The Best and Worst Moments of the 2023 Oscars

Nothing nearly as dramatic as a certain slap happened at the 95th Academy Awards—which is probably for the best. Everything Everywhere All at Once dominated the night with seven wins, of its 11 nominations, including Best Picture, and three of the four acting trophies for Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Jamie Lee Curtis. All Quiet on the Western Front also had a strong showing with four wins throughout the evening. The evening was filled with feel-good moments, from Ruth E. Carter winning a second Oscar (she’s the first Black woman to do so) to a donkey cameo to an electrifying performance of RRR’s “Naatu Naatu.” Here were the best and worst moments of the night.

Safest opening monologue

The Academy Awards opened with a monologue from host Jimmy Kimmel, who joked about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage last year, with a nod to the crisis team that was put in place to avoid a similar moment. The late night host also quipped about Batgirl’s untimely demise to the Warner Bros. Discovery merger and Seth Rogen’s role in Steven Spielberg’s The Fablemans. Kimmel noted that John Williams is the oldest nominee in the awards show history, the lack of women directors in the Best Directors category, as well as the Academy shutting out The Woman King and Till’s from the awards. The monologue, as a whole, was a safe choice after the chaos of last year’s award ceremony.

Sweetest moment

Ke Huy Quan has one hell of a comeback story. The actor became known and beloved early in his career, with back-to-back roles as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Data in The Goonies.

In the early 2000s, though, Quan retired from acting due to lack of opportunities. In 2018, he was so moved by Crazy Rich Asians that he decided to get back into acting.

Two weeks after that decision, Quan auditioned for Everything Everywhere All at Once. And the rest is history: On Sunday night, Quan became the first Vietnam-born actor to win an Oscar—Best Supporting Actor for his role as Waymond in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

“My mom is 84 years old, and she’s at home watching,” Quan said in his acceptance speech. “Mom, I just won an Oscar! My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp. And somehow, I ended up here, on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This, this is the American dream!”

The actor was born in Saigon, fled to a refugee camp in Hong Kong at age seven, and moved to Los Angeles in 1979, five years before his breakout role.

“Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine. To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive! Thank you so much for welcoming me back. I love you.”

Most divisive on Twitter

When Jamie Lee Curtis won Best Supporting Actress—for her Everything Everywhere All at Once role as IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre—the internet wasn’t quite sure how to react. Curtis was nominated in the same category as her Everything Everywhere All at Once costar Stephanie Hsu (for her role as Joy/Jobu Tupaki), as well as Angela Bassett, for her role as Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Lots of people had lots of feelings: to some, it was a well-deserved career win for an older actress who had spent years in the genre film trenches. To others, it was yet another example of a white performer boxing out women of color. Bassett, in particular, has spoken at length about her struggles in Hollywood—despite consistently delivering excellent work.

Best reminder that Disney owns ABC

Between presenting Oscars, Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy took the stage to debut the full trailer for the live-action remake of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. The confusing moment quickly reminded viewers that Disney now owns multiple media companies, including ABC. The trailer saw mixed reviews with many saying Bailey sounds angelic, but questioning the nature of the CGI.

Best surprise cameo: a donkey in homage to The Banshees of Inisherin

Jenny the Donkey undoubtedly stole the scene in The Banshees of Inisherin. The cuddly sidekick to Best Actor nominee Colin Farrell sadly met an early end due to Brendan Gleeson’s character. Before the award for Best Costume Design was presented, Kimmel surprised the audience by bringing out a donkey onstage. It was a heartwarming moment for the Banshees fans and he joked that Jenny is officially an emotional support animal, offering hugs and well, emotional support to the nominees on this stressful day. Vulture did confirm, however, that it was not the actual donkey from the movie, it was “just a random donkey.”

Happiest birthday

For many attendees, the Oscars are a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To turn 31 at the Oscars—and then be sung happy birthday by the audience onstage—doesn’t happen more than once. James Martin, who starred in An Irish Goodbye (which won Best Live Action Short Film), was “the beating heart of our film,” according to director Ross White.

“It’s his birthday today (and) this was always the second most important thing of the day,” White told the PA news agency backstage.

“We just wanted to make sure he had an extra special moment so it was amazing to have everyone singing for him at the Dolby Theater—how ridiculous!”

Best banger

Indian actress Deepika Padukone introduced a riveting live performance of “Naatu Naatu” from the action-drama RRR, performed by Rahul Sipligunj, Kaala Bhairava, and a crew of wildly talented dancers. (“Naatu Naatu” was the first song from an Indian production to be nominated for Best Original Song—which it won—although RRR itself was snubbed.)

“An irresistibly catchy chorus, electrifying beats, and killer dance moves to match have made this next song a global sensation,” Padukone said. “It plays during a pivotal scene in RRR, a movie about the friendship between real-life Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem.”

“In addition to being sung in Telugu and illustrating the film’s anti-colonialist themes,” she continued, “it’s also a total banger.”

Ruth E. Carter makes history

The Best and Worst Moments of the 2023 Oscars

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever won its first Oscar of the night for Best Costume Design, the same award the first movie won back in 2019. Ruth E. Carter, the costume designer for both films, took home the golden statuette—making her the first Black woman to win two Oscars. She dedicated the award to her mom who recently died at the age of 101, saying “This past week, Mable Carter became an ancestor. This film prepared me for this moment. Chadwick, please take care of Mom.”

Rihanna’s performance

Ever since Rihanna announced her second pregnancy at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, the hope for more performances and music has gone out the window. In a rare performance, the Bajan superstar took the Oscars stage to sing the “Best Original Song” nominated, “Lift Me Up” from the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. She delivered a vocally-strong performance of the heartfelt ballad that was meant as a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman written by Grammy Award winning Nigerian singer Tems, director Ryan Coogler, and composer Ludwig Göransson.

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