Oscars 2023: Was that the real Jenny, and nine other key questions about this year’s Academy Awards

Including: Was The Banshees of Inisherin ever going to win anything, and what was Colin Farrell’s SNL remark about?

1. Was that the real Jenny?

In one of the better gags, Jimmy Kimmel allegedly brought on the four-hoofed scene-stealer from The Banshees of Inisherin. “Not only is Jenny an actor, but she is a certified emotional-support donkey,” the host said. “Or at least that’s what we told the airline to get her on the plane from Ireland.” Colin Farrell continued his run of being a good sport by looking surprised. But it didn’t seem likely. A “source” told Vulture that the beast was “just a random donkey”. What a crock.

2. Did the Irish Goodbye folk generate an Oscar moment for the ages?

It certainly looks that way. Lists of great Oscar moments rarely focus on the short-film prizes, but when Ross White, one of the directors of the Northern Irish charmer, asked the audience to sing Happy Birthday to his star James Martin, the soaring goodwill looked to have won over the world. “He’s out here in Hollywood wearing a leopard-print suit jacket,” White added. The tribute seemed to leave Martin unfazed. But Oscar enthusiasts love to see A-listers revealing their gentle, gentle hearts.

3. What was Everything Everywhere All at Once’s most notable achievement?

It has plenty of achievements to choose from. No film has opened earlier in the year for more than three decades. Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian person to win best actress. And so on. But it is particularly noteworthy that it became only the third film to take three acting prizes. The previous two were Network and, in a peculiar result, A Streetcar Named Desire. Marlon Brando was the only one of the four nominated actors not to win for that film. Obviously there was a weight of enthusiasm behind Everything, Everywhere, but…

4. Was it all about “the comeback” in the acting prizes?

Not all about that. It’s never entirely about the “narrative”. But it is hard to think of another year when all four winners delivered speeches that touched on their overcoming professional challenges. Jamie Lee Curtis mentioned (with enthusiasm) all the genre films she’d proudly chewed through. Ke Huy Quan has talked about career struggles after a successful time as a juvenile performer. Brendan Fraser had his own battles over the past decade. Michelle Yeoh alluded to both her race and her age at the podium. “Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you’re ever past your prime,” she said. Quite so.


5. Where was “the slap?”

It was there. It was there. Kimmel referenced it in the first of two outbreaks of mild stereotyping. “Five Irish actors are nominated tonight, which means the odds of another fight on stage just went way up,” he said. There was a better gag later on addressing the failure to get Will Smith out of the auditorium last year. But it seems as if there was a decision to downplay the incident as much as possible. The jokes were relatively gentle. Questlove, who won best documentary right after last year’s incident, was invited back to present that prize. All very civilised.

6. Was The Banshees of Inisherin ever going to win anything?

Go back a few months and it was competing all over the place. Farrell was once in a three-way tie with Austin Butler and Brendan Fraser for best actor. At about the same time, the film looked a plausible bet for best picture. But, when we got to the auditorium, it was really competitive in only two categories: best supporting actress and best original screenplay. Both fell under the wheels of Everything Everywhere All at Once. Kerry Condon was still many pundits’ pick, and she was probably only a handful of votes short of Jamie Lee Curtis. But there is no resisting an old-school sweep.

7. So was the nomination a win for An Cailín Ciúin?

It sounds like an awful cliche, but that is almost certainly so. And there is more to it than that. This year was particularly competitive for international film. Of the 15 films on the shortlist, 10 had a perfectly plausible claim to a nomination. In the event, the Irish-language film got past such hugely acclaimed festival hits as Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave and Alice Diop’s Saint Omer. Not only that. By Oscar night, bookies had pulled the film in to second favourite. If All Quiet on the Western Front had been delayed a year, An Cailín Ciúin really could have won.

8. Hang on, what did Hugh Grant do?

Well, he said scrotum on stage, but even the puritanical Americans might let that quasi-medical term slide. The real controversy surrounded his terse champagne-carpet interview with the model Ashley Graham. “The whole of humanity is here … it’s Vanity Fair,” he said. “It’s all about Vanity Fair – that’s where we let loose and have a little bit of fun!” Graham replied. It seemed she was referencing the magazine’s party and he was talking about the 19th-century novel. The interview then petered out into nothing. It would not have made even a tiny wave it if someone, somewhere had got slapped.

9. What was Colin Farrell’s SNL remark about?

Jimmy Kimmell embarked on a second bout of national stereotyping when, during a segment reading alleged questions from viewers, he stopped at the Castleknock man. “Loved your performance in Banshees of Inisherin, but my question is, ‘What were you saying in the movie?’ Kimmell read from a card. Farrell replied, “I’d like him to go on YouTube and check SNL last night, and he’ll have a good idea.” He was referencing an already controversial Saturday Night Live skit in which actors playing him and Brendan Gleeson gabbled incoherently. The real Farrell kept a poker face.

10. Did we just see a repeat of the last “Irish are coming” year?

Nearly, but not quite. In 2016, Room and Brooklyn helped themselves to seven nominations. Brie Larson won best actress for the former, but the only Irish person to get their hands on a prize was Ben Cleary who won best live-action short, for Stutterer. It looked as if history might repeat itself when, as Everything Everywhere All at Once cleaned up, An Irish Goodbye took the same prize. But Richard Baneham, from Tallaght, always looked likely to score in best visual effects for Avatar: The Way of Water. So it proved. “Go raibh maith agat,” he bellowed to the crowd.

Oscar season 2024 starts in about 10 minutes.