The 96th Oscars

Reflections from the 96th Academy Awards

From the red carpet, show, and Governor’s Ball

It’s not every day that you get to say, “Yep, I saw John Cena naked on stage, in person.” From Da'Vine Joy Randolph's emotional acceptance speech to Ryan Gosling's performance of "I am Just Ken" that received a standing ovation, the 96th Academy Awards brought us memorable moments for the biggest event of the year.

Stepping out of the car and escorted by the Academy’s staff, the first thing I noticed was the return of the classic red carpet, replacing last year's champagne color. The layout had also undergone a significant change. Gone were the separate entrances with dividing curtains. This year, an open floor plan allowed guests, nominees, and talents to mingle freely as they walked the carpet, creating a more inclusive atmosphere. As Raj Kapoor, the showrunner, explained at the Oscars creative team's press conference, "We wanted the ceremony to feel like an experience, from the moment you enter the space to the moment you're seated in the theater."

Venessa Hudgens and Julianne Hough hosted the The Oscars Red Carpet Show ahead of Hollywood’s big night. This year, the red carpet showcased a diverse group of Asian talents, including Academy Award-nominated director Sean Wang walking with his Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó. The VFX team of Godzilla Minus One also made a memorable entrance, carrying a Godzilla miniature and sporting Godzilla-themed footwear.

Throughout the night, past Oscars winners like Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan were on the stage once more to pass the trophies to this year’s winner in their respective categories. Being in the same room as these talented storytellers was a powerful reminder that we have a chance to share our stories on the big screen and have them resonate with the global audience.

That night, Perfect Days won Best International Feature Film; Takashi Yamazaki, Kiyoko Shibuya, Masaki Takahashi, and Tatsuji Nojima took home Best Visual Effects for Godzilla Minus One, and Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki's The Boy and the Heron was crowned Best Animated Feature Film. Other notable nominees included Sean Wang and Sam Davis’s “Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó” for Documentary Short Film and Celine Song’s Past Lives for Best Picture. May December, which starred Charles Melton, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

Once the ceremony was done, it was time for the Governor’s Ball. Just a short ride from the Dolby Theatre, I found myself standing right behind Ke Huy Quan, Jonathan Wang, and The Daniels on the escalator as they snapped the iconic group selfie.(Daniel, if you are reading this, I would love to see the one that I intentionally photobombed!)

Inside the Ovation Hollywood, the space was ready to welcome the winners and guests for the annual feast curated by Wolfgang Puck. They say food is a love language, particularly for Asians, and the joy was palpable as the crowd devoured every bite, from the comforting chicken pot pie to the exquisite Peking duck baos, followed by the iconic chocolate Oscar statues on the dessert table.

Overall, it was another memorable experience, and truly an honor for Timid to have been a part of.

From the interview room

At this year's Oscars, I had the unforgettable experience of posing a question to the powerhouse team behind Oppenheimer—co-producers Emma Thomas and Charles Roven as well as director, writer, and co-producer Christopher Nolan—for the Best Picture Award. My role as the Timid digital press representative was a great entryway into the world of high-profile press. On the day of the event, there was a technical issue in joining the Q&A session with award winners, but efficient communication between Oscar management and Timid allowed me to join in the Q&A Zoom in time. I had previous experience with interviews and asking questions on the spot, which decidedly made the experience easier on my nerves. I raised my virtual hand for every question, hoping that the digital press staff would call on me. Finally, for the most coveted award of the night, a small Zoom message popped up telling me that I was selected. I quickly typed out my question, and when prompted by the staff, I had the opportunity to ask Thomas, Roven, and Nolan to reminisce on their favorite moments on the Oppenheimer set. To my surprise, I received responses from all three, ending the night of entertainment on a truly fulfilling note.

Timid Magazine: Hi, Nathan from Timid Magazine. Congratulations! You all deserve this award so much. This could be for one or all of you, but can you share the most memorable moment of making the film?

Emma Thomas: Gosh, there are so many. One of the things I love about our jobs is that we get to live with the film from the very beginning to the very end. There are so many memorable moments along the way, whether it be [when] Cillian agreed to play [J. Robert] Oppenheimer, or when you start shooting and you get to see Los Alamos as built and imagined by the incredible production designer Ruth De Jong. I will never forget the moment I first saw the first cut of the film. I think it was that moment when I truly understood that this [movie] really worked. I felt very good about the fact that it told a story that I felt was going to move audiences. You never quite know [that feeling] until you get to that point. That was the moment where I'll always remember the sort of feeling, at the end of the screening, of relief and excitement.

Charles Roven: There are a couple of moments in particular for me: The first time I drove over to Chris and Emma's house to read the first draft that Chris wrote and what [Chris] had done when he, with the character of Oppenheimer, wrote him in the first person, which I had never read a screenplay before. He had the character talking in the first person. It was actually the thing that I think makes the movie so special. [It] is how you relate to Oppenheimer through his journey, from trying to figure out how to deal with the bomb to all of the character's journey as well. That was a very, very important, meaningful, and memorable experience. The second was seeing the first cut of the movie. It was really profound.

Christopher Nolan: For me, it was really the first hair and makeup tests. There was something about seeing Cillian put that hat on and Robert Downey Jr. with his head shaved back and Emily Blunt in old-aged makeup. We did all that in the first test. We shot it on the very first black and white IMAX film that had ever been made. We projected it on an IMAX screen up at Universal and that was a very special moment to realize what the actors would be able to do and [that] the [movie] was going to work. To see the technical side of things and the photography was remarkable and that will always stay with me.

Disclaimer: This interview was edited for length and clarity.