Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Thoughts and words on the 96th Academy Awards

An empty movie theater with red seats.
Felix Mooneeram on Unsplash

KAXE Producer Andrew Dziengel recaps and gives his thoughts on the winners and performances at the 96th Academy Awards.

When I was a kid, every time I went to the movies it was a big deal. It was an event.

I grew up in a small town. In fact, I didn’t even live in a town. I lived in the country surrounded by nothing but farmland. The closest big movie theater was an hour drive away.

A photo of the back of Andrew Dziengel's head while watching the Oscars on a tv in the background blurred.
Tammy Bobrowsky
KAXE Producer watching the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.

To this day, the movies feel like a special event. Movies have always been an important part of my life. In fact, as an introvert, it’s how I connect with people and let them know my personality, by the movies I watch.

I’m not sure when I first heard of the Academy Awards. I do remember the first time I paid attention though, in 2005 for the 77th Academy Awards.

It was a school night, a Sunday, and I was watching TV with an antenna connection to pick up the major network. No doubt I was feeling my normal Sunday scaries, knowing I had to get up early for school the next day. I settled in, starting with celebrities on the red-carpet walking into the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

Let me be clear, I had not seen any of the movies nominated.

The major films that year were The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Sideways, Ray, and the eventual Best Picture winner Million Dollar Baby. Up to that point in my life, I had thought of movies as being pure popcorn spectacles. Whether it was big budget action flicks like Spider-man 2 or broad comedies like Anchorman. I never thought of film as something to convey the human experience.

The 77th Academy Awards broadcast changed that for me.

The Academy Awards are a chance to celebrate the film medium, and the best ceremonies incorporate clips from the nominated films. Throughout the broadcast I was seeing standout performances from top caliber actors like Cate Blanchett, Alan Alda, Don Cheadle, Jamie Foxx, Virgina Madsen, and so many others.

It was great, but that’s not what pulled me in.

It was the montage dedicated to the director Sidney Lumet that really lit something inside me. Here were clips from arguably some of the greatest films of all time; Network, Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men, The Verdict, and more.

Suddenly a whole new world opened up to me. It was the first time I realized films are an artform.

The personal connection I felt in 2005 will always move me to be at the very least, interested in the Academy Awards. They were my gateway to the artistic side of movies, and I will always be grateful for my shift in thinking. I may not always agree with the Academy’s choices (now that I think about it, rarely do we agree) but I do think they make for an interesting snapshot of what the year of film was like.

In this column I will go through the major categories and winners from this year’s award ceremony and see if I correctly predicted the winners.

I won’t do every category because this article is already getting dangerously long, and I honestly haven’t seen every film that was nominated (Hello, both documentary categories).

Below you'll find the major awards and some interesting sidenotes on what happened during the ceremony.

Andrew Dziengel standing in front of a movie poster for the film Holdovers.
Andrew Dziengel
KAXE Producer Andrew Dziengel eagerly awaiting going into the theater to see The Holdovers in 2023.

Before we begin

Some initial thoughts: I thought this was a good Academy Awards broadcast. It felt like it was going quickly, and a lot of worthy films won awards.

Jimmy Kimmel was fine as the host, but I think these shows could use a shake-up in hosts (hello, John Mulaney). I also do have some quibbles that we will get to later, but overall thought it was the most fun Oscar ceremony in a while.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Winner: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

Andrew’s guess: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

A very deserving win to start off the show, and a wonderful acceptance speech from Randolph. She has been winning every award this season for this role and it makes sense. She’s wonderful in this movie. It’s also nice that a small film like The Holdovers gets at least one win.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Winner: Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer

Andrew’s guess: Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer

Robert Downey Jr. is terrific in Oppenheimer, but this also felt like a sort of nod to Downey Jr. for making such an amazing comeback in his career.

There were a lot of ups and downs in his life and then to go on to becoming one of the highest-grossing actors of all time with his run playing Iron Man in the Marvel movies is quite the achievement. Oppenheimer was another comeback role showing he’s got the acting talent to pull off the prestige picture role. This award is well deserved, though I think Robert De Niro should have won for Killers of the Flower Moon.

Sidenote 1

This year, for presenting the acting awards they decided to bring back the method of having previous Oscar winners say something about this year’s nominees. I get it, you want to have as many stars on the show as you can and it’s nice to get acknowledgment from your peers, but I hate when they do this.

I’m a firm believer in showing clips from actual movies. Not only does it give a chance to show why they deserved a nomination, but it may also convince viewers to check out these films. Though Nicolas Cage praising Paul Giamatti for going method in The Holdovers almost made it all worth it.

Animated Feature Film

Winner: The Boy and the Heron

Andrew’s guess: Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse

I was so happy to guess this one incorrectly. I was a big fan of the new Spider-Man film, but The Boy and the Heron was one of my favorites of last year. Hayao Miyazaki is such an important filmmaker, making some of the most beautiful and thought-provoking films of the last four decades.

At age 83, The Boy and the Heron seems like such a personal film for him, so it’s nice to see him get the win for what could be his last film he ever makes.

Also, super cool he couldn’t be bothered to attend the event.

Sidenote 2

Throughout the night, they had the had the nominees for Best Original Song perform their songs and there are two I want to highlight.

First, Scott George and the Osage Singers performed “Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)” from Killers of the Flower Moon. It was a beautiful performance, and it was great seeing the Osage Nation represented at the Oscars.

Then there was “I’m Just Ken” from Barbie.

Ryan Gosling gave an over-the-top spectacle I wanted from this show. Gosling went all out with his nod to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes performance, and he made it look effortless.

He’s truly a movie star.

Original Screenplay

Winner: Anatomy of a Fall

Andrew’s guess: The Holdovers

This one surprised me. Foreign films don’t usually win screenplay awards so it’s nice to see Anatomy of a Fall get the nod. It is a very good film. I would have been happy to see any of the nominees win this one because they’re all terrific films, highlighting how strong 2023 was for film.

Adapted Screenplay

Winner: American Fiction

Andrew’s guess: Poor Things

I really thought I was right on the money with this one when Poor Things was winning all sorts of awards before this one but alas, I was incorrect. I think American Fiction is an okay film, but I think there were stronger choices for this category.

But it was great seeing the winner Cord Jefferson pleading with the studio system to give smaller films like American Fiction a chance. Instead of making a couple $200 million films a year, make 10 $20 million films so stories like American Fiction can be told.

I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment.

Sidenote 3

Presenters at the Oscars have always been hit or miss. Some people are just much better reading off a teleprompter and seeming natural than others.

I want to acknowledge some highlights.

John Cena doing a spoof of the streaker incident at the 1974 Oscars was funnier than expected. Kate McKinnon acting like the Jurassic Park films were documentaries was fun, especially with Steven Spielberg getting involved.

Then there was John Mulaney doing a rant about the classic Field of Dreams before the Sound category of all things. It was truly great and recommend people seek it out to watch.

I would love to see Mulaney host the Oscars in the future.

Actor in a Leading Role

Winner: Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer

Andrew’s guess: Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer

Not a surprise. Murphy had been winning everything and it is hard to argue the point. He really is terrific in Oppenheimer, and it was great to not only see Murphy get a chance to play a lead in a huge film like this, but for him to then win the Academy Award is icing on the cake.

Murphy has been amazing throughout his career and maybe even a bit underrated for his talent, so it is nice to see him get the win here.

Actress in a Leading Role

Winner: Emma Stone, Poor Things

Andrew’s guess: Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon

I was shocked and disappointed with this one.

Like I mentioned before, Poor Things was winning a lot of awards early on which had me worried about Gladstone, and then those fears were realized when they announced Stone’s name.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Emma Stone in Poor Things and it is an amazing performance. But it is also a very showy performance (which the Academy loves).

Gladstone, on the other hand, gives such a subtle and nuanced performance in Killers of the Flower Moon, where one look said so much. It is a remarkable performance that will be talked about for decades.

Unfortunately, the Academy Awards didn’t see it that way.

Sidenote 4

I do not understand how the Academy continues to not understand how to do an In Memoriam segment. It’s a chance to honor and acknowledge all the people that worked in film who passed away in the last year.

All they have to do is show us pictures of these people with maybe some clips from some famous performances with a nice fitting somber song playing in the background. However, the Academy insists on having some other performances going on during these segments and it is so disappointing every year.

This year had a dance routine going on while Andrea Bocelli sang a song with his son.

Fine, you want that for the live audience? Whatever.

But insisting on showing wide shots so we can’t even read the names of the people who passed away is inexcusable. This is supposed to be a tribute to them, and it comes off as an afterthought in these broadcasts.

It is my biggest pet peeve with the Oscars, and they’ve been doing it for years, so I don’t have high hopes they will change.

Three people standing in front of the movie poster for Oppenheimer
Andrew Dziengel
Andrew Dziengel with Joseph Phelps and Colbi Ikola standing in front of the Oppenheimer movie poster as part of the "Barbenheimer" day.

Best Director

Winner: Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

Andrew’s guess: Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

Seemed like the obvious choice, and it’s nice to see Nolan finally get the directing win. He’s probably the only director that can sell a movie just by having his name attached to it, which is an amazing feat in the current movie climate.

Also, Oppenheimer is probably Nolan’s magnum opus so it’s a very deserving win.

Best Picture

Winner: Oppenheimer

Andrew’s guess: Oppenheimer

Though Al Pacino had a unique way of announcing that Oppenheimer won Best Picture (he didn’t announce the nominees, just the winner), it was a fitting choice for the winner.

Oppenheimer is not only a film I think will be acknowledged as one of the all-time greats of the first quarter of the century, but it was also a huge hit in theaters.

Rarely do the Oscars get a chance to award artistic and box-office success at the same time. I think it was a fitting choice for Best Picture even though I would have personally given it to Killers of the Flower Moon.

Oppenheimer is a good representative for the year 2023 in film, which is what you hope for in a Best Picture winner.

Final Thoughts

Like I mentioned earlier, I thought it was a good show overall and for the most part was happy with the winners. I also got 13 correct out of the 23 awards. The show was fun and went by quickly with little to no parts that dragged.

I was also excited to see Wes Anderson finally win an Oscar too and cool that a Godzilla movie finally won one as well.

I do have one final rant before I end this column.

I do not understand what the Academy Awards have against Martin Scorsese. His last four films have received 26 nominations but have won zero. It really seemed like this year was going to break that streak, but that was not the case.

Scorsese is arguably one of the greatest directors of all time, and maybe the greatest champion for cinema for all that he has done for film preservation and promoting world cinema. I don’t think there has been anyone who has understood film as an artform more than Scorsese and he possibly has the greatest filmography of any director.

He’s in his 80s now and still making massively relevant films. I just want to see Scorsese get his flowers while he’s still with us.

It’s the least we can do.

Stay Connected