Monday, March 3, 2014

2014 Oscars: Final Thoughts

So, the 86th annual Academy Awards are over. My obsession and overly-thorough analysis of the race is now officially useless information, although, I'm pretty proud of predicting 19/24 categories correctly. And now, all that's left for me is to provide my final thoughts on the ceremony.

And, I have to say, this ceremony was really fantastic. And they were fantastic for one major reason: Ellen DeGeneres. Everyone expected her to be a great host, but she exceeded my already high expectations. There was just a general tone of joviality to the whole evening. And, especially when compared to last year's atrocity of a host, her jokes were never mean-spirited. She was having fun, so were the people in the audience, and so were those of us watching at home. And that's what an awards show should be.

The selfie on twitter idea was genius (and I loved when she pointed out that the fact that it broke a record truly made everyone a winner), and the fact that they ordered pizza was one of the greatest awards moments in history. Seriously, how amazing was that? I will see few things in my life greater than Meryl Streep looking really, really excited about getting a slice of pizza. This summed up, for me, why Ellen is such a great host: she does things just because they're funny.

Nothing will top the pizza for me, but here are some of my thoughts-- both good and bad-- on the night.

Although there were no real upsets in the major awards, there were some upsets in the categories of Best Animated Short Film and Best Live Action Short Film. The frontrunners in these categories did not win, but the best films of the nominees did. Which is a rather beautiful and reaffirming thing. I cheered when Mr. Hublot was announced instead of Get a Horse!. They're great films and see them for yourself-- I think you'll agree that the right films won.

Despite my thoughts on "Let It Go," it's exciting that Bobby Lopez won because he is now an official member of the coveted EGOT club, for those who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. And the speech he and his wife gave accepting the award was pure delight.

The fact that The Great Beauty won Best Foreign Language film means that Italy is now tied with France for the most number of wins in that category.

It's very rare for the director of the Best Picture winner to not win Best Director, which happened again this year. Not only that, but this is the second year in a row that this happened. The last time that these awards were split in two consecutive years was in 1952.

American Hustle, which I really loved but which seems to be getting a lot of criticism lately which I think is rather undeserved, failed to win a single award despite 11 nominations. It is now tied with The Turning Point and The Color Purple for the most nominations a without a win.

The speeches were, for the most part, rather spot on. But I found the speeches by the men of Dallas Buyers Club to be some of the lower points of the night. Jared Leto tried to bring up some important issues-- which I'd always wished he'd done when accepting awards-- but was mentioning issues that had nothing to do with Dallas Buyers Club. At the very end of his rambling speech, he finally mentioned "those out there who have ever felt injustice for who you are," yet still refused to say the word "transgender" when discussing his transgender character. Unbelievable. And then there's Matthew McConaughey who gave a completely meandering and rather incoherent speech. I get that his point was that people should strive to keep being the best version of themselves, but I find it a little odd that he spent the speech not thanking anyone-- and that he views himself as his own hero (even if it is a future version of himself).

Speaking of low points of the evening...John Travolta messing up Idina Menzel's name. What even was that? Did he say "Adela Manzeem?" It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen. It was even worse than the guy on the pre-show red carpet coverage who referred to Julia Roberts as "Jessica."

Interesting note about Best Documentary Feature Film. In my predictions for that category, I dismissed the ultimate winner 20 Feet From Stardom due to its more upbeat nature. But, I found out tonight, there has actually been a change in how this category is voted upon. It used to simply be documentarians voting, but now it's open to more people in the academy, which means it's likely that this category will feature more and more crowd-pleasers as the year goes on. Although, I can't help but feel that The Act of Killing got robbed because of this change.

Back to positives-- I loved the choice to cut the live audio feed while the In Memoriam section was running. I always love that section-- and the opportunity it gives to reflect on the work of so many great artists. But I've always found the applause during that kiiiiiiiiiiinda baffling. I know it's to honor the late, great talent...but it still always feels like "YAY! I'M GLAD THEY'RE DEAD!" So I appreciated that we didn't have to listen to the audience applause over it.

Can we talk about Lupita Nyong'o? She has won multiple awards already for her performance in 12 Years a Slave and has impressed me by giving such incredible speeches every time. Seriously, look them up. In every acceptance speech, she is not only very eloquent and gracious, but she brings up important issues and takes the time she has been given to really make a statement (take note, Leto). And it's always something different. Tonight, however, was the first time we really got to see her get emotional. She was still as poised as always, but she really gave herself time to take in the fact that she won an Oscar, and it was a beautiful and touching thing to see. Similarly, when Steve McQueen spoke after 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture, I love that he gave a really composed and important speech...and then once the serious stuff was out of the way began jumping up and down.

I really want to hear the full speech that Geoffrey Rush gave to honor Angela Lansbury at the Governor's Ball. If the little snippet we heard is any indication, it was incredible.

And, of course, one of my favorite parts of the evening was that The Wolf of Wall Street walked away with nothing. When they were announcing the award for Best Film Editing, they said something like "Without a good editor, a film would be four hours long and not as good as it could have been." That statement reeeeeeeeeeeally made me think of The Wolf of Wall Street. Although, to be fair, it's not the worst film I've seen recently.

So, there we are. A great Oscar ceremony to cap off a really incredible year for film. Sure, the ceremony ran long, but I don't care. It's the Oscars-- it's supposed to run long! And while not all of the video montages (which most likely padded the ceremony and were responsible for its long duration) were all that necessary, they were all quite well done. I don't have much to say because I really enjoyed it-- and it's easier to say things about something that you are ripping to shreds. So, my comments might not be as expansive as they have been in past years, but that's a good thing. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners, and here's to another great year for film in 2014!

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