There’s glitz, glamour, sweat, tears, trips on the way to the stage. I believe it was also around this same time last year when fake news site The Onion called cute little Quvenzhane Wallis of Beasts of the Southern Wild a c**t. So without further ado, it’s Oscar night (Ta-da!).
For the opening monologue second time host Ellen Degenerous worked her way through the audience and playfully jabbed at nominees and attending celebrities alike. Poking at Jennifer Lawrence for tripping on her walk to the stage last year, teasing (rather controversially for Ellen’s usual humor) how if 12 Years doesn’t win then the Academy is inherently racist and how June Squibb must be hard of hearing due to being the newly crowned oldest Oscar nominee. Overall she offered a playful and fun start to a usually dragging and self-involved telecast. Following her was Anne Hathaway who presented the first award, Best Supporting Actor to suspected winner Jared Leto who offered a beautiful, albeit lengthy speech, where he discussed the fatal fight against AIDS and addressed all the dreamers out there saying while they are on their journey to accomplish their goals “we are here” and “we are thinking of you.”
Unfortunately, Ellen decided to stick to her smartphone, tweeting, selfie comedy for too long and it seems like a desperate ploy to appeal to younger viewers, which proved useless when the Academy chose James Franco and Anne Hathaway to host one of the biggest train wrecks of an Oscar telecast in history.
And finally, a whole 110 minutes into the telecast, the next major award was given, and it was also one of the most deserving winners so far into the night. Lupita Nyong’o for her stunning and heart breaking performance as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave. She said a lot in her speech that moved me and many others to tears including her tribute to her real life character, “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 she didn’t leave the stage before offering up some inspiring words, “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.”
Then came the most somber part of the night, the In Memoriam. In the past year we saw such monumental talents as James Gandolfini, Shirley Temple, Peter O’Toole, Harold Ramis, and Philip Seymour Hoffman pass right before our eyes and our hearts. It seems almost unreal when an actor or actress dies. They are in the spotlight for so long and all of a sudden they are gone. The montage was followed by Bette Midler’s inaugural performance during an Oscar telecast where she sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” which Midler covered for the 1988 film Beaches. However, one different thing about this year’s In Memoriam is the added name card for camera assistant Sarah Jones who died on a film set for a film entitled Midnight Rider last week that appeared at the bottom of the screen after Midler’s performance. She wasn’t included in the actual memoriam’s montage due to Jones not being an actual member of the academy and the proximity of her death to the telecast’s airtime.
To round out the performances for Best Original Song, which also happened to be the most anticipated performance of the night, Idina Menzel took the stage for an ultimately lackluster and poorly finished rendition of Frozen’s penultimate song “Let it Go.” She seemed very nervous throughout and at times even sang too fast for the music. It was stumbling and unfortunate but her voice still managed to belt through at the biggest moments in the song, except when she decided to fudge the last line. Then the actual awarding of the music statuettes came in the form of presenters Jamie Foxx and Jessica Biel. Foxx proved to be one of the best presenters so far. He’s so effortlessly entertaining and charming he could’ve presented alone, and seeing how Biel didn’t really add much, he kind of did. They handed the awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song to Steven Price for his epically beautiful composing of Gravity and Frozen’s empowering and infectious “Let it Go”.
Now, at the point in the show where only the biggest awards remain, the always beautiful Penelope Cruz and the paramount Robert DiNiro came out to hand out the awards for Best Adapted Screenplay to John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave (who had one of the most impassioned speeches tonight) and Best Original Screenplay to Spike Jonze for the wildly creative and moving her and in one of the night’s biggest moments, Hollywood royalty Angelina Jolie and Sidney Poitier graced the room with their presentation of the award for Best Director. Modern auteur Alfonso Cuaron took it home for his magnificent work on Gravity. He took a movie that many people looked at and thought to be impossible and he lifted it to the heavens and back cementing him as not only wondrous director, but also a cinematic genius.
Lastly, the three highest regarded awards of the entire season: Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Picture. To finally bring the season-long tug of war between Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett for Gravity and Blue Jasmine to an end, Blanchett proved to me the more beloved of the two when she took the stage to accept her award for her hell bent turn as Jasmine. She stripped away that regal and polished exterior that you always associate with Cate and became something rotten, gnarly and deteriorating. Speaking of deteriorating, for his poignant turn as Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey took home Best Actor further proving that this man who used to make crap for movies, can come back from that and achieve greatness. But the ultimate greatness achieved was that of 12 Years a Slave. It was a great story, filled with great performances, great direction and great design. So in the greatest way, the handing out of awards finished by commemorating 12 Years a Slave as the Best Picture of 2013. I truly am glad that both directors Cuaron and McQueen managed to snag Oscars due to the fact that McQueen was also credited as a producer of the film, making him a recipient of the glistening golden man.
So there it is… another awards season has to come to a grand end. Gravity goes home with the most awards at a deserving seven statues, followed by 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club at three each. It’s hard to believe that after an entire year of film releases, predictions, reviews, red carpets and wonderful performances, all comes to a close in a jam packed 3 1/2 hour telecast. Ellen proved to be wacky, weird but overall lacking when it came to entertaining through the night. She had some moments here and there but what I got out of her is that she didn’t seem to be trying hard enough. The bulk of her jokes were lame and tiresome, especially her annoying pizza gag that went on far too long. So you may be asking now what? For the winners it is a night full of parties and days of press tours in their future. For the viewers at home, they’ll be asleep and then back to their daily lives, but for the critics and filmmakers alike, it is the beginning. The beginning of the 2014 Oscar Season that is. So “cheers!” to another year of, hopefully, fantastic cinema and more awe-inspiring performances. Here’s looking at you 2014.