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5 winners and 4 losers from the 2023 Oscars

Winner: Donkeys. Loser: Anyone craving drama.

Michelle Yeoh standing at a microphone, holding an Oscar statuette in one hand and making a fist with the other.
Michelle Yeoh tells women, “Never let anyone tell you you’re past you’re prime,” while accepting the Oscar for Best Actress at the 95th Academy Awards ceremony on March 12, 2023, in Los Angeles.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The 95th Academy Awards went off without a hitch — and, as host Jimmy Kimmel made sure to remind us, without “Hitch,” er, Will Smith. Banned from the ceremony after last year’s infamous slap, Smith wasn’t the only prominent celebrity to skip this year’s awards, which took place at the familiar Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles Sunday night. Major nominees like Tom Cruise and James Cameron were absent, which made this year’s ceremony feel a little less devoted to star-gazing and more devoted to navel-gazing. (Did we really need a segment about how great Warner Bros. is?)

Still, the awards held quite a bit of charm in between the two biggest sweeps of the night: a technical coup for war epic All Quiet on the Western Front and a sweep of nearly every major award including Best Picture — every award, everywhere! — for this year’s clearly beloved favorite, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. (For more on the night’s winner to end all winners, check out Alissa Wilkinson here.)

Even if you’re not an Oscars junkie, we defy you not to be just a little charmed by this year’s highlights. Like M. M. Keeravani, the composer of “Naatu” from global Tollywood hit RRR, winning India’s first Academy Award for Best Song and improvising a speech to the tune of the Carpenters’ “Top of the World.” Or Ke Huy Quan’s ebullient joy when he sealed one of the year’s best comeback narratives by winning Best Supporting Actor for Everything, Everywhere and giving us a spontaneous TED talk on the collective wellspring of genius and creativity. Or those Irish guys singing “Happy Birthday” to that other Irish guy! James! Happy birthday, James!

The little moments of humanity peeking out beneath the glitz and glam are truly what make the Oscars worth tuning in for. This year was markedly apolitical — though kudos to “the Daniels” (Everything, Everywhere directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan) for shouting out support for drag queens everywhere in the wake of Tennessee’s controversial new transphobic law banning drag performers — but the mood in the room was surprisingly hopeful. As Quan reminded the room through tears, this night may be a little campy and ridiculous, but it’s also what the American dream looks like. Here’s to many more banal Oscar nights to come.

Here are our picks for this year’s winners and losers.

Winner: All Quiet on the Western Front

Did anyone see All Quiet on the Western Front? If you skipped, I do not blame you. I do not have much tolerance for a “war is terrible’’ movie that is just two and a half hours of war.

But I am (we are?) not the Academy that rewarded AQOTWF with four Oscars, including Best Cinematography, Best International Film, and Best Original Score. That Best International Film win seemed predictable — AQOTWF was the only movie in that category also nominated for Best Picture. Less predictable is the fact that the film was pretty disliked in its native Germany, the country it won the award for. One of the biggest critiques from Germans about this German film based on a German book was that it had strayed too far from the source material for the sake of … an Oscar. —Alex Abad-Santos

Loser: Disney

This year’s Oscars aired on ABC, the network owned by Disney. Unfortunately, the very successful entertainment company didn’t have its best night. Angela Bassett, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Wakanda Forever, lost to Jamie Lee Curtis. Turning Red, the company’s bid in the Best Animated Feature Film category, also lost. And in an awkward move, Disney premiered the trailer for The Little Mermaid remake during the ceremony. Reader, that trailer did not look great on my television screen.

Ruth Carter did win for Best Costume Design for Wakanda Forever, an award she won in 2019 for the original Black Panther, and Avatar: The Way of Water won for Best Visual Effects. But overall, it could’ve been a better night for the House of Mouse, especially on its home turf. —Alex Abad-Santos

Winner: White Gowns

Whether it was in an attempt to match with the “champagne” (read: beige) carpet or out of a widely-held conviction that the Oscars should look more like a mass wedding ceremony, a surprising number of A-listers showed up to the ceremony in sparkling white.

Among the nominees, Michelle Yeoh wore feathery white Dior, Michelle Williams wore a white Chanel column with attached capelet, Ana de Armas wore sparkling nude Louis Vuitton, and Paul Mescal wore a white Gucci tux. Among the presenters, Mindy Kaling was in peekaboo white Vera Wang, Emily Blunt was in off-the-shoulder white Valentino, Eva Longoria in white Zuhair Murad, Halle Berry in Tamara Ralph, and Ariana DeBose wore custom Versace Deco-style. Scattered through the audience: Rooney Mara in white Alexander McQueen, Harry Shum Jr. in white Adeam, musical performer Sofia Carson in bridal Giambattista Valli, and Tems in show-stopping Lessja Verlingieri.

Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems attends the 95th Annual Academy Awards in on-trend white.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

(Jimmy Kimmel also changed into a white tux halfway through the ceremony, explaining that he spilled guacamole on the black tux he’d worn earlier. We don’t think that counts, though.)

That’s just a lot of white! It’s a lot of white, especially for a ceremony where people usually show up in punchy jewel tones that will pop on Instagram. We don’t know what to tell you except that white: It’s having a moment. —Constance Grady

Winner: The Irish

It was the year of the Irish Oscars, with a whopping total of 14 nominations for Irish films, actors, and filmmakers. A lot of that was thanks to The Banshees of Inisherin, which nabbed four of the 20 acting nominee slots, with Aftersun’s Paul Mescal taking a fifth. Banshees also saw nods for writer-director Martin McDonagh as well as Best Original Score, Best Editing, and Best Picture. Meanwhile, The Quiet Girl was nominated for Best International Film, the first Irish-language film to earn that distinction. The live-action short An Irish Goodbye won in its category. Irishman Richard Baneham was on the Oscar-winning visual effects team for Avatar: The Way of Water, and Jonathan Redmond was nominated for editing Elvis.

Not a bad showing for the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day — and the Irish press took note. But a stealth winner here is also the Irish language, which UNESCO lists as endangered, a fact with a long history rooted in a colonialist attempt to suppress it as English was imposed. Earlier in the season, Mescal garnered cheers from the Irish press when he spoke Irish with a red-carpet reporter, for the first time in his public career. It struck a chord with Irish observers, who learn the language in school but sometimes hesitate to speak it. Banshees’ Brendan Gleeson also gave an interview in Irish, while co-star Colin Farrell expressed regret for not doing so. And upon his win, Baneham spoke in Irish, too: “Go raibh míle maith agat,” he said. Roughly translated: A thousand thanks. —Alissa Wilkinson

Loser: Fat people and fat suits

Fat people, even very fat people, are defined by more than their bodies. But Hollywood has a long history of portraying fat people as socially awkward loners obsessed with food and disordered eating, using fat suits for famous actors who play into those dehumanizing caricatures and stereotypes.

Much has been written about the fat-shaming aspects of Aronofsky’s The Whale, but no amount of criticism can overcome Hollywood’s love for a physical transformation. While many consider Brendan Fraser’s performance moving, the fact is fatness is most prominently presented on film as a suit thin people slip into. The film’s win for best makeup design — which included an awards voice-over praising the way the fat suit “pushed Fraser’s weight into the severest extreme“ — was regressive and insulting to all the strides fat actors and creators have made in Hollywood.

Fraser’s win for Best Actor may have been more about his Hollywood comeback in the eyes of the Academy, but the legacy of his performance will be about Hollywood’s fatphobia. “Who would want me to be a part of their life?” his character asks. As long as we refuse to allow fat people to control their own narratives, we’ll never have an honest answer to that hideous question. —Aja Romano

Winner: Donkeys

There were three donkeys in this year’s Oscar class (appearing in Banshees of Inisherin, EO, and Triangle of Sadness), but only one donkey actually appeared onstage at the Oscars telecast. In our expert opinion, this was a misfire: There should always be more donkeys.

Jimmy Kimmel with — we hope — Banshees of Inishirin’s Jenny the donkey.
Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In this case, the donkey was sweet Jenny from Banshees of Inisherin. (At least, that’s what they told us, although a conspiracy theory is flourishing online that the donkey wasn’t Jenny. Regardless, we have a strong pro-donkey stance here at Batting her long eyelashes, she took command of the stage with effortless star power. “Look, it’s your friend, Colin Farrell,” said host Jimmy Kimmel, and from his seat toward the front, Farrell blew his co-star (or an imposter thereof!) a kiss. International film star Jenny or nameless nobody, that donkey handily delivered the most charming moment of the evening. —Constance Grady

Loser: Hollywood’s failure to build new movie stars

Traditionally, the Oscars gets a pop of energy from the glamour of the whole show: all those movie stars, beautiful and otherworldly creatures of the big screen, smiling gamely in one room together. Their presence brings an outsize gravitas to what is, at the end of the day, an industry shindig, which then proves ripe for puncturing by the host.

That glamour and gravitas is growing steadily more elusive, probably because true movie stars keep getting rarer. The era in which we saw movie actors only in the dim sanctity of the movie theater is gone, and now that we’ve dragged them onto our phone screens, they’re all a lot smaller than they used to be. So while this year’s Oscars was filled with attractive, talented, charismatic actors, Our Lady of the AMC Nicole Kidman had to hold down the star power quotient alone, a shimmering reminder of the kind of icon Hollywood used to be able to turn out and no longer can.

There are some big positives to our new and more human era. For one thing, the Oscars are rewarding figures they used to ignore in favor of their preferred icons, netting awards to people like Brendan Fraser and Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. All the same, Movies’ Biggest Night has lost a little of that familiar shine. —Constance Grady

Winner: Musical numbers

The Best Original Song category isn’t usually a big part of the Oscars because, after all, this is a night to celebrate movies — and the music that usually gets celebrated is a song that plays during the credits, when the movie’s effectively over.

But this year was an exception, full of spectacle and joy. Lady Gaga gave us a stripped-down version of her soaring Top Gun ballad “Hold My Hand.” Rihanna, fresh off a seemingly casual Super Bowl performance, sounded fantastic performing Wakanda Forever’s “Lift Me Up.” Stephanie Hsu, Son Lux, and David Byrne gave us hot dog fingers in a trippy performance of “This Is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All At Once. Sofia Carson and Diane Warren’s rendition of “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman made me want to learn more about this movie. And the category winner, “Naatu Naatu” from RRR, was absolutely joyous.

Musical-number enthusiast Ariana DeBose would be thrilled with tonight’s vindicating performances. —Alex Abad-Santos

Loser: Anyone hoping for a big gaffe

If you were on pins and needles hoping for a repeat of last year’s slap, you were out of luck. While it may have run a little long, this year’s Oscars was almost painfully benign. Everyone from the donkeys to the cocaine bear was on their best behavior, and even the award-winners mostly kept their speeches short. Presenter Elizabeth Banks did have a near stumble — those long Oscar-dress hems are a hazard — but she played it off like the pro she is, even while presenting next to the aforementioned bear. Even Kimmel resisted the urge to overplay his hand by making too many Slap jokes. Still, the final note of the night spoke to a production that may have perhaps been a little on edge: As he walked offstage, Kimmel flipped a placard reading “Oscars without incident” from “0” to “1.” So far, so good — until next year. —Aja Romano

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