Random Thoughts – The 2023 Academy Awards

The 2023 awards season finally comes to an end with the 95th Academy Awards. This year’s batch of nominees was both interesting and frustrating which also describes the long road to Oscar night. It was a journey that saw many of the eventual winners all but secured, leaving very little drama in many of the big categories. It saw sentimental choices gain traction with each new tear-jerking acceptance speech while many of the more deserving nominees faded. Fittingly, this year’s Oscars ceremony was as frustrating as the road to it. Here are a few Random Thoughts.

  • The Oscars seem to be evolving into more of a fan-driven event. It seems like it has become all about building a fan base, not as much through the merits of your movie but in the personalities and stories of your nominees. It seems going ‘viral’ carries a lot more weight. It really stood out with this year’s ceremony, and it’ll be interesting to see where the Oscars go from here.
  • To the surprise of no one, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” had a big night, winning seven Oscars including Best Picture. I won’t rehash my many issues with the movie, but it worked hard to gain a vocal following. The early feel-good awards season moments yanked enough heartstrings to cement its Oscar night destiny.
  • While “EEAAO” was this year’s cool choice, it’s a shame that the powerful and sobering “All Quiet on the Western Front” didn’t get Best Picture. Some were quick to categorize it as “another war movie”. Of course it’s so much more than that. Well, at least there’s BAFTA.
  • Speaking of yanking heartstrings, Brendan Fraser won Best Actor for “The Whale”. His performance was fine (what you could see of it), but much like “EEAAO”, he built a big following especially on the awards circuit. You have to like Fraser. But this feels like a sentimental win determined more by his personal comeback story than the performance itself.
  • Sadly, with Fraser’s win that means nothing for a deserved Colin Farrell who was remarkable in “The Banshees of Inisherin” (and “After Yang”…and “The Batman”… and “Thirteen Lives”). This should have been Farrell’s to win. Alas…
  • Staying with the ‘winning people over’ thought, Ke Hey Quan wins Best Supporting Actor for “EEAAO”, easily one of the biggest sure-things of the evening. I was mixed on the performance, but not on Quan. He’s such a glowing bundle of joy.
  • Seeing Ke Huy Quan and Harrison Ford give each other such a heartfelt embrace was a truly a wonderful moment.
  • I gotta say, Barry Keoghan was still my choice for Supporting Actor. Talk about an incredible performance. Unfortunately he had the performance but not the enthusiasm behind him (outside of BAFTA). In this current system he never had a chance.
  • Best Actress goes to Michelle Yeoh for “EEAAO”. Predestined and pretty much a sure thing. Some tried to make Cate Blanchett a contender for “Tár” (she should have been). But like so much of the show, this one was never in doubt.
  • Hey remember Danielle Deadwyler? The Academy sure didn’t. But I did appreciate Kimmel’s tip of the hat to her performance in “Till”.
  • I will say I do like Michelle Yeoh. She’s had such a fine career, and she became the first Asian woman to win Best Actress.
  • Best Supporting Actress was a category I had hopes for. Instead Jamie Lee Curtis won for “EEAAO”. It feels like a lifetime achievement Oscar masquerading as a Best Supporting Actress. I love JLC and seeing her win was fun. But ahead of Angela Bassett and Kerry Condon? It was an early sign of things to come.
  • “EEAAO” won for Best Director which is hard to wrap my mind around. Then again, the Academy didn’t even nominate arguably the most deserved winner. “EEAAO” also won Best Original Screenplay, somehow beating “The Banshees of Inisherin”.
  • Like or dislike “EEAAO”, you have to give credit to A24. They did a great job pushing the film, making over $100 million at the box office. That’s quite an accomplishment, especially at a time when getting people to the theaters has been so hit-or-miss. A24 worked hard it it payed off.
  • With EEAAO” sucking up much of the evening’s oxygen, that meant some big movies went home empty-handed. “Banshees”, “Tár”, “The Fabelmans”, and “Elvis” were blanked despite their many nominations.
  • Jimmy Kimmel did a solid job hosting. He landed several really good jokes, and carried the show along pretty well. He tried too hard a time or two, but overall he was quite funny.
  • I loved Kimmel’s closing bit about the Oscar Telecasts Without Incident. One of several shots taken at the Will Smith incident.
  • None other than Jenny the donkey (from “Banshees”) made an appearance on stage and as you would expect she stole the show. That was such a fun moment. Cheers Jenny.
  • “All Quiet on the Western Front”, my pick for the best film of 2022, won Best International Feature Film. It was a high point of the night, and I particularly love director Edward Berger singling out the film’s star, Felix Kammerer for his exceptional performance in what was his first film role. An exceptional win for an exceptional movie.
  • Speaking of “All Quiet”, it also won for Best Original Score. It was absolutely the right choice. Volker Bertelmann’s brilliant music fit so well with the film’s haunting tone. A terrific win.
  • In another of the night’s sure-things, “Avatar: The Way of Water” won for Best Visual Effects. I mean it was the obvious choice. All James Cameron did was (once again) raise the bar for VFX in a way that has never been done before.
  • “Naatu Naatu” wrapped up its storybook run by winning the Best Original Song Oscar. I love that the song and its movie, “RRR” gained such traction as Indian cinema is too often overlooked here in the States. The performance of the song was lights out.
  • Hey did you see Hugh Grant’s red carpet interview? Granted, he came off as a bit of a pompous grump. But it was funny seeing someone actually answer those stock red carpet questions honestly.
  • The evening certainty started off on the right note with “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” winning for Best Animated Feature. It was the clear frontrunner, but it was great to hear its name called.
  • Back to “All Quiet on the Western Front”, it received another well-deserved win for Best Cinematography. James Friend was an essential piece to the film’s visceral effect and was the clear choice.
  • Speaking of a clear choice, “All Quiet” also won for Best Production Design. This surprised a lot of people as “Babylon” seemed to be a shaky frontrunner. But the Academy got it right.
  • “Women Talking” fended off “All Quiet” to win Best Adapted Screenplay. For me it was between it and “All Quiet” so I was happy to see Sarah Polley get a win. “Women Talking” is one of several films that deserved more attention, but that was sucked up in the “EEAAO” vacuum.
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling went to “The Whale” (sigh) while Best Costume Design went to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (no arguments there).
  • Again, I got a kick out of Kimmel’s jokes and I laughed quite a bit. But any time an Oscar host goes out into the crowd you’re guaranteed mixed results. Such was the case last night. Supposedly he was buying time while they changed up the stage. The bit didn’t quite get the intended response.
  • Best Sound went to “Top Gun: Maverick”, a good win for a movie that deserved much more. It would’ve been a shame if the movie that actually jump-started and (as Steven Spielberg said) “saved” the theater-going experience had won nothing from the Academy!
  • Cheers to the Academy for smartly airing ALL of the winners this year. I’m not sure who thought cutting some out was a good idea. This was much better,

And so those are a few random thoughts from this year‘s Oscars. What did you think of the show? What are your thoughts on the winners?

26 thoughts on “Random Thoughts – The 2023 Academy Awards

  1. You point out some very important nominees that were either under-awarded or blanked all together. It’s criminal Top Gun didn’t get more awards / respect. It saved movies lol. So it would not surprise me if that’s why Tom Cruise was not in attendance. Sort of protest. All Quiet was a top-notch production, truly deserving of its 4 wins I thought.

    I’m super biased fan of Everything Everywhere. But I believe I’m in a minority there, among fans at least. Obviously not the Academy. But even so, it is by no means a perfect film. Felt Michelle Yeoh was perfect though – the only absolute deserving award IMO.

    • I enjoyed Everything Everywhere the first time I saw it, but I didn’t really get the hype that it built up. While I can’t understand why the movie won all the awards it did during the season, it is kind of fun to see a movie so bizarre kind of slam the door in the face of more traditional fare. The movie made history last night with Michelle Yeoh taking home the Best Actress award. Having slept on it, she earned it and so did Ke Huy Quan. I definitely think that All Quiet on the Western Front was the better film overall, though. I’m still perplexed that The Batman never got a nomination for Best Original Score. That movie’s soundtrack was outstanding. As much as I love Jamie Lee Curtis, Angela Bassett deserved that award a hell of a lot more. She put more effort into that role than anyone else on that list. But the Oscars definitely feel more fan-driven than merit, and that’s a problem.

      • I really think it’s a case where “EEAAO” worked the crowd throughout awards season. They had a huge social media following and put out a lot of energy in front of the camera. That seems to really have an impact these days. Compare that to something like “Banshees” which was much more low-key. They did the interviews and made the appearances. But they didn’t ‘work it’ like “EEAAO” did. I fear that could become the new norm.

        As for “The Batman” not getting nominated for Best Score. That’s mind-blowing to me. IT DIDN’T EVEN MAKE THE OSCAR SHORTLIST!!!! Insanity.

    • It’s hard to root against Michelle Yeoh. She’s such a delight, and for me she’s the anchor of that movie. And I loved hearing we have a shared appreciation for “All Quiet”. I truly think it is a movie that will stick around over time. So incredibly well made and it’s message is powerful.

  2. I hated EEOE the first time and saw it and got a much better appreciation during my rewatch, but despite understanding the hype, It wasn’t the best picture of the year IMHO. I think the Oscars have become too politicized over the years and people don’t pick the Best movie, but rather the one they think deserves their overall support. I haven’t missed an Oscar telecast in over 30 years and this wasn’t even close to being among the worst, but some of the ‘expected’ choices probably shouldn’t have won. I also think, that they need to go back to 5 BP nominees, the field is too diluted when they MUST have 10 and then some of the best ones nominated end up going home empty handed.

    • Definitely not the worse show and I felt it went by pretty quick. As for EEAAO, it’s funny. I actually had a worse time with it the second time around. And even if it wins BP, it was sad to see it gobble up so many other awards that should have went to more deserving films (based on the actual merit of their movies).

      Ultimately, I still enjoy the Oscars. But I’m genuinely worried about what it is becoming. I guess we’ll see how far it goes. TV rating were up so I doubt much will be changing anytime soon.

  3. I thought it was a good show. Better than the last 2 years. I’m really happy for Sarah Polley as I watched Women Talking yesterday which I thought was great as I’m going to post my review later today. Honestly, I thought it was a better film than EEAAO though I have no issues with the fact that it won Best Picture and everything else. I’m happy for the people who won. Happy that Jamie Lee Curtis has her Oscar though I would’ve preferred Angela Bassett. I’m happy for Ke and Brendan as I think people need to put some respect for Encino Man. NPR’s tweet about Michelle Yeoh is fucking racist.

    Can we please put a lifetime ban on John Travolta from appearing at the Oscars? He’s just a fucking embarrassment to watch these days. Can we also not nominate Diane Warren ever again? That song is fucking shit.

    The memoriam pissed me off over who wasn’t included: Tom Sizemore, Paul Sorvino, Anne Heche, Charbli Dean, the guy who did Cannibal Holocaust, Leslie Grace, Albert Pyun. Man, fuck the Academy for doing that.

    • I’ll give Travolta a pass this year because I know it was tough considering his relationship with ONJ. But you’re right, how do they leave so many OBVIOUS names off? What’s the possible reasoning????

      • I just found out that they omitted Paulie Walnuts. This, Paul Sorvino, Anne Heche, and Tom Sizemore. That does it. Someone is getting whacked.

  4. I . . . actually did not watch it this year. Lol. I did not have many horses in this race, and have found that sitting more on the outside has been easier for me than actually getting invested (and ultimately disappointed/frustrated) by what ends up winning.

    I am big time excited for All Quiet winning as much as it did, and while it was certainly predictable EEAAO would basically clean house, I think it’s exciting that such a radical concept (even one that gets a little away from itself and becomes exhausting in the end) gets this amount of attention.

    That said, pretty damn bummed that Banshees left empty-handed. It’s certainly not a feel-good experience but good grief — Colin Farrell is flat-out brilliant and so was Gleason. (By the way, I don’t think that was actually Jenny the donkey, they wouldn’t have imported the real one all the way from Ireland. Unless they did, which . . . )

    And if I can add my two cents re: the In Memoriam segment and their seemingly callous omissions. I would have to imagine that in order to display the names for this section the Academy has to get permission, either from next-of-kin or of their estate or whatever in order to display their names? I’m just trying to think of reasons why names like Anne Heche, who passed away in such a terrible manner, would not be included. It’s the same every year — there’s always a name or two that gets left out and it’s baffling. the only thing I can think of is out of some respect for privacy.

    • Great thoughts Tom. Thanks for sharing them. While I still think the whole awards thing is taken a bit too seriously, I do find both enjoyment and frustration in them. For instance, it’s great seeing a movie like “ALL QUIET” get such deserved wins.

      But (as you said), how on earth does “Banshees” leave with absolutely nothing??? But that’s what happens when EEAAO takes up so much space (it beating “Banshees” for screenplay is almost laughable).

      And I’m with you on Farrell. Top-notch performance. But he loses to Fraser? I like Brendan Fraser. But (to me) that felt like a win given to his personal story more than his performance.

  5. Didn’t see the show or many of the contenders but I didn’t think the big winner of the night was all that as a movie. That is a real shame it took so many awards which denied so many others. Since when are the AAs a popularity contest. Ugh. Banshees should have won a few, I liked del Toro’s Pinocchio, not even sure I want to see The Whale, and would have liked to see The Wonder nominated for something and win it. I can see Wakanda Forever for costumes. Still need to see All is Quiet…

    • Oh you must see “All Quiet”. I’m incredibly high on it and can see it being among my favorite films for a long time. Absolutely stunning movie both technically, thematically, and performance wise. Can’t say enough about it.

  6. I suppose I’ll have to concede on the winner, I just didn’t see the appeal, but it apparently pleased a lot of people so I suppose it’s ok that it won. Would have like to see Farrell in there, and Banshees for screenplay. I feel like was more out of touch than usual this year. I usually have a good handle on the acting awards, but missed on those too.

    • I went 9/10 on picking the ‘Big 10’ awards. It all felt so dang predictable this year….predestined if you will. As I alluded to, I truly think fan following is carrying a lot more weight these days. It definitely changes things.

  7. Banshees should’ve won SOMETHING. So gutted for it. I agree with you that All Quiet is more than just a “war movie” it’s easily one of the best from last year. I like that Felix Kammerer got a call out when they won best International. In a perfect world, he would’ve been in that Best Actor line up.

  8. Totally agree with your assessment . I liked EEAO a bit more than you but only marginally . All Quiet was my choice and I also absolutely loved Maverick as well , which I feel was overlooked . I didnt mind Fraser or Ke Huy Quan winning , thats my sentimental side. The best part of them winning was that their speeches were truly from the heart and the passion for their craft .

    • I do agree that Fraser and Quan’s speeches were 100% from the heart and it was hard not to feel good for them. But it kinda speaks to what is frustrating me about the Oscars. It seems to be more about drawing people to the personalities and the personal stories than the performances. I dunno. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here.

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