It’s a shame that the Academy Awards have taken a dip in ratings and viewing figures lately in comparison to their formative years. Maybe it’s the glamourous attention to celebrity, the fact that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Iron Man 3 didn’t win and weren’t expected to win any awards, or maybe it’s the nearly three and a half hour long running time. Although granted, a good hour of those hours were spent on lousy ads starring Robert De Niro, Tina Fey, the Muppets, and every popular movie quote since the ‘70s. There is a level of prestige and at times they take themselves too seriously—the “My First Oscars” segment of the Red Carpet show was grossly pretentious. Remember, frequent host Billy Crystal pointed out two years ago it’s essentially “watching billionaires present each other with golden statues.” However it is still an event that can’t be missed for movie buffs and this years’ Oscars were certainly worthy of attention.
This year’s awards were hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen’s a much safer host than last years’ Seth Macfarlane, who attracted much controversy for hosting exactly how one would expect Seth Macfarlane to host an awards show. She had a good time noting the similarities between the Oscars and the aforementioned Hunger Games and while her jokes didn’t always fly, it was refreshing to see a host spend more time in the audience than on stage. She tried to take selfies with ten nominees at once, and ordered pizza delivery. She legitimately went around offering slices to the nominees, which is sort of awesome! The presenters were as usual a crop of Hollywood’s most famous actors doing some of the worst acting of their careers as they read the feeble cheesy lines off the teleprompter, but were an interesting array of various Hollywood personalities providing a few surprises (What do you know, John Travolta still exists!). And how fitting that the Best Picture of the Year was presented by a star of the Worst Picture of the Year, Will Smith!
But onto the awards themselves! Gravity ended its big year taking seven of its ten nominations. 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club got three apiece and Her earned a single award for Spike Jonze’s original screenplay (adapted screenplay went to 12 Years a Slave). Despite all the buildup to it as a big contender, American Hustle left empty handed as did fellow Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street, Nebraska, Philomena, and Captain Phillips. 12 Years a Slave took home the Best Picture with Steve McQueen making the greatest triumphant Oscar grab in recent memory and Alfonso Cuarón won the coveted Best Director statue. The Best Actor category criminally ignoring the performance of Rob Ford as Frustrated Jamaican Patois in Scandal Video #3, saw the captivating Chiwetel Ejiofor lose to the physically transformative Matthew McConaughey of Dallas Buyers Club. Cate Blanchett won her second Oscar for her lead role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and in a year of extraordinary supporting performances Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o won for their roles in Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave.
But the minor awards are what are really interesting! Gravity won Cinematography while Disney’s Frozen won for both Animated Feature and Original Song (Disney sure knows how to write songs). Gravity’s Steven Price won for Original Score, The Great Gatsby surprisingly got production and costume design awards, and yes sound editing, mixing, and visual effects went to what you’re thinking. No, not The Hobbit. Dallas Buyers Club won Makeup and Hairstyling mainly because the Academy was not going to give an award to Jackass.
The song nominees were all played and there was a special tribute to The Wizard of Oz on its 75th anniversary including a surprisingly pleasant rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by pop artist P!nk of all people. To Bette Midler singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” there was the annual In Memoriam paying tribute to the lost: Peter O’Toole, Joan Fontaine, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Harold Ramis, and Christian Bale’s sex appeal among others. Sydney Poitier was onstage at one point in honour of the 50th anniversary of his historic Oscar win and the “Wiseguys at Warner Brothers” flub was too good to be simply that.
In the end the Oscars were pretty good and I can’t see them so divisively separating people the way last years were. Sure the show didn’t have too much setting it apart from other award shows, but Ellen will most likely be coming back having a friendly persona amongst the guests almost comparable to Billy Crystal and the great Bob Hope. Whether or not the awards went your way it was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday night distracted from the abyss of everlasting winter!