Few Surprises As Stars Gather For Oscar Party

‘I’ ON CULTURE

Trying to make sense of the Oscars is an exercise in futility. There have been a host of great movies that won nominations and fell to lesser films (think of Saving Private Ryan losing to Shakespeare in Love) or cases where they did not even get nominated (Singing in the Rain in the year The Greatest Show on Earth won; Vertigo not getting nominated when Gigi won). There are many anomalies, but since we had a pretty decent year for films in 2013, none of the movies coming in was a sure thing. Leaders going in were Gravity, a visual treat; American Hustle, a delicious ensemble dramedy; and 12 Years a Slave, an important movie about a difficult subject. Host Ellen DeGeneres put it nicely: “Possibility No. 1: 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility No. 2: You’re all racists.” Cute.

Of course, as it turned out, American Hustle was shut out and Gravity collected more awards than any other film (7). But 12 Years a Slave won for Best Picture, a good compromise. Gravity, which won for Best Director and just about all the visual effects and editing awards, was a fabulous movie using all the finest techniques of filmmaking. But it lacked the kind of gravitas (pardon the pun) that Oscar voters prefer. Further, since Director Steve McQueen of 12 Years A Slave was also a producer of the film, it gave him a chance to speak and thank everyone. It was a nice touch.

The acting awards were a bit boring in that the actors who everyone predicted would win actually did pick up the trophies. Cate Blanchett, who was brilliant in Blue Jasmine, gave a wonderfully gracious speech, thanking all those who’ve given her support and supplying a plug for Australian actors. Matthew McConaughey of Dallas Buyers Club gave a peculiar speech that was really hard to follow at close to midnight.

Surprising no one, Jared Leto won for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Dallas Buyers Club. When you combine several popular topics — gays, transsexuals and AIDS — along with a superb bit of acting, a win should be expected. His acceptance speech, focusing not only on his family but on world events, was one of the nicest. Lupita Nyong’o from 12 Years a Slave was clearly a popular choice, and her words comparing her joy at being celebrated with the torment of the person she played was lovely. There were many good nominees in these categories, but these two gave particularly memorable performances.

My favorite winners were Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez who won for best song “Let It Go” from Frozen. They rhymed their thank-you speech and seemed to really be having a great time. No one would be surprised if they showed up again.

The show, as usual, ran on longer than expected. I am not certain why the producers had Pink singing “Over The Rainbow” in a 75th anniversary tribute to The Wizard of Oz, not that I ever really mind hearing the song. My biggest complaint is there were far too many awards shown. The Academy presented Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin, Angelina Jolie and a host of science/tech types awards separately. The show would be far better if awards like Best Hair and Makeup were given separately as well. People watch to see the stars. A shorter, tighter show would get all of us to bed earlier… and probably happier.

I could probably try writing a couple of paragraphs on the clothes the stars wore, but, frankly, I have no interest. Watching DeGeneres using her considerable charm on the stars was amusing, although it did lengthen the show.

The movie business can now turn to publicizing the big new movies and stop spreading nasty rumors and complaints about each other. The rise of social media has made that much easier.

In the long run, will anyone really remember who won the awards this year? Hollywood people and the gossips will remember and gush, but how many of you remember that Argo won last year? For a week, some will discuss the dresses, and then we’ll start preparing for the big movies of the summer. Sic transit gloria (how quickly the glory departs).