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The Winners and Losers of the 2023 Oscars

‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ dominated the Academy Awards, people got emotional, there was sponsored content, and James Cameron didn’t show up

AP Images/Ringer illustration

The Oscars returned on Sunday night and actually managed to be normal: a celebration of the power of cinema that only ran slightly over time … and didn’t feature an A-lister physically assaulting a famous comedian. Thankfully, many recipients of tonight’s Oscars were able to break the Academy’s status quo in other ways: A24’s word-of-mouth sensation Everything Everywhere All at Once had a particularly historic night. Below, we break down the winners and losers from Hollywood’s biggest night.

Winner: Everything Everywhere All at Once Winning Basically Everything

In recent years, the Oscars have made some meaningful progress in regard to what types of movies can compete for Best Picture. It was three years ago that Parasite became the first non-English-language film to win Best Picture, which is still one of the coolest moments to ever happen in the show’s history. But even by the Academy’s new standards of open-mindedness, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a genuinely unprecedented Best Picture winner: a genre-bending indie film featuring multiverses, a terrifying void in the form of a giant everything bagel, fight scenes featuring butt plugs and fanny packs, and a raccoon controlling the body of a renowned chef. (All hail Raccacoonie.)

Yet despite having all these bizarre qualities and none of the hallmarks of a typical Oscar film—heck, it doesn’t even feel like it’s in the same ballpark—the wildest thing about Everything Everywhere’s Best Picture coronation was how inevitable it felt. From the film’s stars winning three of the four acting categories to the writer-director duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert winning both Best Original Screenplay and Best Director, Everything Everywhere truly lived up to its title. The movie was everywhere at the Oscars, and it won just about everything it could’ve.

Winner: Feel-Good Acting Wins

We can nitpick whether the Oscars “got it right” in some of the acting categories—with all due respect to Jamie Lee Curtis, her performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once didn’t seem like it would earn a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, let alone win the dang category against some worthy competition. But even if some of the acting wins might not stand the test of time in terms of the actual performances, it’s impossible to deny that they fueled some of the best feel-good moments of the night.

The acting categories really had it all: a genre icon in Curtis capturing her first Oscar, former child actor Ke Huy Quan winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor after spending decades away from the industry due to a lack of meaningful roles, Brendan Fraser capping off his career renaissance by winning Best Actor, and Michelle Yeoh becoming the first Asian woman to win Best Actress. (Weirdly enough, Quan’s and Fraser’s wins also mean that two stars of Encino Man become Oscar winners on the same night.) You’d be hard-pressed to find a dry eye in the room when Quan, Fraser, and Yeoh delivered their speeches: a powerful reminder of what makes the Oscars special for the people in the room and all of us watching at home.

Loser: Will Smith

You’d think the Oscars would want nothing more than to have everyone forget about last year’s jaw-dropping fiasco in which Will Smith slapped Chris Rock across the face. But clearly, that was not the case, as the ceremony took every possible opportunity to allude to the slap. I bet nobody remembered that the infamous moment happened while Rock was presenting Best Documentary Feature until host Jimmy Kimmel brought it up unprompted! And on the other end, while Smith was banned from attending the Oscars for a decade, I guess that wasn’t punishment enough: Will Smith was tonight’s punching bag. Anytime Kimmel needed a laugh, there was a Hitch joke to fall back on. There was even an extended explanation during the monologue about how the Oscars had a plan to respond to any random acts of violence!

You know Will Smith is ready to move on from the slap. Obviously, the Academy does not feel the same way.

Winner: Branded Content

While the Oscars have made a habit of going way over the allotted three-hour running time—shockingly, this year’s ceremony was no different—the Academy threw caution to the wind this year and said, “Let’s let studios show off their work!” Instead of keeping things tight and focusing on the movies that were actually up for Oscars this year, the ceremony became a glorified advertising platform at times. Disney used the fact that the show was being broadcast on ABC to debut a new trailer for the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures got a lengthy shout-out, and Warner Bros. got ample time to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

I have some notes. Even putting aside how egregiously they slowed things down, these mid-ceremony commercials also just fell flat. With all due respect to The Little Mermaid, it’s hard to be too impressed with its new trailer when Avatar: The Way of Water blows its special effects out of the water. (Side note: Is it possible to turn up the brightness on this entire movie?)

As for WB, there’s no denying the studio is putting out some exciting projects this year—Dune: Part Two, Barbie, and, most pertinent to my interests, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom—but advertising that on the same night Kimmel jokes about one of WB’s own blockbusters being shelved for a tax write-off is a little rough.

In any case, if the Academy wanted viewers to be bombarded by ads about movies instead of, you know, an actual celebration of movies, then this year was a rousing success. Branded content, now more than ever!

Winner: This Birthday Boy

Happy birthday, James!

Winner: Imposter Donkey

What do EO, The Banshees of Inisherin, and Triangle of Sadness all have in common? Aside from being nominated for Oscars this year, all three films incorporated a donkey into their plots—and then had the audacity to kill them off. Thankfully, while this year’s Oscars didn’t feature any online campaigns for viewers at home—never forget the Flash Entering the Speed Force—they did include a different kind of fan service. For a brief but glorious moment, the breakout star of Banshees, Jenny the donkey, graced us with her wonderful presence. We all felt how Colin Farrell looked reuniting with his costar:

Now, if the logical part of your brain wondered, “Holy shit, did the Oscars really fly out a donkey all the way from Ireland?” then I have some bad news. That wasn’t actually Jenny, but a “random donkey” that was, in all fairness, a pretty convincing look-alike. On the one hand, trying to pass off one donkey for another is a dirty trick—imagine how devastated Farrell was when he found out that wasn’t his beloved Jenny! On the other hand, international travel would’ve been hard for Jenny, so it’s for the best that she is, by all accounts, “still relaxing in Ireland.” Besides, I think we can all agree: All donkeys are worth celebrating for who they are, imposter Jenny included.

Loser: The Movies That Saved the Movies

With Oscar telecasts bleeding viewers at an alarming rate, the Best Picture lineup this year was encouragingly skewed toward populist fare, with films like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water among the nominees. And beyond their mainstream appeals, both movies were repeatedly credited with revitalizing the box office: Maverick was praised by none other than Steven Spielberg for saving the theatrical experience, while The Way of Water casually became the third-highest-grossing film of all time.

You’d think that two Best Picture nominees that doubled as industry saviors would make more of a splash at the Oscars; alas, both films went home with one Oscar apiece, in categories that were no-brainers for them. The Way of Water, literally one of the most expensive movies ever made, won Best Visual Effects, while Maverick and its booming fighter jets were acknowledged for Best Sound. Adding to the anticlimactic nature of the proceedings was the fact that Tom Cruise and James Cameron didn’t even attend the Oscars to support their respective films. Maybe TC and Big Jim got the inside track and knew their blockbusters would make little noise at the Oscars. In any case, making butt-loads of money is a decent consolation prize.

Winner: A Nonviolent Oscars Ceremony

They did it!