The Academy Awards showcase the best in film

Closeup of smiling young man with glasses

By Nik Hogan

CPC Film Series Correspondent

With another year in the books, the Academy Awards returned to make their mark and celebrate what is considered the best in the film industry. From Hollywood and abroad, let’s look at what exciting films and the talents involved in their creation won in select categories.

I had predictions on who I thought would win certain categories. I wasn’t totally on the mark with some of them, but I managed to get a few correct! Before getting into that, discussing what makes this show different from past ones is important.

New year, new viral moments

Coming off the heels of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union strike, I couldn’t help but wonder how the effects of the work stoppage would impact this year’s Oscars. After all, several films were delayed, and others were surely silently canceled before even being announced.

I was worried this would lead to a lack of quality in terms of the films, but 2023 proved to have several movies dominate at the box office or through internet superstardom. Viral successes like “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” demonstrate that now more than ever, it is an important time to express art and emotion in the medium of film.

The night certainly didn’t go without its fair share of laughs. While not as controversial as the infamous slap that Will Smith gave Chris Rock a couple of years ago, this year John Cena (yes, THAT John Cena) presented the award for Best Costume Design almost entirely naked. This was clearly a skit for the show, but it also showed a sense of self-awareness on the Academy’s part, with this age of virality and meme culture often acting as the best form of advertising and promotion.

Performers who make films what they are

In terms of this year’s event winners, I focused on the genres I believe had some of the most impactful films in 2023. This wasn’t to undermine any of the other categories but to spotlight the ones people continue discussing years after the films come out.

For Actor in a Leading Role, I chose Cillian Murphy for his performance in “Oppenheimer.” All the nominees did wonderfully in their roles. Still, Murphy doubled down on his character, truly embodying what it means to be such an important historical figure like Robert Oppenheimer. It is tough to see any disconnect between the actor and the real man he portrayed. And I was correct, as Murphy did take the award home.

For Actress in a Leading Role, I chose Emma Stone for her performance in “Poor Things.” I haven’t seen the film in its entirety, but being a massive fan of “La La Land” showed me the range that Stone has as an actress. She had won an Academy Award for that film, and I felt that she deserved one for her performance here. Once again, I nailed it, as she won the award!

While I had personally predicted Ryan Gosling taking Actor in a Supporting Role, I missed the mark a bit. I had figured that the virality of his portrayal of Ken in “Barbie” would all but confirm his win, but it was Robert Downey Jr. who took home the award for his performance in “Oppenheimer.”

For Actress in a Supporting Role, I picked Emily Blunt due to her prestigious track record and several award nominations. Da’Vine Joy Randolph — who did part of her growing up in Hershey — won for her portrayal in “The Holdovers.”

Masterclasses of their genre

Shifting from actors to film categories themselves, I narrowed it down to four of the ones that I felt were most important. This included Animated Feature, Music (Original Song) and Best Picture.

For Animated Feature, I predicted “Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse.” While I was not a massive fan of the film or Spider-Man as a franchise, I felt that it would win because of the impressive animation style that its prequel had revolutionized and that this film had evolved on. The winner of the category ended up being Studio Ghibli’s “The Boy and the Heron,” an anime film that is the final of the influential director Hayao Miyazaki. Studio Ghibli’s films have been well received for decades, so I am content with this win, especially considering the mainstream growth that Eastern media has seen in the last 30 or so years.

Original Song saw Billie Eilish and Fineas O’Connell’s “What Was I Made For?” from “Barbie” win. I had predicted that it would win, too, as the song holds meaning not only in the context of the film but in the challenges many women face in a primarily male-controlled industry. It is a refreshing piece of art that empowers women and shows they aren’t alone but doesn’t downplay men.

For the big one, Best Picture, I was fully confident that “Oppenheimer” would win, and I was correct. The film works as a documented memoir of the man who changed the trajectory of history and World War II by leading the effort invent the atomic bomb and as a fantastic film in its own right. “Oppenheimer” serves as a return to the director’s chair for Christopher Nolan and became not only one of the most significant films of the blockbuster summer season (but also the entirety of 2023) and will be seen as a classic for decades to come.

That’s a wrap

The Oscars are an event that highlights the best in film and cinema, and this year seems to be one of the most memorable in the past half-decade. With this year marking the 96th year of the show, it makes one wonder what the looming 100th Academy Awards has in store and what 2024 will offer now that the SAG-AFTRA strike has been resolved.

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