Oscars 2024: Hollywood alive as winners celebrate

Tuesday, March 12th, 2024 04:00 | By
Oscars winners
96th Oscars acting winners Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (Best Actor), Emma Stone in Poor Things (Best Actress), Robert Downey Jr. in Oppenheimer (Supporting Actor) and Da'Vine Joy Randolph in The Holdovers (Supporting Actress). PHOTO/Matt Sayles

It was another explosive moment in Hollywood, as the 96th edition of the annual Academy Awards (Oscars) went down on Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California.

At the event, Cillian Murphy became the first Irish-born winner of the best actor award, as biopic Oppenheimer swept the awards. The film dominated proceedings, winning best picture, best director for Christopher Nolan, and best supporting actor for Robert Downey Jr for his portrayal of US government official Lewis Strauss.

Downey Jr, best known for his run as Marvel’s Iron Man, has enjoyed a hugely successful Hollywood comeback after serious drug addiction issues more than two decades ago, which saw him serve a prison sentence after missing court-ordered drug tests.

Murphy was named best leading actor for his acclaimed portrayal of theoretical physicist J Robert Oppenheimer. The actor said he was “overwhelmed” to have won, adding, “I’m a very proud Irishman standing here tonight.”

Outside the venue, demonstrators called for a ceasefire in Gaza, the Palestinian enclave that has been subject to a five-month-long Israeli military offensive. Inside the auditorium, actors and artistes also used their wins to call for peace, drawing on themes presented in the various nominated films.

Murphy concluded: “We made a film about the man who created the atomic bomb, and for better or for worse, we are all living in Oppenheimer’s world, so I’d like to dedicate this to the peacemakers everywhere.”

Seven prizes

With 13 nominations, Oppenheimer won seven prizes overall in major categories, while Poor Things took four, including best actress for Emma Stone, and The Zone of Interest scored two.

Host Jimmy Kimmel joked the cast and crew were “getting Oppen-hammered at the bar”, such was the film’s success.

As he accepted his first ever Oscar best director, Nolan said: “Movies are just a little bit over 100 years old, we don’t know where this incredible journey is going from here, but to know that you think I’m a meaningful part of it means the world to me.”

Accepting the prize, producer Emma Thomas said: “I think any of us who make movies dream of this moment. But it seemed so unlikely that it would ever actually happen.”

Oppenheimer also won best editing, original score and cinematography. However, it lost several other technical categories, denying it a record-breaking number of wins.

Instead, drama Poor Things won best production design, costume design, make-up and hairstyling, as well as best actress for Emma Stone. The Yorgos Lanthimos film follows an infant whose brain has been implanted into the body of an adult woman, who then goes on an adventure of discovery across the world.

Deeply honoured

“This is really overwhelming. I am so deeply honoured to share this with every cast member, crew member, every person who poured their love, care and brilliance into the making of this film,” Stone said in her speech.

Best actress was the only major category that awards watchers had struggled to call ; it had been seen as a dead heat between Stone and Lily Gladstone for Killers of the Flower Moon.

But Martin Scorsese’s drama about a string of Osage murders in the 1920s went home empty handed despite being nominated in 10 categories at the ceremony. Barbie, the highest-grossing film of 2023, won only one of the eight prizes it was nominated for —best original song for What Was I Made For? by Billie Eilish.

“Thank you so much to the Academy, I was not expecting this, I feel so incredibly lucky and honoured,” Eilish said as she accepted the award with her brother and collaborator Finneas O’Connell.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph won best supporting actress for her portrayal of a school chef who is trying to cope with the death of her son in The Holdovers. She told the audience: “For so long I have always wanted to be different. And I now I realise I just needed to be myself, and I thank you for seeing me.”

The Zone of Interest won best sound and became the first British film ever to win best international feature. The critically acclaimed Holocaust drama follows a German family who live next to the Auschwitz concentration camp. In his acceptance speech, director Jonathan Glazer criticised Israel and the ongoing war in Gaza.

Best documentary feature went to 20 Days In Mariupol. Its director Mstyslav Chernov told the audience that he was “honoured” to become the first Ukrainian Oscar winner. “I’m probably the first director on this stage to say I wish I would never have made this film. I wish to be able to exchange this (for) Russia never attacking Ukraine, never occupying our cities,” he said.

Elsewhere, Anatomy of a Fall won best original screenplay. The film’s director and co-writer Justine Triet joked the Oscar would “help me through my mid-life crisis”. The film follows a woman accused of killing her husband, with the only nearby witness her visually impaired son.

American Fiction was named best adapted screenplay. Its writer Cord Jefferson said: “I’ve been talking a lot about how many people passed on this movie when discussing it, and I’m worried that sounds vindictive, but it’s more a plea to recognise there are many people out there who want the opportunity I was given.”

The writer said he understood Hollywood “is a risk-averse industry”, but said studios should commission more smaller-scale movies. “Instead of making one US$200 million (Sh28 billion) movie, try making 20 $10 million (Sh1.4 billion) movies,” he said.

Japanese fantasy film The Boy and the Heron was named best animated feature film, holding off competition from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. And director Wes Anderson won his first Academy Award in the live action short category for The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, based on the story by Roald Dahl.

For the fourth time, Kimmel hosted the ceremony. The US chat show host opened with a monologue, which reflected on the past 12 months in the film industry. Recalling the strikes that brought Hollywood to a standstill, Kimmel paid tribute to the efforts made to get a fair deal for actors and writers.

He joked that actors could now stop worrying about “being replaced by AI (Artificial Intelligence), and could go back to worrying about being replaced by younger, more attractive people.”

Turning his attention to Barbie stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, he said: “If neither of you wins an Oscar tonight, I would like to say you won something much better, the genetic lottery.”

Kimmel also suggested the nominated movies “were too long this year”, adding: “When I went to see Killers of the Flower Moon, I had my mail forwarded to the theatre. Killers of the Flower Moon is so long, in the time it took you to watch it, you could drive to Oklahoma and solve the murders yourself.”

Towards the end of the ceremony, he read out an online post from former US President Donald Trump, who had complained about Kimmel’s performance. Responding to Trump live on air, Kimmel said: “Thank you President Trump, thank you for watching, I’m surprised you’re still up, isn’t it past your jail time?”

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