Oscars 2024 review | A slick, polished ceremony showed Hollywood can still put on a good show

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As a celebration of a cracking year of cinema, the Academy scarcely put a foot wrong in a safe but spectacular Oscars 2024 ceremony. Our review:

Watching the Oscars live for the last few years hasn’t been without its risks. Grappling with pandemic fallout, declining viewing figures and some bizarre format experiments, the biggest night in showbiz has, for some time now, often failed to live up to its reputation.

The unmitigated disaster of the 2022 ceremony, though, seems to have given the Academy a kick up the backside. With last year successfully reducing the number of televised slaps back to the more conventional zero, the 96th awards ceremony seemingly built on the happily uneventful proof of concept to deliver a slick, confident broadcast that finally made a town full of storytellers look like they knew what they were doing.

Jimmy Kimmel returned to host for the fourth time in his proven role as “a safe pair of hands”. His opening monologue might not have proved the sharpest of the season – and Robert Downey Jr. definitely didn’t seem to appreciate the “highest points” joke – but it’s a testament to Kimmel’s experience in the role that a rocky monologue didn’t set the tone for the rest of the evening.

The infamous “bits” Kimmel and the award presenters traditionally trouped out throughout showed off some of the most consistent writing the ceremony has seen in years. Smart star pairings in the different categories (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito riffing with bat-nemesis Michael Keaton was a particular highlight) and committed delivery from stars who didn’t seem embarrassed to be there (John Cena’s near-nude presentation of the Costume Design award was another crowd pleaser) meant there were few of the usual awkward moments to rob the show of its momentum.

Instead, the night clipped along at a cheerful pace without intruding on that all important speech-time. Cord Jefferson used his Best Adapted Screenplay win for American Fiction to call for more low-mid budget films; Mstyslav Chernov made history as 20 Days In Mariupol earned Ukraine its first academy award in the face of Russian invasion; Jonathon Glazer gave a powerful speech apparently supporting calls for a ceasefire in Gaza as The Zone Of Interest took home the award for Best International Film.


The event wasn’t short on spectacle, either.

Making the most of a bumper crop of best original song nominees, Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas were joined by an orchestra to deliver a powerful rendition of their Barbie hit What Was I Made For, before Scott George and the Osage singers put on a magnificent display for Killers of the Flower Moon’s Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People).

The real star of the ceremony, though, was Ryan Gosling’s completely joyous performance of I’m Just Ken, which summoned so many people into the stage it was surprising anyone was left in the audience to watch (also, Slash was there. Yes, that one!).

Other smart production decisions meant the whole thing felt more celebratory than it has for some time. Producers brought back the old practice of having five previous winners introduce the nominees for each acting category, and the in memoriam segment cut to a shot of the orchestra as it recognised the composers and song writers lost in the last year.

The biggest surprise of the night, then, might have been that there were so few surprises.

Emma Stone beating the bookies’ favourite Lily Gladstone to take home her second Oscar was by far the biggest upset in an evening which otherwise went almost exactly as the statisticians expected. Oppenheimer swept many of the major categories with seven awards (including best director for Christopher Nolan, best actor for Cillian Murphy and, of course, Best Picture), with Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things chugging along nicely with four. The Zone of Interest won in two categories (international feature and sound) while The Holdovers, Barbie, American Fiction and Anatomy Of A Fall grabbed one statue each.

On this side of the Atlantic, the move to ITV didn’t quite manage to expunge the sins of ceremonies past. Jonathon Ross hosted proceedings during the States’ ad breaks, and while the slightly haphazardly selected panel around him provided some lively discussion of the films up for contention, some interesting pronunciation choices and a few factual errors did make Ross himself seem slightly less prepared than Alex Zane was for the last few years – even as his practiced chat show ease arguably made the conversation around him flow more easily.

Overall, though, this felt like the best Oscars ceremony we’ve seen in years. Smooth, slick, and suitably entertaining, for British and European viewers it was, for once, a night worth staying up for.

Now, off to bed…

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