- Oscar ceremony 2023: The year’s best moment is the one you didn’t see at the ceremony itself, which, as usual, mostly consisted of lame, tasteless humor; rudeness to the lesser-known winners; sheer contempt for the Oscars’ – and the movies’ – history; and people thanking their moms.
- On the upside, there were, also as usual, several memorably moving, amusing, and weird moments. Keep reading.
Oscar ceremony 2023: This year’s best moment is the one you didn’t get to see during the three-and-a-half-hour show
“What’s your favorite thing about coming to the Oscars?” U.S. model/TV presenter Ashley Graham asked veteran British actor Hugh Grant (Maurice, About a Boy, Dungeons & Dragons) on the Oscars’ Red Carpet.
“Uhhh … Well … It’s – it’s fascinating. The whole of humanity is here. It’s Vanity Fair [referring to William Makepeace Thackeray’s mid-19th-century novel].”
“Oh, it’s all about Vanity Fair [referring to the post-Oscar ceremony party held by the U.S. magazine]. Yes, that’s where we let loose and have a little bit of fun!”
We don’t know what Grant (who, it might be noted, has never received an Academy Award nomination) and Graham feel was the best Oscar 2023 moment. But as far as the author of this post is concerned, the above exchange – a summation of the three-hour-plus Oscar show in three brief lines – was it.
Handful of highlights surrounded by an ocean of nadirs
Admittedly, the 2023 Oscar ceremony, held on March 12 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, featured several memorably touching, amusing, and/or weird moments. (See further below the full list of this year’s winners and nominees.)
The touching: An emotional James Friend accepting the Best Cinematography Oscar for All Quiet on Western Front; the crowd courageously singing “Happy Birthday” – always a dangerous proposition – to actor James Martin, who has Down’s Syndrome and who costars in this year’s Best Live Action short An Irish Goodbye; John Travolta choking up while introducing the in memoriam segment, which began with an image of his Grease costar Olivia Newton-John.
The amusing: A hoarse-voiced Elizabeth Banks (one assumes she took a COVID test) wittily connecting visual effects to cocaine-snorting actors in bear suits; the energetic “Naatu Naatu” song/dance number from RRR, featuring two lead performers not from RRR, Billy Mustapha and Jason Glover (singing voices: Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava); former B horror queen Jamie Lee Curtis effusively accepting the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in Everything Everywhere All at Once. (Without naming them, Curtis also movingly remembered her Oscar-nominated parents, Janet Leigh [Psycho, 1960] and Tony Curtis [The Defiant Ones, 1958].)
The weird: Best Production Design co-presenter Hugh Grant (here he is again) comparing his looks to those of his Four Weddings and a Funeral costar Andie MacDowell by referring to his moisturizer-free face as something resembling a “scrotum.”
In addition, there were several First Ever and First Since moments, most notably Everything Everywhere All at Once star Michelle Yeoh becoming the first Asian performer to be named Best Actress.
Besides Yeoh’s and Jamie Lee Curtis’ wins, the small (reported budget: $14.3 million), A24-distributed sci-fi-ish comedy topped five other categories: Best Picture, Best Directors (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), Best Original Screenplay (Kwan and Scheinert), Best Editing (Paul Rogers [“This is too much. This is my second film, y’all. This is crazy.”]), and Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan).
Thus Everything Everywhere All at Once became not only the third movie to top three acting categories (following Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951; and Sidney Lumet’s Network, 1976) but also the very first Best Picture winner to achieve that feat. (Best Picture of 1951: An American in Paris; Best Picture of 1976: Rocky.)
Another First: Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, All Quiet on the Western Front became the first “narrative” to win both Best Picture (for the period 1929–30, directed by Lewis Milestone in Hollywood and starring Lew Ayres) and Best International Film (Edward Berger’s German remake starring Felix Kammerer).
Most everything else
And then there was most everything else. Vying for the evening’s yuckiest moments were:
Host Jimmy Kimmel asking Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, “Do you think Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine?”
Kimmel asking those in attendance whether the recently deceased actor Robert Blake (in 2005 acquitted of murdering his wife) should have been included in the Academy’s latest appalling, we-don’t-give-a-damn-about-film-history in memoriam segment.
Kimmel ridiculing Best Visual Effects co-winner Eric Saindon, whose attempted speech (“We need to thank our families–“) was cut off by both the orchestra and the camera, which scurried away from him. (Too bad the Oscar orchestra was asleep at the tuba during Kimmel’s endless opening monologue, and while Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt went on and on about the origin of the word “animation.”)
Lastly, a non-Kimmel dud: The “Warner Bros. 100” homage – actually, a $3–$7 million promo (presented but not shown at the Dolby) – not only ignored nearly all of Warners’ non-color output (Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, Ingrid Bergman with Dooley Wilson in Casablanca, and Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire were the three exceptions), but it also showcased five Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer classics (which now belong to Warner Bros. Discovery) as if they had been made at (or distributed by) the Burbank studio (The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain, North by Northwest, Ben-Hur, 2001: A Space Odyssey).
In all, the suits at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and ABC/Disney continue to grovel at the feet of the Tik-Tok crowd – which, for their part, continue to snub the Oscar ceremony. (Although TV ratings were not insignificantly up this year, the coveted 18–49 demo remained mired at a lowly 4.0 rating [vs., for instance, 9.1 and 13.1 ratings in, respectively, 2017 and 2014].)
Really, how many Tik-Tok videos last as long as three and a half minutes – let alone three and a half hours?
So if – or rather, the way things look, when – the Oscars become wholly irrelevant, the Academy and ABC/Disney will have no one but themselves to blame.
Get Hugh Grant
But why so pessimistic? Isn’t there a way to prevent Oscar oblivion from happening?
Well, maybe getting Hugh Grant to host the next Academy Awards ceremony would help.
Instead of coming up with a tame, lame joke about the Jan. 6 coup attempt at the U.S. capitol in Washington, Grant would deliver pointed puns directed at Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, Fox fascism, Brexit, Hollywood, the American media, and maybe even the almighty Academy and Disney themselves.
The Oscars – like the movies themselves – have always been political. Or would you rather watch Oscar hosts order pizza and sell Girl Scout Cookies, and Oscar winners thank Jesus and their wives and mothers?
Something else that would help would be a stronger focus on the very reason the Oscars exist: The Movies and their history – as they would have been honored in the days before mean Twitter hashtags and 30-second social media videos. And in a manner that none of the other televised awards ceremonies could ever do.
2023 Oscar winners & nominations
All Quiet on the Western Front – Malte Grunert
Avatar: The Way of Water – James Cameron and Jon Landau
The Banshees of Inisherin – Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, and Martin McDonagh
Elvis – Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Gail Berman, Patrick McCormick, and Schuyler Weiss
* Everything Everywhere All at Once – Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, and Jonathan Wang
The Fabelmans – Kristie Macosko Krieger, Steven Spielberg, and Tony Kushner
Tár – Todd Field, Alexandra Milchan, and Scott Lambert
Top Gun: Maverick – Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie, David Ellison, and Jerry Bruckheimer
Triangle of Sadness – Erik Hemmendorff and Philippe Bober
Women Talking – Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Frances McDormand
Best International Film
* All Quiet on the Western Front (Germany) – dir.: Edward Berger
Argentina, 1985 (Argentina) – dir.: Santiago Mitre
Close (Belgium) – dir.: Lukas Dhont
EO (Poland) – dir.: Jerzy Skolimowski
The Quiet Girl (Ireland) – dir.: Colm Bairéad
Todd Field – Tár
* Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Martin McDonagh – The Banshees of Inisherin
Ruben Östlund – Triangle of Sadness
Steven Spielberg – The Fabelmans
Best Supporting Actress
Angela Bassett – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Hong Chau – The Whale
Kerry Condon – The Banshees of Inisherin
* Jamie Lee Curtis – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Stephanie Hsu – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Best Supporting Actor
Brendan Gleeson – The Banshees of Inisherin
Brian Tyree Henry – Causeway
Judd Hirsch – The Fabelmans
Barry Keoghan – The Banshees of Inisherin
* Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Best Original Screenplay
The Banshees of Inisherin – Martin McDonagh
* Everything Everywhere All at Once – Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
The Fabelmans – Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner
Tár – Todd Field
Triangle of Sadness – Ruben Östlund
Best Adapted Screenplay
All Quiet on the Western Front – Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson, and Ian Stokell
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery – Rian Johnson
Living – Kazuo Ishiguro
Top Gun: Maverick – Screenplay by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie; Story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks
* Women Talking – Sarah Polley
Best Animated Feature Film
* Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, Gary Ungar, and Alex Bulkley
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On – Dean Fleischer Camp, Elisabeth Holm, Andrew Goldman, Caroline Kaplan, and Paul Mezey
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish – Joel Crawford and Mark Swift
The Sea Beast – Chris Williams and Jed Schlanger
Turning Red – Domee Shi and Lindsey Collins
* All Quiet on the Western Front – James Friend
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths – Darius Khondji
Elvis – Mandy Walker
Empire of Light – Roger Deakins
Tár – Florian Hoffmeister
Best Film Editing
The Banshees of Inisherin – Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
Elvis – Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond
* Everything Everywhere All at Once – Paul Rogers
Tár – Monika Willi
Top Gun: Maverick – Eddie Hamilton
Best Original Score
* All Quiet on the Western Front – Volker Bertelmann
Babylon – Justin Hurwitz
The Banshees of Inisherin – Carter Burwell
Everything Everywhere All at Once – Son Lux
The Fabelmans – John Williams
Best Production Design
* All Quiet on the Western Front – Production Design: Christian M. Goldbeck; Set Decoration: Ernestine Hipper
Avatar: The Way of Water – Production Design: Dylan Cole and Ben Procter; Set Decoration: Vanessa Cole
Babylon – Production Design: Florencia Martin; Set Decoration: Anthony Carlino
Elvis – Production Design: Catherine Martin and Karen Murphy; Set Decoration: Bev Dunn
The Fabelmans – Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
Best Documentary Feature
All That Breathes – Shaunak Sen, Aman Mann, and Teddy Leifer
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – Laura Poitras, Howard Gertler, John Lyons, Nan Goldin, and Yoni Golijov
Fire of Love – Sara Dosa, Shane Boris, and Ina Fichman
A House Made of Splinters – Simon Lereng Wilmont and Monica Hellström
* Navalny – Daniel Roher, Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, and Shane Boris
Best Original Song
“Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman – Music and lyrics by Diane Warren
“Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick – Music and lyrics by Lady Gaga and BloodPop
“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music by Tems, Rihanna, Ryan Coogler, and Ludwig Göransson; lyrics by Tems and Ryan Coogler
* “Naatu Naatu” from RRR – Music by M.M. Keeravani; lyrics by Chandrabose
“This Is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once – Music by Ryan Lott, David Byrne, and Mitski; lyrics by Ryan Lott and David Byrne
Best Costume Design
Babylon – Mary Zophres
* Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Ruth E. Carter
Elvis – Catherine Martin
Everything Everywhere All at Once – Shirley Kurata
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris – Jenny Beavan
Best Visual Effects
All Quiet on the Western Front – Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller, Markus Frank, and Kamil Jafar
* Avatar: The Way of Water – Joe Letteri, Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon, and Daniel Barrett
The Batman – Dan Lemmon, Russell Earl, Anders Langlands, and Dominic Tuohy
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Geoffrey Baumann, Craig Hammack, R. Christopher White, and Dan Sudick
Top Gun: Maverick – Ryan Tudhope, Seth Hill, Bryan Litson, and Scott R. Fisher
All Quiet on the Western Front – Viktor Prášil, Frank Kruse, Markus Stemler, Lars Ginzel, and Stefan Korte
Avatar: The Way of Water – Julian Howarth, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Dick Bernstein, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, and Michael Hedges
The Batman – Stuart Wilson, William Files, Douglas Murray, and Andy Nelson
Elvis – David Lee, Wayne Pashley, Andy Nelson, and Michael Keller
* Top Gun: Maverick – Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon, and Mark Taylor
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
All Quiet on the Western Front – Heike Merker and Linda Eisenhamerová
The Batman – Naomi Donne, Mike Marino, and Mike Fontaine
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Camille Friend and Joel Harlow
Elvis – Mark Coulier, Jason Baird, and Aldo Signoretti
* The Whale – Adrien Morot, Judy Chin, and Anne Marie Bradley
Best Animated Short Film
* The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse – Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud
The Flying Sailor – Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis
Ice Merchants – João Gonzalez and Bruno Caetano
My Year of Dicks – Sara Gunnarsdóttir and Pamela Ribon
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It – Lachlan Pendragon
Best Documentary Short Subject
* The Elephant Whisperers – Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga
Haulout – Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev
How Do You Measure a Year? – Jay Rosenblatt
The Martha Mitchell Effect – Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison
Stranger at the Gate – Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones
Best Live Action Short Film
* An Irish Goodbye – Tom Berkeley and Ross White
Ivalu – Anders Walter and Rebecca Pruzan
Night Ride – Eirik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen
Le pupille – Alice Rohrwacher and Alfonso Cuarón
The Red Suitcase – Cyrus Neshvad
Honorary Academy Awards
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
Michael J. Fox
Oscar ceremony presenters (in order of appearance)
Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson, Ariana DeBose, Troy Kotsur, Cara Delevingne, Riz Ahmed, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy, Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Majors, Donnie Yen, Jennifer Connelly, Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Margot Robbie, Paul Dano, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Deepika Padukone, Eva Longoria, Janet Yang, Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek Pinault, Elizabeth Olsen, Pedro Pascal, Lady Gaga, Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, John Cho, Mindy Kaling, Elizabeth Banks, Danai Gurira, Andrew Garfield, Florence Pugh, Kate Hudson, Janelle Monáe, John Travolta, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Idris Elba, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, Jessica Chastain, Harrison Ford.
Oscar ceremony performers
Sofia Carson, Diane Warren, David Byrne, Stephanie Hsu, Son Lux, Kaala Bhairava, Rahul Sipligunj, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Lenny Kravitz.
“Oscar Ceremony: Hugh Grant” notes
Michelle Yeoh not exactly the first Asian-born Best Actress Oscar winner
 Winners Vivien Leigh (Gone with the Wind, 1939; A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951)*, Julie Christie (Darling, 1965), Natalie Portman (Black Swan, 2010), and sisters Joan Fontaine (Suspicion, 1941) and Olivia de Havilland (To Each His Own, 1946; The Heiress, 1949) were also born in Asia, but they all had/have European lineage.
Bombay-born Merle Oberon was the first – and until Michelle Yeoh, only – Best Actress Academy Award nominee (The Dark Angel, 1935) with at least some (recent) “Asian” heritage. (Yes, we know there are countless ethnicities in Asia. We’re not racist. We don’t lump them all as one. Hence the quotes.)
* Ignoring Leigh’s purported partial Parsi ancestry.
Previous movies with two Best Director & three acting winners
 Everything Everywhere All at Once became the third movie with two filmmakers topping the Best Director category, following West Side Story’s Robert Wise and Jerome Robins (at the 1962 ceremony) and No Country for Old Men’s Joel and Ethan Coen (at the 2008 ceremony).
Gone and forgotten
 “I’d like to be remembered as somebody who entertained,” Angela Lansbury told the Television Academy Foundation in 1998, “who took one out of oneself for a few minutes, or a few hours, and transported you into a different venue, gave you relief, gave you entertainment, and gave you joy and laughter and tears… I would like to be remembered as somebody who was capable of doing that.”
If it were’t for her 1990s TV series Murder She Wrote, there’s a good chance the three-time Oscar nominee (Gaslight, 1944; The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1945; The Manchurian Candidate, 1962) would have gone unremembered during the Oscars’ in memoriam segment.
Had that happened, Lansbury would have been in solid company: Marsha Hunt, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Sylvia Syms, Carlos Saura, Mylène Demongeot, Stella Stevens, Michael Callan, Robert Morse, Diane McBain, Miiko Taka, David Warner, Catherine Spaak, Fred Ward, Mike Hodges, Clu Gulager, Paul Sorvino*, Anne Heche, Tom Sizemore, two-time Best Director Oscar nominee Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire, 1981; The Mission, 1986), and two-time Best Supporting Actress nominee Melinda Dillon (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977; Absence of Malice, 1981), to name a few. (Best Actor nominee Topol [Fiddler on the Roof, 1971] died on March 8; too late for inclusion.)
“Oh, but you can’t have everyone!”
No, you can’t. And no one is asking for that.
All that would be needed is for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ showcase to the world – i.e., the Oscar ceremony – to be less contemptuous of film – and its own – history.
* His daughter, Oscar winner Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite, 1995), tweeted, “It is baffling beyond belief that my beloved father and many other amazing brilliant departed actors were left out.”
“Oscar Ceremony 2023” notes
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website.
See also: Academy imposes tricky “Oscar Diversity” Best Picture quotas.
Daniel Brühl, Edward Berger, Hugh Grant, and Michelle Yeoh Oscar screengrabs: © Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences | ABC Network.
“Oscar Ceremony: Hugh Grant for Academy Awards Host” last updated in July 2023.