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Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert win the Oscar for Best Director for Everything Everywhere All at Once.CARLOS BARRIA/Reuters

Kicking off with the stars strutting their stuff on a beige-not-red carpet and ending with the madcap multiverse comedy Everything Everywhere All at Once taking home the top prize of the evening, the 95th Academy Awards offered plenty of memorable moments and even more instances of highly questionable decision-making. And so many jokes about Will Smith, none of them good.

2023 Oscars complete winners list: Everything Everywhere All At Once wins 7 Academy Awards

Before the entire film industry melts down due to the streaming war/impending writers strike/artificial intelligence takeover/collapse of the Marvel machine/pick your poison, The Globe and Mail presents the highs, lows and weirdest scenes from a (very long) Oscars ceremony.

The good

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Sarah Polley accepts the award for best adapted screenplay for Women Talking at the Oscars.Chris Pizzello

Women Talking, Winning

It’s time to light up the CN Tower in the purposefully washed out colours of Women Talking! To tremendous applause (maybe coming from the Dolby Theatre in L.A., maybe just echoing outside of my Toronto window), Canadian writer-director Sarah Polley took home the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for her adaptation of Miriam Toews’s novel Women Talking.

“I just want to thank the academy for not being mortally offended by the words ‘women’ and ‘talking’ so close together like that,” a tuxedo-clad Polley joked onstage. “Miriam Toews wrote an essential novel about a radical democracy in which people who don’t agree on every single issue managed to sit together in a room and carve out a way forward together free of violence. They do so not just by talking but also by listening. The last line of our film is delivered by a young woman to a baby, saying ‘Your story will be different than ours.’ It’s a promise, a commitment.”

While Women Talking didn’t take home the award for Best Picture, seeing the film’s co-star, Canadian icon Sheila McCarthy, stand up in the audience to applaud her director, was almost as heartening a moment.

Every Acceptance Speech Everywhere All at Once

No matter your thoughts on how awesome or exhausting Everything Everywhere All at Once might be (and it can be both!), the biggest emotional moment of the evening arrived early, when Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Actor for his role in the multiverse comedy. While the win was the one big inevitability of the Oscars season – the one-time Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom actor picked up every precursor award on his way to the big show Sunday – it was still monumentally sweet.

“My mom is 84 years old and she’s at home watching, Ma I just won an Oscar,” a teary Quan said onstage. “My journey started on a boat, I spent a year in a refugee camp, and somehow I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it is happening to me. This is the American dream.”

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Daniel Roher, Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller and Shane Boris pose with the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature Film for Navalny in the Oscars photo room.MIKE BLAKE/Reuters

Putin in His Place

The first big Canadian(ish) win of the night arrived early when Navalny won Best Documentary. Directed by Toronto’s own Daniel Roher, the doc follows the struggles of Alexey Navalny, a Russian opposition leader who is considered Vladimir Putin’s No. 1 domestic enemy. Before inviting Navalny’s wife, Yulia, onstage to tell her husband to “stay strong,” Roher urged the world not to forget about his subject’s unjust imprisonment, and the “unjust war of aggression” in Ukraine. “The world has not forgotten your vital message,” Roher told the audience to hearty applause.

1812 Redux

The Canadian invasion of Hollywood is here! First up on the Oscars stage was the aforementioned Daniel Roher, whose Russian-politics film Navalny won Best Documentary. Shortly thereafter, Montreal makeup artist Adrien Morot won Best Hair and Makeup for his work on The Whale, then Women Talking’s Sarah Polley. And then dual citizen Brendan Fraser teared up when winning Best Actor for The Whale. Whew.

And while Domee Shi’s Pixar-produced love letter to Toronto, Turning Red, lost in the Best Animated Film category, it was beat out by Guillemo del Toro’s Pinocchio, which we can consider sorta-Canadian given that the director has been based in Toronto so long that he’s an honorary citizen by this point (hey, maybe he can run for mayor). Are any of these films, with the exception of the NFB-produced The Flying Sailor (which lost out on the Best Animated Short award), actually Canadian, given that they were funded by foreign entities? Well, we can hash that out tomorrow.

Ruth E. Carter Forever

It seems absurd to cite this very real statistic, but somehow Ruth E. Carter on Sunday became the first Black woman to be a two-time Oscar winner. The costume designer took home the award for Best Costume Design for her wonderfully imaginative work on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the sequel to the 2019 film that earned Carter her first Academy Award. “Nice to see you again,” Carter said as she took the stage. “Thank you to the academy for recognizing the superhero that is a Black woman. She endures, she loves, she overcomes, she is every woman in this film.”

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Host Jimmy Kimmel, centre, appears onstage during a skit at the Oscars.Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press

The bad

Kimmel Them Softly

When Jimmy Kimmel was announced as this year’s host, the excitement (ie. shoulder shrugs) could be felt across the nation. I mean, better than no host at all, right? (Or worse yet: last year’s confusing triumvirate of hosts.) But the academy largely forgot the many lessons of its own Kimmel-flecked history, and the comic delivered a monologue that was thoroughly and relentlessly “meh,” punctuated by gags so desperate that Kimmel’s former Man Show collaborator Adam Carolla would wince.

After parachuting into the theatre à la Tom Cruise in a bit that was so obvious Billy Crystal wouldn’t touch it, Kimmel riffed on such hot-hot-hot topics as Pauly Shore, Seth Rogen’s affinity for drugs, how much Irish people like to fight and old people having sex. Capping things off with the inevitable Will Smith joke – “If anyone in this theatre commits an act of violence at any point in this show, you will be awarded the Oscar for best actor and be permitted to give a 19-minute speech” – Kimmel’s material was less of a laugh-a-minute roasting than a gently annoying nudge in the ribs. A true case of the jokes matching the (beige) carpet.

Anon-EO-mous Donkey

If you’re going to bring up a donkey onstage like Kimmel did, you dang well better make sure it’s actually either the actual Jenny the Donkey from The Banshees of Inisherin, or at least one of the half-dozen donkeys used in Best International Film nominee EO. Instead, we got a random ass.

The weird

Hardly Quiet

For one hot BWAH-BWAH-BWAH-blaring moment, it seemed that director Edward Berger’s German-language remake of All Quiet on the Western Front was picking up steam and might take home the big trophy of the evening. But while Netflix’s surprise awards-season player cleaned up in the lower-tier categories (International Film, Original Score, Production Design, Cinematography), it didn’t end up going the distance and capturing Best Picture. Not this time, Germany. Not this time.

Mic Check

The best original songs of the year should sound … good, right? Turns out, not so much. The onstage performances this year involved a series of wildly up-and-down numbers, with the tone tripped up right from the start. That was when Sofia Carson and Dianne Warren performed the limp track Applause (from an anthology film called Tell it Like a Woman that almost no one had heard of until Sunday) that repeated the lyric, “give yourself some applause” without irony during the most self-congratulatory event of the year.

Then there was whatever David Byrne and Stephanie Hsu were trying to do during their number for This is a Life (from Everything Everywhere All at Once), which was simply just painful to endure (and not just because they were wearing hot-dog fingers). And was Lady Gaga performing Top Gun: Maverick’s Hold My Hand for a meeting of the academy’s local Alcoholics Anonymous branch? And while there is certainly a Marvel cinematic universe’s worth of emotions behind Rihanna’s Lift Me Up from Wakanda Forever, the track is just too short to ever truly get under the skin.

But then there was the undisputed highlight of the evening: the fiery, fiercely energetic, toe-tapping performance of Naatu Naatu from the Bollywood sensation RRR. A visual and sonic feast, the tightly choreographed (if not expertly filmed) sequence blew absolutely everyone else out of the CGI water.

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Michelle Yeoh accepts the award for best performance by an actress in a leading role for Everything Everywhere All at Once.Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press

Wakanda Sometimes, But Not Now

While I’m happy that original nepotism baby Jamie Lee Curtis finally got an Academy Award, it didn’t quite feel like it was for the right role or film (her work in Everything Everywhere All at Once is the most sketch-comedy level performance in the movie). But as underwhelming as the moment was for me (and her co-star/fellow EEAO nominee Stephanie Hsu), I don’t think that anyone could have possibly felt worse than Angela Bassett, who seemed to have the Best Supporting Actress award in the bag for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. And lest you think that I’m just reading into things and/or projecting, then simply search social media for a screengrab of Bassett’s reaction during the winner’s announcement: the actress was stone-cold disappointed. And rightly so.

Fall of the Riseborough Empire

This year’s strangest Oscars narrative involved the surprise Best Actress nomination for Andrea Riseborough, chameleon-esque star of the way-under-the-radar drama To Leslie. A definitive case of “it’s an honour just to be nominated,” all kinds of Hollywood hell might have broken loose were Riseborough to have actually walked away with the Academy Award Sunday. But a possible moment of Oscars infamy was simply not in the cards, as the statuette went instead to EEAO star Michelle Yeoh, who delivered a stirring address that, like other speeches from the film’s team, shouted out her mother. “Thank you for letting me stand on your shoulders,” Yeoh said, fighting back tears.

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