Gravity took away seven statues on Sunday night, and Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave walked away with three each. But the 86th Academy Awards itself won’t be winning any prizes.
There was nothing especially bad about the show (unless you count its seemingly endless duration), but precious little that was great, either. No outright snubs, no embarrassing speeches - although the teleprompter operator has some explaining to do - no wacky James Franco/Seth MacFarlane factor. That might be good news for the show itself, but it made for predictable — okay let’s face it, often boring — viewing. Even host Ellen DeGeneres looked like she was having trouble staying awake, with more than an hour to go. But if the show was a solid 6 out of 10, there were still a few standout moments:
The record-setting selfie
Oscar made Twitter history Sunday night. Specifically, host DeGeneres did. In a trademark planned “impromptu” moment, DeGeneres went into the audience for a photo-op with best actress nominee Meryl Streep (who herself holds the record for most Oscar nominations). It didn’t take long for other celebs to be welcomed (pushed?) into the shot, including, among many others, Bradley Cooper, Jared Leto, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. The photo, posted on DeGeneres’s Twitter account at 9:06 p.m., appeared to cause the social-media network to crash momentarily because so many people were retweeting it.
Perhaps the real winner of the evening was Samsung. The company is an Oscar sponsor, and DeGeneres was giddily taking pictures on her Samsung Galaxy Note 3 all night. Perhaps Ellen just really likes the phone. But it’s worth noting she did switch to her iPhone backstage.
The photo now holds the record for the most popular tweet ever. As of 2 a.m. Monday morning it had been retweeted more than 2 million times — more than double the previous record holder (U.S. President Barack Obama, who tweeted a photo of himself hugging his wife Michelle after winning the 2012 election.)
Everyone loves a selfie. Pack it with Oscar celebs and everyone really, really loves a selfie.
The Ellen show
DeGeneres brought all the qualities that make her a beloved daytime talk show host to her role as Oscar emcee. She kept her opening monologue short and sweet. She followed up a joke about whether any stars wanted pizza with actually ordering some pies, and then handed slices out, putting Brad Pitt in charge of the paper plates. The gag may have dragged, but it was certainly funny when she went around with Pharrell Williams’s giant hat collecting money to pay the delivery guy.
She also poked fun at the Hollywood machine, saying to the crowd, "let's focus on you.... between all of the nominees, you've made over 1,400 films, and have gone to a total of 6 years of college." She added: "Win or lose, you look beautiful. I'm not going to say who looks the most beautiful. But it's clear. It's Jared Leto. Boy is he pretty." But as the show wore on, she seemed to be running out of gas. She joked that the show was over when it wasn’t at least twice, and started making her introductions as short as possible. Perhaps she learned from the failures of trying too hard from last year’s host (here’s looking at you, Seth MacFarlane.)
The big snub (sort of)
Was American Hustle robbed? David O. Russell’s fizzy comedy about a small-time swindler (Christian Bale) and his mistress (Amy Adams) who were used in an FBI sting to bring down corrupt politicians, led the Oscar nominations with 10 nods, tied with Gravity. Gravity took home 7 statues. American Hustle scored a big fat zero. That's a bitter pill, but not unprecedented. There have been two cases of films with more 11 nominations, The Turning Point in 1977 and The Colour Purple in 1985, leaving empty-handed.
American Hustle was caught in a perfect storm of tough competitors on all fronts. Gravity’s seven awards were, with the exception of the director win for Alfonso Cuaron and musical score, all technical. It’s hard to beat a $100-million blockbuster famed for its wow factor. Hustle was all about the writing and acting, but it was against tough competition: 12 Years a Slave had more thematic heft, which gave it the advantage for best picture. Then came the acting awards, which provided some tough challenges this year: Blue Jasmine and Dallas Buyers Club were movies built around their stars, Cate Blanchett and McConaughey. Leto, also in Dallas Buyers Club, was also a lock in the supporting category. Hustle lost its best chance for an Oscar when Lupita Nyong’o beat Jennifer Lawrence for best supporting actress. It could have had a shot at best original screenplay, but then, it was hard to be more original than Spike Jonze’s film Her, about a man in love with his smartphone. Yes, American Hustle got cleaned out, but there's no need to call the Feds: The movie was just a predictable casualty of a closely contested year.
Montreal filmmaker Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed won the best documentary short award for The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, a film about the oldest-known Holocaust survivor. "For those of you who don't know it, the amazing Alice Herz-Sommer died this week," Clarke said in his acceptance speech. "She was 110. She died quietly. She taught everyone on my crew to be more optimistic and a little more happy about the things going on in our lives."
Montreal director Jean-Marc Vallée wasn’t nominated for Dallas Buyers Club, but the film did pick up three statues: best actor, best supporting actor and best makeup and hairstyling.
Most played it straight, with the only real colour coming from apparent problems with the teleprompter, causing a few celebrity pairs to stumble over each other. Leave it to Bill Murray to add a bit of spontaneity - and a bit of heart - to the otherwise staid parade of presenters. After running through the nominees for the award for best cinematography, he paid tribute to a close friend and colleague before announcing the winner. "Oh, we forgot one," he said. "Harold Ramis, for Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day;'" Ramis died last month from complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels. He was 69.
The live performances
Pharrell Williams kicked off the live performances with an infectious rendition of his Oscar-nominated tune Happy, from Despicable Me 2. And yes, he was wearing what is now his signature Vivienne Westwood hat.
Williams should have been the cornerstone for a cast of lively performances, no doubt chosen partly as bait for a younger audience. But even though U2 received a standing ovation for its atypically understated performance of Ordinary Love (from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), Bono and the boys fell a bit flat. And the show all but drained feisty pop star Pink of her usual showmanship, dressing her up instead in a ruby-sequined dress for a rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow during a puzzling tribute to The Wizard of Oz. Idina Menzel's Broadway-inspired performance of Let it Go, from Frozen, meanwhile, was too quick and too shrill. But it earned yet another standing ovation from the easy-to-please audience, and, no shocker here, took home the award for best original song.
Tops on the carpet
Two fashion winners right out of the gate were American Hustle's Amy Adams in a deep blue Gucci gown, and 12 Years a Slave's Nyong'o in a plunging Prada dress, in a pale blue hue (a blue, she said, that "reminds me of Nairobi"). And among the early talking points in men's fashion: Pharrell Williams's decision to don shorts, actor Ethan Hawke's decision to shave, and Jason Sudeikis's decision to not.
The big winners
Best picture: 12 Years a Slave
Best actor: Matthew McConaughey Dallas Buyers Club
Best actress: Cate Blanchett Blue Jasmine
Best supporting actor: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club
Best supporting actress: Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave
Best director: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity
Best animated film: Frozen (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho)
Best visual effects: Gravity (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould)
Best documentary short subject: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed)
Best documentary: 20 Feet From Stardom (Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers)
Best foreign film: The Great Beauty (Italy)
Best adapted screenplay: 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)
Best original screenplay: Her (Spike Jonze)
With reports by Liam Lacey and Christina Vardanis