The Academy Awards have been troubled for quite a long time. Whether it’s sluggish ratings, the repeated instances of movies competing and winning for Oscars that most people haven’t seen, or bloated and overlong Oscar shows, the Oscars have been one of those problems that it doesn’t appear can be easily solved.
But this year’s Oscars show, for the first time in at least a decade, was actually well-done. Sure, it benefited a great deal from the right nominees winning most categories, about a half-dozen winners who were great stories, and some very memorable acceptance speeches. But even beyond that, the show avoided many of the major mistakes that had been made by recent Oscar telecasts.
The set was gorgeous, and most of the right choices were made in terms of presenters and presentation. And of course, the entire (more than three hours) show passed without any wanton acts of violence by any of the nominees.
Kimmel joked about The Slap about the exact right amount
All of those terrible gimmicks from last year, from some awards being prerecorded to that “Fan Favorite” nonsense, were jettisoned. The comedy bits, usually overlong and deathly in years when Jimmy Kimmel hosts, were much better, and also shorter. The songs, movie montages, and Best Picture featurettes were better-done than usual. I got the sense that this telecast was produced by people who actually like the movies.
Also, Kimmel joked about The Slap about the exact right amount. He didn’t ignore the elephant in the room, nor did he make it the focal point of the evening. The politics weren’t overwhelming, although Kimmel’s joke about Tucker Carlson after the editing award was very welcome. His best joke of the night was when he asked if Robert Blake should be included in the death montage. I’m sure the family of Blake, the actor and accused wife-murderer who died last week, didn’t much appreciate that one, but it was worth it anyway.
Sure, there were some things that were indefensible, starting with the show incongruously dropping a Little Mermaid trailer right in the middle, which was really not necessary. And some pretty major names (Philip Baker Hall, Tom Sizemore, Chaim Topol) were left out of the death montage. But overall, it was a successful night for Oscar.
EEAAO was weird, audacious, and practically the exact opposite of what’s typically seen as “Oscar bait.” And despite that weirdness, or maybe because of it, the film was a pretty big hit, making more than $100 million worldwide.
All Quiet on the Western Front won lots of technical awards, while Top Gun: Maverick, RRR, and Avatar: The Way of Water won one Oscar each. Five Best Picture nominees — Banshees of Inisherin,The Fablemans, TAR, Elvis, and Triangle of Sadness — were shut out entirely.
But the winners comprised great stories, including all four acting winners getting their first-ever Oscars after long careers, in some cases following great adversity. Favorites like Sarah Polley and the RRR songwriters won, too. The director of The Death of Dick Long — a movie about a guy dying from having sex with a horse and his friends covering it up — just won Best Director (and Picture) for his subsequent film, which I certainly did not see coming.
For all I know, the ratings will come in and they’ll be awful. But nevertheless, this was the closest thing to a great Oscar show that we’ve seen in many years.