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The big takeaways from last night's Oscars


It was, as expected, an Oscars night led by Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer," but it wasn't a sweep for the historical drama. Other films had their time in the spotlight, including "Poor Things," "The Zone Of Interest" and "Barbie," as well as Ken.


RYAN GOSLING: (Singing) I'm just Ken. Anywhere else I'd be...

SCHMITZ: Joining us to talk about last night's Academy Award ceremony is NPR critic Linda Holmes. Hey, Linda.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hey. Thank you for having me. I'm chair dancing to that song now.

SCHMITZ: (Laughter) Me, too. Linda, in your recap for, you wrote that last night's ceremony had a feel-good spirit. Tell us about that.

HOLMES: Well, a lot of what determines the tone of this ceremony comes from things other than just the winners. They had every acting nominee introduced at some length by a past winner in the category. Jamie Lee Curtis introduced Jodie Foster, for example. And that's a very warm and fuzzy kind of segment, maybe warm and fuzzy to a fault. Or if you look at the performances too, especially this giant, wacky performance of "I'm Just Ken," that song from "Barbie" that Ryan Gosling did with this big cast of guys. All in all, it was a pretty fun night. And it ended on time, which is all we can ask.

SCHMITZ: You know, there had been anticipation about one contest in particular between Emma Stone for her lead performance in "Poor Things" and Lily Gladstone as an Osage woman in "Killers Of The Flower Moon." Emma Stone took home the award.


EMMA STONE: And, Yorgos, thank you for the gift of a lifetime in Bella Baxter. I am forever thankful for you. Thank you for inviting all of us to be...

SCHMITZ: So, Linda, what was your sense of that moment?

HOLMES: Well, I was pulling for Lily Gladstone. This quieter, kind of enigmatic performance she gave is fantastic. With that said, I also loved Emma Stone's performance in "Poor Things," which was really weird and singular. So it's not that I don't think she deserved to win. It's more that they both deserve to win. And given two people who are deserving, I will always root for the person who seems more likely to benefit from winning and to sort of broaden the idea of who's an Oscar winner. And I think a lot of people felt that way, honestly.

SCHMITZ: So political statements routinely arise at Oscar ceremonies, you know, which ones did we see last night?

HOLMES: Well, it's not politics per se, but as has been the case for most of my life, I listened to Oscar winners speak against war. Jonathan Glazer was the director of the winning international film "The Zone Of Interest." That's a film about a Nazi commandant's family living happily just outside the walls of Auschwitz. And Glazer connected his film's theme of dehumanization to the terrible violence in Gaza and Israel. And then Mstyslav Chernov, who directed the documentary winner "20 Days In Mariupol," spoke about the devastation that the invasion of Ukraine has created. There were, you know, a couple of more pedestrian political jokes, you know, jokes about American politicians. But I think those were the most kind of pressing reflections on what's happening in the world.

SCHMITZ: And, you know, there were a lot of acceptance speeches last night. Which ones stood out?

HOLMES: Well, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, who is so good in "The Holdovers" and won for supporting actress, gave the night what turned into its running joke when she thanked her publicist. Which, by the way, I think is a totally normal thing to do. But...


HOLMES: ...She did it with good humor. And she's so appealing. I loved that speech. I loved seeing Robert Downey Jr., who people my age remember as an actor who, believe it or not, seemed pretty much washed up at one time, just really celebrated for what's now this long career of really good work. And it was fun to watch him bask in that. And I think maybe the acceptance speech that spoke the most wisely to the industry came from Cord Jefferson, who won for the adapted screenplay of "American Fiction." He made the point that, despite the fact that Hollywood is so risk averse, instead of making one $200 million movie, you could make 20 $10 million movies or 50 $4 million movies. I think that resonated with a lot of people who are beginning to question the wisdom of these gigantic budgets that create so much chaos if a film doesn't do well.

SCHMITZ: Well, we can all dream. You can read more of Linda Holmes' takeaways from last night at Thanks, Linda.

HOLMES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.