Best And Worst Of The 2024 Oscars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, In Memoriam

Oscars producers Raj Kapoor and Katy Mullan did their best to make this the “Barbie” Oscars. And, in some ways, the participation of Ryan Gosling, Billie Eilish, and America Ferrera assisted in that effort. But considering the blockbuster won only one Academy Award (Original Song), the telecast organically shifted its focus to two other global hits, “Oppenheimer” and “Poor Things,” which won seven and four Oscars respectively. As we consider the Best and Worst elements of the show, it’s worth noting that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because those films’ inclusion meant the ceremony had some great winners and some very memorable speeches.

READ MORE: ‘Oppenheimer’ Dominates The 2024 Oscars [Full Winners List]

The big change to this year’s Oscars, however, was the return of inviting five previous winners to present each of the four acting awards. It didn’t quite have the emotional heft as when it first occurred during the 2009 Academy Awards, but it did bring some drama to the proceedings and certainly made it clear which actors were good at reading a teleprompter and which were not. We’d suggest The Academy continue this staging for 2025, but perhaps finding presenters who have closer relationships to their assigned nominee makes more sense. The previous Oscar winner pool isn’t infinite, but there have to be more available winners with connections to potential nominees than some of the selections this year. Maybe just include “winners” overall so directors, writers, or musicians can also present in each category? Criticisms aside, it worked and we’re glad it’s back, but maybe there is some flexibility to bring the emotions home a bit more next year.

Despite a slow kickoff, this also turned out to be one of the shortest telecasts in recent memory. It began six minutes late and went for approximately three hours and 20 minutes, coming in under the three-hour and 30-minute mark. It’s hard not to understand ABC‘s need for the ceremony to be that length or shorter, but towards the second half, the producers seemed to go overboard, cutting prepared remarks and speeding through back-to-back categories. Look away from the screen for a moment, and you might have missed the envelope opening for Best Original Song or even Al Pacino‘s awkward and super-quick presentation of the Best Picture winner. But there have been much, much worse telecasts, and we’ll take this formatting to the utter boredom of the 2021 ceremony any day.

Keeping all that in mind, here are some Best and Worst (mostly Best) regarding the 96th Academy Awards telecast to consider:

BEST: Jimmy Kimmel brings out the Teamsters
We’ve attended four different awards season ceremonies this season (only one was simulcast, on YouTube, no less), and we were continually shocked at how little we heard about the strikes. It was almost as though the industry was going through some collective PTSD and just wanted to forget it even happened. Kimmel’s best instinct as an emcee this year was to not ignore history. He reminded the audience that, at its heart, Hollywood is a union town. To do so, he brought out Teamsters, grips, members of the lighting crews working on the show, “all the people who refused to cross the picket lines.” And asked them to take a bow. They earned a standing ovation from the audience and pumped the show with some energy because…

WORST:…the rest of Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue was not great
Ryan Gosling and Robert Downey, Jr. were game to banter with Kimmel, but this was a tepid monologue overall. There was one Katie Britt joke that sort of landed. There was an Ozempic joke (Kimmel is clearly on one of the drugs), but it was a very drowsy way to kick off the show. Until the aforementioned teamsters moment.

WORST: Wait, these are the song nominees again?
Billie Eilish and Finneas were sublime in singing “What Was I Made For?” And, as expected, Ryan Gosling killed it with “I’m Just Ken” (more on that in a second). But, what on earth with these three other nominees? They were…historically short? “Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)” from “Killers of the Flower Moon” lasted just one minute and 45 seconds. Jon Batiste’s performance of “It Never Went Away” was also far under two minutes, and Becky G’s performance of “The Fire Inside” was barely 90 seconds. These were whispers of performances that made you wonder why they even bothered.

BEST: Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s acceptance speech
Unjustifiably criticized on social media for going off written comments from her numerous other wins this season, Randolph went off the cuff for her biggest win. Her reaction was heartfelt and inspiring. Reflecting on her introduction to theater, she remarked on a teacher’s guidance, “When I was the only Black girl in that class. When you saw me and you told me I was enough, and when I told you I don’t see myself…you said, ‘That’s fine, we’re gonna forge our own path.’ You’re gonna lay a trail for yourself.” She added, “For so long, I wanted to be different, and now I realize I just need to be myself. I thank you for seeing me.”

BEST: John Cena presenting Costume Design
Inspired by the notorious streaker incident during David Niven‘s appearance at the 1974 Oscars, the “Peacemaker” star demonstrated his great comedic talents by “almost” appearing nude on the Oscar stage. It could have gone very badly, but the room loved it (as did viewers). The fact that “Poor Things” won with an upset over “Barbie” was the icing on the cake (although, unfortunately, we didn’t see any of Cena’s cake)

BEST: The rest of the world was not forgotten
While the focus was celebratory for the most part, a number of winners were not willing to ignore the horrors going on across the sea far from the Dolby Theater. Jonathan Glazer called out for peace in Gaza during his acceptance speech for “The Zone of Interest’s” International Film win. He noted, “Whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack in Gaze, all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?” Mstyslav Chernov, the director of the Documentary Oscar winner “20 Days in Mariupol,” remarked, “This is the first Oscar in Ukrainian history, And I’m honored,” But, “I wish to be able to exchange this [Oscar] for Russia never attacking Ukraine to never attacking our cities.” It was a stark and much-needed reminder to the audience both in the theater and at home of the power of both films, the power of cinema, and this specific platform.

BEST: Fun reunions
They didn’t all hit, but having “Beetlejuice” (and upcoming sequel stars) Michael Keaton and Catherine O’Hara present together was fun. The kicker, though, was when “Twins” stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito appeared on stage. Comic book movie fans know that the duo also played Batman villains in two separate movies in the ’90s. They then hilariously tried to rekindle their beef with Keaton, sitting in the audience, who played along with deadpan precision. Someone tell James Gunn we need that sequel.

BEST: Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling
Have we started the campaign for Blunt and Gosling to host the telecast next year or some year yet? It will never happen, but they had the sort of hilarious banter that Kimmel couldn’t deliver this year. Blunt’s zinger on “Barbenheimer” this awards season, “There wasn’t that much of a rivalry,” killed. And Gosling’s comeback, “You were riding ‘Barbie’s’ coattails all summer.” Blunt, “Thanks for ‘Ken-splaning’ that for me. Mr. ‘I need to paint my abs on to get nominated. You don’t see Robert Downey doing that.” It was also a pretty great commercial for their upcoming movie, “The Fall Guy.

BEST: Robert Downey, Jr.s acceptance speech
Downey, Jr. has been a self-deprecating gem for decades. It was no surprise then that he started off his acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor with, “I would like to thank my terrible childhood and The Academy, in that order.” And, In the same speech, only he could remark, “I needed this job more than it needs me” and “I wanna thank my stylist in case no one else does,” with a pitch-perfect, endearing sentiment. His biggest thanks, beyond his wife and children, were for “My entertainment lawyer, Tom Hansen, for 40 years, half of which he spent trying to get me insured and bailing me out of [jail]. Thanks, bro.” Clearly, the truth will set you free.

WORST: In Memoriam
Always one of the more anticipated moments of the telecast, this year’s In Memoriam started well with a clip of Alexei Navalny from the Oscar-winning documentary “Navalny.” His quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing,” was stirring and an inspired choice for the segment. Then a performance began, a string quartet and modern dancers began as Andrea and Matteo Bocelli eventually came on stage to sing “Con te partirò.” The problem with this staging was the performances completely overshadowed the images of those who have passed (the telecast director never cut to just the images of the fallen, it was always in the background). The dancers were impressive but not necessary. And so many greats barely had a moment. And Matthew Perry, who barely had a film career, got a video moment while numerous others who lived on the screen (Burt Young, Treat Williams, Lance Reddick, among others) were relegated to just their names being shown? How did this get past The Academy’s officers? What a mess.

BEST “I’m Just Ken”
Boy, did it live up to the hype. Slash on the guitar solo. The other Ken’s include Simu Lu, Scott Evans, Ncuti Gatwa, and Kingsley Ben-Adir. Fireworks or flares at the end. At least 50 dancers. Greta Gerwig, Margot Robbie, and even Emma Stone even joined in to sing with Gosling at the end. Could not have imagined it turning out any better than this.

BEST: Emma Stone’s acceptance speech
There was only one category this year with genuine suspense: Best Actress. And after her name was announced, it appears Emma Stone did not think she would win. The “Poor Things” star gave a very endearing and off-the-cuff speech while her good friend Jennifer Lawrence held back tears behind her. She was gracious to her fellow nominees and colleagues on “Poor Things,” freaked out about her broken dress (as would we all), thankful for her family, and, well, utterly overwhelmed. It was one of those genuine moments that remind you why awards shows like the Oscars are so compelling almost 100 years into their history.