A week late and a grand short, that sounds about right. Alrighty then, on with the Oscars Recap!
Things about the Show
I wasn’t particularly amused by Ellen Degeneres. I expressed my displeasure with the telecast to others and have been told loudly and unequivocally that to expect anything other than mediocrity is hoping for way too much and I should just hush. I’ll say this for her: she sure committed to her bits. I kind of wish the bits were better, but apparently that’s too much to ask for.
There were some excellent moments in the presenting and receiving of the awards. My two favorites are hands-down whatever John Travolta said instead of “Idina Menzel” and the acceptance speech by Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. They are completely adorable. They’re clearly musical theater people to the very core: they rhyme, they sing, and they still made me cry. Also, let’s pause for a minute to give props to actually writing an acceptance speech. If there’s a chance you’ll win (and there’s always a chance, if you’re nominated), why not have something prepared, like an actual professional?
The win for Bobby Lopez is a triumph for humanity, as he becomes the 12th person to ever complete an EGOT (and the youngest!). It’s delightful and poetically fitting that a man who got his Tonys for the completely filthy Avenue Q and Book of Mormon would complete his EGOT with a song in a kids’ movie. Worth nothing: he also shaved six years off the Time To Complete an EGOT; the next fastest was 16 years. He did his in 10, and only four years from the most recent Tony to the linchpin Oscar. That’s one hell of a hot streak.
Now for the actual important part!
Major themes: front and center, it has to be said that this was a particularly easy year to predict. That is, there were almost no surprises and no major upsets at all, which means everyone did well. My preference is always for everyone else to fail miserably and for me to emerge unscathed and victorious, but you don’t always get what you want.
So, in terms of the broad throughlines that came true: Gravity swept all but one of the little awards (as predicted), there was a split between Best Picture and Best Director, and American Hustle ended up getting shut out of everything. While I didn’t predict the latter explicitly, it’s true that I didn’t predict it actually winning anything either.
So, in a bookend to the week of predictions leading up to the show, let’s do this in order of Least Surprising to Most Surprising.
The Very Least Surprising
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett. As I said, over and over and over again, she had this one locked up since last August. The one notable part about her win is that she didn’t happen to mention her director in her acceptance speech. Strange, that. I wonder why.
Best Supporting Actor: Same thing, but with Jared Leto, just like we all knew was going to happen.
Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects: Hey look, Gravity won some technical awards!
Best Makeup: As foretold in Scripture, The Academy prevented anyone from having to say “The Academy Award goes to… Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa!” (The actual winner was Dallas Buyers Club, as predicted by the entire internet).
Best Song: As referenced in the above acceptance speech, “Let it Go” did in fact take the award it was destined to take.
Animated Film: Frozen. Because… Frozen.
Documentary Short: The round up of Academy tropes (about the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor who plays the piano every day) won. Who could have seen that coming? (answer: everyone) (Actual name of the winner: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life).
Director: Alfonso Cuaron won, though Gravity did not win Best Picture. Which… I mean, we saw this coming. I’ve read/heard a lot of analysis (and predictions) that evaluated Cuaron’s skill as a director and worthiness to win the prize. While his direction is indeed a thing to be admired if you’re doing film analysis, it matters not one whit in predicting the Oscar. Quality doesn’t matter, what the voters are going to say matters.
In the case of Best Director, we have a rock-solid, greater-than-85%-accurate predictor of the outcome in the winner of the DGA award. Reminder: only 8 times since 1948 has the DGA winner not gone on to win the Oscar for Best Directing, and two of those you can write off immediately (a timing problem and the DGA-winning director not actually being nominated). Look at the numbers: without some kind of extremely special circumstance, Cuaron was always going to win. This was a straightforward year, so nothing about the quality of his direction matters at all.
Still not surprsing
These things were confirmations of things I predicted, but which were at least a little bit up in the air.
Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave won, but I don’t remember what I said about it. Looking up what I said about it, it was that 12 Years a Slave was going to win because it was going to win. So, uh, I guess it’s good it won.
Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Score: See also: Things Gravity won that it was probably in no danger of losing.
Foreign Language: While it would have been nice if one of the two films I’d actually seen had won, since they were both really good, I have no problem with the favorite winning, since that’s what I picked too. The Great Beauty it is.
Actor: The McConaissance is alive and well! Of course, there are those of us who will forever be pedantic and say that we were on board with Matthew McConaughey’s career revival way back with Killer Joe, but the important part is that he now stands a very good chance of becoming only one of three(?) people to have every won an Oscar and an Emmy in the same year. (I swear I saw someone give two names as the only others to have done it before, but now I can’t find it. In any case, it’ll be very rare company indeed).
Costumes: I picked The Great Gatsby and The Great Gatsby won. This was American Hustle‘s best chance at a non-acting Oscar, so, OH DARN, it didn’t get it. I’m really heartbroken. Watch me sob.
Supporting Actress: Hooray for Lupita Nyong’o! We, as a nation, all agreed that Jennifer Lawrence has enough going for her right now that she didn’t need a second consecutive Academy Award. Nyong’o’s speech was the best sincere one of the night, if you feel like checking out a good representative Oscar Speech.
Original Screenplay: The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind precedent was a real precedent to make picks on! Hooray for the Academy recognizing actual interesting, inventive things when they see them! This one went to Her, as well it should have.
##Things I got wrong
In the 24-to-1 scale of the confidence list format in which I gave my predictions last week, I got my 24 point prediction correct all the way down to my 13-point pick. That’s not bad at all, having your 12-point one be the highest point total you get wrong. And if you ignore that one, I got all the way down to my 7-point pick correct, so that’s neat. I scored a 276, which blows my previous best out of the water (249).
Production Design: This was my 12-point guess, which was wrong. I said it would be Gravity, expecting Gravity to sweep all the technical categories, but this one went to The Great Gatsby. I said I wouldn’t be surprised if Gatsby came away with at least one of the two it was nominated for; I’m also not particularly surprised it got both of them.
Editing: Man, I was so proud of my logic in my guess, too. I was all citing statistics and pointing to reasons why it should have been Captain Phillips because of Paul Greengrass and his oft-nominated editor and all this. Turns out, Gravity nabbed this one too. It wasn’t terribly surprising, just not what I picked.
Live Action Short and Animated Short: These went to Helium and Mr. Hublot, respectively. So, good for them?
Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave. A vote for everything that is good and right in the world (which is to say, confronting Our Nation’s Troubled Past) and not dodging the question by just giving it to the shiny thing. Good job, voters!
Documentary: Boooooooooo. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I know, I know, 20 Feet From Stardom is really good. I saw it. I loved it. It was my #6 movie of all of last year. It sheds light on race issues in the music industry that had been swept under the rug for more than 50 years. In its own way, it’s an important story that equally deserves to be told. But, for me, it did not equally deserve to win.
The Act of Killing was the most visceral, compelling, innovative, mind-blowing, stomach-churning true story I’ve ever see on screen. And considering the topic is that the perpetrators of a genocide are still in power and the people are still (rightfully) too scared to speak up, the kind of exposure it would have gotten with an Oscar win is incalculable. As it is now, no one is ever going to see it who isn’t deliberately seeking it out. If it had won, it would be in box sets of Oscar Winners and promoted on endcaps at stores and landing pages by online retailers of Recent Award Winners. And it’s not like more people seeing it in America was ever going to do a whole lot, but now it doesn’t even have that opportunity. Booooo. Boo, I say!
So, overall, it was a pretty successful night. The vast majority of my picks were right (19/24 categories), the telecast wasn’t a complete trainwreck, and Hollywood is on the right side of history re: Best Picture. If it weren’t for the documentary misstep, it would have been a nearly perfect night.
And now, enjoy your next six months. While there’s always buzz about The Big Things To Come Out of Sundance and other early festivals, nothing will come out with real Oscar buzz until September. So take a good long nap and I’ll see you on the other side!