I have to say I really enjoyed the 86th Academy Awards. Moreso than most years. I think the primary reason is because there wasn’t a single result that I absolutely hated. Of course there were things I disagreed with, but there wasn’t anything this year that made me want to go on a killing spree, which is rare. The show was very light-hearted and had a really positive vibe. It seemed like it would have been really fun to have been there. That’s not always the case. People seemed genuinely happy for every winner and nominee, and there were very few instances where it seemed like most of the crowd didn’t give a shit about what was happening on stage.
As expected, Ellen DeGeneres was as safe and harmless as can be in her second hosting stint, which is fine, but I’ll always prefer a host with some edge, like we got last year in Seth MacFarlane. She had some good jokes (including one randomly nasty dig at Liza Minnelli), and her opening monologue was decent. What Ellen does best, and what is now her trademark at the Oscars, is going into and interacting with the crowd. I won’t complain when she inevitably gets her third hosting gig somewhere down the road.
Host Grade: I’ll give her a B. She was better this time than her first go-round.
RESULTS I LIKED
-I was happy with all four acting winners, which is a rarity for me. I was a little nervous they were gonna give Supporting Actress to Jennifer Lawrence instead of the deserving Lupita Nyong’o, but we dodged that bullet, and her winning was the most emotional moment of the night. My eyes were not dry during her speech. As an aside, I hope Nyong’o isn’t gonna disappear like some other recent black Supporting Actress winners (Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique). I don’t think this will happen, but I’m putting it out there anyway. Continue giving this woman great roles! Let’s have her and Jennifer Lawrence in a buddy movie!
–Spike Jonze winning for Original Screenplay. Not just because I agree with the result, but it was cool to see him get a standing O. This was the category where many pundits thought the diehard American Hustle voters would find a spot to finally give David O. Russell an Oscar and reward the film, but thankfully, clearer heads prevailed. Her is not only the MOST original screenplay of 2013, it was also the BEST original screenplay.
-I liked American Hustle, this year’s most overrated nominee, going 0/10 on the night. I think this proves that at least half of those nominations should’ve gone to other, more worthy candidates. The second-most overrated nominee, Nebraska, went 0/6. The Wolf of Wall Street went 0/5, but at least it deserved all of its nominations.
-Obviously, I love 12 Years a Slave winning Best Picture. It’s nice to see the film that deserves it win it for once instead of the movie that had the best campaigning win. This is the first time I’ve agreed with the Oscars’ Best Pic winner since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won 10 long years ago. It’s been a painful drought. Even though Steve McQueen didn’t win Best Director, he got his Oscar as one of 12 Years‘ producers. Congrats also to Brad Pitt on winning his first Oscar, also as a producer on the film. He’d been nominated 3 times previously for acting, and this was his second Best Picture nomination, after Moneyball in 2011. Pitt has been a very good producer, quietly shepherding good projects for almost a decade under his Plan B production company.
RESULTS I DIDN’T LIKE
-For the second year in a row, they gave Best Cinematography to a film where most of the cinematography was created entirely in or heavily assisted by computers. Emmanuel Lubezki is a brilliant cinematographer (Sleepy Hollow, Children of Men, Ali, and the last 3 Terrence Malick films are some of his highlights), so I didn’t mind his winning, but I’m always gonna prefer photography that was mostly or entirely done on location or on a fully realized set. But again I didn’t hate that he won, because most of the cinematography options I preferred this year weren’t even nominated. It was sad seeing Roger Deakins sit there and lose again. He’s now 0/11 at the Oscars, when he should’ve won at least twice by now (for True Grit and Skyfall). But Deakins poops greatness, so there’s always next year.
-Also for the second year in a row, the Best Director winner did not direct the Best Picture winner. This was especially egregious last year, when in my view Argo wasn’t even one of the best 5 films of 2012. When the director of the Best Picture winner isn’t even nominated, there’s a serious issue with the Academy’s voting process. But I’m a bit conflicted this year, because while I was rooting for 12 Years a Slave to win Best Picture, I didn’t mind Alfonso Cuaron winning Best Director, since Gravity is a stunning directorial achievement. I guess I’m just reiterating that I don’t like Best Director/Best Picture splits on principle.
–All four acting winners gave INCREDIBLE, riveting acceptance speeches. Jared Leto, the first winner of the evening, may have given the best Oscar speech I’ve ever seen. His tribute to his mom was especially touching, and I’d like to think that’s exactly the kind of thing I would say if given the opportunity. Lupita Nyong’o gave the second-best speech, and I was particularly impressed by how much credit she gave to director Steve McQueen. She also spent a nice chunk of time thanking 12 Years‘ cinematographer, editor and costume designer, something you almost NEVER see done during the acting speeches. Bravo to her for that. And she probably had the best individual line, when she closed with “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” Your dreams are valid. That’s fuckin classic, right there.
Lupita’s closing line instantly reminded me of Russell Crowe‘s amazing speech Best Actor speech, when he closed with, “And for anybody who’s on the downside of advantage, and relying purely on courage…it’s possible.” Inspiring stuff.
Cate Blanchett’s speech was funny and powerful as well. Her bit at the end about audiences being perfectly willing to pay money to see films headlined by women was well said (and accurate!).
Matthew McConaughey is getting ripped by some for talking mostly about himself during his speech, but I think that’s complete bullshit. He started by paying tribute to his fellow nominees, then spent most of his speech giving credit to God, his mother, his brothers, his wife and his kids. He even had a hilarious bit about what he imagined his father doing to celebrate up in Heaven. The guy was genuine, and in the end, that’s what an acceptance speech needs to be above all else.
–The music. Even though I didn’t think any of these original songs should’ve even been nominated, they were all performed beautifully. A friend of mine on Facebook said the Oscars did live music better than the Grammys this year, and that’s probably spot on (I never watch the Grammys, but I recall hearing they were dreadful this year). Pink‘s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was nice, as was Bette Midler‘s performance of “The Wind Beneath My Wings” during the In Memoriam segment. It was a good idea to spread out the performances throughout the show, too. They used to do them all in a row in one segment, which often felt strange given the different tones and styles of each song. I especially liked Pharrell Williams‘ performance of “Happy” at the beginning of the show. He was able to get the crowd on their feet and dancing, which you NEVER see at the Oscars. I thought that was fantastic. U2 was great, too, even though I believe “Ordinary Love” is an ordinary song (by their standards).
-Congratulations are in order to “Let It Go” co-writer Robert Lopez for completing the elusive EGOT. He’s now won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. He’s only the 12th person ever to do so, and he did it in the span of 10 years, the shortest time by far that it’s taken anyone to win all four.
Sidebar: Is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” the greatest song ever? It has to be in top 5, right? I could hear a million different versions covered by a million different artists and I’d never tire of it.
–PIZZA AT THE OSCARS! I thought this was excellent, and the pinnacle of Ellen’s interactions with the crowd. It was just FUN watching all those people raise their hands to indicate they wanted pizza, then actually having the pizza show up and seeing big stars like Brad Pitt distributing plates and napkins was absolutely hilarious. I loved it. Then to top it off, Ellen comes back out with Pharrell’s giant hat and collects cash from people like Harvey Weinstein to pay for it.
–Kevin Spacey quickly doing his Frank Underwood accent when he came out to present. It got a nice reaction in the room, and House of Cards nuts like me certainly got a chuckle out of it. Put Spacey on the list of people who need to host the Oscars at some point. This guy is flawless in front of big crowds. The other actor I’d put in that same category is Robert Downey Jr. Another good choice would be Jimmy Kimmel, who’s already in the ABC family. One of these guys needs to host ASAP.
-When Daniel Day-Lewis came out to present Best Actress, I thought to myself, On your knees, infidels!!! Sadly, the audience did not fall to their knees. But it was nice to see him again. It’s a year after Lincoln and we still don’t know what his next project is gonna be. The downside to his godliness is that on average he only does a movie every 3 years. I wait…
-Even if it was a little inappropriate, I loved Bill Murray giving an off-the-cuff tribute to Harold Ramis while presenting Best Cinematography. It was cool just to see Murray there and seemingly having a good time. From what I understand he typically doesn’t give a shit about these big industry events.
THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE
–The continued disrespect to the Best Director category. Remember up until 5 or 6 years ago, when directors handed out the Best Director Oscar? Those days are long gone, and now they get a big movie star to hand it out every year, this time Angelina Jolie & Sidney Poitier. On top of that, Best Director used to be the second-to-last award given out at every show, which is how it SHOULD BE. But no, now Best Actress and Actor are the last awards before Best Picture because they think saving the movie star speeches til the end will help ratings since they believe that’s what audiences most want to see. And maybe that’s true, but the Academy used to acknowledge the truth, which is that the director is the most important job on any film. As such, it used to be the next-to-last award presented. This year, they didn’t even show the directors during the listing of the nominees. Normally, you at least see a photo of them on the set, and they used to use a real quick video of the director on set as they read the names. This year, it was just the director’s name surrounded by a bunch of stills from the film. Not cool. I understand the new logic of saving Actor & Actress til the end, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
–Why does the Oscar ceremony need a theme? This “Heroes in Hollywood” theme seemed completely out of place and didn’t have any relevance to the actual show. So…why? Why do they HAVE to have these pointless montages every year? If you cut out the 3 pointless montages, you knock 10 minutes off the show like THAT. The show ran 3½ hours (a half-hour too long), so every minute you can cut is worthwhile. Also, I still have no idea why they did that tribute to The Wizard of Oz. There’s another 5-7 minutes that could’ve vanished.
-I understand the desire to get all the “lesser” awards out of the way, but putting the short films, the documentaries, and the foreign & animated film awards all right in a row makes for one less-than-stellar hour of entertainment if you haven’t seen any of those films, which most of the viewing public hasn’t. You gotta throw something palatable in there in between all the fluff. And that’s no disrespect to the people in those categories, but let’s face it, if a lot of pundits and insiders had their way, those awards would be excised from the TV broadcast altogether. For the record, I am not in favor of that. I just think you shouldn’t put all of those categories in succession. It means someone could tune out of the show for an entire hour and not have missed anything they actually wanted to see. Not the best way to maintain ratings.
-I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who noticed 12 Years a Slave Adapted Screenplay winner John Ridley and director Steve McQueen completely ignoring each other. When Ridley won, he walked right past McQueen and the two didn’t even look at each other, then Ridley thanked everyone involved in the film EXCEPT McQueen while on the podium. Similarly, McQueen did not mention Ridley when the film won Best Picture. Very strange. The Playlist noticed, too [READ], but nobody seems to know what’s going on there yet. [Scratch that, The Wrap does. Very interesting.]
-Did anyone check Harrison Ford‘s pulse before he went out to present those Best Picture clips? Jesus, man. Look LESS interested to be alive, would ya? And there are people who still want to see him play Han Solo in the new Star Wars movies? The fuck is wrong with you people?
-Does John Williams make any royalties from all of his music that they play run into the ground at the show each year? They almost always end up playing a bunch of his classic themes at the Oscars, but this year in particular it seemed like they played something of his every single time they went to and fro commercial breaks or whenever presenters were introduced. I love Williams more than anyone, but the Oscar producers lean on him like an old crutch when they need filler music. It’s getting stale. It’s time someone realized there’s been plenty of incredible film music that was composed after 1990.
-People I noticed in the crowd who have no business being there included Zac Efron (who shouldn’t be allowed within 50 miles of the Oscars) and John Stamos. John Stamos?! I also saw Lady Gaga on the red carpet, meaning she was in the building somewhere. If she’s not performing, why the F is she there? I’m pretty sure she wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Machete Kills.
-Though it was strangely hilarious, John Travolta completely butchering “Let It Go” performer Idina Menzel‘s name by calling her “Adele Dazim” was pretty egregious. Also, John Travolta and his fake hair are not aging well. Very sad.
–81-year old Kim Novak’s face. Aye vai. I literally had to turn away it was so awkward and terrifying. Although you have to admit there was certainly some irony in her presenting the Oscar to Original Song winner Frozen. Botox, man. I just don’t get it. Aging…it’s supposed to happen, people. At a certain point you just have to let nature run its course.
–Once again, the orchestra was off-site, playing from inside the Capitol Records building. They did a phenomenal job this year, but I continue to think it’s incredibly disrespectful to not simply put them in a pit next to or in front of the stage…as had been done for decades prior to last year’s show. CAN WE PUT A STOP TO THIS IN 2015?
–Do Americans not make short films anymore? I noticed every single one of the Live Action Short Film nominees were foreigners. What’s the explanation for this? Maybe that’s my in into the biz. Write a good short film, win an Oscar for it, and go from there. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?
-Speaking of foreigners, tell me again why Blue is the Warmest Color wasn’t eligible for Best Foreign Film, which it almost certainly would have won? Well, after doing the research, it’s because of a stupid technicality. Apparently, a film has to open in its native country before September to be Oscar-eligible, and Blue didn’t open in France until early October. What a crock of shit. And why the hell didn’t it open in France until October? It showed at the Cannes Film Festival (which, if you forgot, is IN FRANCE) in friggin MAY, yet they held onto the movie for 5 additional months?! Idiots. Interestingly, the film has still not been released in the U.S., which means they could open it here this year and it could qualify for next year’s Oscars, which would be kinda strange. Not the smartest distribution plan, fellas.
-That In Memoriam section seemed twice as long as normal, didn’t it? It’s insane how many big names died last year. Of course, it was strange seeing Paul Walker‘s name up there, and it was heartbreaking to be reminded that Philip Seymour Hoffman is gone. However I am glad that he got to be the last name on the roll.
-I wasn’t blown away by any of the ladies’ dresses on the red carpet. Most of them seemed to go for a more classic look, which is nice, and appropriate, but it doesn’t rock my socks. I guess my favorite was Lupita Nyong’o, who looked adorable in that plunging blue dress and her little headband.
-Once again, Jennifer Lawrence was a goddess at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party:
OVERALL SHOW GRADE: B+
–Was the Oscars Pizza Any Good? 8 Burning Questions About the Show (includes a sad photo of Liza Minnelli trying and failing to get into Ellen’s celebrity mega-selfie)
-Oh boy. Smosh put together a complete collection of The Internet’s Best Reactions to Leonardo DiCaprio Not Winning An Oscar. Lots of LOLZ. Poor Leo. He’ll have to bang at least 4 supermodels to get over this.
-Good news! The Oscars scored their best ratings in 10 years, with 43.0 million viewers, the best since 43.5 million tuned in to watch the Return of the King sweep in 2004. That’s good to see, especially when it seems like most people watched enjoyed the show. [Deadline]
You know what time it is…RANDOM FUN TIME!!!
I love the shots of people getting their Oscars engraved at the Governor’s Ball: