If anyone tried any violence this year, Kimmel said, “you will be awarded the Oscar for best actor and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech”.
After landmark wins for Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and Jane Campion (The Power Of The Dog), no women were nominated for best director. Sarah Polley, though, won best adapted screenplay for the metaphor-rich Mennonite drama Women Talking.
“Thank you to the academy for not being mortally offended by the words ‘women’ and ‘talking,’” said Polley.
Daniel Roher’s Navalny, about the imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, took best documentary. The film’s win came with clear overtones to Navalny’s ongoing imprisonment and Vladimir Putin’s continued war in Ukraine. Yulia Navalnaya joined the filmmakers on the stage.
“My husband is in prison just for telling the truth,” said Navalnaya. “Stay strong my love.”
Some big names weren’t in attendance for other reasons. Neither Tom Cruise, whose Top Gun: Maverick is up for best picture, nor James Cameron, director of best-picture nominee Avatar: The Way Of Water, were at the ceremony. Both have been forefront in Hollywood’s efforts to get moviegoers back after years of pandemic.
“The two guys who asked us to go back to theatre aren’t in the theatre,” Jimmel said, who added that Cruise without his shirt on in Top Gun: Maverick was “L Ron Hubba Hubba”.
After last year’s Oscars, which had stripped some categories from being handed out in the live telecast, the academy restored all awards to the show and leaned on traditional song and and dance numbers. That meant some show-stopping numbers, including the elastic suspenders dance of Naatu Naatu from the Telugu action-film sensation RRR, an intimate, impassioned performance by Lady Gaga of Hold My Hand from Top Gun: Maverick and an Super Bowl follow-up by Rihanna. Best Song went to Naatu Naatu.
It also meant a long show. “This kind of makes you miss the slapping a little bit, right?” Kimmel said mid-show.
The night’s first award went to Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio for Best Animated Film. That handed Netflix its first Oscar in the category.
After last year’s slap, the academy created a crisis management team to better respond to surprises. Neither Rock, who recently made his most forceful statement about the incident in a live special, nor Smith, who was banned by the academy for 10 years, attended.
The Academy Awards is attempting to recapture some of its old luster. One thing working in its favour: This year’s Best Picture field was stacked with blockbusters. Ratings usually go up when the nominees are more popular, which certainly goes for Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way Of Water.
Neither won much, though. The Way Of Water, with more than US$2.28 billion in box office, won for best visual effects.
Last year, Apple TV’s CODA became the first streaming movie to win best picture. But this year, nine of the 10 best picture nominees were theatrical releases. After the movie business cratered during the pandemic, moviegoing recovered to about 67 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. But it was an up and down year, full of smash hits and anxiety-inducing lulls in theaters.
At the same time, the rush to streaming encountered new setbacks as studios questioned long-term profitability and reexamined their release strategies. This year, ticket sales have been strong thanks to releases like Creed III and Cocaine Bear – which made not one but two cameos at Sunday’s show. But there remain storm clouds on the horizon. The Writers Guild and the major studios are set to begin contract negotiations on Mar 20, a looming battle that has much of the industry girding for the possibility of a work stoppage throughout film and television.
The Oscars, meanwhile, are trying to reestablish their position as the premier award show. Last year’s telecast drew 16.6 million viewers in the US, a 58 per cent increase from the scaled-down 2021 edition, watched by a record low 10.5 million.