Oscars 2014: Winners & Recap

12 Years A Slave Oscars

The 86th Academy Awards came and passed last night and we here at Monday Morning Matinee have decided to combine our thoughts on the show here in one handy post. Will, Jason and Collin contribute their own thoughts on the winners, the show, and anything else that may have crossed our minds.

Will:

I gotta say, the show itself was rather dull. Ellen DeGeneres didn’t do it for me as a host this year. She played it was too safe, clearly a result of Seth MacFarlane’s more risqué routine last year. Say what you want about him, but he kept things rather … interesting. Ellen’s safe opening bit had me worried, and she never quite adjusted at any point throughout the night. It felt as though most of her time last night was resorting to hanging out with the actors, as if just being there with them was enough. The whole “selfie/retweet” photo was the one cool moment, but in a nearly 3 ½ hour telecast, that wasn’t nearly enough.

Now to the important bit: The Award Winners. For the most part, there weren’t too many surprises. I can’t complain with any of the winners. I was rooting for Lupita Nyong’o all the way, and couldn’t have been happier when her name was called. What an absolutely gorgeous speech she gave. Emotions were running wild. It was very well deserved.

They got it right with Jared Leto winning Best Supporting Actor, and, as expected, Cate Blanchett won Best Actress for Blue Jasmine. Gravity took home most of the technical achievements, as it should have. Frozen won Best Animated Feature, and Alfonso Cuarón got his Best Directing victory, which was no contest if you ask me. The toughest award to predict was Best Actor, and that ended up going to the red hot Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. He gave an awesome speech, and I am very happy for him. But online, I saw a lot of people using his victory not as a celebration for McConaughey, but as a ripping party for Leonardo DiCaprio, who once again went home empty-handed at the Oscars. I found this a bit odd and childish from all those involved in this, as all the actors in the Best Actor category could have rightfully won the award this year, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose performance almost seemed to have gotten lost by people too busy bickering between McConaughey and DiCaprio.

12 Years A Slave took him the Best Picture prize to the surprise of no one. Can’t say it wasn’t deserved, but Gravity would have been my pick. Either way, I’m perfectly fine with the Academy’s choice.

The musical numbers were for the most part excellent, especially Karen O and Ezra Koenig performing Her‘s “The Moon Song” together. U2 and Pharrell Williams also did their things. Idina Menzel gave a killer good performance of Frozen‘s “Let It Go.” But watching all the songs made me realize the Oscars screwed up not giving a nomination to any song from Inside Llewyn Davis. Can you imagine how glorious it would have been to see Justin Timberlake, Oscar Issac, and Adam Driver performing “Please Mr. Kennedy” together?

For the most part, The Academy got it right. The musical performances mostly delighted and were a welcome distraction from the boring host interactions. With that said, the show itself left me wanting more, mostly due to a very boring, and safe, Ellen DeGeneres. Hopefully someday the Oscars can pull Fey and Poehler away from the Globes, because I can imagine that they would put on an Oscar telecast that we’d never forget.

Until next year.

Jason:

I personally enjoyed the ceremony and hubbub. Ellen was the perfect palate cleanser after Seth MacFarlane’s raunchy hosting job last year. Sure, the selfies and ordering in pizza might not have gone over well with those expecting or hoping for a serious awards show, but then again, that’s the kind of thing Ellen is known for on her show.

As for the Oscars themselves, the winners weren’t necessarily a surprise if you’ve been keeping track of other award show wins (i.e., the Globes, the BAFTAs, etc.). Gravity took everything but Best Picture, Lead Actress, and Production Design; those went to 12 Years a Slave (which also took Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o) and Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley)), Cate Blanchett, and The Great Gatsby, respectively. You could say that Gravity won what mattered in regards to the technical categories, which is certainly true, as Cuaron and crew brought home awards in seven out of the ten nominated categories (Director, Sound Mixing + Editing, Original Score, Editing, Visual Effects, and Cinematography). (Plus, now Edgar Wright can brag that Ant-Man is being scored by a BAFTA and Academy Award winner.) 12 Years was definitely deserving of its wins, as was Dallas Buyers Club, which dominated the Lead and Supporting Actor categories (McConaughey and Leto, respectively). I would have loved to have seen Chiwetel win in place of McConaughey, though, but it is what it is. I am a little disappointed, though, that The Wind Rises and The Act of Killing didn’t win in their respective categories of Animated Feature and Documentary Feature, mainly because 1) Wind is Hayao Miyazaki’s last film; and 2) the impact of The Act of Killing.

There also were the memorable moments, like Sidney Poitier and Angelina Jolie presenting Best Actress, Robert Lopez claiming an Oscar for “Let It Go” (which made him the twelfth EGOT winner), the hero montages, In Memoriam (as always), the Wizard of Oz tribute, and the unfortunate butchering of Idina Menzel’s name – actually, that might be more of a blunder than a memorable moment. Either way, it was a good year, both for film and for awards. Here’s to a little more of a lively host next year!

Collin:

What a show. Reiterating what I said in my Favorite Films of 2013 piece, what a year for film in general. The Oscar lineup last night was filled with close, close races in a number of categories. It really does seem like a trend now, the entire scope of cinema seems to be accelerating positively in so many ways.

Crunching the raw numbers, Gravity made a clean sweep of most of the technical categories, also including Best Director for Alfonso Cuarón. When I look at it, the film truly is a technical marvel in it’s design. In a world filled with larger-than-life productions, taking the arguably largest setting possible and filming it on such a tiny scale took true ingenuity and finesse.

Spike Jonze won Best Original Screenplay for Her, something I think was long due. He really is such a versatile director, spanning from film to music and skateboard videos. Her was my personal favorite film of the year, but I think that’s because I identified personally with it. We also got a super awesome performance of “The Moon Song” by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend, for which O and Jonze were nominated.

Frozen received Best Animated Feature (and Best Original Song), which was fairly easy to call. Many people are hailing it as the harbinger of the “2nd Disney Renaissance” (the first referring to the days of Aladdin, The Lion King, and all of the classics). CGI is essentially the new standard for animation, but some are still disillusioned with that thought. I think Frozen proves that well-written stories, characters, and songs can still touch the minds of the youth no matter if it was hand-drawn or rendered with a computer. Also, projects like the Paperman (which won Best Animated Short in 2012) prove that CGI and traditional animation can be beautifully blended together to create a uniquely aesthetic experience. I have to admit, I would have liked to see Miyazaki win for The Wind Rises, but I think it didn’t have enough exposure here in the States to make it a real contender. I’m inherently biased in this matter, I grew up watching Totoro and Spirited Away (which did win the award that year), but the fact that it is claimed to be Miyazaki’s last major film brings sadness to my heart.

Almost surprisingly, The Great Gatsby snagged two awards for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design. A lot of people forgot about this one, as it was released much earlier in the year. Although the film’s reception was mixed, nobody could deny that the glittering art deco dreamscape created wasn’t beautiful.

Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Patsey in 12 Years A Slave. I always love seeing new talents taking an award. It shows you that while experience leads to refinement, acting still very much comes from within. Nyong’o’s powerful and heartbreaking performance well deserved the recognition. You could just tell with her acceptance speech how much she really appreciated the award.

The always graceful and lovely Cate Blanchett received her first Academy Award for Best Actress (previously winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Aviator). She has been consistent with her performances all through her career, awards abound. I thought it was fresh seeing her in a less starry-eyed role. Once again, sometimes pain resonates with us more than happiness. Blanchett can really play any character, from the royal Galadriel of Lothlórien to Bob Dylan, and make it work.

Now onto the Dallas Buyers Club boys. Jared Leto won his first Oscar for his role as Rayon, a transgender woman suffering from AIDS. I’ve always been a fan of Leto, be it for his film roles or 30 Seconds to Mars. People probably relate him best with Requiem for a Dream, but I think he has definitely matured and improved with time. Along with the dedication to the visual of the role (he weighed a gaunt 114 lbs), Leto made us feel the devastation behind those sunken eyes. There are warm moments though, many of them I can only describe as “cute” banter between Rayon and Ron. The chemistry was great. Which leads me to the man of the hour. If we haven’t said it enough on here already, the past two years have been the second coming of Matthew McConaughey. Now, I’ve seen a lot disbelief on social media about his win, and I pretty much guarantee that those people did not see Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey’s range of performance, from the playful to the dying, was completely flawless. He’s been amazing in True Detective, and I can’t wait to see him in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Interstellar. Alright, alright, alright.

As for the show itself, I thought things went great. I’m one of those people that is just smitten with Ellen, so any mildly interesting thing she does amuses me. The talk of the town was the huge ensemble selfie that broke records on Twitter, with Bradley Cooper saving the day in landscape mode. It was sort of heart warming to see Brad Pitt be so excited to help distribute pizza, and to enjoy eating it so much himself. Kevin Spacey was enthusiastic about it too! The musical performances all kept my attention, things just felt very natural this year. Lastly, the acceptance speeches themselves were all superb. I don’t think I remember a year when they were as fluid and moving. The whole show just felt very neat and tidy.
Find the full list of last night’s Academy Awards Winners posted below.

Best Picture Best Director
Best Actor Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor Best Supporting Actress
Best Writing – Original Screenplay Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Best Animated Feature Film Best Foreign Language Film
Best Documentary – Feature Best Documentary – Short Subject
Best Live Action Short Film Best Animated Short Film
Best Original Score Best Original Song
Best Sound Editing Best Sound Mixing
Best Production Design Best Cinematography
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Best Costume Design
Best Film Editing Best Visual Effects