By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Mar 11, 2024 at 7:26 PM

Between A.I. and the post-strike world, it may be weird vibes out in Hollywood right now – but it was mostly good vibes Sunday night at Hollywood's Biggest NightTM as the Academy threw one solid party at the Oscars. (And without anyone throwing any solid slaps! The "It's been __ days since the Oscars' last accident" sign doesn't have to go back to zero!)

"Barbenheimer" dominated the night one more time before we, as a culture, retire that phrase forever. The former may have only won one Oscar but the pink-powered blockbuster won the night thanks to Ryan Gosling's unKentainably fun "I'm Just Ken" performance. Meanwhile Christopher Nolan and his WWII opus owned the scoreboard, winning the most awards on the night with seven – including Best Picture at the (surprisingly early) end of the night. But who REALLY won at last night's Oscars? And who REALLY lost? And who REALLY wanted to watch "I'm Just Ken" about 471 more times today?

Here are the real winners and losers from last night's Kenergized Oscars ceremony:

Loser: The first hour

I hope everyone got the memo that the Oscars were an hour earlier than usual last night – because it oddly didn't seem like the Oscars did! Maybe they had their clocks set wrong after Daylight Savings? Bold choice, by the way, to start your show at a new time on a day when everyone's clocks are messed up. 

The first hour or so of Sunday night's big show seemed off, and not just because it was weirdly light outside as the proceedings began. Due to protesting outside the auditorium, the show started a few minutes late, and Kimmel's monologue had the vibe of someone knocked off their rhythms and energy, stumbling over jokes and not hitting others. But hey, the monologue is always where the night's footing is a little uneven – that doesn't explain the production oddities for the rest of the first hour. The first category – Best Supporting Actress – had a lot of odd dead air as the show got used to the presenting format, while winners awkwardly walked through this hallway of upcoming presenters. If the hope was for these surprise collisions to create fun impromptu interactions, that hope died like the odds of the "Winnie the Pooh" horror movie winning Best Picture, as instead people clumsily looked clueless about how to handle situation. And that's all not including Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer's terrible presentation bit about how writers are important. It was supposed to be a tribute to the importance of writers; instead it was a tribute to cutting to the emergency color bars when things go wrong.

Thankfully things improved significantly as the night went along, the show found a rhythm and "I'm Just Ken" started I'm Just Kenning – but much like the Super Bowl last month, you had to slog through a pretty brutal first chunk to get to the good stuff. (Without even the help of a new "Deadpool" or "Twisters" trailer ... which, by the way, why can't we get brand new movie trailer debuts during the Oscars? Or movie trailers, period? Don't you want to sell some movies during this movie night?!)

Winner: The rest of the night

Even when things were going bad at the Oscars last night, everyone seemed to still be having a good night – and that thankfully extended to those of us watching.

The invincible vibes were well captured by a moment during that first rough hour, where the evening's MC, David Alan Grier, was seemingly supposed to be on screen in the winners hallway explaining ... his existence, I guess. Instead the camera was on reunited "Beetlejuice" co-stars Michael Keaton and Catherine O'Hara, and Grier had to awkwardly amble his way into the shot, just like no one seemingly planned it – but the three looked like they were all happy to see each other and happy to be there, so the problem politely whizzed by. That was the way much of the lame first part of the show went, with notable problems and awkwardness easily forgiven by the communal atmosphere of the proceedings. Sure, the monologue was a tough sit – but it ended with a well-earned round of applause to the craftsfolk and behind-the-scenes professions who stayed strong with the writers and actors during the strikes, despite the strain. And sure, the five-presenter approach was slow and got in the way of honoring the actual performances – but it was sweet to see the actors look so touched hearing a colleague praise their work, and their career. 

And that was all when the show was in its rough and shaggy stages. As the show worked out its kinks, the warm and comic energy just got better, with the loose-limbed banter between the likes of Kimmel, Cena, Blunt, Gosling, McKinnon, Ferrera, Schwarzenegger and DeVito hitting some of the happier, bigger, and easier laughs the show's received in recent years. The Oscars have worked desperately hard to get people to like them over the past several ceremonies – mostly only losing fans in the process. But it's amazing how much more fun it is when it DOESN'T strain that hard, and instead – like with Gosling's on-stage goofery or Schwarzenegger and DeVito's chaotic chemistry with the stone-faced Keaton – just lets some of the most charismatic people on the planet be charismatic. 

Loser: Jimmy Kimmel

Props to Jimmy Kimmel for taking on Hollywood's most thankless job (well, second most after the head of advertising and PR for "Madame Web") and four times at that, navigating some of the show's most notorious snafus in the process. ("Handle an assault on stage" isn't really a page I thought we'd need in the Oscar host employee handbook!) We appreciate your service ... but judging by last night, it's time for someone new. 

Kimmel wasn't bad on Sunday night – even if this year set the benchmark for bad at "Jo Koy" – but the show got much better and felt less dusty as his role in the night disappeared. His opening monologue didn't have many hits, seeming flustered and oddly stumbly during the intro for somebody who's done this before and often. (Maybe the timing issues threw him off.) But most of all, his material just seemed tired and predictable. Here's the annoyingly overdone joke about how the long nominated movie was too long. Here's where Guillermo makes his requisite cameo and where the show makes its requisite Matt Damon dig. Here's the Trump joke. Here's where we complain that the show's going too long – never mind that it finished not on time but early enough for him to plug the guests on his show. And THAT WE'RE HERE FOR THE SHOW! Stop apologizing for it! 

For a show that's desperately tried to freshen things up in recent years, an easy way to do that would be a fresh face, bringing new energy and a new angle to the Oscars. Perhaps a particularly vocal "Field of Dreams" enthusiast ... 

Winner: "I'm Just Ken"

After eagerly awaiting its arrival all awards season long, there was no chance Ryan Gosling's live performance of "I'm Just Ken" would live up to the hype, right? WRONG! IT WAS KENCREDIBLE!

Somehow, unlike the slightly underwhelming "We Don't Talk About Bruno" moment a few years ago, the "Barbie" showstopper was even better than audiences could've hoped. Instead of being awkward or above it, Ryan Gosling, along with his star-studded backup dancers and sing-along partners, continued to commit 100 percent to the straight-faced doofy Ken bit. (And sounded darn good live, the Micky Mouse Club training paying off still!) Meanwhile the production went all out with some real choreography, big creative pink visuals and even Slash showing up to rock out the boistrous ballad's finale, resulting in massive smiles for audiences in the house and well beyond. It should be FUN paying tribute to great movies and art from the past year – and this musical number got that memo.

Props to the Academy for delivering a show-stopping, water-cooler moment – and unlike the big "La La Land"/"Moonlight" whoops, 2021's Chadwick Boseman finale win that wasn't and The Slap Heard Across The World, this time it was on purpose!

Loser: Da'Vine Joy Randolph's publicist

Da'Vine Joy Randolph's early victory speech for Best Supporting Actress was so delightful, she even managed to make the requisite shoutout to her publicist charming. Just one problem: She forgot to actually say her publicist's name – and unfortunately, even when Kimmel pointed it out and gave her a do-over, Randolph wasn't mic'd up and could only mouth the name to the camera. (Like I said, messy night!) But hey, maybe that just spiked her Google search results? Anyways, a real night of contrasts for ... dramatic pause ... Marla Farrell.

Winner: The Johns, Cena and Mulaney

Almost all of the starry presenters not named Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy (sorry ladies, it's not all your fault) crushed their awards presentations. But no one won the Oscars more than the Johns, both Cena and Mulaney.

After a tough start to the night, Cena gave the show its first really fun scripted moment with his perfectly performed pants-free presenting job, living out everyone's nightmare of being naked in front of an audience but playing it like a dream. Sure, going naked's an easy laugh – but what really made the moment great was his pitch-perfect delivery of "Costumes" arriving at the mic wearing just his conveniently placed winners envelope. Then John Mulaney showed what happens when the host of an awards show is not only funny but seems to ACTUALLY LIKE movies, killing his random motormouthed "Field of Dreams" diatribe while presenting Best Sound.

If this was the stand-up's audition for taking over hosting duties in the future, I'd say he earned the job. What a concept: A GUY WHO'S ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT MOVIES HOSTING THE MOVIE AWARDS!

Loser: The performance category presentations

In theory, I get the idea of last night's performance category presentations. Bringing out five previous winners to introduce the newest member to their rarified company – like they did at the 2009 Oscars – nods to the industry's illustrious past, brings out even more big names on stage, humanizes the proceedings and, as pointed out by the New York Times' Kyle Buchanan, primes the pump for big emotions in the nominees. It pays tribute to the past and the present, all while not screeching the show to a halt. 

Or at least, that's the theory. In reality, it doesn't really pull off any of that – or at least it didn't Sunday night.

Sure, you got the occasional fun moment – like Nicolas Cage and Paul Giamatti having a hoot together – but for the most part, the format drags out each performance category, and instead of it feeling personal and emotional between the two actors, it mostly felt like people presenting their book reports on one another. Worst of all, since so much screentime is spent on these brief monologues, the producers eliminated clips of the performances – meaning audience members didn't get to see any of the actual nominated work or, if they hadn't seen the films, didn't know what they were nominated for at all.

Above all else, the Oscars are a glorified advertisement for what the industry considers some of the best movies of the year – but what good is this advertisement, what good are these recommendations, if people come away having no idea what these movies and performances are? I can't believe I'm saying this about one of the self-aggrandizing nights of the year ... but don't be humble, Oscars! Savor your moment and let your work take a victory lap! Because if you don't think it's worth your while to watch the smallest bit of "Anatomy of a Fall" during the broadcast, why would audiences at home think it's worth their while?

Winner: "Oppenheimer"

Yes, in a stunning turn of events, the Best Picture winner of the night ... was a winner. That's why you come here: the IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS!

In addition to winning the final award of the night, the WWII blockbuster scored the most Oscars on the night with seven, tying last year's dominant showing from "Everything Everwhere All At Once" and similarly taking the stage all throughout the night, winning technical awards (Best Score, Best Editing) as well as the big-name categories. And the craziest part was how little competition there was how easily it claimed them all, reminiscent of the "Return of the King" year where it commanded the night without much contest. Robert Downey Jr. won Best Supporting Actor as expected, receiving the award with his signature charismatic combination of self-aggrandizing and self-effacing, while Christopher Nolan officially earned his way into the ranks of Hollywood royalty with his pretty-much pre-ordained Best Director win. (They didn't pick the icon Steven Spielberg to present the trophy to an overall unknown like Justine Triet.) The only thing that stopped "Oppenheimer" from becoming the biggest winner since 2009's "Slumdog Millionaire" was a surprise Best Sound loss to the impeccably haunting work in "The Zone of Interest."

Otherwise, it was a remarkable night to cap off a remarkable run for "Oppenheimer," a $900 million smash hit partly in black-and-white about WWII physicists debating the ethics of science and politics for three hours – a win for theaters, a win for quality cinema, a win for movies for adults and a win for vision-driven blockbusters as opposed to brand-driven ones. Though Hollywood always learns the wrong lessons from these things, so I look forward to a whole OCU of "Einstein: An Oppenheimer Story" and "Niels Bohr: Origins" coming up next summer.

Loser: Al Pacino

Al Pacino is the master of the unexpected off-kilter line reading ... normally. The famed actor tried, uh, something new when he presented the long-awaited final award of the night, ambling through the intro and ditching the usual "And the Oscar goes to" for something far more confounding and anti-climactic. (Also: There was definitely a final run-through of the ten Best Picture nominees that got dumped because of his ad-libbing, right?) 

Overall, you could say he made a GGGREAT ASSSS! of himself. That being said, I now look forward to every Best Picture award being given with a dramatic "My eyes see ... " Much like his supporting turn in "Jack & Jill," maybe it'll just take some time for us to come around and truly appreciate his creative genius.

Winner: International movies

As any good film fan can tell you, if you're only watching movies out of Hollywood and you're dissuaded from watching something from subtitles, you're missing out on some of the best work out there. Thanks to the diversification of the Academy over the recent years, the Oscars are agreeing with that more and more, handing out some of their biggest awards to overseas successes yet again – and no, not just in Best International Film.

Sure, "The Zone of Interest" won there (where director Jonathan Glazer took his moment to acknowledge the ongoing war in Gaza, a rarity on the night) but the uniquely unnerving Holocaust drama was also acknowledged for a surprising second award in Best Sound, its muted backdrop of hidden attrocities setting its unforgettably horrific tone. Normally the Oscars go biggest over best – but in this case, they intriguingly went with the quieter, more nuanced arthouse film over the very good but polar opposite bombast of "Oppenheimer." And if that wasn't enough, the Academy also overlooked the likes of "Barbie" and "The Holdovers" to give Best Original Screenplay to the thorny French courtroom drama (and Messi the dog star vehicle) "Anatomy of a Fall," while also skipping past the big-budget effects of the usual Hollywood blockbusters to give the excellent and very deserving "Godzilla Minus One" its visual effects prize.

The wins were all very cool signs that voters are more and more willing to reward excellent work beyond their most simple and basic categorizations. Now do animation and documentary too. And genre films while we're at it.

Loser: Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. loves deleting things out of existence – and I imagine the studio wishes they could add Sunday night to that list. The studio's lone major contender on the night, "Barbie," only scored a single win – Best Original Song – out of eight nominations, unable to pull off surprises in Screenplay, Costume or Production Design. But hey, considering WB execs probably watched the Oscars floating in an Olympic swimming pool filled with "Barbie's" box office billions, that probably didn't smart too bad. 

What DID probably hurt, though, was seeing their ex Christopher Nolan clean up on the night and finally win his award with someone else. You see, almost all of Nolan's previous blockbusters were under Warner Bros.' watch ... that is, until "Tenet," its bungled COVID-era release and the studio's fateful decision to chuck all of its 2021 theatrical releases on Max at the same time, a choice that Nolan loudly criticized, calling WB "the worst streaming service." Nolan hated the decision so much, he took his next movie to rival studio Universal – but I'm sure Warner Bros. figured they wouldn't come to regret losing a $100 million dialogue-heavy three-hour biopic about a WWII physicist.

Cut to Warner Bros., $960 million and seven Oscars later: 

Winner: Weirdos

Remember when the Oscars were known for being old and stodgy with their picks? Well, the Academy's newly diversified ranks have given that cliche a big hot dog middle finger and a Portugeuse tart to the face over these past two years.

Last year's big winner featured multiverse time-travel featuring butt-plug fight scenes, Chapstick snacking and raccoon chefs, all directed by the guys behind the "Turn Down For What" music video – and while the Oscars went slightly more normal with its top prize last night, the similarly bizarre and esoteric "Poor Things" still came away with more wins than expected. Some predicted the imaginatively macabre and horny take on Frankenstein would be too weird to win anything on Sunday; instead the visually dynamic dramedy ended up claiming the second most trophies on the night with four including Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup and Actress, all toss-ups headed into the ceremony.

The formula if you want to win these days? Less stodgy and predictable Oscar bait, more Willem Dafoe regurgitating giant bubbles like a frogman.

Loser: Emma Stone

Sure, Emma Stone technically won last night – but have you ever seen someone look so unhappy about winning an award before?

Maybe the "Poor Things" star was just truly gobsmacked about winning her second Best Actress trophy. (She eventually broke into the more expected tears of joy on stage accepting the award.) Maybe Stone suddenly realized she was going to have to march on stage with a broken dress. Or maybe she just looked into the future and saw that the discourse around her win was going to be awful. After all, she'd won over what would've been a historic moment for Lily Gladstone and Native American representation, becoming the first Native American woman to claim Best Actress, and the internet can only discuss things by pitting them against one another in a simplistic binary "good/evil" way as opposed to accepting that two great, deserving performances can co-exist and that the Academy's failings, past or present, are not Stone's fault.

Eh, probably just the first one – though hopefully Stone feels like she can celebrate this win as opposed to preparing another "Aloha"-esque apology tour

Winner: Billie Eilish

Stone didn't even get to claim the title of the night's youngest new two-time Oscar winner! Earlier in the night, Billie Eilish (as well as brother/collaborator Finneas) scored her second little golden man in less than five years time, adding an Oscar for the emotional "Barbie" ballad "What Was I Made For?" next to her 2022 "No Time To Die" victory. Meanwhile, songwriter Diane Warren is still looking for her first Oscar win after 15 nominations. She DID, however, get a dramatic song about the invention of the Flamin' Hot Cheeto to the Oscar stage, complete with a grandiose child choir – which I guess is a historic win in its own, uniquely spicy way. 

Loser: "Killers of the Flower Moon"

Much like with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks (both of whom haven't won this side of the millennium) there's this notion that Martin Scorsese is a beloved Academy favorite, a Hollywood legend where every project he touches turns to Oscar gold. And ... that's just literally never been true? He didn't win his Best Director Oscar – or any Oscar, period – until 2007 with "The Departed," deep into his legendary career, and he hasn't won since. And now they're practically trolling him. If you combine "The Irishman" (10 nominations), "The Wolf of Wall Street" (five nods) and "Silence" (one nom), his films have gone zero for the last decade at the Oscars – and I'm no math major, but that seems like a low percentage of wins.

I'd say that success rate's going even lower after Sunday night, but you can't go lower than zero. Indeed, he's now 0-for-26 after "Killers of the Flower Moon" got goose-egged on Sunday night – even with ten nominations and with Lily Gladstone's quietly powerful turn predicted to claim victory in Best Actress. Unfortunately too quiet for the Academy, who lived up to their reputation of rewarding bigger performances with its top prizes – plus the harrowing Osage epic was probably too long, too emotionally draining and too early in the awards season rigamarole to keep voters' attention. When you're a voter cramming in screenings at the end of the year, which one are you more likely to make time for: the more-than-200-minute unrelenting look at painful American history or the eye-catching ribald comedy?

Glad to see that, even though he's sporting a winning percentage that would make the Detroit Lions' Super Bowl tally look impressive, Marty seemed to have a great Sunday night anyways:

That's the healing power of Kenergy for you. 

Winner: Steven Spielberg

And speaking of Hollywood icons unfazed by the Oscars' cold shoulder! Spielberg added to his 25-year losing streak last night, losing as a producer for "Maestro," but he did win the arguably even more prestigious title of Best Actor in an Audience Cutaway Gag: 

I did not expect Steven Spielberg to take over Jack Nicholson's mantle as the ultimate Oscars audience member, but here he is – and he's doing great! He's like one of those TikToks where the influencer's dad stars alongside them, totally unhip and totally self-aware at the same time ... but with a slightly bigger budget considering it's, you know, the Oscars.

Loser: Stunts

There's been a lot of momentum recently about adding a Best Stunts category to the Oscars, both to give big money-making blockbusters a place at the awards show that doesn't feel shoehorned (rest in pain, Best Popular Film category) as well as to honor a serious craft that's been at the center of the industry since its beginning. Well, the Academy clearly heard these impassioned arguments and responded Sunday ... with empty words and a meaningless montage tribute in the middle of the night to work they apparently still don't deem worthy of a trophy. But that's OK, because they ARE adding a new category starting in 2026 ... for best casting. 

Winner: Messi the dog

For a moment, it seemed like the star of the moment wasn't going to be in attendance at Sunday's show – no, not Zendaya or Florence Pugh, but Messi the dog, apparently not invited to the Oscars because other studios were jealous that the "Anatomy of a Fall" star was stealing the spotlight at other events. (But no, really.) But then there the pup was on Sunday night, smiling in his seat, "applauding" winners and delighting human golden retriever Ryan Gosling.

Sadly, though, this all might've been a lie and those were likely pre-recorded bits edited into the show. HOW COULD YOU BETRAY RYAN GOSLING LIKE THIS!? There's only one way to solve this debacle: Let Messi host the Oscars with John Mulaney next year. Pre-emptive congrats on becoming the highest rated show in television history and the greatest achievement in the art of moving images. 

Loser: The In Memoriam segment

How do we keep screwing up what should be the most un-screw-up-able moment of every awards show!?

The In Memoriam should be money in the bank: show the names and clips of those we lost over the past year, play a tender and thoughtful song underneath it (live if you're feeling fancy) and soak in the engaged audience reactions, from tears to surprised "he/she died this year?!" exclamations. And yet awards shows keep trying to fix what's not broken – including the last night's Oscars, which cluttered up their tributes by bringing on singers and interpretive dancers and a whole bunch of stuff pushing the In Memoriam segment into the background of the ACTUAL IN MEMORIAM SEGMENT! To make matters worse, instead of just savoring the moment and its history, the show rushed along the ending, cramming its final honorees into one final barely legible screen of font treated like the credits on the bottom of a movie poster.

One more time, to the Academy: We're all watching the show to honor movies and the people behind them. Stop rushing that part! THAT'S WHY WE'RE HERE!

Winner: Legends not having the time for this ish

Winning an Oscar is a powerful thing. But winning an Oscar and not even bothering to show? EVEN MORE POWERFUL! Indeed, Hayao Miyazaki decided he had other plans on Hollywood's biggest night, not showing up to claim his (somewhat unexpected) victory in Best Animated Film for "The Boy and the Heron." Because when you're Miyazaki, you can RSVP "eh, if I have time" for the Oscars. Apparently the same goes for Wes Anderson who finally earned an award after seven previous nominations ... and decided nah, you can mail that to me this time. As somebody now in their mid-30s and reaching that age where you're too tired to go and try in public anymore, this was the most relatable part of the entire night.

Loser: Ariana Grande

It was bad enough that the pop star showed up in an outfit that looked like several comforters joined together Power Rangers-style to become MEGA-COMFORTER! But then things got weirdly worse when Grande presented Best Original Song with fellow "Wicked" co-star and former Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo, her voice seemingly stuck as Glinda the Good Witch:

Between this and Austin Butler unable to ditch his Elvis voice, we need to find out what's going on with vocal coaches in Hollywood. THERE IS SOMETHING NEFARIOUS AFOOT!

Winner: The Oscars

We all make fun of the Oscars every year and complain about how they're too long. Or they're out-of-touch and pretentious. Or they make bad production decisions that alienate their fans while appealing to no one else. Or they never pick the right winners. Or they let people get slapped on stage. And then give the slapper an award an hour later. 

But maybe ... the Oscars are good now?

This has been two years in a row where the show was actually really fun – and better yet, where the Academy gave out some really deserving awards to some really great work. Sure, there are still ways to make the show better: a fresher host, bring back my beloved clips, less anti-genre bias, more Messi the dog. But maybe, just maybe, the Oscars themselves are finally starting to overshadow Hollywood's other time-honored tradition: complaining about the Oscars. (Just kidding: That'd be like the internet being normal about Taylor Swift.)

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.