Surprises and Kenergy Make for a Solid Award Show

Estimated read time 8 min read

The Big Picture

  • Jimmy Kimmel hosts safely, propelling the show with a steady pace and audience-friendly jokes.
  • The ceremony emphasized craft, showcasing nominees in acting, sound, screenplay, visual effects, and original song.
  • The broadcast featured a few surprises, but
    mostly won the awards it was predicted to.

The 96th Academy Awards have come to a close, and while some “sure things” came to pass—Oppenheimer winning the most awards, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Robert Downey Jr. each winning the supporting actor categories—this year’s awards was a nice mixture of shocks, a solid overall show, and some deserving wins. Somehow, Christopher Nolan and Wes Anderson won their first Oscars ever this year? Wild, wild stuff. But this year’s awards had just enough pleasant surprises and a smart presentation that ensured a ceremony that can often feel like a never-ending evening moved at a fairly steady pace.

Jimmy Kimmel Was a Safe, but Reliable Host for the Oscars

Jimmy Kimmel and Kate McKinnon as Weird Barbie driving through Barbieland in a promo for the Oscars Image via ABC

Returning to host for the fourth time, Jimmy Kimmel was a safe but entertaining enough host. Kimmel isn’t going to give us a show-stopping opening number like Hugh Jackman or Neil Patrick Harris, and he isn’t a particularly daring choice, but that’s fine. He knows well enough that he shouldn’t be the focus of the night, delivering a decent monologue, popping in here and there for a fun bit, and then letting the awards move on. Kimmel’s jokes were expectedly tame, from discussing how movies are too long and joking about Nolan’s disinterest in technology, with the most questionable one being a dated knock at Downey Jr.’s drug use from decades ago. But really, that’s about as boundary-pushing as Kimmel gets when hosting. Beyond that, his appearance with John Cena was a strong bit that got in and got out, and coming back to read a review from a former president ended the night with a good joke. And maybe it was just because the ceremony started an hour earlier, but man, this award show moved, and good for Kimmel to know that audiences don’t need endless bits that overstay their welcome.

The 96th Oscars Focused on the Craft and Artistry of Movies

Best Supporting Actress 2024 Oscars Image via ABC

One of the night’s lovelier touches was how the show presented the acting categories. Bringing back a format that had been used before, five previous winners in the category came out to discuss each of the five nominees at this year’s awards. Not only does this choice celebrate the winners of the past, but it gives attention to all five nominees, regardless of whether they won or lost. It also created some delightful moments, like Nicolas Cage discussing Paul Giamatti’s dedication to his The Holdovers performance, or—in one of the weirdest choices of the night—getting Christoph Waltz to praise Ryan Gosling’s Barbie role as Ken. The Oscars always excel when they make it clear that the current winners are going to become a part of the larger Oscar legacy, and this presentation is a great way to show that.

But the Academy Awards also brought back a focus on the craft in certain categories. For example, presenting clips of the Sound nominees by showing clips from the movies with the sound isolated, so we can hear the distant screams in The Zone of Interest or the crackling of static in Oppenheimer. Similarly, we were shown bits of the movies with the screenplay’s text added in both the original and adapted screenplay categories; the remarkable work that goes into bringing these worlds to life in the Visual Effects category, and allowing each of the Original Song nominees to play their songs. In recent years, we’ve seen the Oscars attempt to try new things to bring in audiences, like not presenting certain lesser-known awards, or adding absurd categories like the Oscars cheer moment and the fan-favorite awards—which thankfully only lasted for a year. This year’s awards knew that the people who watch the broadcast love the craft of filmmaking and everything that goes into it. By leaning into that in this presentation, the Oscars catered to their fans, without trying any ridiculous new tricks (although it would’ve been nice if they zoomed in on the screen during the In Memoriam segment).

And overall, there was a light, refreshing air to this year’s Oscars, and no, not just because no one was slapped, or the wrong winner was called. There was a playfulness throughout the ceremony that’s often missing, and some lively jokes that relied on those on stage to mess around with those in the crowd. It’s simply impossible to not love Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito bantering with Michael Keaton about how Batman killed their villains, or to watch Ryan Gosling making the entire crowd burst out laughing during his bravura performance of “I’m Just Ken.” If there’s one thing that people will remember about the 96th Oscars, it’s Gosling absolutely bringing down the house and bringing Barbie to life in absurd fashion, with Greta Gerwig, America Ferrera, and Margot Robbie all losing their minds over whatever the hell that incredible performance was. The audience’s willingness to play along at these awards is always hit-or-miss, but everyone seemed game for whatever the Oscars threw their way this year.

This Year’s Oscar Ceremony Gave Us Plenty of Surprises

Ryan Gosling Slash 2024 Oscars Image via ABC

But, oh yeah, the Oscars are about the awards! In recent years, the Academy has been fairly good about awarding its Best Picture nominees for their standout achievements. This year, Anatomy of a Fall and American Fiction walked away with the screenplay awards, Randolph won for The Holdovers, and Poor Things surprised with wins in quite a few of the technical categories. Still, Maestro and Past Lives walked away with nothing, but most egregious is for the second Martin Scorsese film in a row (after 2019’s The Irishman), the director made a film that earned ten nominations and won zero. The most shocking loss certainly came in Lily Gladstone losing to Poor Things’ Emma Stone, despite the two being so close all award season.

Yet the 96th Oscars had several welcome surprises throughout the awards. Godzilla Minus One beat The Creator in visual effects, despite The Creator winning major effects awards in the lead-up to the Academy Awards. The Boy and the Heron earned Studio Ghibli only their second award in the Animated Feature category and their first since their 2003 win for Spirited Away. Meanwhile, The Zone of Interest’s horrifying sound work beat much more showy films like Oppenheimer and Maestro. In a show that can sometimes be a bit too easy to predict, this year’s awards threw some unexpected wins into the mix, making for a thoroughly surprising show—that is if you were keyed into the expected winners in some of the smaller categories.

At least the expected winners gave us some wonderful speeches. Randolph taking the first win of the night set a heartfelt, charming precedent, and wins for 20 Days in Mariupol as well as Jonathan Glazer’s Zone of Interest win in International Feature led to harrowing speeches about the horrors their films captured—particularly with Mariupol director Mstyslav Chernov’s heartrending speech about the atrocities Russia has committed against Ukraine.

This wasn’t necessarily a night of truly iconic, memorable speeches or moments for that matter, but by focusing on the films and the craft of filmmaking, the 96th Academy Awards was one of the best presentations in quite some time. Regardless of who won or lost, this year’s Oscars returned to caring about giving us a ceremony that prioritized the films that deserved to be celebrated, and really, that’s what these awards should always be.

A poster for the 2024 Oscars.

Oscars 2024


With an emphasis on the craft of filmmaking and a reliable host, this year’s Oscar ceremony kept up a steady pace to make for a refreshing celebration of movies.


  • Jimmy Kimmel was a reliable, if a bit safe, host who kept the show running smoothly.
  • The show brought back a focus on the craft, devoting time to celebrating everything from sound to writing.
  • There were great speeches, including those from The Holdovers star Da?Vine Joy Randolph, Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer, and 20 Days in Mariupol director Mstyslav Chernov.


  • There was a dated knock at Robert Downey Jr.’s drug use from decades ago.

The 2024 Oscars broadcast on ABC in the U.S. on March 11 and is available to stream on Hulu.