Ray Richmond on the Oscars: 8 winners and 7 losers

There weren’t a lot of surprises at the 95th Academy Awards, yet it still felt fresh and lively for a ceremony with few real upsets that stuck almost entirely to conventional wisdom. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” enjoying an ostensible sweep was a shock to precisely no one, while “All Quiet on the Western Front” taking four trophies (three of them below the line) was equally predictable. No matter. There was still plenty of suspense and numerous touching, heartfelt, powerful acceptance speeches. I was a little worried there for Best Actor winner Brendan Fraser (for “The Whale”) that he could suffer an onstage meltdown, so much was the guy hyperventilating.

If you were a fan of the Academy Awards, you had to find a lot to love about the show and the results. For one thing: nobody got slapped this time. Heck, no one even got so much as pinched. And host Jimmy Kimmel did a great job of both making light of Slapgate and shining a spotlight on the absurdity of our ongoing obsession with it in his opening. That monologue was as a whole rather perfect, at once biting and respectful, never crossing the line to mean or crass. Kimmel is the perfect host for these things not only because he’s already a late-night presence on the broadcasting network (ABC), but because he threads the needle of being both safe and having just the right blend of caustic shots from the hip.

What may be a bit of a surprise was the fact the show felt poignant and balanced even while running 37 minutes over the allotted three hours. It was a ceremony that was less concerned with taking too much time than it was getting it right after pissing off so many people last year in handing out the awards in eight categories in advance. They didn’t do that on Sunday night. On the other hand, they didn’t get everything right. For instance, while it was great to have an orchestra back in the traditional, pre-COVID confines of the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, the director was also inconsistent in who was played off in the middle of their acceptance. Let’s just say you were in greater danger of being cut off if you were the second speaker and female.

Too, not all of the live Best Original Song performances were created equal. It was not the high point of David Byrne’s career, for example, to be involved in the “Everything Everywhere” number “This is a Life.” I doubt the Talking Heads genius will be listing it on his resume. On the other hand, Rihanna (“Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) and Lady Gaga (“Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick”) turned in splendid, emotionally vivid work, as did the group performing the “RRR” showstopper “Naatu Naatu” (which was simply spectacular).

But in terms of the overall tenor of the evening, you could pretty much tell how things were going to go by the level of enthusiasm demonstrated by the audience whenever anyone associated with “EEAAO” was mentioned. It reached a fever pitch when Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis took the supporting actor prizes early on, and both gave exceptional, moving speeches that showed abundant gratitude. You can’t get much more genuine than Quan emoting about how his journey started on a boat and wound through a refugee camp. “And here I am on Hollywood’s biggest stage!” he exulted. Curtis followed it with an equally triumphant burst.

Let’s take it from there and look at some of the biggest winners and losers on Sunday night:


  • Everything Everywhere All at Once”: In snaring seven trophies, it won the lion’s share of the biggest honors – picture, director (for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), original screenplay, and three performers (Quan, Curtis and Michelle Yeoh as lead actress) as well as for its editing. It was an incredibly impressive showing for a $25 million indie from two previously unknown writer-producer-directors who in one fell swoop have won as many Oscars as Steven Spielberg.
  • “All Quiet on the Western Front”: The German film didn’t match the seven BAFTAs it won last month, but it took home four Academy Awards, including the Best International Feature. Not a bad night’s work.
  • Jimmy Kimmel: A solid hosting job that should endear him to everyone and upset only those who may have a particularly thin skin. But he should also think twice next time about venturing out into the audience, impromptu-style, as things can only go wrong there (as they did when he tried to make Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai the awkward butt of one bit).
  • Sarah Polley: She was ebullient in victory after taking adapted screenplay for “Women Talking,” an immensely popular win in the room. She also tossed off one of the the greatest lines of the night, saying, “I’d like to thank the academy for not being offended by the words ‘women’ and ‘talking’ close together like that.”
  • M.M. Keeravani: The man who wrote the “RRR” song winner “Naatu Naatu” actually quoted the Carpenters in his acceptance, which was both surprising and adorable.
  • The team from the feature documentary victor “Navalny”: Not only did the movie’s triumph make a potent political statement with the academy, it permitted the imprisoned Russian political dissident Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia to give a stirring speech directed in part to her husband. It was perhaps the night’s most compelling single moment.
  • Mothers and teachers: The Daniels honored their public school teachers in their original screenplay speech and their mothers in the Best Director acceptance. Several winners, in fact, invoked their mothers, a sentiment that always feels right.
  • Attending movies in theaters: Several winners on Sunday promoted the idea of going back into the movie house as the pandemic continues to subside.


  • “Elvis”: No one expected the tuneful Baz Luhrmann biopic to get shut out entirely, even in costume design. But it did. Many pundits in the know were in fact anticipating a potential avalanche of wins for it, including Austin Butler for lead actor, but it was not to be. The bottom line is that there are only so many statuettes to go around, and it’s somehow reassuring that things don’t always follow form completely. With “EEAAO” and “All Quiet” dominating, something had to give.
  • Austin Butler: Best Actor was a close race all the way to the wire, but most expected Butler to pull it out, given the history of wins by performers playing musicians/singers who meet a tragic end (Freddie Mercury and Judy Garland, among others). Ultimately, Fraser’s work in “The Whale” was clearly found to be more gripping.
  • Angela Bassett: The “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” co-favorite for supporting actress notably sat stone-faced and was immobile for several seconds after losing the race to Curtis, and social media went wild over the perception she was a sore loser. My take is to gave the lady a break. Sometimes, it’s permissible, even refreshing, to see a genuine reaction of disappointment rather than false enthusiasm. The woman was crushed. Can’t that be OK?
  • Cate Blanchett: The star of “Tar” was once thought to be virtually unbeatable, but things turned during a previously dominant awards season after she lost at the SAG Awards and you could sense a major shift in the momentum. It was simply deemed Yeoh’s turn after 40 years of underappreciation.
  • “The Banshees of Inisherin”: Like “Elvis,” it failed to cash in any of its nominations (nine in all), surprising folks who assumed at least one of its four performers would be rewarded. Or Martin McDonagh’s screenplay. In the end, it was not to be.
  • Tom Cruise: His “Top Gun: Maverick” win for Best Sound was all it had to show for its six nominations, but the movie’s star and co-producer Cruise couldn’t be bothered to attend, an odd no-show for a superstar whose movie is credited with bringing people back to the cinema last year. He went to the nominee luncheon, but not the big show itself. Strange.
  • “The Fabelmans,” “Tar,” “Babylon,” “The Batman,” “Triangle of Sadness,” and “Living” all went home Oscar-less: The sting had to be most pronounced for Spielberg and his “Fabelmans,” a seven-time nominee and Spielberg’s most personal movie that was roundly rejected by voters. It simply got caught in the “Everything Everywhere” vortex along with everything else.

All in all, it was a good night for celebrating motion pictures, though those associated with the shutouts would surely disagree. As they took the stage for the Best Picture acceptance, the Daniels looked almost embarrassed at their good fortune. But they shouldn’t be. Winning an Oscar is hard. One should never apologize for appearing to be overly venerated. There will be plenty of humbling experiences down the line.

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