Best and Worst Moments From the 2023 Oscars

Michelle Yeoh made history, Ke Huy Quan made us tear up and Cocaine Bear made us cringe. These were just some of the highs and lows.

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By Stephanie Goodman

What will go wrong? After several years of missteps and controversies, that was the question hanging over the Oscar telecast on Sunday night. But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences pulled off a largely controversy-free ceremony that seemed to keep everything on track, or at least didn’t go off the rails. It came in close to on time, featured several emotional moments and even set some records. Here are the highs and lows as we saw them.

Most Historic Victory: Michelle Yeoh Becomes the First Asian Best Actress Winner

In the 95-year history of the Oscars, an Asian performer had never taken home the best actress statuette — until Sunday, when Michelle Yeoh won the Academy Award for her lead performance as a beleaguered laundromat owner in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Her win — also the first for a Malaysian performer — was one of many breakthroughs for Asian artists on Sunday. Her co-star Ke Huy Quan became the first Vietnamese-born performer to win an Oscar, and their combined victories marked the first time more than one performer of Asian descent had won an Oscar in a single year.

“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities,” Yeoh said, adding, “This is proof that dreams — dream big, and dreams do come true.” — Matt Stevens

Quickest Pivot: Jimmy Kimmel Jokes About the Slap

Long before the telecast, academy executives made it clear: they did not want the Slap — the shocking moment when Will Smith struck Chris Rock onstage last year — to be mentioned on the telecast this year, not even in joke form. They took great pains to make sure something like that would not happen again, going so far as to set up a crisis team and run through different scenarios. They even chose a veteran host, Jimmy Kimmel, for his ability to handle anything live television could throw at him. What they didn’t count on was the host bringing up the subject they most wanted to avoid.

“If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point during the show, you will be awarded the Oscar for best actor and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech,” he joked near the top of the show, starting a string of jokes related to the Slap. Since it was the subject many of us at home were most interested in, the academy’s loss was our gain. — Stephanie Goodman

Most Heartfelt Acceptance: Ke Huy Quan

The Oscars can often vacillate between insidery navel-gazing and a ho-hum march toward best picture, but occasionally an acceptance speech cuts through the noise with authenticity. On Sunday, those emotional words came from a teary-eyed Ke Huy Quan, 51, whose supporting actor Oscar was the stuff of dreams.

After childhood success in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies,” his career had stalled for two long decades until he won the role of a supportive but neglected husband in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the part that brought him to the Dolby Theater.

Putting in perspective the long road some performers tread to achieve film’s highest honor, the Vietnamese-born Quan thanked his 84-year-old mother, who was at home watching, for the sacrifices she made to bring their family to the United States. “My journey started on a boat,” he said. “I spent a year in a refugee camp. And somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This, this is the American dream.” — Maya Salam

Biggest Feel-Good Win: Jamie Lee Curtis

It was fitting, probably, that Jamie Lee Curtis won the supporting actress Oscar just a few minutes after her “Everything Everywhere All at Once” co-star Ke Huy Quan took supporting actor.

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