Oscars 2023: The Academy played it safe this year

Photo credit: Prayitno, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Films “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” and “Quiet on the Western Front” took home most of the awards at the Oscars this week. The night ended in less of a bang and more of a build up.

Indie darling and A24 film “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” won Best Picture along with six other awards, most of them acting and performance-based awards. “Quiet on the Western Front,” a German Netflix war drama piece, won most of the production awards, along with Best International Picture.

The Academy Awards this year decided to award the underdogs in an effort to give long overdue recognition to actors in some of the more contentious races, like Jamie Lee Curtis’ win of Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once.” Curtis is a staple of Hollywood but known mainly for genre flicks, something the Academy rarely awards.

Notably, films like “Tár” and “The Banshees of Inisherin” walked away with nothing despite their critically acclaimed status.

This desire for change and growth also contributed to the Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor wins. Brendan Fraser won Best Actor in a highly-contentious race for his work in “The Whale.”

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Best Actress was awarded to Michelle Yeoh, who made history as the first Asian woman to win the award. She won alongside her “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” co-star Ke Huy Quan, who took home Best Supporting Actor for his role depicting Yeoh’s husband.

As a child actor, Huy Quan starred in films like “The Goonies” and “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.” However, due to a lack of representation in Hollywood, he ended up turning to behind-the-scenes work until this 2022 movie brought him back into the limelight.

Some of the night’s more heartfelt moments came from Huy Quan, particularly his embrace with Harrison Ford, his former “Indiana Jones” co-star, who presented the Best Picture award.

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In his third time as the Oscars host, Jimmy Kimmel kept the show running smoothly as expected. It was the first Academy Award ceremony since the infamous Chris Rock/Will Smith slap last year, and the Academy clearly tried to distance themselves from that moment — despite this, Kimmel made numerous references to the incident naming Will Smith.

Kimmel entered the show on a fighter jet, a reference to “Top Gun: Maverick,” and took a jab at Tom Cruise and James Cameron for pulling out from the show at the last minute.

While the musical performances were all enjoyable, standouts include the “RRR” cast’s live performance of “Naatu Naatu,” which won Best Original Song, as well as Stephanie Hsu and David Byrne’s comedic performance of “This is a Life.”

A few odd moments briefly disrupted the show, like Elizabeth Banks and her “Cocaine Bear” which felt like the old-school, chaotic Oscar shenanigans of the past.

In general, the Oscar’s ran smoothly this year and achieved its goal of more visibility with 18.7 million views, 12% higher than last year and a good sign for the show’s future.