Rants And Raves: The 86th Annual Academy Awards
Backstage Photos, Snarky Comments, And Your Winners
Monday, March 3, 2014
Aired 2/27/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Well, we made it through another Oscar ceremony. Here are some thoughts on Hollywood's spotlight on itself, plus some candid Oscar photo moments.
The Oscars are over and there were no surprises among the winners (see the full list of winners and nominees). This year marked the smallest pool of films from which all the nominees were pulled. The lack of diversity revealed a lack of imagination on the part of both the voters and the filmmakers. "Gravity" took home the most Oscars but failed to nab the Best Picture trophy, which went to "12 Years a Slave." "Gravity" racked up craft awards not because it was the best shot, best edited, best sound mixed film of the year but rather because it was easier for voters to just check the same box across the board. It was a technically well made film but films such as "The Grandmaster" and "Only God Forgives" were better shot; "Short Term 12" and "Stories We Tell" were better cut; and some of those were not even nominated.
Mercifully, Sandra Bullock and Leonardo DiCaprio did not win acting awards, but rather the awards went to Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmine") and Matthew McConaughey ("Dallas Buyers Club"), deserving winners. Deserving an Oscar, though, rarely has anything to do with winning one so it's is nice when the right people won. McConaughey won less for his performance and more for the fact that he had a strong body of work this year (also "Mud" and "Wolf of Wall Street"), made a film with a politically correct message, and drastically changed his physical appearance (lost a dramatic amount of weight). And Blanchett won a bit by default: Meryl had won too many, Sandra just won, Amy Adams wasn't really the lead in "American Hustle," and Judi Dench wasn't going to be able to attend the awards... so there you go Cate.
The supporting acting categories were perhaps the most satisfying. Jared Leto ("Dallas Buyers Club") and Lupita Nyong'o ("12 Years a Slave") gave two of the most joyously genuine speeches. Blanchett, who has been racking up awards left and right, tried to feign surprise but has a very well-prepared acceptance speech on the tip of her tongue.
Leto typified the family spirit of the family spirit of the night by using his acceptance speech to thank his mom whom he brought with him to the awards: "In 1971, Bossier City, Louisiana, there was a teenage girl who was pregnant with her second child. She was a high school dropout and a single mom, but somehow she managed to make a better life for herself and her children. She encouraged her kids to be creative, to work hard and to do something special. That girl is my mother and she’s here tonight. And I just want to say, I love you, Mom. Thank you for teaching me to dream."
Looking like Jesus, Jared also sounded a little like him too: "To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight in places like the Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say we are here and as you struggle to… to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible… We’re thinking of you tonight... And this for the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love, tonight I stand here in front of the world with you and for you. Thank you so much and goodnight."
Nyong'o was perhaps the most engaging winner. In her acceptance speech she said, "It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own. Steve McQueen, you charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position. This has been the joy of my life. I’m certain that the dead are standing about you and watching and they are grateful and so am I."
And she too thanked family: "I want to thank my family for your training and the Yale School of Drama as well for your training. My friends, the Wilsons, this one’s for you. My brother, Junior, sitting by my side. Thank you so much... 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."
Nyong'o received a standing ovation from the audience. Her performance was superb, but the ovation was a tad much, and it was bothersome because it felt like it was less about Nyong'o and more about Hollywood congratulating itself for being so politically correct in selecting her and "12 Years a Slave."
It was an odd Oscars too in the sense that they finally recognized Alfonso Cuaron but for a film with white Hollywood celebrities in it rather than for one of his Spanish-language films or his much more deserving work on "Children of Men." The lesson foreign directors can take away is that if you expect to win, make your film in English with Hollywood stars.
Host Ellen DeGeneres tried valiantly to move the show along but failed miserably. She's an appealing performer, but she could not make the material she was given work. Her best moment was taking a selfie with some of the highest paid stars in the Hollywood firmament and bringing in a pizza delivery guy. But her joke to Liza Minnelli about female impersonators fell awkwardly flat as did most of the show.
The presenters were a fairly sad lot too with so many flubbing their lines. Pros like Daniel Day-Lewis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Benedict Cumberbatch, though, made it look easy -- and they looked good doing it.
Once again the musical numbers were painful but did provide ample time for bathroom breaks. Pharrell Williams made Meryl Streep shimmy for him, while the winners for Best Song from "Frozen," Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez were the most annoying winners evah! They were so prepared to win for their Disney endeavor that they had a little song rehearsed including this obnoxious and commercial lyric: "Happy Oscars to you. Let’s do 'Frozen 2.'" Please don't. In fact, dear Academy, please eliminate this category and maybe people will stop writing stupid songs solely to win this ridiculous award. Perhaps if Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" had won an Oscar I'd feel more kindly to this category. "Frozen" also took home the award for Best Animated Feature. I, of course, would have given it to "The Wind Rises" if only for pushing the boundaries of what we expect from animation.
The one category I was looking forward to was Best Make Up and Hair because "Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa" was nominated (along with the head scratcher nomination of the year, "The Lone Ranger"). Not only did it delight me to think that Jackass might be able to include "Oscar winner" on its DVD box art but it also was genuinely the most impressive work of the year. Not only did the make up artist have to make Johnny Knoxville look like an 80-year-old grandpa but he had to be convincing enough to fool people in real life. "Dallas Buyers Club" took the award, and while I can't fault their work, "Bad Grandpa" was just more impressive. Plus how hard is it to make Jared Leto look pretty, I mean really.
I did appreciate that winners were given the hook less often than in the past. As long as the show might run, that is the one place I feel that time should be allotted. This is supposed to be to honor the best in the business, some of them people who have never been in the spotlight before, so let them have their moment. This was most delightful in the Best Animated Short category. Winner Laurent Witz was so excited and nervous that he was visibly shaking. In his acceptance speech for his award for "Mr. Hublot," Frenchman Witz said: "Sorry, lot of emotion. I have to take a paper. Thank you, the Academy, for this award. Thank you for supporting shorts and new talents. It’s my first movie as director and producer... I feel it’s an American dream. Merci."
His speech was so emotional and his accent so difficult that the transcription of it was sprinkled with (unintelligible). He was my favorite winner.
Surprisingly, the KPBS Oscar Poll lined up almost exactly with the Oscar winners. The notable exception was KPBS voters picked "Dirty Wars" for Best Documentary over the Academy's pick of "20 Feet From Stardom."
And here are some fun Oscar photo galleries to check out.