Oscars best moments: Acting legends present, thrilling Best Song performances …

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Aside from delivering some surprise victories and actually ending on time, the 2024 Academy Awards had plenty of terrific attributes to celebrate. From rousing presentations and passionate acceptance speeches to downright thrilling song performances, here are four of the best moments from the 96th Oscars on Sunday, Mar. 10.

Tremendous Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress presentations

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Oscar fanatics were thrilled when the ceremony’s producers announced that they would be reviving the acting presentations last seen over a decade ago, in which five past winners assemble to introduce and honor the current nominees. The presentations for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress certainly didn’t disappoint in regard to who showed up and the reactions of the nominees. Jamie Lee Curtis, Regina King, Rita Moreno, Lupita Nyong’o and Mary Steenburgen toasted this year’s supporting actresses while Sally Field, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron and Michelle Yeoh were on hand to present Best Actress. These lineups gave us a smart balance of recent winners and screen legends, especially with the appearances of Field, Lange and Moreno. The reaction from the honorees was also incredibly special, most notably winner Da’Vine Joy Randolph, who immediately teared up as Nyong’o mentioned that the actress paid tribute to her grandmother in “The Holdovers” by wearing her glasses as she played Mary. It was small-screen magic.

SEE 2024 Oscars live blog: ‘Oppenheimer’ wins 7 including Best Picture, ‘Poor Things’ claims 4

Cord Jefferson pleads for more support of small films

Speaking of Randolph, so many of this year’s winners gave passionate acceptance speeches, from “The Holdovers” winner talking about when and how she learned that she “was enough,” to Robert Downey Jr. thanking his wife because she “loved [him] back to life” and Emma Stone’s genuine shock at her victory over Lily Gladstone. But one of the most memorable was writer Cord Jefferson’s after winning Adapted Screenplay for “American Fiction.” He used his limited stage time to advocate for studios and film financiers to go small. Acknowledging that a $200 million movie carries a lot of risk, the first-time filmmaker said Hollywood could be funding 10 $20 million movies or 50 $4 million movies for the same price tag and thus give many more important voices like his a much-needed chance. It is a message that no doubt resonated with many throughout the industry.

Mstyslav Chernov’s moving Best Documentary Feature acceptance speech

Oscar voters have often embraced films depicting global political and social issues and this year awarded Documentary Feature to “20 Days in Mariupol.” Director Mstyslav Chernov gave a moving acceptance speech, balancing the honor of winning an Oscar with the tragic reasons he had to make the film in the first place. He had the audience in the auditorium rapt as he said he wished he could trade in the trophy to erase the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the deaths of tens of thousands of his countrymen. His speech also served as a testament to the importance of film as an art form, acknowledging that while he cannot change the course of history, he can make sure the historical record is set straight. Director Jonathan Glazer also used his acceptance speech after winning Best International Feature for “The Zone of Interest” to speak out against past and present forms of dehumanization, including the ongoing attack on Gaza; he was the only winner to do so from the stage.

Excellent Original Song performances

Not every Oscar telecast can have an Original Song performance as magnetic as Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” back in 2019. But this year’s were by and large exceptional. The producers knew when to go minimal and let the material and musicians speak for themselves, as in the renditions of winning song “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish and Finneas, “It Never Went Away” with Jon Batiste on vocals and piano, and the rousing and important “Wahzhazhe – A Song for My People.” On the other hand, Ryan Gosling and a coterie of other “Barbie” Kens went maximalist for “I’m Just Ken” and brought the house down with assists from Slash and Wolfie Van Halen on guitars.

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