Monday, March 3, 2014

That's a Wrap: The 86th Academy Awards

Thanks to the Winter Olympics, Oscar season lasted much longer than usual this year. Even so, it feels like years had passed between the nominations announcement in mid-January and last night's ceremony. There weren't too many surprises this year, as many of the frontrunners won their respective categories. For me, it was a personal best in predicting the winners: I got 22 of the 24 categories correct, only missing Best Animated Short Film (in which I had predicted Get a Horse!) and the big one, Best Picture (though I really thought Gravity would get it). I didn't do it by myself, though; listening to my girlfriend rant about what a terrible movie American Hustle was factored into my thinking that it would go home winless. Overall, I was very pleased with the ceremony.

So let's take a look at what happened last night, both in the ceremony itself and with the winners, shall we?

THE CEREMONY

  • The selfie that broke Twitter is above. Look, the Oscars are never going to be great television. First and foremost, this is a ceremony in which the movie industry gives itself a big, congratulatory pat on the back for having a great year. For its effort, the show does try to entertain the masses, such as the performances of the Best Original Song nominees (more on that in a bit) and the various tributes, but for the most part if you're looking for an awards show to entertain you, the Oscars are going to be pretty low on the list. But Ellen Degeneres made a terrific host by keeping things light, mostly standing off to the side and letting things run their course while interjecting amusing bits in-between. Perhaps my favorite bit of the night was her ordering pizza and passing it out in the audience - it's a great piece of humor that's classic Degeneres. So yes, the show was typically bloated and long, but as a whole it was a fine ceremony to watch.
  • That being said, what was the deal with the sound quality during the musical performances? Maybe it was my local station, but every performance seemed really muted, as if the microphone wasn't working. I had to crank up the volume just to hear U2 perform "Ordinary Love," and Idina Menzel's voice was completely drowned in the music during "Let It Go." Worst of all was P!nk's performance of "Over the Rainbow," which sounded fantastic during the few bits when I could actually hear it. Did anyone else have this problem?
  • On a related note, the breakout star of the show was "Adele Dazeem," the bizarre pronunciation of Menzel's name by John Travolta. Maybe that's her name in the Church of Scientology?
  • This year's theme was "celebrating heroes," which is a fine choice in theory. However, the execution was really disappointing. The montages of films were scattershot and unrelated, and most of them ended abruptly. I wish they had gone with a different theme. More specifically, it would have been so much better if they had taken a cue from their tribute to The Wizard of Oz and celebrated the 75th anniversaries of other films from 1939. This was a year in which Oz, Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Dark Victory, Stagecoach, Of Mice and Men AND Mr. Smith Goes to Washington were all competing for Best Picture. A tribute to these films would have been thematically appropriate as well as a fitting celebration of the Oscars' rich, glorious history.
  • There was a real artistic streak in the nomination/in-memoriam montages this year. I loved the painterly portraits in the in memoriam segment, and Bette Midler performing "Wind Beneath My Wings" nearly had me in tears (to be fair, that song always gets to me). I really liked the title cards for the Best Picture nominees, especially the ones for Gravity and 12 Years a Slave.
Reactions to, and a complete list of, the winners after the jump.
THE WINNERS

  • It was a historic night: 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture, which it fully deserved, making it the first film by a black filmmaker to win the night's top prize in the 86 years of the Academy. It was fitting, then, that Sidney Poitier - the first black actor to win Best Actor, in 1963 - was on-hand to witness and that Will Smith presented the award. Director Steve McQueen literally jumped for joy at the podium. On a much lesser note, this is the first time since I began keeping up with the Oscars that the film I thought was the most deserving won Best Picture.
  • Alfonso Cuaron became the first Latin American filmmaker to take home Best Director, thanks to his work on Gravity. It was also the second year in a row that two different films won Best Picture and Best Director, which, by my count, is the 23rd time ever in Oscar history, and the first time the split's occurred in consecutive years since 1951/1952. In those years, An American in Paris and The Greatest Show on Earth won Best Picture, respectively, while George Stevens (A Place in the Sun, 1951) and John Ford (The Quiet Man, 1952) won Best Director. Cuaron is also only the second person of color to ever win the prize, after two-time winner Ang Lee, and for the first time ever, a person of color has won the prize in consecutive years (Lee won last year for Life of Pi).
  • None of the acting winners were really surprises, since they had been frontrunners for their respective categories for several weeks now. From a historical standpoint, Matthew McConaughey's Best Actor win and Jared Leto's Best Supporting Actor win mark the first time the male categories were won by the same movie (Dallas Buyers Club) since 2003, when Sean Penn and Tim Robbins took home Actor and Supporting Actor, respectively, for Mystic River. Cate Blanchett's win in Best Actress makes her the first actress to win that prize for a Woody Allen movie since Diane Keaton in 1977 for Annie Hall. Best Supporting Actress winner Lupita Nyong'o is the second black actress to win an Oscar for her film debut, following Jennifer Hudson (2006).
  • On the technical side, Gravity naturally proved a force to be reckoned with. However, both Frozen (Animated Feature, Original Song) and The Great Gatsby (Production Design, Costume Design) went a perfect 2-for-2 in their nominations, with the former film being Disney's first non-Pixar winner ever in the 13-year-old category.
  • With The Great Beauty winning the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Italy extends its lead as the most-winning nation in the category, with 11 competitive wins and 3 honorary awards from before the category was established.
  • By winning Best Adapted Screenplay for his script for 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley became the second black writer to win an Oscar, following Geoffrey Fletcher in 2009 for Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire (which also won Best Adapted Screenplay).
  • Overall, Gravity was the night's biggest winner, taking home a grand total of seven Oscars from its 10 nominations. This puts it just behind Cabaret (1972), which won eight Oscars, in terms of most-Oscared film to not win Best Picture. 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club each took home three Oscars apiece, from nine and six nominations, respectively, while the aforementioned Frozen and The Great Gatsby were the only other multiple winners. The only other Best Picture nominee to win last night was Her, for Best Original Screenplay. The other Best Picture nominees went winless: Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street, Philomena, Captain Phillips, and…
  • American Hustle, which entered the night nominated for 10 awards. It now joins the ranks of The Turning Point (1977), The Color Purple (1985), Gangs of New York (2002) and True Grit (2010) as films with 10 or more nominations to not win a single award. I felt really stupid yesterday afternoon for predicting that it would happen, so I'm really happy that the Academy vindicated my brash, irrational thinking.
Well, that's all for this year, folks. Another awards season is in the books, and now we can turn our attention to other, mostly non-Oscar related posts. I've got some big ideas for this blog in the coming months, so thank you for your continued readership, and I hope you'll stick around for more. While you're at it, you can like The Entertainment Junkie on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Be sure to share your thoughts on this year's Oscars in the comments section as well.

THE COMPLETE LIST OF WINNERS



BEST PICTURE: 12 Years a Slave

BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

BEST ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

BEST ACTRESS:  Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: 12 Years a Slave; screenplay by John Ridley

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Her; written by Spike Jonze

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Frozen

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gravity; Emmanuel Lubezki

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: The Great Gatsby; Catherine Martin

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: 20 Feet from Stardom

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

BEST FILM EDITING: Gravity; Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The Great Beauty (Italy)

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: Dallas Buyers Club; Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Gravity; Steven Price

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: Frozen, "Let It Go"; music and lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: The Great Gatsby; production design by Catherine Martin, set decoration by Beverly Dunn

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: Mr. Hublot

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM: Helium

BEST SOUND EDITING: Gravity; Glenn Freemantle

BEST SOUND MIXING: Gravity; Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Gravity; Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, and Neil Corbould

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