A Great Movie Year Deserved a Better Oscars | Festivals & Awards
Movie Reviews

A Great Movie Year Deserved a Better Oscars | Festivals & Awards

Thankfully, those came from Jonathan Glazer, writer-director of “The Zone of Interest,” which took home Best International Film. The filmmaker behind “Birth” and “Under the Skin,” and his producing partner James Wilson, who are both Jewish, have spoken out about the conflict in Gaza in interviews and previous awards shows, but never with the firm clarity that Glazer brought tonight. 

Reading from a prepared statement, Glazer said, “All our choices were made to reflect and confront us in the present, not to say, ‘Look what they did then’—rather, ‘Look what we do now.’ Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst. It’s shaped all of our past and present. Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by 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 of this dehumanization. How do we resist?” In a fairly apolitical night, his comments were the most direct—the ones that most pierced the night’s ho-hum efficiency to get to something real, troubling and unresolved. Glazer, like his extraordinary film, offers no answers, instead questioning us to reflect and take a self-inventory. I was pleased “Oppenheimer” won Best Picture, but I’d have wept if a movie as incisive and haunting and challenging as “The Zone of Interest” could have pulled off the upset.

But the Oscars aren’t just about speaking out—it’s also a night for fun and celebrating. Sadly, that was also in short supply. Kimmel remains an adequate host—genial but also a tad anonymous—and only a few of the presenters popped. John Mulaney will no doubt be greeted with a lot of “He should host next year!” hosannas for his amusing presentation of Best Sound, which somehow turned into a riff on the plot inconsistencies of “Field of Dreams.” Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling put Barbenheimer to bed with a clever back-and-forth ribbing of one another, all in service of paying tribute to stunt performers. (They’ll be appearing in “The Fall Guy” this summer, natch.) Best of all, though, was John Cena’s pitch-perfect “nude” presentation of Best Costume Design—although a close second was Gosling’s much-anticipated, very enjoyable performance of the “Barbie” song “I’m Just Ken,” which had the showmanship and infectious sense of humor that was largely missing elsewhere. It was the only time that this Oscars felt like a legitimate event—the sort of thing that Oscar-lovers like me tune in for every year.

Running clips of all 10 Best Picture nominees throughout the night, and bringing on past acting winners to laud this year’s nominees, gave the evening the regal glow that you can’t manufacture. It’s the Oscars playing to their strengths, leaning on the greatness of acclaimed movies and the pleasure of seeing big stars talking about other stars, and it was catnip to longtime fans of movies and the Academy Awards. Plus, it gave the 16 acting nominees who were not going to win a chance to get a moment in the sun, which they seemed to treasure. (Regina King’s glowing words to “The Color Purple” Best Supporting Actress nominee Danielle Brooks seemed to light up her from within.) 

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