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The 2024 Oscars failed to surprise audiences, but that might be a feature and not a bug

Everything unfolded as movie fans had expected (with a few additional gags), but like a franchise film

Image credit: Universal Pictures/The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences/Popverse

There are two different types of Oscars ceremonies: the ones where the winners are a surprise, thrilling audiences and upsetting expectations as voters choose to reward underdogs and ignore the obvious choices, and the ones where… well, everything goes pretty much as everyone expected going into things, with few-to-no surprises along the way. 2024’s 96th Annual Academy Awards, awarded March 10 in Los Angeles, fell squarely into the latter category.

That’s not to say that the show wasn’t fun — as someone who firmly believes that the awards are arguably the least important part of the entire thing, I tend to judge the success or failure of the Oscars on the whole three-plus hour ceremony, and while the musical performances were variable (Ryan Gosling’s Gentleman Prefer Blondes-inspired ‘I’m Just Ken’ was a lot of fun, the Osage Singers’ ‘Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)’ powerful, but the rest… less so), there were a couple of genuinely funny moments in amongst the traditional flat comedy: John Cena’s performance made what should have been a rough nudist joke about the costuming award work, and John Mulaney’s surprise tribute to Field of Dreams was a joy.

Similarly, there were some great speeches: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Billie Eilish, the Godzilla Minus One effects’ team, and Emma Stone were all clearly moved (and surprised) by their wins, and their heartfelt responses offered an emotional core to a show that very much needed it. Stone’s win for Best Actress was the closest the show came to a genuine surprise win; not because she didn’t deserve it — her Bella Baxter in Poor Things was one of the most complex performances of the past year, and she did amazing work with it that is understated despite its initial broadness — but because it felt as if everyone expected that award to go to Lily Gladstone from Killers of the Flower Moon, a movie that ended up entirely overlooked by the end of the night.

It was, of course, a night that belonged to Oppenheimer, which triumphed in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing categories. It was also a night that belonged to Barbie, which only won Best Original Song but was the hook of a number of gags and references throughout the whole thing; the music from that movie also provided intros and outros from the orchestra for the whole thing. We all expected as much going into things, and nothing happened to change that.

That, ultimately, might be the message we should take from the 96th Academy Awards: sometimes the latest installments of the big franchises just get to unfold exactly as you expect and play the hits along the way. The Oscars are, after all, just a reflection of the movie industry as a whole. Why should we expect more from them?

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Graeme McMillan

Graeme McMillan: Popverse Editor Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.


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