So the 86th Academy Awards have come and gone and now that we’ve had a week to digest what happened in the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, now it’s time to sort it all out – what, if anything, did the Academy get right and what did they get wrong? Who better to tell you than your old buddy, Harmonov?
It was good to see Ellen Degeneres back at the helm. Seth McFarlane filled his role last year, but I wasn’t terribly excited about him as the host. Ellen told great jokes, skewered Hollywood quite nicely and kept the incredibly boring show rolling despite the producers’ best efforts to make it the worst show in memory. Ellen made the show fun despite the selfie non-sense. I guess some people eat that shit up. Not this guy. And I did appreciate Ellen looking like she just finished presenting a case in the House of Lords sans the ridiculous ass wig.
And let’s face it, folks – the “Hero” theme this year was as fucking awful as the “Musical” theme from last year. The montages were boring (way too much Tom Cruise) and the Pink/Wizard of Oz tribute was preposterous. With Liza Minnelli sitting in the audience, we get Pink to do this? Come the fuck on. And let’s be serious, why do the damn thing at all, right?
The pizza delivery may well have been the high point of the non-award shenanigans. Should I really have enjoyed watching Jennifer Lawrence scarfing down a slice of pizza as much as I did? Who am I kidding? I didn’t really care at all, although I think we were all secretly waiting for her to drop it on her dress.
So on to the awards…
While it seemed that Gravity, who had swiped seven awards up to the time when Best Picture was announced, might pull off the win, I’m happy to say that the Academy got this one right with 12 Years a Slave taking home the Oscar. I’ve said for months it was the strongest film of the year and it’s nice that the voters actually agreed. I do wonder, especially in light of the two anonymous Academy voters saying they voted for 12 Years a Slave without having seen it, if Ellen was right when she quipped that either “a)12 Years a Slave will win Best picture or b) You’re all racists.” I think I saw all but 8 or 9 of all the films nominated in every category. That I, a professional (well…let’s not rush to judgment there) with a 40-hour+/week job and two kids, was somehow able to see nearly all of the films nominated makes me question the Academy and the voting all the more. Get your fucking act in gear Academy. Anyhither, this was a two-pony race for the last few weeks with American Hustle falling by the wayside. I will say this – get a documentary into the Best Picture category. There is too much going on in that arena of film to be denied consideration. I will address this later on.
It was great to see Alfonso Cuarón pull out the win for Gravity, but I will still pulling for Steve McQueen. Cuarón more than deserved one for Children of Men, one of my favorite films of the aughts. Likewise, McQueen should have had one for Hunger as well. I feel certain that we will see more from them both in the future that will merit awards consideration. There was no villain for me to root against in this category this year like there was with Spielberg last year. I would have even been fine with David O. Russell winning for American Hustle, which came home with a goose egg, winning no Oscars in the ten categories it was nominated. Shame, really, because it was very good. And a quick note – Cuarón is the first man born of Latino heritage to take home the Best Director award (McQueen would have been the first African-American to do so), so this was a historic night. Let’s not lose sight of that. In a category that has been cornered by white men (Kathryn Bigelow and Ang Lee are the only two from minority populations to have won this award), Cuarón‘s win was historic. I feel like this was lost somehow.
The Best Supporting Actress category was another that was mildly close until the voting ended. Academy voters had a choice – award Hollywood “it” girl Jennifer Lawrence with back-to-back Oscars at age 23 (obviously the youngest to do so) for a performance in American Hustle that I wouldn’t even consider one of the best five of the year (it was still good, though) as an ignored New Jersey housewife or give the award to Lupita Nyong’o for her brave performance as Patsey, a tortured slave and the object of affection for her brutal owner. Seemed like a no-brainer and I’m glad the Academy chose wisely. So often they fall on the wrong side. June Squibb and Sally Hawkins were both sentimental favorites of sorts knowing that neither had a chance. Hawkins‘ turn was nothing short of amazing and to stand out when acting alongside Cate Blanchett in what amounts to her signature starring role is no small feat. She charmed again just like she did in Happy-Go-Lucky. She is simply fantastic and I always look forward to how she crafts her characters. June Squibb gave us without a doubt the funniest performance in any of the acting categories. I was so glad that they showed the cemetery clip from Nebraska for the nominees sequence. I laughed heartily at that scene. Julia Roberts…you can suck it. If ever there was a token nomination, this is a great example. Still building her characters exactly the same as she did 20 years ago, it’s good to see the Academy recognizing the range in her work. What a fucking joke. There were at least ten performances that deserved a nomination over hers. And this is why I can’t help but to question the merit of the Academy voters. Sigh.
The Best Supporting Actor was a race that was wrapped up months ago with Jared Leto taking home the Oscar for his role as Rayon, the transsexual business partner of Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. It was a great performance, but I still say this award should have gone to Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave. Both of the films were important as were the roles and performances, but Leto‘s performance didn’t leave anywhere near the impact that Fassbender‘s did. And let me point this out…Jordan Catalano now has an Oscar. Who’d a thunk? I thought this was the weakest set of nominations in the acting groups with Jonah Hill and Bradley Cooper both stretches to be honored alongside Leto, Fassbender and Barkhad Abdi, who I thought was just fantastic in Captain Phillips. I thought that Casey Affleck (Out of the Furnace) and Ryan Gosling (Place Beyond the Pines) were the two better choices in this category.
This one was settled months ago as well and it’s hard to get mad at this pick. The story was important and the performance was spot-on (this is hard for me to admit), but to me it wasn’t even his best performance of the year (see Mud people…for serious). My vote would have gone Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Obviously I’ve made no bones about it being what I believe to be the best film of the year and its success was steeped in the three key performances – Ejiofor, Nyong’o and Fassbender (Sarah Paulson‘s is nothing to scoff at either). Christian Bale landing a nod here was worthy, but not the strongest of his career. Despite American Hustle scoring 10 nominations, it seemed that Bale was lost in the shuffle of everything else. I thought DiCaprio shone quite brightly in The Wolf of Wall Street, which is also very hard to admit. Bruce Dern took it on the chin for his age at every awards show, but he was fantastic, although if you’re going to laud him, his work for The ‘Burbs should be heavily considered.
This was the toughest one for me to choose who I wanted to win. When I saw Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine this past summer, I knew it was a performance to be reckoned with, standard for her. She brings it every time and is without a doubt my favorite actress working today. However, Amy Adams is just as consistent and I thought her performance in American Hustle was the best part of that film. She has been nominated five times and has been deserving of the award every year. She will get hers at some point in what I believe is the very near future, but this one was tough. Meryl Streep broke the record for most nomination by an actor/actress for her role in August: Osage County, an over the top performance that really doesn’t stack up against most of the other 17 she’s received. We get it Academy, you love Meryl. We do, too, but seriously, it dilutes the importance of the nomination when you give her one for every fucking performance. STOP. Sandra Bullock was okay in Gravity, but once again, I don’t think she’s got a tremendous amount of range and frankly without the special effects to keep the eyes busy, I doubt she gets a nod. Judi Dench was good in Philomena, but she is like Meryl in that if it’s a serious role outside of the Bond films, she’ll get a nod. Her Irish accent needed some work as well.
And with Blanchett’s win, we did get to see this:
Her and Daniel Day-Lewis together on the same stage…I’m surprised the world was not swallowed in a vortex of badassery because that’s precisely what this is. Worth watching the show for this one shot alone…
And I just wanted to say how happy I was to see Emmanuel Lubezki finally win and Oscar for cinematography. His work with Terrence Malick in The Tree of Life and The New World as well as his photography in Cuarón‘s Children of Men were all the best nominated in those years. Now, if we can just get Roger Deakins one, all will be right in the category.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t once again say that Joshua Oppenheimer‘s The Act of Killing losing the Best Documentary Feature award to 20 Feet from Stardom shows what pussies the Academy can be. That The Act of Killing was not nominated for Best Picture was tragedy enough, but losing this is truly unconscionable. This is a film that will (and already has) affect long term change in Indonesia and helps opens people’s eyes to an atrocity that had American backing (although this isn’t explicitly said in the film) and makes us question our roles as accomplices in acts as despicable as what occurred in Indonesia in 1965 and the lasting effect it still has. Watch the film, people. Get to Netflix asap. I don’t want to take anything away from 20 Feet from Stardom because it is a fine film, one which I enjoyed very much, and the stories of the backup singers in it are compelling, but it just doesn’t even compare on any level to the reach that The Act of Killing has had and will have. I was lucky enough to sit in a room with Oppenheimer last week and have him explain this film, his motivation for making it and how it affects us all and came out even more convinced that this film losing this award is an artistic tragedy. Much in the same way they passed up Brokeback Mountain and Paradise Now, the Academy went with the safe bet. I can’t abide that. Film is a medium that can provoke thought, start discussions and cause people to act (see Blackfish). It’s at its best when it does so. The Academy missed an opportunity to bring forth discussion.
Another year in the books and another year until I get to bitch about something that really has no relevance to the world outside of a group of super rich people jerking each other off over taking at least $8 from us each time we visit the theater to see one of their creations. Funny that.