Protests, Celeb Schmoozing & Lobby Bar Lineups: The Oscars Moments You Didn’t See On TV

Photo: Michael Buckner/Variety/Getty Images.
The Academy Awards, a 96-year-old institution, has always been all about the pomp and circumstance, glitz and glamour, pretty dresses, and free-pouring champagne. This year was no different. The 2024 Oscars had all the makings of a classic awards show: host jokes that didn’t land in the room (Jimmy Kimmel’s cracks about Robert Downey Jr.’s pre-sobriety life were not well received from where I was sitting), surprising celebrity pairings that make you scream “where’s their rom-com!?” (Ramy Youssef and Issa Rae), and the one star-studded moment everyone can’t stop talking about (Ryan Gosling’s delightfully unserious “I’m Just Ken” performance), just to name a few. Onscreen, it mostly played out, like so many years past, as was predicted, including the snub heard ‘round the world when Emma Stone won Best Actress for Poor Things over Lily Gladstone in Killers Of The Flower Moon. Some of us weren’t surprised that an academy that has only awarded two women of colour in the category (ever!) chose to once again stick to the status quo
Offscreen, there were countless moments you didn’t see. From powerful protests outside to audible gasps inside the room, there was more going on than what was aired. And in a time when the world is on fire — reeling from multiple atrocities we cannot escape — it’s important to confront our discomfort. I grew up watching the Oscars and it was incredibly surreal to get to walk (adjacent to) the red carpet where so many of my faves have too. But it also feels very contradictory to be celebrating something as frivolous as awards during this specific moment in time. All night, I kept coming back to this Fariha Roisin quote, “We can see contradictions as impediments and be consumed by frustration, ambivalence, and despair or we can acknowledge and heighten them.” So, there are going to be contradictions – in this piece, on our feeds, in the statements from artists and on red carpets, but I’ve decided to acknowledge them and keep it moving. It’s the least I can do. 
Since I was inside the show, I can give you all the gossip from the ground and break down what really happens inside the Oscars. During commercial breaks and once celebs were done spinning for E!’s glambot on the carpet, they had to rush to their seats, or go pee, or take the elevator, or most importantly, grab a drink at the bar (they’re just like us!). Here’s what you didn’t see on TV. 

Protests & Ceasefire Pins

The red carpet started at 12:30pm PT. I arrived around 1pm and as my Uber driver and I pulled up to the Dolby Theatre dropoff area, there was a backup of cars that were met with protesters blocking the way on Sunset Boulevard, between Vine and La Brea. Holding signs with messages like  “stand with Palestine,” “no red carpet during genocide” and chanting with megaphones, the small group of disrupters were flanked by dozens of police. While their chants were inaudible, I could hear someone on a megaphone thanking the group for the peaceful gathering and for complying with the event organisers' wishes to keep the protest contained.
We know that the point of protests is to cause discomfort and driving up to a formal event in a fancy dress while being met with a reminder of the reality of what’s happening in Gaza (over 30,000 people have been killed) was absolutely uncomfortable. And I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s totally fine that, as Variety reports, Bob Iger had to wait an hour to walk the carpet. The show started late. Who cares? We shouldn’t be able to pretend the atrocities we’re seeing on our timelines don’t exist just because we can scroll past them to see what celebrities are wearing on a red carpet. As Angela Davis said about Palestine during a talk on Black feminist solidarity with Palestine , I think we can “walk and chew gum at the same time,” meaning that we can hold many truths at once. And no matter how uncomfortable it is to sit in traffic feeling guilty for going to a bougie event when children are being slaughtered, it is nothing compared to what the people in Gaza are going through. It’s insulting to even compare them. We need to confront that hard truth head on. 
That’s exactly what the stars who chose to show their support for Gaza and wear red pins in support of “Artists for Ceasefire” did. On the carpet, Ramy Youssef made it very clear what his intention was for wearing his support on his sleeve: “We’re calling for immediate, permanent ceasefire in Gaza. We’re calling for peace and lasting justice for the people of Palestine,” he told Variety. “It’s a universal message of, ‘Let’s stop killing kids. Let’s not be part of more war.’ No one has ever looked back at war and thought a bombing campaign was a good idea. To be surrounded by so many artists who are willing to lend their voices, the list is growing. A lot of people are going to be wearing these pins tonight. There’s a lot of talking heads on the news, this is a space of talking hearts. We’re trying to have this big beam to humanity.”
Photo: Gregg DeGuire/WWD/Getty Images.
Other “talking hearts” wearing ceasefire pins included Mark Ruffalo, Mahershala Ali, Riz Ahmed, Ava DuVernay, Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell, and more. Once inside the show, it was heartening to see just how many people were openly rocking red pins, especially considering how voicing support for Palestine has been met with professional consequences. And while it may not have come across during the show, Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer’s speech was met with rapturous applause in the mezzanine area where I was sitting. “Right now we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people,” Glazer said. ““Whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza — all the victims of this dehumanisation, how do we resist?”

Red Carpet Calm Before Chaos

As we were shuffled inside the show, passing metal detectors and countless security, the red carpet was surprisingly chill. But it was early. Stars like Past Lives’ Teo Yoo and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan waited their turns to do the glambot. Ramakrishnan, who was attending the Oscars for the first time (just like me!) with her agent confessed that she was nervous about how her video would turn out. Elemental stars Leah Lewis, in a light pink Lever Couture gown, and Mamoudou Athie walked the carpet together. Brittany Snow was also spotted taking her time with photos while influencer Monet McMichael posed with her dad on the iconic Dolby Theatre steps. American Fiction’s Erika Alexander walked past me smiling in a white and black gown embellished with a striking multicoloured frilly skirt and The Color Purple’s Danielle Brooks, also a Best Supporting Actress nominee, showed off her special Oscars nails and coordinated black dress as she made her way into the lobby where champagne and hors d'oeuvres awaited.  
By around 2pm PT, the red carpet was in full swing, with people attempting to linger to catch a glimpse of some of the more high-profile names. Many of them were held up due to the protest and traffic, and others just like to make an entrance. America Ferrera and her husband stopped to pose for photos as they made their way to their seats. As we were shuffled inside, a booming disembodied voice checked in periodically reminding us we had to be in our seats by 3:30pm PT. The show ended up starting six minutes late. “Among the last seated around 7:06 pm EDT were Martin Scorsese, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling,” AP reports. Carey  Mulligan and Zendaya were a few of the celebs who missed Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue but were seated shortly after. 

Lobby Bar Lineups 

Before the show started (and during and after), the place to be was at the bar. Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade held hands while they waited for their turn to order. Gearing up for their big “I’m Just Ken” performance, Barbie stars Ncuti Gatwa and Scott Evans were seen at the bar chatting and making jokes with each other. American Fiction star and nominee Sterling K. Brown arrived with his wife Ryan Michelle Bathe but made a solo trip to the bar during a commercial break later in the show. As he rushed to get back to his seat in time (if you missed the break, you’d have to wait until the next one to be seated), Brown was stopped every few steps by people congratulating him on his nomination. He graciously stopped and chatted with everyone (including me, and as a This Is Us stan, I swear I only cried a little). 
Photo: Michael Buckner/Variety/Getty Images.
I have no idea what Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst have been doing but they look exactly like they did 20 years ago — he as Landry in Friday Night Lights and she as Torrance Shipman in Bring It On (can you tell I’m a millennial?). Plemons and Dunst chatted with Emma Stone before moving on to catching up with Jeffrey Wright (Plemons and Wright both starred in the underrated classic comedy Game Night). Stone literally ran away mid-convo with Dunst as Poor Things was announced as the winner of Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Production Design. Stone beelined to the monitors showing the broadcast and jumped up and down excitedly as she cheered on the winners (Stone was also a producer on the film). She loudly expressed her disappointment for not being in her seat during their wins. Also huddled with Stone watching the show from the lobby was Florence Pugh. The two stayed close and chatted animatedly, hugging and laughing like old friends. Pugh also caught up with Eva Longoria and her husband José Bastón. 
Cillian Murphy was spotted rushing to the mens room at the same time as Riz Ahmed and I can only imagine that they must have bonded over being Internet Boyfriends at the sinks. That’s what boys talk about in the bathroom, right? Past Lives star Greta Lee was also a fixture at the bar and took the elevator back up to her seat on the second floor with her co-star John Magaro. It took everything in me not to gush to them how much I loved Past Lives. Those are the snubs we should be fighting about

Da’Vine’s Standing Ovation 

Inside the theatre, it was easy to tell who the audience was rooting for, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph was the clear favourite to win Best Supporting Actress. The audience leapt to its feet when she won, and were rapt during her entire funny yet moving speech. I’m assuming there were a few publicists sitting on the mezzanine in my section because when Randolph thanked hers, even though in-show MC David Alan Grier warned winners not to, there was appreciative laughter. The format where past winners presented the current nominees was also received well, as I could hear whispers during Lupita Nyong’o’s tribute to Randolph about how emotional and beautiful it was. 
“I always wanted to be different. Now I realise I just need to be myself,” Randolph said through tears, accepting the Oscar for her work in Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers.  “I pray to God I get to do this more than once.” If the love for her in that room was any indication, Randolph will get to “do this” many more times — as she should. 
Photo: Rich Polk/Variety/Getty Images.

Ryan Gosling Will Always Be Famous

One of my favourite parts of people-watching celebrities is seeing who the celebrity’s celebrity is. At last year’s NAACP awards, stars were lining up to get pics with Zendaya. The same thing happened at the Grammys to Beyoncé. At this year’s Oscars, the definitive star amongst stars was Ryan Gosling. As soon as the pink lights came up in the theatre and the first few bars of “I’m Just Ken” blared through the speakers, people literally started running through the lobby trying to get back to their seats.
Before the performance, the backup dancer Kens were warming up in the lobby and afterwards, when they exited the stage, the halls filled with applause and cheers. Inside the theatre, it was the most lively I saw the crowd all night, with everyone on their feet and singing every word. Gosling’s playful irreverence while also clearly taking the performance very seriously (he was hitting those notes, okay!) made for a joyful spectacle that people were loving. As a Canadian and a ‘90s Mickey Mouse Club scholar, here’s where I say that I always knew he had this in him. Breaker High hive, we ate good! Billie Eilish may have won the Oscar, but Gosling won the night. 

Post-Show Lobby Linkups

After the show, the lobby was packed. Olivia Munn and John Mulaney greeted a friend and laughed while Munn kept her hand resting on Mulaney’s arm. Gosling made his way through the crowd as his fans bombarded him, asking for photos and one woman grabbed his neck to pull him down to her level so she could whisper something so forcefully he had to kindly remove her hand from his neck. John Krasinski and Emily Blunt snuck through behind the mayhem Gosling caused and headed out the front doors. 
Before the show, I got to chat with American Fiction director and screenwriter Cord Jefferson, who I also talked to at the Toronto International Film Festival  last year after the movie’s premiere. He reminded me our chat was “almost seven months to the day” and confessed that he was “so nervous.” I told him he had it locked. I was right. He accepted the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and gave one of my favourite speeches of the night. He used his time to issue a call to studios to take risks on smaller films.
“It’s a plea to acknowledge and recognise that there are so many people out there who want the opportunity that I was given…. I understand that this is a risk-averse industry, I get it,” he said. “But $200 million movies are also a risk, you know? And it doesn’t always work out but you take the risk anyway. And instead of making one $200 million movie, try making 20 $10 million movies or 50 $4 million movies,” he continued. “There are so many people, I just feel so much joy being here, I felt so much joy making this movie, and I want other people to experience that joy, and they’re out there I promise you.”
In the lobby after the show, Jefferson — Oscar in hand — was greeted in a bear hug by Lena Waithe, who jokingly dusted off his shoulders and showered him with congrats. Waithe walked out of the show with Cynthia Erivo as Mahershala Ali and his wife Amatus Sami-Karim chatted with Erivo and parted ways with Ali blowing Erivo a kiss. 

It’s okay, Lily Gladstone Seemed Totally Fine! 

One of the biggest stories of the night will be the history that was not made. Lily Gladstone did not win Best Actress. She would have been the first Indigenous woman to win the award, and only the third woman of colour. It’s another frustrating blow in an industry that seems to be rolling back its commitment to being more inclusive and equitable every day. That’s not a knock on Stone or her talent; she is undoubtedly deserving of praise for Poor Things. The fact is that Gladstone was given less to do in Killers of the Flower Moon and the role wasn’t worthy of her talent. That’s what we should be getting mad about. And the fact that winning these awards, or even being nominated like Gladstone was, should result in more roles and more opportunities to be in this position again. People are rightly upset because they think Stone will have another chance (she’s already an Oscar winner) and Gladstone may not. But I think it’s more important to push the industry, and the academy, to make sure she will — instead of getting mad at Emma Stone. Plus, Gladstone was positively glowing after the show and was navigating the lobby with a group of friends and a big smile. She’s going to be just fine. 
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