Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The triumphs, upsets and shrugs of the 2024 Oscars

This year’s greatest films made for mostly just-okay television
Robyn Beck
Photo via Getty Images.

On Sunday March 10, Jimmy Kimmel hosted the Oscars for the fourth time. The return of the uncontroversial late night talk show host mirrors the overall air of the 96th Academy Awards ceremony: respectable, uncomplicated and largely free from surprises.

This year’s Oscars, held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, were defined by their blockbuster nominees. Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” loomed large, winning a total of seven awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Robert Downey Jr. and Best Actor for first-time nominee Cillian Murphy. “Barbie,” the highest-grossing film of the year, took home only one award: Best Original Song for Billie Eilish’s tearjerker, “What Was I Made For.”

Despite the singular win, “Barbie” was the talk of the night. In his opening monologue, Kimmel wasted no time in saying that writer/director Greta Gerwig deserved the directing nomination, and that star Margot Robbie deserved an acting nod. With two nominated songs, the performance of “What Was I Made For” and a sing-along performance of “I’m Just Ken” (performed by Ryan Gosling and a chorus of “Kens”) made for a serious presence in the show’s runtime, eliciting waves of tears and cheers from the audience — in that order.

Kimmel’s opening monologue was rocky. He ran through all the requisite awards show jokes: the ceremony running over the allotted time, references to LA landmarks and, typical of this year’s awards season, calling out the runtime of both “Oppenheimer” and “Killers of the Flower Moon,” a joke that felt tired months ago at the Golden Globes. A dig at Robert Downey Jr.’s past with drug addiction was met with tepid laughter, the riskiest and arguably least successful joke of the monologue. The monologue did have some success. Referencing the lengthy SAG-AFTRA and DGA strikes last year, Kimmel brought out a crowd of below-the-line film workers, from teamsters to lighting crew.

The Oscars act as more than just an awards ceremony, but also a marker of film history — for better and for worse. The Academy referenced their own impact with a tradition mirroring the 2009 ceremony, wherein previous winners for the acting awards presented the latest lineup of nominees. Highlights include Rita Moreno honoring America Ferrara with a mention of her iconic song “America” from 1961’s “West Side Story” and Nicolas Cage wryly praising Paul Giamatti’s dedication to his character’s lazy eye in “The Holdovers.” While the format meant that we no longer got acting clips from each nominee, it ended up being a moving and wildly entertaining way to ring in a new class of honorees. Other presenters included a (nearly) nude John Cena, John Mulaney, Cynthia Erivo, Ariana Grande, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito.

Less successful was the In Memoriam segment. Despite featuring a lovely rendition of “Time To Say Goodbye” sung by Andrea Bocelli and his son Matteo, the slideshow of deceased industry folks was marred by a final slide of dozens of names, each hardly legible in miniscule font. As difficult as it is to include all of those we lost in the past year, the finale felt like a flippant afterthought.

In a pleasant surprise, the lineup of winners proved to be far more international than previous Oscars’ ceremonies. The UK’s German-language “The Zone of Interest” ended up taking home two awards, for Best International Feature and Best Sound, a refreshingly inspired pick considering its ominous and impressionistic sound design. French filmmakers Justine Triet and Arthur Harari took home Best Original Screenplay for “Anatomy of a Fall.” Japanese filmmakers took home Best Animated Feature for “The Boy and the Heron” and Best Visual Effects for “Godzilla Minus One.” One can take these wins, as well as last year’s wins for “All Quiet on the Western Front” as signs that Academy voters are warming up to a more global view of outstanding craft.

The most impactful speeches of the night were undoubtedly varied. Best Supporting Actress winner Da’Vine Joy Randolph emotionally paid homage to her mother and even her publicist, tearfully opening her speech with “God is so good.” Ukrainian journalist and filmmaker Mstyslav Chernov accepted the award for Best Documentary Feature with a sober lament of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, saying, “Cinema forms memories and memories form history.”

Accepting Best International Feature, “The Zone of Interest” director Jonathan Glazer powerfully asked, “Whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?” Glazer also celebrated Aleksandra Bystroń-Kołodziejczyk, depicted in the film covertly leaving food for prisoners in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Christopher Nolan, the winner of Best Director for “Oppenheimer,” ever well-spoken, stated “Movies are just a little bit over 100 years old. I mean, imagine being there 100 years into painting or theatre. We don’t know where this incredible journey is going from here, but to know that you think that I’m a meaningful part of it means the world to me.”

In maybe the tightest race of the night, Emma Stone took home Best Actress for her transformative role in “Poor Things,” beating her formidable awards season rival, Lily Gladstone in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Stone was visibly shocked when presenter and last year’s winner Michelle Yeoh called her name. Fighting back tears and humbly pointing out her broken dress, she directly addressed Gladstone, who warmly held her heart in the audience. Stone praised her director, Yorgos Lanthimos, and lovingly shouted out her three-year-old daughter.

The award for Best Picture was presented by a hilariously casual Al Pacino, surely foregoing the teleprompter in favor of a Shakespeare joke and skipping the announcement of the nominees altogether. Nearly immediately opening the envelope, Pacino announced, “My eyes see ‘Oppenheimer.’ Yes, yes.” A cameraman scrambled to reach producers Emma Thomas and others in the audience. Thomas thanked those at IMAX and her children, present at the ceremony.

Nearly a year of campaigning and speculation led to a night of rock-solid awards show production and some great glimpses at the humanity of our biggest stars. Ratings for the ceremony reached their highest numbers in four years, with 19.5 million people watching. This year’s Academy Awards prove that while the show can be entertaining, audiences really tune in to see the wilder moments of live TV and to relive moments from their favorite films of the year.

Thomas Machacz can be reached at [email protected].

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    TishaMar 14, 2024 at 4:46 pm

    Again, you nailed it. I agree with your valuable insight on movies and now this award show. Great job!