Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Oscar couldn’t defy Gravity, and other non-surprises on Hollywood’s biggest night

awards fever

Hollywood's finest gathered to celebrate the achievements in filmmaking for the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night, honouring some of the best work of last year. Now that the awards have been handed out and the winners announced, let's take a look at how the night's proceedings went…

The host and ceremony

Ellen DeGeneres returned as the host for a second time (having previously helming the ceremony in 2007) as the organizers opted to go with a safe choice after last year's proceedings, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, drew criticism for being overly raunchy.

In contrast to 2013, the show was gentle and affable, and the ceremony went along smoothly without any significant hitches. Ellen was her usual charming self, even when her material wasn't at its strongest. She used her fun, amiable approach during her light-hearted banter with the A-list audience, while ordering pizzas (and asking Harvey Weinstein to foot the bill) and taking star-studded selfies.

The latter may perhaps go down as the most memorable antic of the ceremony. In an attempt to break the record for the most retweeted photograph in history, the comedian orchestrated a selfie, eventually taken by Bradley Cooper, that featured a roster of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Kevin Spacey, and Cooper himself. The record was smashed within an hour of the picture being posted on Twitter, although the commotion momentarily broke the social networking website in the process.

The event also featured musical performances by Best Song nominees Pharrell Williams (who gave a standout rendition of 'Happy' and even inspired Lupita Nyong'o, Meryl Streep, and Amy Adams to dance along), Karen O (accompanied by Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig), U2, and Idina Menzel (who was erroneously introduced as “Adele Dazeem” by John Travolta), as well as Pink, who sang 'Over the Rainbow' to honour The Wizard of Oz, and Bette Midler, who crooned 'Wind Beneath My Wings' following the In Memoriam tribute.

The awards

As for the winner, the only surprise of the night was that there were no surprises. As expected, the night belonged to 12 Years a Slave (3 wins), Gravity (7 wins), and Dallas Buyers Club (3 wins).

“Possibility number one: 12 Years a Slave wins best picture. Possibility number two: you're all racists," Ellen quipped as she got the ceremony underway. And sure enough, the heart-wrenching historical drama was crowned the Best Picture of the year, taking home the biggest prize of the night, with director Steve McQueen dedicating the award to “all the people who have endured slavery and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today”. Based on Solomon Northup's 1853 memoir about his harrowing ordeal, the film also won the Best Adapted Screenplay award, while Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o was chosen as the Best Supporting Actress for her depiction of an oppressed slave owned by a ruthless master.

Space thriller Gravity was the biggest winner of the ceremony with 7 wins, many of them for technical achievements. The film took the trophies for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Film Editing, Visual Effects, Cinematography, and Original Score. Its biggest win came with the Best Director honour, when Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, a first time nominee in this category, won the accolade for helming the ambitious project that is being lauded as a technical marvel.

The actors' categories were dominated by the gentlemen of the terrific Dallas Buyers Club, with Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto picking up the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards respectively. Both actors had received acclaim for their physical transformation and for creating convincing portraits of two complex characters. The movie also snagged the Best Makeup and Hairstyling award.

Australian actress Cate Blanchett accepted the Best Actress honour to a standing ovation, winning the award for her role in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, and gave a shout to the gifted actresses who shared her category, while paying tribute to movies featuring strong women in the lead.

Animated movie Frozen and Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of The Great Gatsby also bagged multiple wins, with two accolades each. The Disney musical won the studio its first Best Animated Feature Film trophy, and also took the Best Original Song gong for Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez's empowering 'Let It Go', while Gatsby finished atop the Best Production Design and Best Costume Design lists for its period pieces.

Elsewhere, Spike Jonze won the Original Screenplay nod for Her. Italy's The Great Beauty was chosen as the Best Foreign Language Film. 20 Feet from Stardom and The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life were selected as the Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short. And the Live Action Short Film and Animated Short Film awards went to Helium and Mr. Hublot respectively.

American Hustle, David O. Russell's crime dramedy that had the highest number of nominations along with Gravity, notably went home empty-handed.

All in all, it was an enjoyable night, as the winners were crowned and records broken. And the nominees were even fed! What more can you ask for?

- Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 4th March, 2014 *

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