2023 Oscars: A showbiz celebration full of genuine sentiment


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It won almost everything, everywhere.

In a near sweep of this year’s Academy Awards, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” picked up the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

If the film had only received a nomination for Best Actor, it probably would have won that, too.

The picture also made history, as Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian actress to win the top performance prize.

“For all the little boys and girls who look like me, watching this tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities,” the 60-old star said. “And ladies — don’t let anyone ever tell you you are past your prime!”

It was an emotional moment, in a ceremony full of genuine sentiment.

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There was Yeoh’s co-star, Ke Huy Quan, a one-time child actor who spent decades off screen, declaring “Dreams are something you have to believe in — I almost gave up on mine.” And Yeoh’s other screen partner, Jamie Lee Curtis, who said she shared her award with fans, colleagues — and her late parents, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.

Several winners and presenters had to fight back, hard, to contain tears.

Brendan Fraser, winning Best Actor for “The Whale,” seemed on the edge of hyperventilating as he took the stage. Another one of the evening’s comeback stories, he took the time to look back on his early years of easy stardom, and admit “There was a facility that I didn’t appreciate at the time — until it stopped.”

And John Travolta, onstage to introduce the annual salute to departed stars, choked up as he ended with “They made us smile and became dear friends who we will always remain hopelessly devoted to.”

Then the segment began, with a picture of his late “Grease” co-star Olivia Newton-John, and the reason for that quoted lyric, and his grief, became clear.

The ensuing funereal roll call, however, turned out to be as problematic as it always is, with many left off the televised tribute. Host Jimmy Kimmel had already joked about the late Robert Blake possibly not being included (and he wasn’t), but where was Stella Stevens, Tom Sizemore and Anne Heche?

And leaving out Paul Sorvino? And Tony Sirico? That was a sign of disrespect that including Ray Liotta does not excuse, buddy.

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There were other missteps, some of them ready-made for tweets and memes.

Like a clearly bored Hugh Grant telling a pre-show interviewer that the Oscars made him think of “Vanity Fair” — and her assumption he was talking about the magazine’s after-party, and not the Thackeray novel about the shallowness of society.

Or the spectacle of Tems, a nominee for the song “Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” swooping into the ceremony in a hugely overdone dress — one so massive it seemed unlikely anyone sitting behind her could see a thing.

Less humorous were the show’s obvious bows to corporate publicity.

Such as a brief salute to 100 years of Warner Bros history that was annoyingly ahistorical (the WB media behemoth may now own MGM’s assets, but it did not make “Singin’ in the Rain” or “The Wizard of Oz”).

And the live appearance of Melissa McCarthy and Halle Bailey, merely to introduce an ad for Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” was shameless even by Hollywood standards. (It grew even more shameless, and suspicious, when you realized Disney also owns ABC, which was broadcasting the show.)

All in all, though, this was one of the best Oscar shows in years. There weren’t many surprises, perhaps (I correctly predicted the winners in the six major categories a week before). But neither were there any true embarrassments or even long dull stretches (the live ceremony clocked in at a little over 3½ hours).

As host, Kimmel kept things moving smartly, adding an ad-libbed line here or there, pushing the edginess a bit (but never too far). The usual awkward patter and corny staged bits were kept to a minimum, and some of the production numbers — like the dance spectacular for the Best Song winner, “Naatu Naatu,” from “RRR” — were genuinely terrific.

And there was even room for a few surprises.

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Like Grant, in fine acidic form, describing his own wrinkled face as resembling a scrotum. Or Lady Gaga, who had arrived at the ceremony in a daring, barely-there Versace, switching to what looked like rehearsal clothes before taking the stage to sing “Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick.”

Like the crowd sweetly singing “Happy Birthday” to James Martin, the intellectually disabled star of the award-winning short “An Irish Goodbye.” Or Daniel Scheinert, the co-director of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” thanking his parents for supporting his artistic ambitions and even “dressing in drag as a kid.”

Which, he added pointedly, “is a threat to nobody.”

There were other small touches of politics throughout — cheers for feminism and Russian activism, boos for ageism and racial prejudice — but mostly this 95th annual awards show was an uncontroversial, easy-to-watch, showbiz celebration.

And a heartening hint that — after getting slapped around a bit lately — the Oscars may make it to 100 after all.

For the complete list of winners, visit oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/2023.


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