ANALYSIS: 5 takeaways from the 96th Oscars

Sunday’s 96th annual Academy Awards may have been all about the “father of the atomic bomb” but Ken had the last laugh.

Christopher Nolan’s excellent, epic account of J. Robert Oppenheimer won seven awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Even so this year’s Oscars will be most remembered for Ryan Gosling owning his Kendom in one of the best and most liveliest musical numbers in Oscar history.

Here are five key takeaways from Hollywood’s biggest night.

1. Ryan Gosling’s showstopping performance of “I’m Just Ken”

It was the moment that delivered everything “Barbie” fans hoped it would. Best Supporting Actor nominee Ryan Gosling, handsome in a bedazzled pink suit and never forgetting to be playful, performed a rousing rendition of Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt’s nominated rock anthem “I’m Just Ken” that was so electric it should’ve opened the show. Looking cool and suave in a cowboy hat and shades, Gosling initially worked the audience, including his “Barbie” buddies Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig, before joining fellow Kens center stage including Simu Liu and Kingsley Ben-Adir. Lifted in the air among a sea of oversized Barbie heads, appearing with Guns N’ Roses’ Slash on guitar, and heading back into the audience for impromptu fun, Gosling took full control of the song without going over the top or underplaying its sentiment. He was a joy to watch and much more than Kenough.

2. Jimmy Kimmel continues to be ideal Oscar host

For the fourth year, Jimmy Kimmel proved why he’s an ideal choice to host the Oscars. He genuinely cares about the nominated actors and films, and also surrounds himself with writers that poke Hollywood with jokes that sting instead of scorch. Kimmel’s zingers were sharp overall with nods to politics (particularly U.S. Senator Katie Britt of Alabama’s rebuttal to the State of the Union address), age (”In 1976, Jodie Foster was young enough to be Robert DeNiro’s daughter — now she’s 20 years too old to be his girlfriend”) and beauty (Robbie and Gosling winning “the genetic lottery”). Who knows how long Kimmel will agree to host the Oscars but I will admit I was impressed with Kate McKinnon’s hilarious presence alongside America Ferrera during their presentation of the documentary categories. McKinnon definitely needs to be on standby for 2025.

3. John Cena in his birthday suit

You can never say the Oscars fail to surprise. In a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Oscar streaker, John Cena participated in a comic bit featuring him walking gingerly across the stage to present Best Costume Design with only a properly placed envelope. Before he took the stage, Cena jokingly told Kimmel he had reservations and decided against going through with it. But lo and behold, he made his way center stage, proving he was a good sport and scoring big laughs.

4. Former Oscar winners present acting categories

For the first time since 2009, the four acting categories were presented by former winners. This wonderfully nostalgic decision provided endearing moments for the presenters both reflective (I loved the sincerity among the supporting actresses which included Regina King, Rita Moreno and Lupita Nyong’o) and humorous (Nicolas Cage being in awe of Paul Giamatti’s commitment to character for his portrayal in “The Holdovers”). However I was disappointed the producers opted not to show any clips. It was an odd move and a break from tradition. Considering the ceremony ultimately had to stretch for time (and let’s make the earlier start of 7 p.m. EST a new Oscar tradition), it was unfortunate not to have allowed viewers familiar and unfamiliar to see the outstanding qualities of the 20 nominated performances.

5. The best acceptance speech

In an evening filled with strong speeches both personal and political, Best Supporting Actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph (”The Holdovers”) set the gold standard at the outset with a beautifully heartfelt speech that acknowledged her former drama teachers while also stressing the importance of authenticity. “For so long I’ve always wanted to be different and now I realize I just need to be myself,” Randolph said.

Right Now with Russell spotlights arts and entertainment news every Friday and as news arises. From the latest in local arts to the latest in film, music, TV, awards season and other hot button topics, the goal is to fill you in on what’s new in order to satisfy your entertainment cravings. He can be reached at

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