Sunday, March 2, 2014

Academy Awards 2014

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to most for this year’s Oscar ceremonies is the hosting by Ellen DeGeneres. Last year’s host, Seth MacFarlane, was quite frankly a major dud. And while there have been glimmers of brightness, Billy Crystal in 2012, Jon Stewart in 2006 and 2008, and Ellen in 2007, the past few with Hugh Jackman, James Franco and Alec Baldwin have been snoozers. It will be good to get back to a real, honest to goodness comedian, which is what the show actually needs. Another good thing is that I don’t have films like Les Miserables and Silver Lining’s Playbook that I absolutely hated running for the big prizes. So, going in neutral will leave a lot less room for disappointment. Ellen began with a nice few minutes, far more edgy than she is on her show, but necessary for the event. Some of her jokes were particularly pointed, especially the one about Liza Minnelli. And she continued to do some nice bits in the audience as the show went on, including buying pizza for the crowd.

As always, the awards begin with best supporting actor. The trophy went to Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club in his role as a victim in the early days of AIDS. Costume design went to Catherine Martin for the remake of The Great Gatsby, while makeup and hair styling to Melanie Deforrest and Kat Percy for Dallas Buyers Club. Best animated short went to the French film Mr. Hublot, and the winner for animated feature film was won by the Disney film Frozen. Special effects, now known as visual effects definitely went to the best film nominated in that category, Gravity. The Oscar for the best live-action short film went to Helium, while the short subject documentary award went to The Lady in Number 6, whose subject had died just a few weeks ago. The long form documentary winner was 20 Feet from Stardom about backup singers who work unrecognized for some of the biggest names in music. And the best foreign film of the year was The Great Beauty, an Italian film about a playboy who finally finds some meaning to life when he turns sixty-five.

Both of the awards for sound, mixing as well as editing, went to Gravity. Then it was time for the best supporting actress. And the Oscar went to Lupita Nyong’o, finally breaking the barrier for 12 Years a Slave. Another big award that doesn’t get enough credit, best cinematographer, went again to Gravity for cameraman Emmanuel Lubezki, and to the same film for film editing for Mark Sanger and Alfonso Cuarón. The award for production design in the creation of realistic sets went to Catherine Martin, her second of the night, and Karen Murphy for The Great Gatsby. Best film score went to Steven Price, also for Gravity, and the best song went to “Let it Go” from Frozen. Kim Novak and Sidney Poitier made special appearances as presenters. Sadly, the usual parade of those who have departed was particularly poignant with great actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Harold Ramis, James Gandolfini, Karen Black, Eileen Brennan, Paul Walker, Dianna Durbin, Peter O’Toole, Shirley Temple, Joan Fontaine, Eleanor Parker, Julie Harris and Maximilian Schell, critic Roger Ebert, and special effects man Ray Harryhausen.

So, by the end of the show the big winner had been Gravity with six awards, but its continued dominance remained to be seen when the rest of the big six awards were announced. Adapted screenplay went to John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave, while original screenplay went to Spike Jonze for the film Her. The Oscar for best director was given to Alfonso Cuarón, yet again for Gravity. For the best actress in a leading role the award was given to the brilliant Cate Blanchett for the Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine, her second Oscar out of five nominations. As for the men, best actor in a leading role went to Matthew McConaughey for his performance as a desperate man with HIV in Dallas Buyers Club. And finally it was the time we’d all been waiting for, best picture. And the Oscar went to . . . 12 Years a Slave. The only disappointment for me the entire night was that Alexander Payne's film Nebraska was shutout. Otherwise, it was a thoroughly enjoyable night of recognition for one of the greatest arts of the last hundred years.

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