2014 Oscars: The Good, The Bad and The Smugly
Our favorite night of triumphant speeches, cringe-worthy faux pas and nauseating vanity. Let’s see who and what made the cut!
While I was initially indifferent to the selection of America’s safest comedienne, Ellen – undertaking duties as Oscar host for the second time – proved to be a delight and much needed upgrade from last year’s tone-deaf performance by the clown prince of mediocre comedy, Seth MacFarlane. Mrs. DeGeneres spent most of her stage time in the crowd that galvanized participation from the stars, providing some great back-and-forth throughout the night. There was the selfie with Bradley Cooper, Lupita Nyong’o, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey and others that caused a Twitter meltdown. There was a pizza delivery stunt that had Brad Pitt handing out paper plates to his hungry colleagues like a considerate parent at a child’s birthday party (“Take one, pass them down!”). There were attempted improvised jokes and introductions that she fumbled, but Ellen always recovered gracefully without dragging down the pace and tone of the ceremony.
Ellen, in a departure from her usual clean brand of comedy, went blue by telling a dick joke and it was her best landing bit of the night, referencing Jonah Hill’s infamous self-flagellating pool party scene in Wolf of Wall Street. “Jonah, you showed me something I haven’t seen in a very, very long time.” And Ellen showed us something we haven’t seen in a very long time: a worthy Oscar host.
Where do I even begin? After dethroning the undeserving undisputed reigning American Sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence with her gracious, self-effacing appearances throughout the talk show circuit during Awards Season, Lupita solidified her stature in Hollywood by taking home Oscar gold for her devastating yet completely human supporting role (not to mention her first role ever in a major motion picture) in Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave. The Yale-trained thespian had the absolute support of the room, as she brought her peers (and if they were anything like me, the people watching at home) to their feet for an ovation.
Lupita was also responsible for the emotional weight of the evening. Ecstatic, yet still retaining her professionalism and elegance, she delivered a completely humbling, inspiring acceptance speech that honored those who have suffered in order to make our lives better. She concluded with a poignant message to children, reminding them “no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” And with that, a much-needed new star is born.
As the comic legend has aged numerically and began to look like he did in Zombieland physically, Mr. Murray’s dry, deadpan humor has also seemed to have mutated into something close to curmudgeon territory, appearing unenthused and unimpressed to be anywhere that’s not a movie screen. But he stole the show last night with a touching, off-the-cuff shout out to his old friend and comedic partner in crime, the late, great Harold Ramis. While listing the nominees for Best Cinematography alongside Amy Adams, Murray added, “We forgot one. Harold Ramis for ‘Caddyshack,’ ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Groundhog Day.’” which caused the loudest cheers and applause from the audience all night, and rightfully so.
Leo is officially the William Jennings Bryan of the Oscars–Consistently nominated, but always winds up a loser. Tweet-riots spilled into the e-streets on Twitter as many expressed their outrage over the four-time nominee not winning the Academy Award for his balls-to-the-wall portrayal of Jordan Belfort in the Wolf of Wall Street. Conspiracy theories were formulated: Leo must have slept with an Academy member’s wife. Leo is too post-modern of an artist. Leo carries this “fuck you, Hollywood” attitude. If I may, I have a conspiracy theory of my own: Perhaps Leo just isn’t as great of an actor as we’ve convinced ourselves he is.
If Mathew McConaughey hadn’t taken the Best Actor honor last night, the race would’ve come down to Bruce Dern and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Leo, while always reliable and charismatic and fully committed to his roles, had no chance last night the same way he had no chance in 2007, 2005 and 1994.
Calvin Candie in Django Unchained is his best role to date, and yet he wasn’t even nominated. Now that’s something worth concocting a conspiracy theory around.
Dear Oscars, allow me to relay the most agreed upon issue that audiences have with your broadcast, straight from the Suggestion Box of the General Public: STOP. WITH. ALL. THE. DAMN. MONTAGES. What purpose do they serve, especially when there is no concrete thematic narrative to the ceremony? I am not sure what consecutive clip packages of movie “heroes” had anything do with the rest of the show. The Oscar’s are already about 45 minutes too, so contrived montages/pats on your own back are just unnecessary filler. Maybe you should just concentrate on the one montage that matters, the In Memoriam reel, since you can’t seem to ever get that right. Word to James Avery and Dennis Farina.
Didn’t we learn anything from last year when John Travolta pronounced Les Miserables like it was Yiddish? Apparently not, since the Oscar program directors invited him back out on stage this year in an awful Vincent Vega lacefront hairpiece to butcher Best Original Song (Frozen’s “Let It Go”) performer Idina Mezel’s name. Even with her name spelled out on the teleprompter, Travolta managed to be as far off as possible, introducing her as “Adele Dazeem”, a name that quickly became a trending topic and foundation for myriad parody accounts on Twitter.
Menzel was not phased one bit, as she went on to kill her vocal performance. Let us hope this flub killed Joan Travamonty’s chances of ever being a presenter at an award show again.
While the world waits to find out if Mathew’s character in True Detective is in fact the elusive murderer the Yellow King, last night we discovered that Mr. McConaughey might actually be a world-class douchebag. His acceptance speech was bereft of any humility whatsoever, literally thanking only himself and God (you know, the God who can’t feed every starving child but can make sure millionaires win golden statues) for his Best Actor win. His speech sounded like a parody written by South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone to joke about Hollywood’s self-importance and delusions of grandeur. Mathew McConaughey let us know that Mathew McConaughey is Mathew McConaughey’s personal hero, not the brave, disenfranchised HIV victims whose story put him in such a position to even profit off it. Classy.
As a proud card-carrying member of Team McConaughey and champion of the McConaissance that has proven he is stellar actor capable of creating iconic characters, I am hoping this speech-gate was a minor misstep caused by overwhelming excitement of having won his first Oscar. But this wasn’t “alright alright alright.”