Arts feature review

The 2014 Academy Awards

Recapping the ceremony’s highs and lows

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Oscar-winning Cate Blanchett and Oscar-nominated Sally Hawkins at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, CA.
Aaron Poole
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Host Ellen Degeneres dressed up as Glinda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz at the 86th Academy Awards.
Aaron Poole

The 86th Annual Academy Awards

Hosted by Ellen DeGeneres

Aired on March 2

Well, it’s been a long awards season, full of glitz and glamour, politeness (the interviews), and politicking (the studio campaigns). Heavy rainstorms in the Los Angeles area early Sunday suggested even the sky was getting tired of red carpets and acceptance speeches, and it was time to bring this season to an end with the biggest televised celebrity spectacle of the year — the 86th Annual Academy Awards.

In keeping with the spirit of the Oscars, perhaps the best way to recap the show would be with a tabulation of the highs and lows of the evening. And in case you had a lab pool going or something, check out the complete list of winners after the jump.

The winners:

Speeches, with two heartfelt standouts delivered by Best Supporting Actor Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) and Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave). After a moving thank-you to his mother for encouraging him to live his dreams, Leto acknowledged the millions who have lost their battle with AIDS and declared, “[To] anyone who’s ever felt injustice because of who you are and who you love, tonight I stand here with you and for you.” Nyong’o, in turn, accepted her Oscar with characteristic grace and disarming genuineness, saying “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.”

Frozen soundtrack composers Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who won Best Original Song for Let It Go. The award completed Robert Lopez’s EGOT — that is, his win of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony — an accomplishment shared with fewer than 15 other people. The couple accepted their Oscars in a charming series of rhyming thank-yous, ending their speech with a message for their young daughters: “This song is inspired by our love for you and the hope that you never let fear or shame keep you from celebrating the unique people you are.”

Pharrell’s hat. And anybody listening to his infectious groove as he performed Happy, the Despicable Me 2 track nominated for Best Original Song. He even got Lupita and Meryl to dance!

Edgar, co-owner of Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria in Hollywood. Edgar thought he was delivering pizzas to a group of writers, but ended up onstage at the Oscars, to his great surprise. He also stopped by the Ellen DeGeneres Show on Monday to talk about the improvised bit and left with a $1000 tip, thanks to the collection amassed in Pharell’s hat as it was passed between Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, and the other celebrities in the Dolby Theater, with DeGeneres herself throwing in the last $400. Plus, he got to meet Julia Roberts, his favorite actress!

Ellen DeGeneres. The host brought back some much-needed likability and charm after Seth McFarlane’s rocky stint hosting last year. Handing out lotto scratch cards as consolation prizes to Bradley Cooper and ordering pizza for the entire theater, she managed to not only keep the show moving, but to make it fun and relatable too. That is, as relatable as this show can ever be, considering that it’s essentially a 4 hour marathon of gorgeous people “presenting each other with gold statues,” in the words of former host Billy Crystal.

Selfies. Ellen’s impromptu self portrait in the company of half-a-dozen A-list stars literally broke Twitter and claimed the title of most retweeted image ever. It was also a good night for Lupita Nyong’o’s younger brother, who charmed with the most smoothly executed, and epic, photobomb ever.

Firsts. 12 Years a Slave took home the evening’s top prize of Best Picture, marking the first time the Academy has bestowed its highest honor on the work of a black filmmaker.

Fashion. On the red carpet, bold colors and dramatically structured cuts dominated (Sandra Bullock’s midnight blue Alexander McQueen! Jennifer Lawrence in red Dior!). Soft fabrics in pastel palates had a good showing as well (Lupita Nyong’o in her pretty baby blue Prada!).

Fun facts. The Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor wins for Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey, respectively, mark the first time winners for both categories appeared in the same film since Tim Robbins and Sean Penn won for 2004’s Mystic River. The Oscars also drew in 43 million viewers in the US alone. For those of you keeping track, that’s the most domestic viewers (for a non-sporting event) since the finale of NBC’s Friends in 2004.

Alfonso Cuarón’s groundbreaking technical achievement Gravity, which picked up seven of the ten awards it was nominated for on Sunday, including Best Director.

The losers:

Leonardo DiCaprio and Amy Adams. They both ended the night 0 for 4 career nominations. There was also no Academy love for Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street, or American Hustle. All three movies were shut out of awards in the major categories and went home empty-handed.

Harvey Weinstein, who, in addition to getting stuck with the lion’s share of the pizza bill, watched as several of The Weinstein Company’s biggest contenders failed to deliver on Oscar night, including Philomena and August: Osage County. However, 20 Feet From Stardom, which was distributed through The Weinstein Company’s Radius-TWC division, did win Best Documentary Feature, so maybe he didn’t have such a bad night after all.

Filler montages. Promoting the night’s theme of “heroism,” the telecast featured a bizarre compilation of scenes from a seemingly random selection of films featuring “heroes.” Even the Pepsi Mini Cans commercial, which aired in the breaks and offered an upbeat montage of famous movie lines, was way more fun than the Academy’s disjoint and joyless sequence.

In the end, the 2014 Oscars telecast will be remembered for breathing some life back into a tired format. Sure, there was plenty of padding, and it kind of dragged a little (Ok, a lot) in the middle, but there were a few really terrific surprises (wow, Darlene Love!). Overall, the show turned out to be something it hasn’t really been in years — actually fun to watch. Through all the pomp and pageantry, the show also managed to put forth a disarmingly inclusive message celebrating difference and uniqueness and encouraging respect and compassion for all people. Plus, there was pizza. What more could you possibly ask from an awards show?

Winners of the 2014 Academy Awards:

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley

Best Original Screenplay: Her, Spike Jonze

Best Cinematography: Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby, Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn

Best Film Editing: Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger

Best Visual Effects: Gravity, Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould

Best Costume Design: The Great Gatsby, Catherine Martin

Best Makeup: Dallas Buyers Club, Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

Best Sound Editing: Gravity, Glenn Freemantle

Best Sound Mixing: Gravity, Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

Best Score: Gravity, Steven Price

Best Song: “Let It Go” from Frozen, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty (Italy)

Best Animated Feature: Frozen

Best Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom

Best Animated Short: Mr. Hublot

Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Best Live Action Short: Helium