—by Dr. Laura Wilhelm, LauraWil Intercultural
Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 3/13/23 – Oscar Night 2023 was enjoyed by all on March 12th at the Baker Manor located at 12431 Mulholland Drive in Beverly Hills. This one-of-a-kind hilltop venue was formerly owned by Hollywood power couple Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. Though rain and fog obscured stunning city views, the unseasonable weather could not dampen the exuberant feel of the fancy dress extravaganza!
Jonathan Baker and the ever-ready French Riviera Film Festival team co-hosted the viewing event. “I was busy, but of course I enjoyed the evening,” commented Nicole Muj, event planner and co-founder of the French Riviera Film Festival.
The riotous red carpet showcased old FRFF associates such as Vincent De Paul, Kat Kramer, Caroline Lagerfelt, Larry Namer, and Dustin Quick with her husband Medi eM as well as the inimitable Sue Wong. Among the fresh new faces was Renee Pea, LA’s Consul General of Croatia–a nation which this reporter had the rare pleasure of visiting for her doctoral studies during the summers of 1989 and 1990.
During the evening, French Riviera Film Festival founders Nicole Muj and Gotham Chandna paid tribute to legendary actor, the late Paul Sorvino at Jonathan Baker’s Oscar Viewing Party. E! founder and fellow Brooklynite Larry Namer presented the 2023 Icon Award honoring Paul to his widow Dee Dee Sorvino.
As for the actual Oscar ceremonies ably hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, intercultural and international films made an unusually strong showing. The metaphysical dramedy EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE lived up to its name with seven awards that included Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.
The genre-bending film was made by two American-born directors (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) and featured many well-known Asian actors such as Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, who earned Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Actor in a Supporting Role honors as the grimly determined immigrant owners of a failing US laundromat. Jamie Lee Curtis also received a Best Actress in a Supporting Role statuette for her hilarious turn as an obstructive IRS employee. All three of these versatile actors played many alternative versions of themselves in a daffy multicultural multiverse.
Both Yeoh and Quan made touching acceptance speeches about the sacrifices their families had made so they could pursue their versions of the American Dream in film. “I have to dedicate this [Oscar] to my mom, and to all the moms of the world, because they are really the superheroes–and without them, none of us would be here tonight,” said Yeoh. Curtis likewise acknowledged her Oscar-nominated parents, actors Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis.
Germany’s anti-war epic ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT directed by Edward Berger was this year’s second biggest Oscar winner with four awards for Best International Feature Film, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score. The score’s portentous three-note signature that played every time a win was announced reminded this reporter of the immortal four-note motto from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
The Canadian film NAVALNY directed by Daniel Roher which details the activities of prominent Russian-Ukrainian dissident Alexei Navalny received the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature Film. The 46-year-old Navalny has won the Sakharov Prize for his humanitarian work opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime. Navalny ironically had to hear about the Oscar win from his lawyer in prison.
Another Canadian filmmaker, Sarah Polley, scored an Oscar win for her Best Adapted Screenplay from WOMEN TALKING. The film was based upon a 2018 book by Miriam Toews about an isolated Mennonite community in Bolivia (of all places). Oscar-winning American actress Frances McDormand starred in the film.
India won Oscars for Best Documentary, Short Subject (“The Elephant Whisperers”) directed by Kartiki Gonsalves and Best Original Song (“Naatu Naatu”) composed by M.M. Keeravani. The lively song and dance number is featured in the Telugu language film RRR directed by S.S. Rajamouli.
The tiny but mighty island nation of Ireland won the award for Best Live Action Short Film with “An Irish Goodbye” directed by Tom Berkeley and Ross White. The film’s star, James Martin, turned out to be celebrating his 31st birthday! He received a rousing serenade from an audience that included fellow Irish actors Kerry Condon, Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Barry Keoghan as well as British-Irish director Martin McDonagh (THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN). In the days leading up to the Oscars, Martin and his entourage reportedly made the rounds of Irish pubs in Los Angeles to anticipate St. Patrick’s Day.
Acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro continued his substantial winning streak with an award for Best Animated Feature Film (PINOCCHIO). This familiar subject seems like a natural outgrowth of del Toro’s longtime obsession with fairy tales and fantasy. “Animation is ready to be taken to the next step,” del Toro prophesied.
“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. Voiced by Jude Coward Nicoll, Gabriel Byrne, Idris Elba, and Tom Hollander, the film was based on a 2019 illustrated children’s book by British author Charlie Mackesy, who co-directed the film along with Peter Baynton.
The evening’s biggest upset perhaps occurred when Brendan Fraser (THE WHALE) beat out frontrunner Austin Butler (ELVIS) for the coveted Best Actor in a Leading Role award. Fraser’s morbidly obese and reclusive English professor is the polar opposite of the irresistibly seductive performer that was Elvis Presley. (Butler notoriously won a Golden Globe award for the same role just days before the untimely death of Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’ only daughter, at the age of 54).
Whatever one could say about the 95th Annual Academy Awards, few could deny that the convivial Baker Manor viewing soiree made everyone feel like a star in their very own movie. And selfies taken around the regal manor and its grounds were indeed de rigueur.
This reporter would like to conclude with a shout out to husband Chris Wilhelm, her favorite laundry and tax man, for braving the hair-raising round trip through the rain-soaked twists and turns of the fabled Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Mulholland Drive. A vanpool may be in order for Oscars 2024! Please join us then.