The 86th Academy Awards are over … after a mere 3 ½ hours! Ratings and viewership were at a 10 year high, so ABC is thrilled. Ellen DeGeneres is clearly a popular draw as host. The nature of awards shows make them ripe for criticism, and sometimes the Oscars just makes it too easy. But first, the good stuff.
If you follow my Oscar predictions, you know that I correctly predicted 21 of 24 winners. While that’s impressive, it’s clear that luck played a huge role. As I previously stated, many of the categories could have gone two or three or four different ways, but the Gravity roll I was banking on did in fact happen … it finished the night with 7 Oscars, easily the most of any movie. What it couldn’t do was get past 12 Years a Slave for Best Picture, creating the rare “split” between director and picture. The day after has been filled with much noise from the experts who felt strongly that Gravity was the best movie of the year. As I’ve said, I found it to be a visual feast in 3D IMAX, but can’t imagine it will have much staying power on home TV.
The 3 categories I missed were Costume, Live Action Short, and Animated Short. My personal preference won two of those categories, and in quite a shocker, Disney’s Get a Horse didn’t finish as the top Animated Short. Three of the four acting awards went to first time winners, and all acting winners gave very sincere acceptance speeches (Jared Leto and Lupita Nyongo’s were particularly terrific). This is a good time to recognize Meryl Streep’s phenomenal 18th Oscar nomination during her 36 year career. To put that in perspective, this was Bruce Dern’s second nomination … 35 years since his first one! American Hustle was 0 for 10 in this year’s Oscars, narrowly missing the record of 0 for 11 held by both The Color Purple (1985) and The Turning Point (1977). Even more startling, of the 32 nominated feature films (not counting foreign language, documentary, or shorts), only 7 films walked away with a statue.
There were many frustrating (for me) points during the ceremony. The seemingly endless gags on pizza and Twitter (picture, above) were a silly waste of time and caused many East Coast viewers to stay up much later than necessary. Also confusing was the decision to have Bette Midler sing the tribute song AFTER the slideshow honoring those who have passed away since last year’s ceremony. Having her sing during the slideshow would have been more touching and saved 3-4 minutes. Ellen’s cruelest joke of the evening was directed at Liza Minnelli … and inexcusable in my book. Ms. Minnelli and her sisters were invited guests for the 75th anniversary of their mother’s (Judy Garland) classic 1939 hit The Wizard of Oz. To be hit with such a cruel comment just minutes after the show opened must have been humiliating.
The cringe-inducing moments did not stop there. How about the parade of less-than-perfect plastic surgery results? The most obvious and difficult to look at were John Travolta, Kim Novak, and Goldie Hawn. And if the fake hair and face weren’t enough, Mr. Travolta botched his introduction of singer Idina Menzel by inexplicably calling her “Adele Dazeen”. At the other end of the spectrum, 67 year old Sally Field is the poster child for aging gracefully. For me, the most uncomfortable moments came courtesy of the rift between “Slave” director Steve McQueen and writer John Ridley. An historic night for both of them should have allowed for a respectful sharing of the moment, rather than the icy cold shoulders and petty acceptance speeches.
The highlights of the evening helped offset the negative. I found all of the musical moments to be really enjoyable: Pharrell Williams managed to get the stodgy crowd up on their feet, Karen O’s ballad was short and sweet, U2 unplugged added a touch of rock’s elite, and Broadway star Idina Menzel showed off her extraordinary voice singing the winning “Let it Go”. Pink elegantly performed the “Oz” tribute, and 75 year old Darlene Love brought down the house with her powerful pipes while singing her acceptance speech.
We also witnessed the youngest and newest member of EGOT, as Robert Lopez’ Best Song Oscar finished off his Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony collection. So after all the predictions, good and bad jokes, musical interludes and pointless hero montages, the single best moment of the night for me was the speech delivered by Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong’o, including the inspirational final line, “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” In a room full of egos, it’s that line that sticks.