Monday, March 03, 2014

Oscars 2014: Long, few surprises, but good outcomes

Yes, the ceremony was painfully long - per usual. Yes, there were too many unnecessary montages. And yes, there weren't any real surprises among the winners.

But ya know what? I'm giving a thumbs up to the Oscars this year. Because, for once, I was satisfied with all the outcomes and absolutely delighted with some of them: "12 Years a Slave" winning the big prize; Lupita Nyong'o winning supporting actress; "Her" winning original screenplay; "The Great Beauty" winning foreign film. Even in the animated short category, my favorite ("Monsieur Hublot") beat out the predicted favorite (Disney's "Get a Horse").

In fact, the only beefs I had with any of the awards were incredibly mild ones: (1) "Moon Song" is an infinitely superior song to "Let It Go" (but the songwriters were so charming delivering their rhymed acceptance speech, I couldn't begrudge them their win); (2) even though I knew "20 Feet From Stardom" would win best documentary, I can't imagine it was a better or more powerful film than "The Square" (but then I didn't see "20 Feet," so I can't really make that judgment).

Ellen had an engaging presence and was funnier than I remember her being the first time she hosted the Oscars. The pizza bit went on a little too long, but the Twitter-breaking selfie bit was inspired. And in general, she just seemed more relaxed this time, perhaps because it wasn't her first rodeo.

Other random thoughts, a/k/a my personal Oscar ceremony awards:

Best Dressed: Lupita Nyong'o, looking like a perfect Cinderella, complete with headband and sweeping ice-blue gown. On anyone else the effect could have been treacly, but she made it work - maybe because she really did seem like a heroine in a fairy tale.

Worst Dressed: Pharrell Williams. I kinda dig the cheekiness of bringing back The Hat from the Grammys (in black this time!), but those

Most Moving Acceptance Speech: Lupita Nyong'o again. Classy, gracious, and heartfelt.

Most Awesome Acceptance Speech: Matthew McConaughey. All right, all right, all right...Consider the glorious contrast to his "Dallas Buyers Club" co-star and fellow winner, Jared Leto, who paid proper tribute to victims of AIDS and more generally, discrimination. Only McConaughey, on the other hand, would talk about his dad dancing in his underwear with a pot of gumbo (his idea of heaven, I guess) and about his own hero being...himself in 10 years. Classy and coherent it was not. But unadulterated McConaugheyness it was, which is what made it awesome.

Most Awesome Moment Not in a Speech: Lupita Nyong'o, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams shimmying with Pharrell. GIFS, please! I know they're out there.

Most Face-palmy Moment: John Travolta butchering Idina Menzel's name. Seriously, dude, you have just a couple minutes on stage and only ONE thing you need to get right - and you can't even do that?

Most Random Pairing of Presenters (in a night chock-full of them): Gonna have to give this one to McConaughey and Kim Novak.

Most Gorgeous Pairing of Presenters: Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, god and goddess. You know half the audience was thinking what beautiful babies they would make. Too bad they're both with other people.

Most Superfluous Musical Performance: Bette Midler singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" after the conclusion of the Dead People Montage.

Most Annoying Returning Oscar Trend: Montages of random film clips that have NOTHING TO DO with the nominated films, cobbled together under a theme general enough to include nearly any and every movie the Academy feels like including ("heroes" this year, forget what it was last year but it was something equally lame).

Most Puzzling New Oscar Trend: The presenting of the best picture nominees in groups rather than individually. Could not figure out the reasoning behind why they put together the nominees as they did. Can anyone enlighten me?

Again, despite these nitpicks, this year was an Oscars to remember for all the right reasons (12 YEARS A SLAVE!), which is all that matters in the end. Occasionally, Hollywood does get it right. Not often enough - but we'll take it when we can get it.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Oscars predix: It's a close race, folks

This is the first year in a while that I genuinely have NO IDEA what film is going to win best picture. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration - I have *some* idea of who's really in the running, but no idea which of the frontrunners is actually going to win. Not helping: the incredibly complicated system by which Oscar ballots are counted and the winner determined. With that said, here's my take on how the six major categories will play out.


Will win: This is soooo tough. It'll most likely be either 12 Years or Gravity, with American Hustle a potential spoiler. But the way the voting works, who knows. At this time, I'm going with Gravity, even though in my heart I'm pulling for 12 Years.

Rooting for: 12 Years a Slave


Will win: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

Rooting for: Cuarón, unless Gravity wins Best Picture. Then Steve McQueen for 12 Years.


Will win: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, with Leonardo Di Caprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) as a possible spoiler and Bruce Dern (Nebraska) the dark horse.

Rooting for: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), though he's got no chance. Pity, really.


Will win: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine

Rooting for: Amy Adams for American Hustle. Didn't love the movie, but *she* was fantastic in it. Also, this is her fifth Oscar nomination - would be nice to give her a win some time. That said, Blanchett is also fantastic so I won't be sad if she wins.


Will win: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club. This one you can take to the bank.

Rooting for: Leto - his was a tour de force performance that also managed to be genuinely, heartbreakingly moving. In another year, though, I'd be rooting for Barkhad Abdi, who made an unforgettable debut in Captain Phillips.


Will win: It's down to the wire between Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) and Hollywood darling Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle). But I think Nyong'o will pull it out, partly because she's been a delight in her public appearances (which helps with the campaigning) but mostly because Lawrence won an Oscar last year for Silver Linings Playbook.

Rooting for: Sally Hawkins, who's not been in the conversation even though she's every bit as good as Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.


Will win: Another tough one, but I think American Hustle will edge out Her and Blue Jasmine.

Rooting for: Her, undoubtedly the most truly "original" and thought-provoking of this bunch.


Will win: 12 Years a Slave

Rooting for: 12 Years a Slave