Best and Worst Moments From the 2024 Oscars

Best and Worst Moments From the 2024 Oscars

Fittingly for an Academy Awards celebrating 2023, the year of “Barbenheimer,” the movies that made up that phenomenon commanded our attention on Sunday night, too. None of it was a surprise, exactly — we knew Ryan Gosling was going to perform the song “I’m Just Ken,” from “Barbie.” And “Oppenheimer” had been the ceremony’s front-runner since awards season started last fall. Still, we weren’t prepared for just how much the ceremony, which for the most part ran smoothly, would get a boost from those twin blockbusters. Here are the highs and lows as we saw them.

America’s No. 1 Ken, the “Barbie” star Ryan Gosling — who was also nominated for best supporting actor and presented a tribute to stunt performers with Emily Blunt — brought the house down with his performance of “I’m Just Ken,” one of two nominated “Barbie” songs. In a shimmering hot pink tuxedo, backed by some of his co-stars (Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Scott Evans, Ncuti Gatwa) and a bevy of handsome men in tuxes, he danced and sang his heart out.

Gosling roamed into the audience, getting Greta Gerwig, Margot Robbie, America Ferrera and Emma Stone briefly on mic. He was held aloft and spun as giant “Barbie” face cutouts twirled around him. The song’s co-writer and co-producer, Mark Ronson, played bass onstage, as did Slash from Guns N’ Roses and Wolfgang Van Halen, who had all played on the original recording. If the Oscars wanted a viral video moment, they sure got it (even though it had been announced in advance). And Gosling remains the Hollywood man with perhaps the most range. — Alissa Wilkinson

When “Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan’s hit drama about the man who helped create the atomic bomb, won best picture, the victory capped a huge night for the film: seven Oscars total, including awards for director (Nolan), actor (Cillian Murphy) and supporting actor (Robert Downey Jr.).

Released last summer to glowing reviews and a worldwide box-office total nearing $1 billion, “Oppenheimer” was considered the front-runner even before awards season began. Though some presumed favorites can’t sustain their momentum over several months, “Oppenheimer” never faltered, earning top prizes from the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, BAFTAs and every major Hollywood guild along the way.

And why shouldn’t it have had a charmed run? When it comes to awards-season voters’ typical tastes, “Oppenheimer” could have been designed in an Oscar-friendly Los Alamos lab: It’s a period drama about a great historical figure, set against the backdrop of World War II, directed by a major Hollywood auteur. The cherry on top is that audiences responded to it, too: It’s now the third-highest-grossing film to win best picture, behind only “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.” — Kyle Buchanan

Jimmy Kimmel opened the Oscars with ingratiating self-deprecation (“Thank you for that partial standing ovation”) and closed with a nod to Hollywood as a union town. In between, he did just fine, delivering a broad, conversational set, full of safe roasts (a jab at Robert De Niro dating younger, a knock on the flop “Madame Web”), a crowd-pleasing cameo by a dog and a corny joke about Robert Downey Jr.’s pants. Nothing hilarious or daring. But it was a confident and clubby set, one you’d expect from a veteran host who had been there, done that. — Jason Zinoman

It was the stuff of an Oscar winner’s nightmare. As Emma Stone walked onstage to accept the best actress award for her turn in “Poor Things,” she motioned to the other best actress winners onstage, including her bestie Jennifer Lawrence, to help with her Louis Vuitton gown, which seemed to be ripping, Stone handled it with grace, joking, “Oh, boy. My dress is broken. I think it happened during ‘I’m Just Ken.’” After a speech in which she paid tribute to her director, Yorgos Lanthimos, and other colleagues, she told the crowd, “Don’t look at the back of my dress,” and turned to walk offstage, one hand over the noticeable rip. — Shivani Gonzalez

This year’s ceremony brought back a setup that was last seen at the 2009 ceremony: Instead of one sole presenter, five past Oscar winners introduced each of the nominees in the acting categories. Let’s hope it sticks this time. While it meant we didn’t get clips of the actors, well, acting, it did mean we got heartfelt tributes that had some of the winners getting emotional before even taking the stage.

This was especially true in the first category of the night, supporting actress, where there were strong personal connections between the honorees and those who had triumphed earlier. Lupita Nyong’o, for instance, told the eventual winner, Da’Vine Joy Randolph: “Your performance is tribute to those who have helped others heal in spite of their own pain. It’s also a tribute to your grandmother, whose glasses you wore in the film. What an honor to see the world through her eyes and yours.” Randolph wiped tears from her face. Later, after Ben Kingsley spoke to the “humanity” in Cillian Murphy’s winning interpretation of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Murphy smiled and bit his lip, nodding with moved affection.

Then there was Robert Downey Jr. After winning his first Oscar on his third try for his portrayal of Lewis Strauss in “Oppenheimer,” he offered breezy, jocular remarks in which he variously thanked his “terrible childhood,” his stylist and a lawyer who he said spent years trying to get him insured. It all worked. — Esther Zuckerman and Matt Stevens

Kudos to whoever came up with the brilliant idea of having Rita Moreno address America Ferrera (“Barbie”) during the presentation of the best supporting actress nominees. It gave Moreno the opportunity to sing “Ahh-meeeh-riii-ca,” a callback to the veteran Oscar winner’s legendary performance of the song of the same name from “West Side Story” (1961). But it was also a celebration, “from one woman to another,” of the powerful link across generations between two Latin artists who each created cinematic moments that have become cultural touchstones. — Mekado Murphy

When the comic John Mulaney took the stage to present the Oscar for best sound, I’d almost forgotten about another sound: that of an audience genuinely laughing instead of politely chuckling at jokes that would never hit otherwise. After a steady march of milquetoast bits that made even the host Jimmy Kimmel and hilarious actors like Melissa McCarthy seem meh, Mulaney managed to offer us a small taste of actual comedy — with quips about silent films and the 1989 Kevin Costner sports fantasy “Field of Dreams,” no less! It was a reminder that it is possible to deliver from the Oscars stage, and effortlessly at that. It wasn’t long before my colleagues were prepared to bet on when Mulaney might take the reins for the whole ceremony. As our movie critic Alissa Wilkinson put it, “I don’t root for Oscar winners, on principle, but I do root for one thing: John Mulaney to host the Oscars.” — Maya Salam

Unlike recent awards seasons when events like the war in Ukraine were fair game, little had been said at 2024 ceremonies about Israel and Hamas. One exception involved the creators of the Holocaust drama “The Zone of Interest.” At the BAFTAs last month, James Wilson, one of the film’s producers, brought up the war during an acceptance speech. At the Dolby Theater on Sunday, a few hours after demonstrations took place nearby, the film’s director was more pointed. Accepting the best international feature Oscar, Jonathan Glazer said: “Right now we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked, an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people, whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims, this dehumanization, how do we resist?” — Stephanie Goodman

Former President Donald J. Trump couldn’t help himself, Jimmy Kimmel couldn’t resist either, and so the Oscars closed on a political note. Kimmel used some of his final stage time as host to read a post published on Truth Social by Trump. (And yes, he really did post it.) “Has there ever been a worse host than Jimmy Kimmel at the Oscars,” Kimmel said, reading part of Trump’s missive. “His opening was that of a less than average person trying too hard to be something which he is not, and never can be,” Kimmel added. After asking the audience, “See if you can guess which former president just posted that?” Kimmel offered one final barb, expressing surprise that Trump had stayed up to watch the telecast: “Isn’t it past your jail time?” he said. — Matt Stevens

The great animator and director Hayao Miyazaki was a ghostly presence at the ceremony, like one of the benevolent spirits he creates for his dazzling stories of grief, adventure and growing up. He and his fellow nominee, the producer Toshio Suzuki, were not there to accept the award for best animated feature for “The Boy and the Heron,” Miyazaki’s fairy tale about a Japanese boy making a journey to the underworld to reconcile himself to the wartime loss of his mother. Miyazaki won the same award in 2003 for “Spirited Away” and announced his retirement 10 years later; now 83, he has announced his retirement again, saying “The Boy and the Heron” will be his last movie. It would be particularly greedy to wish that he changes his mind once more, but here’s hoping. — Mike Hale

Accepting his Oscar for best adapted screenplay for “American Fiction,” the writer-director Cord Jefferson gave a rousing plea for more investment in movies with modest budgets, saying, “This is a risk-averse industry — I get it. But $200 million movies are also a risk, and it doesn’t always work out, but you take the risk anyway. And instead of making one $200 million movie, try making 20, $10 million movies.” It might have made some of the big-budget nominees in the room squirm, but it was a rare, refreshing Oscars moment when a winner used their platform to get candid with Hollywood instead of lavishing it with praise. — Julia Jacobs

“I’m just happy that we can finally put this ‘Barbenheimer’ rivalry behind us,” Ryan Gosling told the “Oppenheimer” star Emily Blunt when they took the stage to extol the contributions of stunt performers. Last summer’s movie event was less of a competition and more of an unlikely but entertaining marriage of two radically different films. Hordes of moviegoers showing up in person buoyed the box office numbers for both movies, and “Barbenheimer” was said to be proof that the movie industry had finally bounced back post-pandemic. But if “Barbie” triumphed at the box office, it quickly became clear that “Oppenheimer” would be the awards favorite, and the Oscar stage proved an ideal setting for renewed combat:

Blunt: “The way this awards season turned out, it just wasn’t that much of a rivalry. Just let it go!”

Gosling, explaining that the phrase wasn’t “Oppenbarbie”: “Barbie” was first because “you were riding ‘Barbie’s’ coattails all summer.”

Blunt: “Thanks for Ken-splaining that to me.”

— Christopher Kuo

The red carpet wasn’t dominated by Old Hollywood glamour, as it typically is, but a newer trend some people refer to as “mermaidcore.” What that really means is sea-foam colors and piscine accents, mixed with some ethereal Botticelli “Birth of Venus” vibes. Look at the decadent fishlike scales on Anya Taylor-Joy’s dress, inspired by a 75-year-old Christian Dior design. Or the crisp mint gown worn by Emma Stone, reminiscent of seashells with its peplum top and jacquard fabric. Lupita Nyong’o wore a pale blue gown dripping in crystals and feathers. Da’Vine Joy Randolph also wore a pale blue gown with fringed oversize sleeves. The buttons on Bradley Cooper’s black double-breasted jacket were an oceanic turquoise blue. The embellishments on Florence Pugh’s silvery dress looked like juicy water droplets. (She also wore floating straps — another unexpected, and significantly more polarizing, trend.) — Jessica Testa

There are few dogs who’ve been greeted with as rapturous a reception as Messi, the black-and-white Border collie who plays Snoop in the French courtroom thriller “Anatomy of a Fall.” The Dolby Theater erupted when he was spotted Sunday night in a plush seat, a big black bow tie around his neck — even if the shot was later revealed to have been recorded before the ceremony.

The academy had been toying with fans’ hearts all week. There were reports that Messi had been “banned” after some executives behind nominated films not named “Anatomy of a Fall” complained that his scene-stealing escapades at the Oscar nominees luncheon earlier in the year — including snuggling with Billie Eilish — had given the film an unfair advantage during Oscars voting. But when the camera panned to him during Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue in the opening minutes? Sorry, Jenny the donkey, there’s a new most-beloved mascot in town.

This, by the way, is a canine who knows how to pull off a grand finale: After “Oppenheimer” won best picture, the cameras cut to the Hollywood Walk of Fame outside the theater, where Messi lifted his leg over Matt Damon’s star and … well, that was it. This is a refined actor, after all! — Sarah Bahr

When Kimmel reminded everyone of the streaker at the 1974 Oscars, it was a setup for the wrestler-actor John Cena to present the award for best costume design — in the buff but for a strategically placed winner-card envelope. “Costumes … they are so important,” Cena said to a huge laugh, before quick-changing into a toga and announcing “Poor Things” as the winner. But it was a true missed opportunity: Barry Keoghan, who was quick to strip down in “Saltburn,” should have been the presenter. — Barbara Chai

Lily Gladstone was the first Native American nominated for best actress for her role as an Osage woman married to a white man involved in a murderous conspiracy in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” and she was riding high coming into the Oscars. She had taken home honors from the Golden Globes and the New York Film Critics Circle — delivering moving speeches, often with a few lines from the Blackfeet language — and her closest rival, Emma Stone, had reacted with what appeared to be genuine enthusiasm to Gladstone’s Screen Actors Guild Award win. So when the time came for the academy to seal the deal and give “Killers of the Flower Moon” its only win of the night, it … gave the statuette to Stone, her second win in seven years. Credit to Stone for delivering a gracious speech in a ripped dress — “I share this with you,” she told her fellow nominees. — Sarah Bahr

Al Pacino made for a somewhat befuddling and anticlimactic best-picture presenter. He shambolically walked us through his process of opening the envelope, explaining, “Here it comes,” to laughter from the crowd. “And my eyes see ‘Oppenheimer,’” he said. The cheers that usually accompany such an announcement were at first tentative, given Pacino’s lack of declaration. It was only once music started to play that it felt like we dodged a potential “Moonlight”-”La La Land” mixup. “Oppenheimer” was indeed the winner; it was only Pacino who wasn’t so sure. — Esther Zuckerman

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