The Academy Awards ceremony saw big wins for Asian representation in Hollywood.
The 2023 Oscars formed the blockbuster finale for a wildly unpredictable awards season—one in which most of the acting races were still too close to call even as stars began filing onto the champagne-colored red carpet; one where A-list performers were confirmed at the very last minute; and rehearsals were impacted by power outages that shut down a stretch of Hollywood Boulevard. The ceremony itself brought yet more drama: from returning host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue to the most surprising wins and most emotional speeches, here’s everything you might have missed from the 95th Academy Awards.
The red carpet was a family affair
Mothers and daughters twinned on the red carpet, from Andie MacDowell and Rainey Qualley in sleek black column gowns, and Elvis’s Catherine Martin and daughter Lilly in sequined looks alongside the former’s husband Baz Luhrmann, to Angela Bassett and her daughter Bronwyn in one-shouldered, purple dresses, and Salma Hayek and daughter Valentina in fire-engine red. Elsewhere, Colin Farrell attended with his son Henry; Brendan Fraser with his sons Leland and Holden; and Everything Everywhere All At Once’s James Hong with his daughter, April.
Rihanna made an entrance only Rihanna could
The only thing we loved more than Malala gushing about wanting to meet Best Original Song nominee Rihanna at the Oscars? Rihanna herself, arriving in a NFL jersey, bucket hat and trainers.
Jimmy Kimmel was quick to address the elephant in the room
The seasoned TV host, upon returning to the Oscars stage for the third time, didn’t hesitate to mention the one thing that was on everyone’s mind: last year’s infamous slap. “Five Irish actors are nominated tonight, which means the chances of a fight just went way up,” he joked in his opening monologue. “We want you to have fun, feel safe and, most importantly, we want me to feel safe. So, we have strict policies in place. If anyone in this theatre commits an act of violence at any point during the show, you will be awarded the Oscar for Best Actor and permitted to give a 19-minute long speech. But seriously, the Academy has a crisis team in place. If anything unpredictable or violent happens during the show, sit there and do absolutely nothing. Maybe even give the assailant a hug.” Touché.
Everything Everywhere All At Once Swept The Supporting Acting Categories
The favourite for Best Supporting Actor, Ke Huy Quan, took home the statuette and looked incredibly emotional upon reaching the podium. “My mum is 84 years old, and she’s at home watching,” he said, through tears. “Mum, I just won an Oscar! My journey started on a boat, I spent a year in a refugee camp and somehow, I ended up here. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This is the American Dream. To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive.”
Jamie Lee Curtis’s triumphant victory followed shortly afterwards—and brought the room to its feet. She thanked “the Daniels, the entire crew, my bae Michelle” before adding: “To all of the people who’ve supported the genre movies that I’ve made for all these years… we just won an Oscar together! And my mother and my father were both nominated for Oscars in different categories—I just won an Oscar!” Cue yet more tears of joy.
There was an impromptu rendition of “Happy Birthday”
Tom Berkeley and Ross White, the creators of Best Live Action Short winner An Irish Goodbye got the audience to sing to their star James Martin, in a truly touching moment. Winning, said Berkeley, “is the second most important thing going on today”.
There was an urgent reminder of the ongoing war in Ukraine
The Oscar for Best Documentary Feature went to Navalny, which tells the story of the titular Russian opposition leader. “There’s one person who couldn’t be with us here tonight,” its director Daniel Roher told the audience. “Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russian opposition, remains in solitary confinement for what he calls—I want to make sure we get his words exactly right – ‘Vladimir Putin’s unjust war of aggression in Ukraine’. I would like to dedicate this award to Navalny, to all political prisoners around the world. Alexei, the world has not forgotten your vital message to us all. We cannot, we must not be afraid to oppose dictators and authoritarianism wherever it rears its head.” Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, then added: “Thank you to everybody here. My husband is in prison just for telling the truth. My husband is in prison just for defending democracy. Alexei, I’m dreaming of the day when you will be free and our country will be free. Stay strong.”
Jenny the donkey graced the stage
Kimmel walked one of the breakout stars of The Banshees of Inisherin out to the cheering crowd in one of the most surreal moments of the night. “Not only is Jenny an actor, she’s a certified emotional support donkey,” the host said. “At least that’s what we told the airline to get her on the plane from Ireland.” Farrell was then seen blowing her a kiss—she’s certainly a lucky donkey. Later in the night, Cocaine Bear director Elizabeth Banks arrived to present the Oscar for Best Visual Effects—with a giant bear in tow, too.
Ruth E Carter made history
“Thank you, the Academy, for recognizing the superhero that is the Black woman,” said the legendary Carter, when accepting the Oscar for Best Costume Design for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and thus becoming the first Black woman in history to win two Oscars. “This is for my mother,” she said, adding that she’d lost her within the last week. “Chadwick, please take care of mom. Ryan Coogler… thank you for your vision. Together we are reshaping how culture is represented. I share this with many dedicated artists whose hands and hearts helped manifest the costumes of Wakanda and Talokan.”
The performances were epic
“Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman was fittingly rousing; “This Is a Life” From Everything Everywhere All At Once was a hot dog finger-filled romp; and “Naatu Naatu” from RRR brought the house down. Then came Lady Gaga—in jeans and a T-shirt, no less—with an intimate, stripped-down rendition of “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick, followed by the incomparable Rihanna. Her performance of “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was dazzling, and received a standing ovation. In the end, “Naatu Naatu” took the Oscar for Best Original Song – and its creators accepted in the most adorable fashion.
Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell were reunited on stage
Presenting the Oscar for Best Production Design, the Four Weddings and a Funeral co-stars still had great chemistry almost three decades on. “We’re actually here to do two things,” quipped Grant. “The first is to raise awareness about the vital importance of using a good moisturiszr. Andie’s been wearing one every day for the last 29 years. I’ve never used one in my life. She’s still stunning and I’m basically a scrotum.”
Malala was asked to weigh in on spit-gate
In a segment where Kimmel asked attendees fake viewer questions, the Nobel Prize winner was quizzed on whether Harry Styles really spat on Chris Pine. “I only talk about peace,” she replied. Iconic. Colin Farrell was also asked what he was saying in Banshees. The viewer who posed the question could “check out SNL last night and he’d have a good idea”, the Dublin native suggested.
Sarah Polley got her moment
The writer-director behind Women Talking accepted her Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay with a profoundly moving speech. “Thanks to the Academy for not being mortally offended by the words ‘women’ and ‘talking’ so close together like that,” she laughed. “The last line of our film is delivered by a young woman to a new baby and she says: ‘Your story will be different from ours.’ It’s a promise, a commitment and an anchor, and it’s what I would like to say with all of my might to my three incredible kids as they make their way through this complicated, beautiful world.”
John Travolta got teary over Olivia Newton-John
The Grease actor introduced the in memoriam section, and wept over his co-star, who passed away last August. “They’ve touched our hearts, made us smile and became dear friends who we will always remain hopelessly devoted to,” he said of those featured, before pausing to compose himself.
Brendan Fraser took home Best Actor
After scooping the prize, The Whale star said: “So this is what the multiverse looks like! I thank the Academy for this honor. I’m grateful to Darren Aronofsky for throwing me a creative lifeline and hauling me aboard the good ship The Whale. I started in this business 30 years ago and things didn’t come easily to me… thank you for this acknowledgement.”
Michelle Yeoh made history
Halle Berry, the last non-white Best Actress Oscar winner, who collected the statuette for Monster’s Ball in 2002, presented this year’s award alongside last year’s victor Jessica Chastain to the Everything Everywhere All At Once star. “For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope, proof that dreams do come true,” she said. “Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you’re ever past your prime! I dedicate this to my mum and all the mums in the world. They’re really the superheroes. Thank you to the Academy. This is history in the making.” She became the first Asian actress to take home the prize and only the second non-white actor in 95 years. As she hugged Berry and Chastain, Stephanie Hsu was shown crying.
Everything Everywhere All At Once secured the top prize
The Daniels took home the Best Original Screenplay Oscar (“My imposter syndrome is at an all-time high,” said Daniel Kwan), and returned to collect both Best Director and Best Picture. “Our fellow nominees, you’re our heroes. This is weird!” they said after the former win. Their film ended the night with a staggering seven Oscars, and became the third ever to win three acting prizes, after A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Network (1976).
This article originally appeared on British Vogue.