Monday, March 3, 2014

86th Annual Academy Awards Recap

Ellen DeGeneres returning to host for the 86th Annual Academy Awards hands-down showed how to effortlessly wrangle a younger, wider audience, something the academy has been desperately trying to do since their ill-fated host selection of James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Well, this year without even meaning to, it's happened. (Or at least I'm assuming that is what the result will be.) And it all starts with that A-list selfie, featuring the glowing faces of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey, Lupita Nyong'o, Jennifer Lawrence, Jared Leto and more with Bradley Cooper holding out the phone in a moment of pure unadulterated fun. As was the goal, it has garnered the most retweets on Twitter of all time and, as Ellen later confirmed in the telecast, even momentarily crashed the social media site.

Ellen channeled the feel-good spirit of her daytime talk show, interacting with the audience, relating to celebrities -- who actually seem to really like her -- and strolling the seats with casual banter, even walking around with Pharrell's now-famous hat collecting money from the likes of Harvey Weinstein for the pizza she ordered. Yes, the pizza she ordered. The pizza that actually came, and which was eaten up by the likes of Harrison Ford and Martin Scorsese.

These two moments made her hosting gig actually memorable, and also proves that, really, no awards show nowadays is complete without the incorporation of social media. Cate Blanchett's acceptance speech even included the word "hashtag." Never in a million years, right? Ellen's opening monologue actually wasn't that strong but was totally compensated by her throughout-the-show bits. Most hosts do their monologue and then bow out for the rest of the telecast. Not Ellen.

Now to the awards. "Gravity" bordered on a sweep, nabbing all the awards it was nominated for except two, totaling in at seven. They were sound mixing and editing, cinematography, visual effects, score, editing (over "Captain Phillips") and then Alfonso Cuaron for best director, who delivered a heartfelt speech and a spout of Spanish. The only technical category it couldn't dominate was production design because Catherine Martin is an unstoppable force and flamboyancy never loses.

"The Great Gatsby" took home two awards for costume and production design. Also coming in at two was Disney's "Frozen" for best animated film and best original song, "Let It Go."

"12 Years a Slave" and "Dallas Buyers Club" tied for three wins each. "12 Years" topped the night with a best picture win; Brad Pitt introduced an exuberant Steve McQueen who ended his speech with a literal jump for joy in the air. Lupita Nyong'o beat out Jennifer Lawrence for "American Hustle," but even though she lost, J-Law still managed to steal the show. The girl tripped, yes, again, to the point where Ellen even made a crack about it in her opening. "I think we should bring you the Oscar" if she were to win.

John Ridley won best adapted screenplay for "12 Years," and then I was particularly elated when Spike Jonze won the sole award for "Her" in best original screenplay over "American Hustle."

"Dallas" took home two of the other acting awards for Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey, the former thanking his mom and calling out support to anyone who's ever felt segregated against while McConaughey went full McConaughey with a (lovable) rambling about goals and show business. Both speeches were great in their own ways, and Cate Blanchett also shined with her best actress speech for "Blue Jasmine," noting women empowerment in films. Nyong'o had the most gorgeous, tearful speech of them all. "No matter where you're from, your dreams are valid," she said.

The four nominated-song performances were all stand-outs and didn't slow down the show. The internet went into a frenzy when John Travolta absolutely butchered Idina Menzel's name. Adele Dazeem? Pharrell got Lupita Nyong'o, Amy Adams and Meryl Streep all to dance, an instantly GIF-able moment.

Eyeroll-inducing moments, though, were not absent. Instead of fading away to black and going to a commercial following the In Memorium segment, Bette Midler emerged and sang the bizarre and jarring song selection of "Wind Beneath My Wings." Also bizarre was the show's entire theme of heroes, a broad, sweeping theme that only existed to give us pointless, brainless montages. And while Pink's rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was well-done in honor of the 75th anniversary of "The Wizard of Oz," it felt like its sole purpose was to bloat the show. Yet, amazingly enough, the show clocked in right at time at exactly three hours and 30 minutes.

It's interesting we have a year where the film that won best picture didn't win either editing or directing, which are otherwise precursors to what takes the top honor. Yet "12 Years" coming out on top was more than fitting, and "Gravity" reaped what it needed to. And this left "American Hustle" perfectly left out and empty-handed. Isn't that justice, after all, for a movie that seduced critics for seemingly no reason? Sweet justice indeed.

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