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Things to know about Oscar 2023

Ahead of the 2023 Oscar Awards ceremony on Sunday night, here are some controversies and talking points from this year’s Academy Awards so far.  …

Ahead of the 2023 Oscar Awards ceremony on Sunday night, here are some controversies and talking points from this year’s Academy Awards so far.


Have the Oscars fallen out of love with Hollywood?

In 2022, cinema’s biggest hits were Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water, two mega-budget sequels with mile-high brand names and billion-dollar box-office takings. Meanwhile, The Fabelmans is a love letter to cinema from Tinseltown’s most cherished director, Steven Spielberg.

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But even though all three films are nominated for best picture at the Oscars, none of them is tipped to win it. It’s strange that such major Hollywood prestigious projects are being dismissed as also-rans already, but this year’s awards voters have shown a preference for quirky indie films. One favourite, Tár, is a three-hour examination of power structures within the classical music world.

Another, The Banshees of Inisherin, is a gloomy fable about people sitting and grumbling in a rural pub. And the frontrunner for best picture is a crazy yet heartfelt, universe-hopping martial-arts fantasy, Everything Everywhere All at Once.

The slap and the show

Will Smith might be watching from home in sweatpants, but he hovers over this year’s Oscar show like a ghost, a year after he caused jaws to drop around the world when he slugged Chris Rock on stage. Rock brought the incident back into the news with his recent Netflix special, letting his anger loose in a surgically-precise 10-minute rant against Smith.

The Academy, having banned Smith for a decade, has hired a crisis management team in case of any ugly new incidents. But maybe it will all be turned into comedy. Jimmy Kimmel, hosting for the third time, has already started. In a video spoof of Top Gun: Maverick, he is hired by Jon Hamm and Charles Parnell, as their characters from the movie, who are looking for “a host who is unslappable and unflappable”. Kimmel, easy-going and likeable, may be just the guy to defuse any tension.

He was hosting and caught off guard in 2017 when La La Land was wrongly announced as the best picture winner instead of Moonlight. If there are mishaps this time, he told the Wall Street Journal, “The only plan I have is to make sure to get up there onstage quickly.” He’s too smart not to have a backup plan.

All-male directors’ nominee

 Five slots for best director nominees and none of them are women. Daniel Kwan, the Asian-American half of the team known as Daniels, with Daniel Scheinert, is all that stands between this category being Directors So White as well.

The omission of any women or black directors was so conspicuous that Woman King director Gina Prince-Bythewood called it out on behalf of all her snubbed counterparts in a column for The Hollywood Reporter. The other nominees, Steven Spielberg, Todd Field, Martin McDonagh and Ruben Östlund, did fine work, but so did Prince-Bythewood, whose film was brilliantly directed, and Sarah Polley, whose Women Talking is nominated for best picture.

In the end, Daniels will very likely get the Oscar for Everything, Everywhere All at Once. They won the top precursors, including the Bafta and the Directors Guild award, and deserve to win for such a spectacular, audacious yet moving and relatable film. But the nominations this year leave a lingering sense of sliding backwards, BBC reports.

Banner year for Asian actors

Everything Everywhere All at Once almost single-handedly changed the landscape for Asian actors this awards season. When Michelle Yeoh accepted her Golden Globe, she said it was for “every little girl that looks like me”, a theme that has resounded ever since. A record four Asian actors – or actors with Asian heritage – have Oscar nominations his year, including Yeoh for best actress, her co-star Ke Huy Quan, who has yet to lose a major best supporting actor race, and Stephanie Hsu for supporting actress as their daughter in the film. Hong Chau is also nominated in the supporting category for The Whale. James Hong, the 94-year-old actor who played the grandfather in EEAAO, recalled the early days of his career in his SAG acceptance speech for best ensemble. Once, he said, Asian actors weren’t considered good enough, and white actors taped back their eyes to play those roles. “Look at us now!” he cheered. This year’s Oscars at least raise the hope of widening opportunities in the future.

Politics, Russia and Ukraine

Navalny, the strong frontrunner for best documentary, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2022, but this portrait of the Russian resistance leader is timelier than ever, with Alexei Navalny in prison, isolated and in poor health, and more than a year after Vladimir Putin’s army invaded Ukraine.

Last year, negotiations for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to appear in a video message at the Oscars came to nothing. Instead, there was a moment of silence in support of Ukraine and a plea for donations to help its war-torn people – the least pointed response possible. No word on any official mention of Ukraine at this year’s show, and the Academy has again refused to allow Zelensky to address the ceremony – but there may be the same blue ribbons some stars wore to the Baftas, supporting refugees.

And there are sure to be political speeches, especially if Navalny wins, as it should. Navalny himself speaks directly to the camera and in one startling episode poses as a Russian government investigator on a phone call to a Putin operative, who admits the government’s plot to poison him. That scene alone might be enough to win an Oscar.

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