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Our picks for the MVPs of award season, from best speech to best (un)dressed

Robert Downey Jr. at the 2024 Critics Choice Awards in Santa Monica.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Robert Downey Jr. at the 2024 Critics Choice Awards in Santa Monica.

By Alli Rosenbloom, CNN

(CNN) — And the winner is…us. The audience. Because who knew celebrating movies and celebrities was so exhausting? But we did it: We’ve reached the unofficial end of award season 2024.

A pair of Hollywood strikes may have delayed the fun, but once it got started, it delivered.

We got tear-inducing speeches alongside speeches full of shade. We saw some hosts flail and others nail it. We heard unforgettable musical performances and saw nostalgic reunions. Records were broken, history was made and, of course, Pedro Pascal just kept charming our socks off.

It’s only right that we recognize these moments in the same way they were presented to us. So, here’s our list of the 2024 award show season’s MVPs.

Best (un)dressed: John Cena, the Oscars

  • Anyone who has seen “Trainwreck” is no stranger to naked John Cena and now, neither are Oscars viewers. Cena bared (almost) all when he presented the best costume design award at the Academy Awards during a bit nodding to the 1974 Academy Awards streaker. Cena, who carried a large envelope, technically wasn’t totally in the nude, obviously. He wore a flesh-colored cover that assured the crew backstage didn’t get a full show. And the bit still had its intended effect, with Cena earning cheers and giggles from the crowd in attendance.

Best nostalgia: The Emmys reunions

  • The Emmys should give whoever books talent for the annual ceremony a raise because the talent they pulled for the many nostalgic TV reunions was a true delight. The telecast featured cast members from shows such as “Breaking Bad,” “Greys Anatomy,” “The Sopranos,” “Cheers,” “Martin” and “Ally McBeal,” who all appeared in bits that paid homage to these iconic series.

Best inspirational moment: Christina Applegate, the Emmys

  • Christina Applegate, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2021, showed strength and grace when she took the Emmy stage with a little help from host Anthony Anderson, and we weren’t the only ones who thought so. The beloved actress was greeted by a rousing standing ovation that clearly made Applegate as emotional as it did everyone at home.

Best presenter pair: Keri Russell and Ray Romano, the Golden Globes

  • Being a presenter is a tough gig because they are very hit or miss. But Keri Russell and Ray Romano’s chemistry while presenting the award for supporting actor at the Golden Globes helped them really knock this out of the park. The pair hilariously committed to a bit in which they vowed to tell the truth but proceeded to lie to each other about knowing and appreciating the other’s performances in their respective shows and movies. It might be time for these two to share an IMDb credit.

Best shade: Jay-Z, the Grammys

  • While accepting the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award at the Grammys with his 12-year old daughter Blue Ivy by his side, Jay-Z called out the Recording Academy for their voting system using his wife Beyoncé as an example. “I don’t want to embarrass this young lady, but she has more Grammys than anyone, and never won album of the year,” he said. He added: “Even by your own metric that does not work.” Jay Z calling out the organization that was honoring him while he was on stage accepting that very honor became a widely discussed moment in the weeks that followed. We have to appreciate Jay-Z making lemonade out of lemons here.

Best performance: “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs, the Grammys

  • In one of the most iconic Grammy performances in recent years, notoriously reclusive Tracy Chapman reemerged to perform her 1988 hit “Fast Car” with country star Luke Combs, whose 2023 cover of the classic track prompted a resurgence in popularity for both Chapman and her song. Their Grammys duet was one of the most talked about moments from the 2024 telecast and had everybody singing “Fast Car” in the weeks that followed. In fact, we’re still singing.

Best teary speech: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, the Oscars

  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph was this year’s award show darling as she swept up wins at all of the major award shows for her gorgeous performance in “The Holdovers.” Each acceptance speech she gave – and there were many – was a genuinely moving expression of Randolph’s gratitude, but she had us weeping when she thanked her mother and those who helped her achieve her dreams at the Oscars. “Thank you for seeing me,” she said, through tears. Please pass a tissue.

Best fangirl moment: Miley Cyrus, the Grammys

  • Miley Cyrus did what we all probably would’ve done if we came face-to-face with Mariah Carey: Gush. Cyrus won her first-ever Grammy award this year, which was presented to her by the pop icon herself. The “Flowers” singer took the first few seconds of her speech to express how starstruck by Carey she was, and joyfully recount a recent Carey concert she attended. Chant it with me: COLLAB. COLLAB.

Best payback speech: Robert Downey Jr., the Critics Choice Awards

  • Robert Downey Jr. had the entire room in a fit of laughter when he won a supporting actor Critics Choice Award for “Oppenheimer” and used his thoughtfully prepared acceptance speech as an opportunity to remind the critics who voted for him that they haven’t always loved his work. Love an acceptance speech that’s simultaneously a burn.

Best superhero fan service: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, the Oscars

  • There were no superhero movies represented in this year’s crop of Academy Award nominees, but fans of the genre were treated to an unexpected reunion when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito reminisced about how they both “tried to kill Batman” in their respective villainous “Batman” movie roles while handing out the award for best visual effects at the Oscars. This lead to a hilarious stare-down between DeVito and former batsuit occupant Michael Keaton, who was seated in the crowd channeling his no-nonsense caped crusader as DeVito and Schwarzenegger threw jabs at him.

Best understated look: Messi the dog, the Oscars

  • Messi, the famed “Anatomy of a Fall” dog, made his Academy Awards debut wearing an oversized black bowtie that paired perfectly with his black and white fur coat. Overall, it was a paw-some choice and totally fur-rific to see the good boy at the big show.

Best fake feud: Pedro Pascal and Kieran Culkin, various shows

  • Kieran Culkin was technically the instigator in this fake feud, telling Pedro Pascal to “suck it” at the Golden Globes after earning a statuette, but Pascal got payback when he jokingly blamed Culkin for beating him up while explaining why his arm was in a sling at the Emmys. This silly quarrel played out across multiple award show stages but it was all in good fun. The real winner here, again, was the audience.

Best nominee reaction: Jennifer Lawrence, the Golden Globes

  • When the nominees were being read for best actress in a comedy or musical at the Globes, a deadpan Jennifer Lawrence mouthed right into the camera, “If I don’t win, I’m leaving” as her name was read. If there’s anything we can count on JLaw for – besides stunning performances – it’s entertaining us in the moments we least expect.

Best reaction to a weird joke: Taylor Swift, the Golden Globes

  • Jo Koy did a lot of swinging and missing during the Golden Globes, but perhaps most notably did so when he joked about the mania surrounding Taylor Swift’s attendance at NFL games to support her boyfriend Travis Kelce and the ensuing media coverage. “The big difference between the Golden Globes and the NFL? At the Golden Globes, we have fewer camera shots of Taylor Swift,” Koy joked. When the cameras cut to a straight-faced Swift sipping her glass of champagne looking entirely unbothered and unamused, Koy knew it was bad. Seconds later, he apologized for the joke. Awkward.

Best breakout: Lily Gladstone, various shows

  • Sob. Why couldn’t there be a tie? Lily Gladstone may have lost her Oscar category but her time on the award show circuit in support of her nuanced and gorgeous performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon” helped raise the profile of indigenous actors in Hollywood, and that carries more weight than a hundred Oscars. Plus, if there’s any justice in Hollywood, she’ll be back in those Dolby seats again soon.

Best thank you: Ayo Edebiri, the Golden Globes

  • Ayo Edebiri won a Golden Globe for her performance in “The Bear” and thanked her assistants in her acceptance speech, sparking a trend through the rest of award season of winners giving thanks some of the oft-overlooked members of their teams. Cheers to those behind-the-scenes hustlers who are getting the recognition they deserve.

Best accidental audition to host next year: John Mulaney, the Oscars

  • Comedian John Mulaney appeared at the Oscars to present the award for best sound and ended up recapping the entire plot of the 1989 Kevin Costner-led classic “Field of Dreams.” That takes skill. Mulaney’s capsule stand-up set was an instant hit and landed him at the top of our list as the candidate to host an award show next year. We propose that show to be the SAG Awards, because this year’s hostless show probably could’ve benefited from having an emcee.

Best red carpet performance by an actor: Colman Domingo, various shows

  • Not only is Colman Domingo a beloved Hollywood talent and now an Oscar-nominated actor, but he’s also cemented himself as a suave fashion icon who took risks this year. He nailed every red carpet he stepped on with colorful tuxedos, embellished brooches and buttons, textured capes and creative spins on classic cuts. Stay chic, Colman.

Best red carpet performance by an actress: Margot Robbie, various shows

  • Margot Robbie went all-in on her “Barbie” role by recreating some of the Mattel doll’s most iconic looks on many red carpets this season, turning her appearances into explosively pink performance art. Her black Oscar gown signaled to all that the ceremony was the end of her Barbie era.

Best 2024 award show: The Oscars

  • My eyes see…the Oscars. It was a tough call between the nostalgia-heavy Emmys and the most dynamic Academy Awards we’ve had in years (that did not include any envelope or “slap” drama), but we have to give it to the Oscars. The 2024 telecast celebrated this year’s cinematic achievements in thoughtful, cleverly written and entertaining ways that previous broadcasts of the typically too-long ceremony had lacked. The magical musical numbers, previous Oscar-winner cameos, tear-inducing speeches and comical award presentations helped the three-and-a-half-hour-long show’s pacing move along quite nicely. Plus, having a familiar host like Jimmy Kimmel emcee an overall well-produced ceremony helped cement this year’s show as one of the best in years.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: Entertainment

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