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Al Pacino Presenting the Best Picture Oscar to ‘Oppenheimer’ Played Even Weirder in the Room

For an Academy Awards that were meant to be incredibly predictable, there were still plenty of moments at the 2024 Oscars that kept the in-house audience on their toes.

Working backwards, it cannot be understated how disruptive Al Pacino’s presentation of the Best Picture winner was in the room. Those in the know were already thrown off by his haphazard nod to “The Godfather Part II,” clearly an attempt to save face by the veteran Best Actor winner, a bit of misdirection involving his missing “Scarface” co-star Michelle Pfeiffer, who had previously been announced as a presenter on this year’s show.

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And yet, the most unsettling moment was Pacino’s casual delivery of “And my eyes see ‘Oppenheimer,’” which was met with silence, as the Dolby Theatre audience tried to process if he was serious or not. On YouTube, the whole moment plays at a little bit of a faster pace, but inside the Oscars ceremony itself, you could hear a pin drop. It’s not like the “Oppenheimer” result was unexpected by anyone in the room, but when put the way Pacino opted to — with little fanfare and no reading of the other nominees — the “Oppenheimer” team went on high alert, thinking they may be in for another “Moonlight”/“La La Land” debacle.

As far as any other bumps in the road production-wise, there really was just the delayed opening. Much had been made about the 2024 Oscars starting an hour earlier than normal, yet when the clock actually hit 7 p.m. ET, there wasn’t even a countdown clock running. Shortly before then, Tony-winning actor David Alan Grier came on the stage to unmask himself as the announcer for the broadcast, and give his own hilarious monologue mostly about keeping speeches short.

Part of it involved Grier noting that winners shouldn’t “be up in here thanking your agents, your publicists, your tax preparer, studio executives — do all that after the show,” which certainly provides more context for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor winners Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Robert Downey Jr. defiantly thanking their publicists as they accepted their first Oscars.

As has become tradition, the best place to spend at least part of the Academy Awards was at the lobby bar. The point at which most people converged was right around Billie Eilish and Finneas’ performance of “What Was I Made for?,” the eventual Best Original Song winner. When the curtain rose to reveal the 22-year-old singing the tearjerking “Barbie” ballad, she was facing away from the audience, so many took that almost as a pass to literally sneak away behind her back.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 10: Emma Stone attends the 96th Annual Academy Awards on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
Emma Stone attends the 96th Annual Academy AwardsEmma McIntyre/Getty Images

It was actually at the bar where many of the nominees could see the night taking a turn. The implications of “Poor Things” winning Best Makeup and Hairstyling had not quite hit people in the moment, but when the Yorgos Lanthimos film won Best Production Design — one of the tightest races of the night — star Emma Stone, who had been chatting with “Oppenheimer” star Florence Pugh, collapsed to the floor with joy.

When it finally came time for Best Costume Design, the entire crowd flocked toward the TVs, especially when presenter John Cena walked out nearly nude. With the Academy Award once again going to “Poor Things,” whispers among the room were saying Stone was now a lock for Best Actress. (It should be noted, by the way, that they do not give in-event attendees a run of show in the room, so the teeny bit of backlash Stone is getting for not being in the crowd as her “Poor Things” colleagues won feels unearned.)

Elsewhere, the “Barbie” camp — including Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach, and executive producer David Heyman — seemed to be good sports about the craft upsets (Best Production Design had been one of the film’s best chances at an Oscar). Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav less so.

But if there was one uniting factor among the majority of the crowd inside the Dolby Theatre, it was the need to be back at one’s seat for Ryan Gosling’s debut “I’m Just Ken” performance. It was arguably the peak of the night, both in the room and at home. In a one-two punch, “Barbie” finally secured an Oscar shortly afterward, with Eilish becoming the youngest person to win more than one Academy Award. That was worth celebrating, on the ground and on the screen.

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