Damage Control: The 2023 Oscars

Damage Control: The 2023 Oscars

Photo Credit: ABC News

The Academy plays it safe after an unpredictable show last year

Andrew Roberts, Copy Editor

Hugh Grant was iconic, and Cocaine Bear attacked Malala. These were the only things you truly missed at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. It does not bode well that I am probably one of the only people outside of the Academy that still cares about this award show. In fact, I feel as if I am wasting my time writing this article right now. The night was historic, do not get me wrong. The sweeping of awards by Everything Everywhere All At Once (EEAO) was delightful, but the award show was truly boring in every sense of the word. Rather than having paragraphs upon paragraphs of me ranting, I think it would be much more comprehensible if I were to break this down between the highs and the lows of the Oscars. Don’t be surprised that there are more lows than highs. 

High: Hugh Grant

Arguably the best part of the night occurred before the show even started. The Oscars pre-show presenter, Ashley Graham, for some reason believed it was a good idea to pull Hugh Grant over for an interview. Hugh Grant was not nominated for any awards. Instead, he was there to present Best Production Design where he gave a pretty entertaining bit with Andie MacDowell, but more on that in a second. Graham began by asking Grant what his favourite thing about coming to the Oscars is and he responded, “it’s Vanity Fair,” in reference to the vulgar display of luxury from the book of the same name. Graham, unfortunately, mistook that for the Vanity Fair magazine afterparty, saying “that’s where we let loose and have a little bit of fun.” The interview was already off to the races. Grant was asked what he is wearing tonight, and he responded, “my suit.” Graham rebutted, asking, “who made it?” After which Grant served the fatal blow, “I can’t remember the name of my tailor.” The psychological mind games being played in this interaction were absolutely astounding. Even though tweeters were quick to blast Grant for being “rude” (they don’t realize that Grant is a grumpy old British man), I believe that Graham did well in not letting the conversation truly go off the rails and stood toe-to-toe with Grant. Later in the show, Grant remarked that he looks like a “scrotum” in comparison to his presenting partner Andie MacDowell because he does not apply as much moisturizer as her. Truly an icon, and possibly the only one having fun and cracking jokes at the Oscars this year.

Low: The Music Performances

Why are there music performances at an award show about films anyway? This year was touted to be one of the most star-studded line-ups in music performances, and it still widely missed the mark. The first performance was a song nobody has heard of from a movie that nobody has seen, Applause from Tell It Like a Woman. That was rough. This is a Life from EEAO was equally as rough because for some reason Mitski was not there to perform, replaced by nominated actress Stephanie Hsu, with David Byrne. Everyone sang off-key during the few lyrics that the song actually had – not great. Naatu Naatu, Lift Me Up, and Hold My Hand were simply not memorable. A film award show is not the right medium to capture the beauty that is musical performances, and it simply did not translate to the screen. Jokes were made about Lady Gaga doing an “unplugged” version of the Top Gun song because she had limited time to prepare. We saw a teary-eyed Brendan Gleeson immediately after the Rihanna performance to confirm at least someone in the Dolby Theatre was touched.

High: Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel is a great host. There’s not a lot to say. Aside from the La La Land mishap in 2017, he has consistently been the most entertaining figure at the Oscars whenever he is on screen. The problem was he was not on screen enough in an already overlong show, but he made the most of it. Kimmel parachuted in, made some jokes about Spielberg’s parents divorcing, recorded “room tone” in the middle of the show (hilarious), and most importantly, brought out Jenny the donkey from The Banshees of Inisherin. In an award show that was missing celebrity interaction, Kimmel running up and down the aisles and asking questions to the actors in attendance was also a highlight. Kimmel asked Malala, who served as an executive producer on the nominated short documentary Stranger at the Gate, if she believed Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine (in reference to the Don’t Worry Darling feud) and later had to pull Cocaine Bear, yes that Cocaine Bear, away from her. These were all small moments, but were easily the most memorable of the night.

Low: The Advertisements 

The most “what are we doing here?” moment of the night came when Melissa McCarthy and Halle Bailey came out to advertise, quite mischievously, their new movie, the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, which looks less than subpar from the trailer. Later too, Morgan Freeman and Margot Robbie came out to shout out Warner Brothers. That’s it, just a good old-fashioned “our studio is great” speech. For one thing, both instances felt incredibly forced and awkward. For another, as many people on the internet pointed out, the Academy did not follow sponsorship laws that include emphasizing that these segments were indeed sponsored. ABC, who was broadcasting the show, is owned by Disney, which tried to push the mermaid film to probably the largest audience of movie fans they’ll get all year. It makes sense, but at the same time it completely insults the intelligence of the viewer. As for why Warner Brothers got a shoutout and no other studios were mentioned is dubious for the sake of potentially swaying the Academy’s biases.

Low: Celebrity Turn Out / Award Winners

James Cameron and Tom Cruise were not in attendance. Two individuals who were responsible for the highest-grossing films of the year. Their absence makes it seem that opinions have changed regarding the importance of the Oscars. Spike Lee and Denzel Washington would rather have gone to watch the Knicks, which they did. It made Spielberg and Samuel L. Jackson seem like the fathers who were invited to their children’s birthday parties. As for the Award Winners, Banshees, Elvis, and TÁR were all shut out. All films with big names attached to them with big award hopes. You have to feel bad for Collin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson who were sitting in the front row. They were the butt of many jokes, and received nothing for their time. I love EEAO, it was one of my favourite films of the year, even though I preferred TÁR, which is an argument for another article. The problem with the fact that the awards were siphoned down to a select few films was that it made the show feel less like “a celebration of the year of cinema” and more about how much the Academy liked the sci-fi multiverse film (which is a little weird given that sci-fi films generally are never recognized; I am referring to Nope’s snub). Award recipients were also not surprised that they won either because the EEAO sweep was telegraphed ever since the Globes, and later further intensified by the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAGs). If you want to see the cast of EEAO genuinely have a surprised reaction about their award wins, which led to a much more entertaining award show, I would highly recommend watching clips from the SAGs. 

In conclusion, the Oscars played it safe this year. This is to be expected considering what happened last year, but it also led to one of the most uneventful shows in the Academy’s recent history. I will probably still be back next year with an entirely new opinion about the show because there is no better night at the moment to celebrate cinema, unfortunately.