Oscars 2024 Debrief: A slick, funny soiree that had something we haven’t seen in a decade – class

Oscars 2024 Debrief

Complete with a few stumbles, gaffes, dud jokes and winning comedy bits, the 96th Oscars shebang was an enjoyable affair, even though Jimmy Kimmel was hosting.

Not since 2014, with Ellen DeGeneres out front, has the Oscars bash been so viewer-friendly and fun, free of the tub-thumping moralising from winners that has marred many shows over the past decade. Also, nobody got slapped.

As expected, Oppenheimer took most of the main gongs including Best Film, Director, Actor, Cinematography, Editing and Original Score.

Not so expected was how Poor Things came in with wins for Costumes, Production Design, Makeup & Hair and – thank you, Movie God – Best Actress for Emma Stone who rightly won over the undeserving favourite Lily Gladstone for Killers of the Flower Moon.

Stone provided one of the show’s most human moments with an acceptance speech that was beautifully all over the shop, her disorientation exacerbated by a popped button on her dress.

Most pleasing winners were Da’Vine Joy Randolph taking Best Supporting Actress for The Holdovers – she delivered an inspiring speech about self-belief – and Cord Jefferson taking Best Adapted Screenplay for American Fiction. His point about how studios could make 20 $10 million films instead of one $200 million epic was well made and hopefully got into the right ears.

There were some lovely nods to Old School cinema.

Best Cinematographer winner Hoyte van Hoytema championed the quality of celluloid (director Christopher Nolan shoots on nothing else) and Best Visual Effects winners for Godzilla Minus One paid tribute to the influence of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

It was a classy salute. Steven Spielberg, there to present Best Director, must have gotten the chills. He and his crew had to invent new techniques to create the visuals needed.

Best line of the night went to Best Documentary Feature winner Mstyslav Chernov for 20 Days in Mariupol.

Highlighting how the win was the first Oscar for Ukraine and how he wished he didn’t have to make a film about the Russian invasion, he addressed the place of movies in world affairs with the golden utterance: “Cinema forms memories and memories form history”.

Musically we had a lavish, show-stopping song-and-dance number as Ryan Gosling and a phalanx of gents and musicians delivered I’m Just Ken.

Also from Barbie was Billie Eilish singing What Was I Made For?, the standing ovation she received leaving her gob-smacked., Another wonderfully human moment.

Most of the comedy bits worked well: a sheepish John Cena announcing Best Costume almost nude, having denounced the attempted tribute to the 1971 streaker as cheap; Gosling’s desperate denial to Emily Blunt’s declaration that his abs were painted on; Melissa McCartney explaining to Octavia Spencer the difference between Chip’n’Dale (the Disney chipmunks) and the Chippendales (the male strip troupe).

Kate McKinnon drew hearty laughs thinking the Jurassic Park movies were documentaries, but it was Spielberg who scored big when he silently revealed that it was he who had been receiving her tasteful nudes, not Jeff Goldblum.

The funniest moment came when Best VFX & Best Editing presenters Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, who had both played Batman villains opposite Michael Keaton, began ribbing him from the stage.

Cut to a close shot of a stone-faced Keaton, stoically absorbing their insults before gesturing for them to “bring it”. Hilarious.

The show’s slick production was graced by the terrific idea of having the best acting nominees each read out by former winners. It was a great idea worth repeating and perhaps expanding to the director category.

It didn’t go perfectly, however. While praising Robert De Niro, Tim Robbins (Best Supporting Actor in 2004 for Mystic River) made a slip when he referred to him as the winner.

Winner Robert Downey Jr couldn’t resist mentioning the flub his acceptance speech – he specifically referred to it as a “flub” – proving it as one of those golden gaffes that make a show better.

Thankfully, politics was kept on simmer, with none of the lectures we’ve been assailed with in recent years with all the #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo diatribes.

A few people wore those red dot badges pleading for a ceasefire in Gaza, and there was one measured mention of the war but apart from that the speeches remained on point.

But then, just as the soiree was powering up for a clean finish, host Jimmy Kimmel just couldn’t help himself.

Having done a fairly good job with his fourth stint, making gags about the length of films, Barbie, and how Germans regard heavy films as rom-coms – apparently it’s OK to stereotype Germans – he managed to squeeze into his opening spree a pro-Biden gag. OK, one gag. We could let that pass.

Come to the show’s end, however, and Kimmel hammered into an otherwise fine hosting turn a string of anti-Trump barbs that played to Hollywood as a haven for left-leaning liberals.

There was applause, but one wonders how deep it went given how the show had so carefully avoided tainting the event by getting into the upcoming US election.

The trashing wasn’t just stupid, it was clueless. If current polls are anything to go by, the gags would have put off at least half the viewing audience, leaving them with a sour endnote to a show that had managed to remain free of cheap point scoring.

It was the one major misstep in an otherwise smoothly mounted ceremony.

Boasting a strong line-up of popular and noteworthy films, it was clearly designed to build on the ratings recovery and make people care once again about the Oscars.

Go here for a good collection of clips.

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