Follow TV Tropes


Useful Notes / Academy Awards Ceremonies

Go To
It's Hollywood's biggest night.

"As you well know by now, this is the [...] Academy Awards. Two hours of sparkling entertainment, spread out over a four-hour show."
Johnny Carson, opening the 1979 ceremony

The mother of all Award Shows, the annual Academy Awards ceremony (also known as simply The Oscars) is typically considered a major entertainment event in its own right.

In addition to (of course) the presentation of the eponymous awards themselves, the ceremony typically features a mix of comedy bits, musical numbers (including, traditionally, performances of the nominees for Best Original Song), and other feature segments (including, since 1993, an "in memoriam" segment featuring a montage of notable figures in film who died during the past year). The ceremony is known for being Carried by the Host, often relying on an actor or personality with a comedy background: Bob Hope and Billy Crystal have been well-known hosts in the past, with Hope in particular having hosted a record 19 times. The ceremony's producers have experimented with other hosting arrangements as well, such as having multiple hosts in a group, or having presenters rotated throughout rather than one or more definitive hosts.

The ceremony was first televised by NBC for the 25th Academy Awards in 1953. Since 1960 (barring a brief return to NBC from 1971–75), the ceremony has been consistently broadcast by ABC, under a contract recently renewed through at least 2028. The ceremony has had a history of high viewership, especially if a highly-regarded film was in the running for Best Picture (such as Titanic, which caused the 1998 ceremony to have just over 57 million viewers), although ratings have steadily dropped since the Turn of the Millennium due to multiple factors, such as changing viewing habits and the reception of recent ceremonies. In 2021, the ceremony was delayed all the way until April 25 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its impact on the film industry, which also caused the ceremony to carry a different look and feel (trading the Dolby Theatre for a Retraux banquet at the historic ticket hall of Union Station in Los Angeles), and earned the dubious honor of being the least-watched Academy Awards show in recorded history, drawing a mere 10.4 million viewers. The ceremony returned to the Dolby Theatre in 2022, with an improvement in viewership but still the second-lowest overall.

Until The New '10s, the Oscars were notable as one of the few non-sports primetime programs to be broadcast live nationwide, rather than tape-delayed for the West Coast. However, over that decade most of the other major awards shows began to follow suit with the popularity of social media, which demanded a more "communal" viewing experience and made it harder to avoid spoilers.

Also during a important anniversary in the Academy, (except for some presentations when the Academy can't plan any celebrations) the show would commemorate the Academy's important anniversary milestone.

And the Oscar Goes to…

  • Adam Westing: At the 1999 show, Jim Carrey presented Film Editing only to break down in mock tears over not being nominated for Best Actor for The Truman Show, which was widely seen as a massive surprise snub. When he was snubbed the very next year for his equally acclaimed Man on the Moon performance the producers attempted to get him to appear in the "Psycho" Shower Murder Parody in Billy Crystal's opening film montage to reference his awful luck, but he declined. Carrey would present awards at later ceremonies, however.
  • Assumed Win:
  • Attack of the Political Ad: Played for Laughs on the 2006 Awards, which was hosted by Jon Stewart, then host of the news/political satire show The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. One was about Keira Knightley and took a shot at Charlize Theron "hagging it up" in movies such as Monster.
    "Keira Knightley for Best Actress. Keira Knightley, Acting While Beautiful!"

  • Bilingual Bonus: Trevor Noah's appearance at the 91st Academy Awards has him use his gift for languages to insert an "old Xhosa phrase" which at the ceremony he says, is about how people are strong when they come together. Xhosa-speaking viewers correctly identified that what he said was "White people don't know I'm lying".
  • Black Comedy:
    • During the 1993 ceremony, Billy Crystal mentioning that Disney had bought a hockey team (the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim), and then saying he'd thought that the only "Disney on Ice" was Walt himself (alluding to the urban legend that Walt Disney was encased in a block of ice after his death). Crystal mentioned afterward that the reason he wore black was so that he could make that joke.
    • Seth MacFarlane, when speaking about Lincoln in 2013, quipped that in his opinion the actor who "really got inside Lincoln's head" was John Wilkes Booth. The audience audibly winced at that one.
      Seth MacFarlane: Really? A hundred and fifty years, and it's still too soon, huh?
  • Camp: In general, the show's production numbers — such as the chorus numbers that opened many shows up through the 1990s, interpretive dance/variety performances used to introduce categories such as Original Score and Costume Design, and performances of Best Song nominees that don't take a minimalist approach have often qualified as low/unintentional camp. The notorious Snow White-meets-Rob Lowe opening of 1989 was actually high/intentional camp, adapted from the beloved San Francisco-based revue Beach Blanket Babylon, but to say audiences didn't get the joke is an understatement (though some of it was also due to that type of humor not really translating well to television or to a large concert hall in the first place). Post-1989, there have been production numbers led by the hosts that are intentionally tongue-in-cheek but more obviously humorous, which are usually well-received (see Hugh Jackman's opening in 2009).
  • Channel Hop:
    • From NBC (which first televised the ceremonies in 1953) to ABC in 1961, back to NBC in 1971, and back to ABC in 1976.
    • Also applies to global broadcasters since the ceremonies airs in more than 300 countries, so channel-hopping across the world is to be expected.note 
  • Continuity Nod: A few memorable moments will carry over to the following year.
  • Costume Porn: Usually of the fancy side, as Sharp-Dressed Man and Pimped-Out Dress is the dress code which it would always been seen in the red carpet. But the subversions of that are always memorable, be it weird, ridiculous, cross-dressing, or way too informal.
  • Creator's Apathy / Took the Bad Film Seriously: By the Oscar crew's own admission, the 2011 award show, hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway, is remembered as one of the most notorious duds in the ceremonies' history because of a combination of this by the hosts. Franco wasn't too invested in the material in rehearsal and had very low energy onstage, while Hathaway was extremely committed to every segment and sustained very high energy throughout. But since the two didn't mesh, their duo came off as "the world’s most uncomfortable blind date between the cool rocker stoner kid and the adorable theater camp cheerleader."
  • Extra-Long Episode:
    • The 74th Awards, in 2002, set a record by running 4 hours and 23 minutes; in the same amount of time, you could watch Best Picture winner A Beautiful Mind and fellow nominee Moulin Rouge! back-to-back. There were several factors that led to this: There was a first-time producer (Laura Ziskin) working on a show that had been flirting with the 4-hour mark in the years since it was moved to an early evening Sunday timeslot. But there was also a huge sense of "a historic night" that permeated the show. It was the first Oscars held in the newly-built theater at the Hollywood & Highland complex, and with Whoopi Goldberg hosting and the expected (and ultimately delivered) wins of Denzel Washington and Halle Berry for Best Actor and Best Actress, the night was anticipated to be a watershed moment for race relations in Hollywood. Add the fact that it was the first post-9/11 Oscars, with all the expected tributes and "Movies: Now More Than Ever" rhetoric, and you had plenty of statements that the show wanted to make. Most reviews acknowledged that Oscar's heart was in the right place, but felt the whole thing just got too bloated. The Academy vowed to tighten things up in the future, and the show hasn't gone over four hours since.
    • Lampshaded by Jimmy Kimmel during the 2018 ceremony, when he announced that he would give a jet ski as a prize to the winner who makes the shortest acceptance speech (presented The Price Is Right style — with Helen Mirren as the model). Mark Bridges (Best Costume Design, Phantom Thread) won with a time of 30 seconds.
    • Ironically, in 2022, the hugely controversial decision to pre-tape nearly a third of the award presentations (mostly within the technical categories) so as to make sure the ceremony did not run over three hours (which was allegedly mandated by the network) backfired completely, with the ceremony running 40 minutes over the planned limit, making it longer than the average ceremony.
  • Eye Take: Steve Martin hosted the 2001 show. This trope came into play in re the Accidental Innuendo in Penélope Cruz' filmography.
    "Ms. Cruz has been seen in the films Live Flesh, Woman On Top and can now be seen in Blow."
  • The Host: A celebrity, usually (though not always) a comedian, typically serves as master of ceremonies for the show. There have been a number of them through the years.
    • Bob Hope hosted a record 19 times, either alone or in conjunction with others, between 1940 and 1978. A Running Gag was Hope's disappointment over failing to get a Best Actor statue himself.
    • Billy Crystal comes in second, having hosted nine times, and is regarded by many as the best Oscar host ever. Perhaps his most memorable moment came in 1992, when he opened the show by being wheeled onto the stage in a Hannibal Lecter getup.
    • Other notable Oscar hosts have included Johnny Carson, Chevy Chase, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, Hugh Jackman, Seth MacFarlane, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jimmy Kimmel.
    • In some years there have been multiple hosts sharing the duties. This has been a rarity since the '80s, although in 2010 Steve Martin co-hosted with Alec Baldwin, while the 2011 ceremony paired James Franco with Anne Hathaway and the 2022 ceremony featured Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall.
    • There was also the "Friends of Oscar" era (1969-71), when MC duties rotated throughout the show among a big group of stars (34 [!] in 1971).
    • Averted with the 1989 ceremonies, which went one step beyond the "Friends of Oscar" idea: There was no designated hosts at all, just a long series of presenters (some only introduced the actual presenters of an award!), most of whom were themed pairs as per Allan Carr's "Couples, Companions, Costars, Compadres" theme.
    • The 2019 ceremony also went hostless after planned host Kevin Hart dropped out (due to the controversy over some old homophobic comments he'd made on Twitter) and the Academy was unable to find a replacement. When ratings improved from the previous year, the decision was made to forego a host for the 2020 ceremony as well, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the stripped-down, socially-distanced 2021 ceremony also went host-less. After 2022 had a trio of hosts, the ceremony finally returned to a single host in '23.
  • Hulk Speak: David Letterman's poorly regarded hosting stint at the 67th Awards saw him tell one joke that went over fairly well: the suggestion that the phrase "Eat Drink Man Woman" happened to be what Arnold Schwarzenegger said to Maria Shriver when he asked her out on their first date.
  • Inherently Funny Words: David Letterman's infamous "Oprah...Uma, Uma...Oprah" bit (pretending to introduce them by their first names). Letterman's love of this trope was one of his signatures on his late night shows, but it fell completely flat in the context of the Oscars. It didn't help that he was more-or-less winging the joke; it was pitched to him shortly before airtime, Winfrey and Thurman weren't in on the gag, and he also stalled slightly so he could figure out where they were seated.
  • Interface Spoiler: Occasionally you can guess who the winner will be based on the presenters, although the Academy usually avoids this on most occasions. One very obvious example is the 2007 Ceremony, where Martin Scorsese was nominated for Best Director for The Departed with many believing he would finally win this time. As soon as the presenters came on stage (Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas), it became clear that Scorsese would win owing to the fact that he and the presenters were part of the "movie brats" generation, mostly because of the association, but also because it was rare for three presenters to give the Best Director award.
  • Irony: Presenting the Best Makeup award at the 1987 show, Rodney Dangerfield pondered "In the movies, everybody wants to look good, you know? And who always wins the [makeup] award? The guy who creates the ugliest creature there is!" Even funnier, he was right on the money: The Fly (1986) beat The Clan of the Cave Bear and Legend (1985) for the award.
  • "I Want" Song: The 1989 telecast had "I Wanna Be an Oscar Winner", a number performed by various "stars of tomorrow" including, among others, Corey Feldman and Christian Slater. It went over about as well as the Snow White/Rob Lowe opener did.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: A guaranteed crowd-pleaser is to pair the co-stars of a classic film as presenters. Real Life couples and parent/child teams are also favorites of the producers. Taken to extremes with the 1989 telecast: The night's theme was pairs, including three at-the-time couples, twelve co-stars of popular and/or upcoming films, two parent/child groups, and two pairs that qualified as both co-stars AND lovers (Jeff Goldblum / Geena Davis and Kurt Russell / Goldie Hawn) and that was just among the presenters. The notorious Snow White opening number had a few more co-star/couple pairings trucked out (Roy Rogers / Dale Evans, Vincent Price / Coral Browne).
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • The 2014 ceremony led to memes of "Adele Dazeem" (Idina Menzel's name, accidentally butchered by John Travolta) and the Oscar Selfie.
    • The Best Picture gaffe of 2017 became an instant meme, with the card that had Moonlight's name frequently being photoshopped to include everything from snubbed films to complete nonsense such as copypastas. The gaffe also includes the photo of the celebrities' reactions to the blunder, especially that of the Rock.
    • 2022's ceremony featured Will Smith slapping Chris Rock after the latter made a joke about the former's wife's baldness. Videos of the event (and Smith's Precision F-Strike of "Keep my wife's name out your fucking mouth!") have gone viral. A still of the slap has been turned into a common meme template. Reaction shots of the other attendees also made the meme rounds, though many of them were later revealed to not have actually been taken at the time of the incident. The widely-circulated shot of Nicole Kidman gasping was taken hours earlier when she saw Jessica Chastain's dress for the first time before the show.
  • Musical Gag: When presenters come out on stage there's often thematically appropriate music accompanying them, such as the theme from one of their past movies, but sometimes Genius Bonus gags of this sort turn up instead. For instance, in 1989 Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis' entrance was scored by "Flight of the Bumblebee".
  • Newer Than They Think:
    • Clips of the Best Picture nominees being spread out over the entire show, as well as presenters saying "And the Oscar goes to..."note  only date back to the 61st ceremonies in 1989—yes, the notorious Allan Carr-produced "Worst Oscars Ever". Other Oscar staples that Carr introduced were extended red carpet coverage before the show, and Bruce Vilanch as a member of the writing staff (he stuck around for the next 25 years).
    • The Obituary Montage has only been an annual part of the show since 1994.
    • The current venue, the Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak Theatre) at Hollywood and Highland, opened in 2002. Before that, Hollywood's biggest night hadn't actually been held in Hollywood for 41 years. It moved to Santa Monica for 8 years, then bounced between two downtown LA venues (the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Shrine Auditorium) for the next few decades. In 2021, additional venues were added in Union Station, the (Megabox COEX) Dolby Cinema in Seoul, additional venues in the UK, Europe, Australia and (exclusively for the preshow musical segments) The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. This was a response to the ongoing global travel restrictions around the world. (with no audience attending except for nominated people and their families) During the 1990 presentation, the theme of that presentation was about global unity (after the devastating presentation prior) for the film industry with venues being held via satellite in London, Moscow, Buenos Aires, Sydney, and Tokyo.
    • The ceremonies only started being really long in 1974, when the show ran 3 hours and 23 minutes, a full 45 minutes longer than the previous year. Before then, it wasn't at all uncommon for the show to finish in under two hours, or for the Oscars to be shorter than the film that won Best Picture (the ceremonies honoring The Godfather, Lawrence of Arabia, West Side Story and Ben-Hur all had this odd distinction).
    • They've only been held on a Sunday night since the 71st Awards in 1999. Before that, they were traditionally a Monday night show.
  • Old Master: The 54th Awards saw acting category victories for Henry Fonda (76 at the time), Katharine Hepburn (74), John Gielgud (77) and Maureen Stapleton (a youthful 56).
  • Older Than They Think: Repurposing the lyrics to an older song to be about the show and/or the nominees predated Billy Crystal and even the "Proud Mary" rewrite of the 1989 ceremony. The 1987 ceremony featured a rewrite of "Fugue for Tinhorns" performed by Telly Savalas, Pat Morita, and Dom DeLuise, and the 1988 ceremony revamped "I Hope I Get It" performed by a chorus of singers dressed as Oscar statuettes.
  • The Other Darrin: The first official performance of Bugs Bunny by a different voice actor after Mel Blanc's death was at the 62nd awards in 1990, when Jeff Bergman voiced him presenting the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: Some moments have proven so notorious they ended up defining their particular ceremony.
    • The first really big politically-charged moment happened at the 45th awards in 1973, when Marlon Brando sent actress/model/activist Sacheen Littlefeather to decline the Best Actor statuette along with a 15-page speech (which producers refused to let her read, limiting her time to sixty seconds) condemning the plight of Native Americans and Hollywood's treatment of them.note  Littlefeather's appearance drew a combination of applause, boos and Stunned Silence from the audience. Raquel Welch (co-presenting Best Actress) voiced the hope that no one else would try to make a statement that night, while Clint Eastwood (presenting Best Picture) made a stilted joke about presenting "on behalf of all the cowboys shot in all the John Ford westerns over the years."note  The incident was brought back to the spotlight in 2022 following four incidents: the Will Smith/Chris Rock slap (prompting mention of previous notorious Oscar moments), the Academy issuing a formal apology to Littlefeather for her treatment at the show in June, Littlefeather's own death in October, and subsequent scrutiny over the background of Littlefeather, who'd been born Maria Louise Cruz and claimed Yaqui and White Mountain Apache ancestry through her father Manuel Cruz. A Navajo writer and activist interviewed Littlefeather's two sisters later the same month, and they told her Littlefeather fabricated her Native American ancestry, saying their family is of Spanish-Mexican descent and has no tribal ties.
    • In 1974, the 46th Academy Awards were best known for being briefly interrupted when a man named Robert Opel rushed onto the stage and streaked naked behind presenter David Niven, who without missing a beat quipped, "Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"
    • When Hearts and Minds won Best Documentary Feature just weeks before the fall of Saigon in 1975, producer Bert Schneider's acceptance speech included his reading a telegram sent by a Viet Cong leader to "Our friends in America." Bob Hope, hopping mad over this, urged the show's producers to make an announcement distancing the Oscars from political comments made by winners, which was read on-air by Frank Sinatra.
    • Vanessa Redgrave's Supporting Actress nomination for Julia garnered controversy before the awards, because of her advocacy for Palestinian causes. When she won, she criticized "Zionist hoodlums" in her speech, which drew boos from the audience. Again, another presenter came out later and lamented the use of the Oscars as a political platform, in this case screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky (who, himself being Jewish, was throughly displeased with Redgrave's actions).
    • The 1989 ceremony, despite having one of the widest-ranging and starry presenter lineups imaginable for its time, the most popular Best Picture winner in years, the rare feat of one of the night's winners also serving as a presenter (Geena Davis, who won her Supporting Actress award for The Accidental Tourist before co-presenting Documentary Short Subject), and memorable comedy bits from (among others) Robin Williams and Billy Crystal, was completely sunk by the extreme Camp of the 10-minute-plus "Snow White goes to Hollywood" opening sequence and "I Wanna Be an Oscar Winner" later, leading several major Hollywood creatives headed up by Blake Edwards to take out an ad saying the show was an insult to the American film industry, and the Walt Disney Company attempting a lawsuit over the unauthorized use of their version of Snow White. The general critical reception was so poor that the show was completely overhauled the next year, and Crystal was tapped by new producer Gilbert Cates to host the 1990 ceremony largely because he was so frequently pointed to as a highlight in '89.
    • Elia Kazan's Lifetime Achievement award in 1999 drew protesters to the awards and dozens of conspicuous non-applauders in the audience (most prominently Nick Nolte and Ed Harris), because of his actions during The Hollywood Blacklist era.
    • Roman Polański's Best Director win for The Pianist, given that he was (and still is) a fugitive from justice for a sex crime. In contrast to Kazan's award, the absent Polanski got a standing ovation from those in attendance, which came back to haunt many of them with the rise of the #MeToo movement over a decade later (particularly Meryl Streep).
    • The famous gaffe over La La Land and Moonlight (2016) overshadowed both the ceremony and the reputations of both films, and became the most notable impact both films made in popular culture.
    • The 2021 ceremony received massive criticism for its conclusion, when it was decided that the Best Actor winner would be announced after the Best Picture winner. It was obvious that the Academy was banking on Chadwick Boseman winning posthumously for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, complete with Boseman's widow accepting the award on his behalf. However, Joaquin Phoenix announced that the award went to Anthony Hopkins instead for his role in The Father, and then had to accept it on his behalf because the Academy refused to let the absent Hopkins appear over Zoom. Not only did the Academy's attempt at Pandering to the Base fail to pay off, but Hopkins' absence meant that the ceremony pretty much ended after Hopkins' victory was announced, leading to an abrupt, anticlimactic, and awkward conclusion for the ceremonies. Not to mention that the Boseman snub reinforced the perception of the Academy as discriminatory against people of color.
    • 2022 was contentious even before the ceremonies happened, due to eight technical categories being removed from the main broadcast, under heavy pressure from ABC. Then there was the infamous Will Smith/Chris Rock slapping incident, followed by Smith winning Best Actor and giving an emotionally-charged acceptance speech, dominated discussion and media coverage of the ceremony. The footage of the slap itself went viral on social media, with memes about it spreading everywhere. Overnight it went from a discussion on celebrities fighting to a discussion on toxic masculinity, fidelity, and race, with various celebrities and social media split on which side to support. Because of this, Smith voluntarily resigned from his Academy membership, and in turn, the Academy banned him from attending future Oscars ceremonies and related events for 10 years. At the end of July 2022, Smith also posted a video on his Youtube channel, issuing an apology to Rock and feeling remorse for his actions.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect:
    • There have been several occasions from the late 1980s onward where animated characters "came on stage" to present the Best Animated Short Film award, including Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Belle and the Beast (plus Chip), Snow White, and Chicken Little and Abby Mallard. This hasn't just happened for that one category; Beavis And Butthead presented the award for Best Sound Editing in 1997 and Edna Mode presented for Best Costume Design in 2005!
    • Ironically, an original concept for the 1989 show was for the trope-naming character and his wife Jessica to present the film's animation director Richard Williams with his Honorary Oscar, but producer Allan Carr said it was scrapped when they learned how expensive and time-consuming it would be.
    • Donald Duck actually served as one of several co-hosts for the 1958 ceremony.
    • The Toy Story characters also appeared at several of the Oscars ceremonies for three times.
      • The first was in 1996, when the first film's director John Lasseter was honored with a Special Achievement Awards for creating the first computer-animated film ever created. Woody and Buzz Lightyear came to life as well as a talking Oscar statuette.
      • The second was in 2000 (a year after Toy Story 2 was released), when Buzz, Woody, Jessie and Bullseye presented the Best Animated Short Film award, while Mr. and Ms. Potato Head were sitting under the seats. The Rock'em Sock'em Robots also appeared there guarding Buzz.
      • The third was in 2016 (in time for the franchise's 20th anniversary) and this time, the Best Animated Feature Film award was presented by Woody and Buzz.
    • The 2002 show, which introduced the Best Animated Feature category, had the lead characters from the three nominated films (Shrek, Monsters, Inc. and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius) appear to be sitting in the auditorium as the nominations were read. Moreover, when Shrek was announced as the winner, its characters celebrated while those from the losing films looked shocked and/or disappointed that they did not win. This was repeated for the 2007 show, too.
    • The 80th Academy Awards ceremony had the Best Animated Short Film award being presented by Barry B. Benson from Bee Movie.
    • The 82nd Academy Awards ceremony had a segment where characters from each of that year's nominations for Best Animated Feature Film (Mr. Fox, Coraline, Aisling, Prince Naveen and Louis, and Carl and Dug) were asked what the nomination meant to them. It also contains a brief Take That! towards the category, with Mr. Fox being disappointed he didn't get nominated "like a real movie"!
    • The 88th Academy Awards ceremony had the Best Animated Short Film award being presented by Kevin, Stuart and Bob from Minions.
  • Rule of Three: Daniel Day-Lewis has won the Best Actor Oscar three times, a record for any actor. Jack Nicholson and Walter Brenann have also won three Oscars each, albeit with two of Nicholson's in the Best Actor category and one for Supporting Actor, while Brennan won all three of his as a Supporting Actor. Meryl Streep too has three, two as Best Actress and one as Supporting, as does Frances McDormand, with three for Best Actress (and a fourth for producing). (Katharine Hepburn, meanwhile, won four awards for Best Actress.)
  • Running Gag:
    • Johnny Carson was well-known for taking an odd moment from early in the show and referring to it later on. The most memorable case was at the 52nd Awards in 1980. Alan Splet won a special award for his sound effects work on The Black Stallion, but couldn't be at the ceremony because he was in England working on The Elephant Man. Seizing on Splet's Inherently Funny Name, Carson joked that actually he was stuck in traffic driving to the ceremony and gave updates on the various mishaps Splet was facing on his journey. When Melvyn Douglas, also absent, won Best Supporting Actor for Being There, Carson joked that he was in Splet's carpool.
    • Billy Crystal's second hosting gig in 1991 had him make his entrance riding a steer, referencing his soon-to-open film City Slickers. The next two years had similarly silly entrances — being wheeled out on a gurney just like Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs in 1992, and being towed out on a giant Oscar by Jack Palance in 1993. That last one doubled as a Continuity Nod to the previous year...
    • Specifically Palance's one-armed push-up stunt upon accepting Best Supporting Actor for the aforementioned City Slickers. Crystal periodically joked for the rest of that show about his costar's other amazing feats, reaching one high point after the performance of Hook's "When You're Alone" (which featured a stage full of flying tykes) with "Jack Palance is the father of all those children!"
    "Jack Palance just bungee-jumped off the Hollywood sign, ladies and gentlemen." note 
    • As well, self-promoting his own films became one of Crystal's standard schticks post-1991. The Best Picture nominee medley in 1993 ended with him doing a tribute to Mr. Saturday Night even though that film wasn't up for anything bigger than Best Supporting Actor, and the 1998 medley, when it got to Titanic, worked in his hopes that its continued box-office success wouldn't affect "My Giant in three weeks."
    • Overly-long acceptance speeches have been the target of recurring jokes during the ceremony. In the 2018 ceremony, noting how overly-long the ceremony had become due primarily to excessive acceptance speeches, Kimmel announced that whoever gave the shortest acceptance speech would win a brand-new jet ski. Some of the winners inevitably made references to this as a forewarning.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • The climax of the opening montage of the 1997 ceremony, the first in which Billy Crystal wandered through various films of the previous year, has him fleeing the crashing plane from The English Patient. Its pilot is David Letterman, who gleefully suggests Crystal do the "Oprah...Uma" gag that went over so badly for him at the 1995 show.
    • The following year had Crystal going down with the Titanic and finding a fellow victim-to-be was Kevin Costner. In a reference to his Box Office Bomb The Postman, Costner assured Crystal that this sinking ship isn't the worst disaster he could be involved with!
    • Following the aforementioned Best Picture gaffe in the 2017 edition, the promotional poster for the 2018 edition featured contact sheets with various photos of Kimmel, labelled "What could possibly go wrong?"
    • In 2020, James Corden and Rebel Wilson presented the Best Visual Effects award in cheap cat costumes, acknowledging the importance of good visual effects on a film's success (criteria which a certain movie they starred in didn't exactly satisfy).note 
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: When Robin Williams performed "Blame Canada" at the 2000 ceremony, the female backup chorus gasped in order to cover up the word "fuck".note 
  • Stunned Silence: Joe Pesci truly didn't expect to win Best Supporting Actor for Goodfellas, so he never wrote an acceptance speech. He looked pleasantly shocked in his audience shot when the announcement was made, and after accepting his trophy simply said "It was my privilege. Thank you," and walked off, marking what's usually considered the shortest speech by a winning actor.
    • Anna Paquin, all of 11 years old, was so stunned to have won Best Supporting Actress for The Piano that she stood at the podium for what felt like over a minute just staring like a deer in the headlights, before stammering through an acceptance speech. Most felt that Paquin's age negated her chances, as giving Oscars to child actors is quite rare (though not unheard of, even at the time).
  • Take That!: Badly-received ceremonies and especially hosts may well be mocked by later hosts.
    • Billy Crystal's response to applause as he came out to host the 1990 ceremony: "Is that for me or are you just glad I'm not Snow White?"
    • Whoopi Goldberg, back for her second hosting gig in 1996 after a well-received 1994 show, asked "Did you miss me?" upon coming out — referencing David Letterman's disastrous gig in '95.
    • Jimmy Kimmel couldn't resist ripping into how poorly the Will Smith/Chris Rock incident had been handled the previous year, remarking "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 even called out everyone who had been in attendance that night, saying "If anything unpredictable or violent happens during the ceremony, just do what you did last year: nothing. Sit there and do absolutely nothing. Maybe even give the assailant a hug."
  • Tough Act to Follow: Whoever gets to host in the next ceremony really has to make it memorable and enjoyable most especially if the host of the previous ceremony really did it well. Viewers and TV critics would always be critical to the host's ability to make the show interesting.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The two acting Oscars to be (thus far) won posthumously basically turned the statuette into this. In both cases, members of the winner's family (Peter Finch's widow, Heath Ledger's parents and sister) accepted the award and gave a speech thanking the Academy for honoring the winner's legacy. In a weird coincidence, both actors were Australian.
  • Unexpected Character:
    • The audience and viewers alike were stunned to see Woody Allen walk out on the stage in 2002, for his first (and so far, only) appearance at the Oscars, to introduce the post-9/11 "Love Letter to New York in the Movies" tribute. His appearance used O.O.C. Is Serious Business as a way to underline the theme of New York's importance as a film location.
    • Nobody expected Eminem to show up at the 2020 Oscars to perform "Lose Yourself", 17 years after it won the award for Best Song
  • With Lyrics: Parodied in one act by Will Ferrell and Jack Black, claiming that the music played to end overly-long speeches actually has lyrics.
  • Younger and Hipper: A common trend, especially in the new millennium as ratings are on a seemingly-irreversible downward slide:
    • The 2011 ceremony. The previous year's ceremony had been the first with multiple co-hosts (Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin) in over twenty years, and it had gone over very well (with the highest ratings in five yearsnote ), but it was observed that the combined age of the two hosts was 116 (Martin was 64, Baldwin 51) and the Oscars should probably appeal toward a younger audience with younger hosts. The problem was that the producers seem to have decided to pick names out of a hat, landing on James Franco and Anne Hathaway, who had never worked together before and had onscreen personas that didn't mesh at all. (Their first choice, Justin Timberlake, turned them down flat.) Franco accepted the gig but was extremely busy and had little time for attending writer's meetings or rehearsals. Hathaway, on the other hand, committed fully to preparing for her role and endeared herself to pretty much everyone. When Franco finally did show up for rehearsals he seemed very unimpressed with the material that had been prepared for him (despite him okay-ing it beforehand). It also became very clear that Franco and Hathaway had extremely different comedic energies and zero chemistry. Franco decided to adopt a bored, disaffected persona to contrast with Hathaway's perky enthusiasm, but come Oscar night it just made him appear stoned. (To this day, producers swear he wasn't.) A decade after the fact, The Ringer published a thorough post-mortem.
    • The 2022 ceremony was accused of being this due to several changes made at ABC's insistence to attract a younger audience and reverse the ratings abyss of the last year's COVID-afflicted show, including: having awards or tributes presented by celebrities not known for film work, hosting two online polls for viewers to choose their favorite movie and movie moment (to give recognition to popular films that aren't Oscar Bait beyond the tech categories), building a huge production number around Encanto's "We Don't Talk About Bruno" despite it not being up for Best Original Song ("Dos Oruguitas" was nominated, but that hadn't become a viral hit on TikTok), multiple tributes to films like the James Bond series, The Godfather, and Pulp Fiction (the first two were Milestone Celebrations of 60th and 50th anniversaries, but Pulp Fiction was only 28), an In Memoriam segment combined with a chorale's gospel-style dance number, and most controversially having eight "lesser" awards be presented ahead of the main ceremony to make the show last a hard three hours. It still didn't work:
      • The show ran 42 minutes overtime — and 23 minutes longer than the 2021 ceremonies where all the categories were telecast — thanks largely to time spent on all the gimmicks.
      • The online votes, expected to be dominated by Spider-Man: No Way Home (not coincidentally a Disney-backed film (but distributed by Sony Pictures), given they own ABC) were swarmed by particularly aggressive fandoms, leading to the top three films being Minamata (Johnny Depp; the film had only screened in a few cities so it was assumed most fans hadn't actually seen it), Cinderella (2021) (Camila Cabello), and Army of the Dead (Zack Snyder). The reveal of the "Cheer Moment" as "The Flash Enters the Speed Force" in Zack Snyder's Justice League was greeted with stony silence by the live audience.
      • Industry people and fans alike criticized the diminishment of the technical awards, calling it an insult to the often overlooked people working behind the scenes, and denounced it as the Academy's Jumping the Shark moment. Similarly, having the Animated Feature award introduced by several Disney performers enforcing the Animation Age Ghetto (in the year Flee was nominated!) was seen as insulting to those who work on adult-oriented productions, and many jokes made by the hosts at the expense of the actual Best Picture nominees (commonly for presumably being boring and overlong) were seen was demeaning. Even though these tactics ironically ended up improving the show's ratings (albeit slightly), time will tell as to how much damage they cause to the Academy's reputation as a whole. Eventually, the Academy backed out, decided to broadcast all categories again in 2023, and opened the ceremony with the Animated Feature award with a much more respectable presentation of the medium.