Gaga and Rihanna! Oh my! (a donkey and a bear too): The must-see 2023 Oscars moments

A woman in a sparkling gown raises her hand onstage
Rihanna performs at the 95th Academy Awards in the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Laundry, taxes. Dreams and Academy Awards.

The “weirdos” behind the multiverse-hopping, awards-season juggernaut “Everything Everywhere All at Once” staked their claim in the Oscars-verse on Sunday, dominating the 95th Academy Awards with seven wins, including best picture and directing.

The film was up for 11 Academy Awards and, on an evening resuscitating itself from Will Smith’s show-stopping slap during last year’s ceremony, we’ll quote “The Whale” star and besotted lead actor winner Brendan Fraser: “So this is what the multiverse looks like?”

The 2023 Oscar winners include “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Brendan Fraser, Michelle Yeoh and “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

March 12, 2023

Late-night stalwart Jimmy Kimmel hosted the ceremony for the third time and the ceremony went at least 30 minutes over its planned three-hour run time — a certainty the host repeatedly referred to throughout the evening as the telecast staved off incidents that would require the Oscars’ “crisis team.” By the end, however, Kimmel reset the count on his “Number of Oscars without incidents” counter as the show tried to return to post-slap and post-pandemic normalcy.


Here’s a look at this year’s key moments:

Jimmy Kimmel slaps back — repeatedly

The host did not let last year’s slap go quietly, repeatedly taking aim at 2022 lead actor winner Will Smith in his opening monologue and throughout the show.

“We want you to feel safe. And most importantly, we want me to feel safe,” Kimmel said during his monologue. “So we have strict policies in place. If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence, you will be awarded the Oscar for best actor and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech.”

The best looks from the 2023 Oscars: from Lady Gaga to Mindy Kaling.

March 12, 2023

Course-correcting Oscars past

Two women onstage in formal gowns
Oscar winners Jessica Chastain and Halle Berry present the awards for actress and actor in a leading role.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Last year’s documentary feature winner Questlove presented the category this year after the slap “skirmish” eclipsed his big win last year. Though the “Summer of Soul” filmmaker didn’t directly address the incident onstage (he already did at last year’s Grammy Awards and on the Oscars red carpet), his appearance was one of producers’ apparent attempts at course correction.

The lead actress Oscar, which is typically presented by the previous year’s lead actor winner (Smith in this case), was instead handed out by previous winners Jessica Chastain and Halle Berry, who welcomed Michelle Yeoh into their ranks.

Meanwhile, “Creed III” director-star Michael B. Jordan gave a shout-out to supporting-actress nominee Angela Bassett when he and Jonathan Majors presented together. “Hey, Auntie,” he said, echoing one of his lines from “Black Panther” and allowing anyone who felt that Bassett was again snubbed at the Oscars a chance to feel seen. When “Wakanda Forever” costume designer Ruth E. Carter returned to the stage to collect another Oscar, she thanked the academy “for recognizing the superhero that is a Black woman.” (“She endures. She loves. She overcomes. She is every woman in this film. And she is my [101-year-old late] mother.”)


And “hopelessly devoted” John Travolta — he of “Adele Dazeem” infamy — introduced the In Memoriam segment with a tearful tribute to his “Grease” co-star Olivia Newton-John.

Those ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ speeches are still joyous

After a long awards season and plenty of wins, the cast and crew of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” kept their rousing speech momentum. If you didn’t believed the magic of the multiverse, at least let its stars help you believe in slow-burn career magic. (Or see Ke Huy Quan frenetically envelop his “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984) co-star Harrison Ford as Ford presented him and the team with the award for best picture.)

Kicking off with supporting actor winner Quan’s latest emotional speech about the American Dream at the start of the show, volleying to Jamie Lee Curtis’ triumphant “we just won an Oscar” supporting actress love-fest, Daniels’ multiple acceptances and Yeoh’s words of wisdom, the big winners celebrated mothers, “genius emerging from the collective” and the “greatness in every single person.”

“This is a beacon of hope and possibilities.... Dreams do come true,” Yeoh proclaimed. “Ladies, don’t let anyone tell you you are ever past your prime.”

Pop stars win the live performances

Original song nominee Lady Gaga made it to the Oscars and even performed! The “Hold My Hand” singer-songwriter made headlines earlier this week after producers said she would be the only song nominee not to perform during this year’s telecast because she “didn’t feel like she can get a performance to the caliber that we’re used to with her and that she is used to” in time.

Then, after walking the champagne-colored red carpet in full glam, Gaga disrupted expectations altogether with an intimate stripped-down performance of the “Top Gun: Maverick” power ballad while wearing a black T-shirt, ripped jeans and sneakers — with nary a lick of makeup remaining on her face.

A singer onstage
Rihanna performs her Oscar-nominated song “Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” at the 95th Academy Awards.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Rihanna made her exciting return to live TV after last month’s performance at Super Bowl LVI to deliver her Oscar-nominated song “Life Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” The ballad was written as a tribute to late “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman and seeing it performed live by the pregnant pop powerhouse just hit different, as they say.

And David Byrne was joined by Son Lux and “Everything Everywhere All at Once” star Stephanie Hsu to give us the hot dog fingers cover of “This Is a Life” we didn’t know we needed.

‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ makes some noise

For a stretch of the night, Edward Berger’s World War II epic “All Quiet on the Western Front” seemed poised to displace “Everything Everywhere All at Once” as the big winner. Picking up wins for cinematography, international feature film, production design and original score, the film hit a streak mid-ceremony that made it the second-most winning film of the night with four Oscars off nine nominations.

The Oscars become an actual zoo

A woman in an evening dress standing next to a person in a bear costume
“Cocaine Bear” director Elizabeth Banks presents the award for visual effects at the 95th Academy Awards.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

We tuned into a zoo! Kimmel gleefully brought some wildlife onstage when he introduced Jenny, the now-retired donkey sidekick from “The Banshees of Inisherin,” as an emotional support animal — at least that’s what they told the airline — for the show. (It wasn’t the real Jenny though.)

Later, “Cocaine Bear” director Elizabeth Banks presented the award for visual effects accompanied by a person in a massive bear costume. The furry guest star later made its way into the audience for a walkabout with Kimmel, who took another swipe at his longtime foe Matt Damon. The Oscars, man, they’re wild.

Four awards shows and a reunion

A woman in a black gown and a man in a tuxedo stand behind a microphone
Andie MacDowell and Hugh Grant present the award for production design.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Upsetting Oscars viewers at home and going viral with his rude and reticent red-carpet interview with “On the Red Carpet” co-host Ashley Graham, “Glass Onion” actor Hugh Grant apparently tried to redeem with his signature self-deprecating humor during the ceremony. The British actor reunited onstage with his “Four Weddings and a Funeral” co-star Andie MacDowell to present the production design award. That’s when he waxed poetic about the power of moisturizing then actually called himself “basically a scrotum” during the ceremony. (Did you hear that, Ashley?!)