemen, you laid your whale-sized hearts bare so that we could see into your souls like no one else could do and it is my honour to be named alongside you in this category.”
Fraser’s role in The Whale has been criticised as insensitive to those with obesity, with some claiming the film is insulting to those in a similar position to Fraser’s character, with the actor donning a fat suit to play the role. It didn’t seem to bother the Academy, though – The Whale also won the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.
9. Cocaine Bear and Jenny the Donkey took to the stage
There’s an easy joke to make about animals and Hollywood, but I’m not going to go there. Anyway, two animals – one real, one definitely an overheated intern in a bear suit – made their Oscars debut last night.
Cocaine Bear, currently the lead in action thriller Cocaine Bear, joined Elizabeth Banks on stage to present the award for Best Visual Effects (won by Avatar: The Way of Water). “I recently directed the film Cocaine Bear and without visual effects, this is what the bear would look like,” joked Banks, before addressing the bear directly. “Are you trying to score? Why can’t you wait for the afterparty like everyone else?”
That wasn’t Cocaine Bear’s only appearance of the night, as she also took time to freak out Malala Yousafzai, who was sat in the audience (looking very chic in a Ralph Lauren sequined gown).
Jenny the Donkey, made famous by The Banshees of Inisherin, also made an appearance on stage. Though a scandal is brewing: as reported by Vulture, an unnamed source is claiming that it wasn’t the real Jenny, rather it was “just a random donkey”. Is this 2023’s version of The Slap?