Emotional speeches. Prestigious presenters. Notable mishaps. And Jennifer Lawrence tripping in a very expensive dress. It can only mean the 86th Academy Awards took place with its usual aplomb, on the 2nd of March. The blog covered the nominations; now it’s time to recap the night’s proceedings.
Hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, this year’s Oscars ran mostly like clockwork. With the exception of one unfortunate incident of a winner being played off, the only real tragedy of the night was the lack of enthusiasm by some of the presenters. Of course, they were probably just being extra careful after John Travolta butchered Idina Menzel’s name.
DeGeneres did a nice job with the hosting. It was definitely one of the safer Oscars in recent memory, with the less popular jokes simply being unfunny rather than offensive. Even the slight insult to Liza Minelli in the opening monologue is now water under the bridge. But the majority of her material was excellent, including this reference to one of the most popular franchises in cinema right now: “Who are we kidding? It’s The Hunger Games. I mean, there are cameras everywhere, you’re starving, Jennifer Lawrence won last year.”
Even before the ceremony got underway, the question on everyone’s lips was whether Gravity or 12 Years a Slave would be the bigger winner of the night. In terms of the sheer number of awards, the former was miles ahead of its competition. Its biggest win was for Best Director, Alfonso Cuarón making history by becoming the first Latino to win the category. It also picked up wins for Best Editing – where Cuarón was sadly played off before he could deliver his speech – Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Original Score.
12 Years a Slave won only three categories compared to Gravity’s seven, but all three were major wins. The most notable of these was Best Picture, once again a historic win as no film helmed by a black director had taken home the prize before this year. It also made it the second consecutive year where the Picture and Director Oscars went to different films. Lupita Nyong’o edged fierce rival Jennifer Lawrence for the Best Supporting Actress category and, in doing so, delivered one of the best speeches of the night by validating the dreams of children from all corners of the world and from all circumstances. The film also took home the trophy for Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay, for John Ridley’s beautiful work on the script.
Lawrence’s loss epitomised the night for American Hustle, which went empty-handed, despite its ten nominations, as did The Wolf of Wall Street. Dallas Buyers Club, however, picked up three awards. The McConaissance continued with a win for Matthew McConaughey in the Best Actor category. Jared Leto also won for Best Supporting Actor, and he graciously acknowledged both his family and the countless people facing insurmountable challenges around the world. The $250-budget makeup artists won the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.
Cate Blanchett’s win in the Best Actress category was the most assured win of the night. It was the Australian’s 23rd prize this awards season and she is the only acting winner at this year’s Oscar to have also won the Golden Globe, the SAG Award and the BAFTA. Interestingly, she is also the only acting winner this year not to be a first-time nominee. With the result being so predictable, she could have easily given a dull speech, but she was on top form once again, calling out people who think that films about women are not profitable and paying respect to her fellow nominees while simultaneously making fun of Julia Roberts.
Spike Jonze won for Best Writing – Original Screenplay, one of the quirkier choices made by the Academy this year but certainly one of the most well deserved ones. The Great Gatsby can now proudly call itself a multi-Oscar winner, after winning in the Best Costume Design and Best Production Design categories. 20 Feet from Stardom caused the biggest shock of the night, winning Best Documentary – Feature over heavy favourite The Act of Killing and potential dark-horse The Square. There was no such surprise in Best Documentary – Short Subject, with The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life winning it on the night.
Disney finally won its first Best Animated Feature Film Oscar for Frozen, with director Chris Buck giving a heartfelt shout-out to his son Ryder who passed away weeks before the film’s release in a car accident after having survived cancer. Frozen also took home the trophy for Best Original Song with “Let It Go”. The short category wins went to Helium for Best Live Action Short Film and Mr. Hublot for Best Animated Short Film, while Italy’s The Great Beauty won the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Alongside DeGeneres’s hosting gags, which included taking a multi-starring selfie that broke the record for most retweeted picture and delivering pizza to the starving guests, there were multiple performances on the night. All four nominees for Best Original Song were performed and, although eventual winner “Let It Go” and co-favourite “Ordinary Love” were bigger showpieces, it was the haunting simplicity of “The Moon Song” and the sheer energy of “Happy” that were more enjoyable on the night. You can’t argue with a song that gets Lupita Nyong’o and Amy Adams grooving, and Meryl Streep shimmying after all.
The In Memoriam segment missed out a few names once again, but was still more tastefully done than in recent years, the organisers choosing to focus on the names and contributions of the deceased instead of crowbarring in a song during the montage. Bette Midler did follow up the segment with a rather drab performance of “Wind Beneath My Wings” but it was presenter Bill Murray’s touching tribute to Harold Ramis that drew more applause. Pink also appeared, singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” to commemorate the 75th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz”. She nailed the performance but the tribute felt a little out of place.
The Academy also continued its recent tradition of having a theme to the proceedings. Last year, it was musicals; this year, it was the film hero. Although all it amounted to was a series of montages, it was actually quite nicely done, with the organisers highlighting the struggling hero (like Harvey Milk and Jackie Robinson), the icons (like Gandhi, Mandela and Lincoln), the fictional hero (like Superman, Iron Man and Katniss Everdeen), and the childhood hero (like the Incredibles and the Toy Story crew). Andrew Garfield was also supposed to have inducted Miles Scott, a.k.a. Batkid, into the superhero pantheon, but timing issues resulted in that segment being cut. Don’t worry though; the ever-loveable Garfield took the entire Scott family to Disneyland and invited them to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 premiere. What a man.
At the end of the day, it was a relatively predictable night with some good hosting by DeGeneres. What made this year so special was the historic, albeit expected, results in the two big categories, and the genuine joy of the winners. And not just Nyong’o; take a look at the speech by “Let It Go” writers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. If, like me, you are unable to find the video on YouTube, at least take a look at J-Law’s epic red carpet fall. I sense a new tradition emerging.
If you have taken the time to read this until the end, I wanted to deliver my own cheesy 42-second speech and say thank you to all the readers who have followed this blog. Although I have considered writing a few more entries on the final, smaller awards or perhaps recapping some of the memorable moments this year, it might be best to end it on a high note and not create unwanted sequels. So, I bid you all a good night and happy reading for the rest of The Boar’s website.