It’s official. Jimmy Kimmel has cemented his place as one of the great Oscar hosts. His third turn as emcee was exactly what was needed. The late night host and Emmy winner has officially joined the ranks of Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, and, dare I say, Billy Crystal as one of the most accomplished and polished to do the job. Thankfully, Kimmel didn’t have to carry the entire show on his back. The 95th Oscar ceremony was fast-paced, emotional, and other than a few minor quibbles, was as strong a ceremony as one could ask for.
But we have to start with Kimmel. A host’s impact is determined primarily by their monologue, and Kimmel’s was first rate. It was not groundbreaking, but the role of an Oscar host is not to reinvent the wheel. Kimmel’s monologue was classy — pointed and biting without ever resorting to meanness. Comparing Best Director nominee Steven Spielberg and “The Fablemans” star Seth Rogen to the “Joe and Hunter Biden of Hollywood” was as perfect a joke as possible for an Oscar ceremony.
The closest thing to a burn that Kimmel delivered was a joke about the box office failure of “Babylon.” The rest of the monologue was refreshing in its classiness. There were even shout-outs to films that weren’t nominated, including “Till” and “The Woman King,” whose absences were much discussed by awards-watchers.
And although “the slap” was certain to be mentioned in the ceremony, Kimmel even handled that perfectly. “If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point during this show, you will be awarded the Oscar for Best Actor,” he joked, “and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech.” Kimmel even proposed a list of bodyguards should anyone want to assault him, including eventual Best Actress winner Michelle Yeoh, Steven Spielberg and even “The Mandalorian” and “The Last of Us” star Pedro Pascal.
Any unpleasantness or controversy was addressed only in the most tangential way. This was not a ceremony that drew attention to itself. This was a ceremony that was full of joy. Best Supporting Actor winner Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All At Once”) completed his streak of powerful speeches. There wasn’t anything new or flashy in it; it was just pure, unadulterated joy. And it’s hard not to root for that.
Best Supporting Actress winner Jamie Lee Curtis (“Everything Everywhere All At Once”) also gave a speech of class and joy, dedicating her win to her cast, her husband Christopher Guest, and to her Oscar-nominated parents Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis.
There were also infectious moments from some non-acting winners. Accepting the award for Best Live Action Short, directors Tom Berkeley and Ross White led the audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to the film’s star James Martin. Is there anything better than Colin Farrell singing to you on your birthday? There was also a feeling of triumph when Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”) took home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, beating “All Quiet On the Western Front.”
Film lovers had a lot to appreciate. Along with the presentation of all 23 categories on the telecast (last year several were pre-taped before the live ceremony), there was a tangible sense of respect given to all of the crafts from the presenters.
Was it a perfect ceremony? Of course not. Some of the presenter banter went on far too long. In the case of Kimmel, his presence — and the humor of his presence — waned throughout the ceremony. And if we’re being honest, some of Kimmel’s mid-show bits left a lot to be desired. After all, isn’t there a better use for Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai than to merely be part of a bit asking about the “Don’t Worry Darling” controversy? And along those lines, I’m not sure there was any good reason to make a joke out of the recent passing of Robert Blake.
But this was the night of “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” The seven-time Oscar-winning film clearly had the hearts of the Oscar audience and voters, becoming the first film in history to win three acting Oscars and Best Picture. Upon winning Best Director with Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan shared his win with his immigrant family and those who “have a genius that is waiting to erupt.” Best Actress winner Michelle Yeoh, the first Asian woman to win in her category, dedicated her Oscar to “all the little boys and girls” who would see her win as “a beacon of hope and possibilities.”
All in all, this year’s ceremony was a return to form for the Oscars. It was emotional, funny and flawed. And after a couple of years where the ceremony overshadowed the winners, this was a welcome improvement. More of this, please!
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