That’s A Wrap: Some Final Thoughts on the 86th Academy Awards

By: Daniel Reynolds

If you’re like me, it is early in the morning, you stayed up too late watching the 86th Academy Awards, and your brain is only firing in fits and starts. Basically, you’re tired. To that end, instead of a well-thought out, incisive piece of organized reporting on the Oscars – because really, who has the time? – I assumed I’d just ramble through a bunch of random thoughts, notes, jokes and jibes. I’m exhausted.

And then, I swear, I’m not talking about the Oscars until at least October. As Kramer once said, “It’s just too much!” Now, on to the show:

Ellen. Oscar. Three plus hours of your life.

Ellen. Oscar. Three plus hours of your life.

  • Did I miss something or was there not much of an introduction to the show this year? I mean, yes, there remained the multiple hours of tremendously insipid talking heads bleating about fashion, but it seemed like we went straight to a smash cut welcome and then Ellen DeGeneres was on stage.
  • Speaking of Ellen, has anyone checked to see if Bob Newhart is upset about his stage gimmick being appropriated?
  • For the record, I enjoyed the Oscar stage set this year. A nice mix of dark hues, interesting textures, and inventive design. (You see that wall of typewriters that appeared for the Writing awards?) I don’t have a joke here.
  • Can we talk about Kim Novak? No? Alright then.
  • How about Harrison Ford? Can we talk about him? Yeah, he’s cool. I can’t think of another huge name celebrity who mixes extreme gravitas with a deep, deep sense of ridiculous indifference.
  • And then Ford went for the pizza! And the napkin! Clearly, one of our finest actors.
  • These tribute to heroes montages read more like “hey, check out these summer blockbuster movies that we would never acknowledge on this broadcast in any other meaningful way!” Do I sound bitter?
  • Cheers to the makeup and hairstyling lady who appeared on-stage with questionable makeup and hair.
  • Perhaps taking a cue from Ellen’s largely intentional linguistic bumbling it felt like many of the presenters were struggling to read their cues this year. It’s a good thing most of these people didn’t get into speaking in public as a career. Oh wait…
  • I can honestly say I enjoyed the musical performances this year. I thought Pharrell got the night off to a lively start (and it needed it; the first hour felt particularly glacial), Karen O was sublime, U2 kept it free of grandstanding, and the song performance for the eventual winner by Irina Menzel (thanks for nothing Travolta) was dutifully sweet.
  • That being said, how hilarious would it have been if “Alone Yet Not Alone” had been performed? Would the Oscar production team have figured out a way to make that song compelling? We’ll never know.
  • Genuinely surprised to see Philip Seymour Hoffman get the hammer in the In Memoriam segment. After initially thinking he was a lock to get it, I was talked into considering Peter O’Toole, armed with his legendary status and an iconic role. But despite Hoffman’s deeply unfortunate (and grisly) end, he was still an Oscar winner (O’Toole was not, besides an honorary one) who’s recent death hit the hardest.
  • Also, shout outs to two of my writing heroes: Elmore Leonard and Roger Ebert.
  • But seriously, Kim Novak? Should we worry?
  • Beyond pleased to see Spike Jonze get a chance on stage. Jonze (forever linked in my mind to Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry) has long been one of the more original voices in film out there. If you’re gonna call your award Best Original Screenplay, it would be nice to award it that way at least once.
  • Another nice win by a long time nominee: Emmanuel Lubezki. After shooting some of the more gorgeous films in recent years (Tree of Life, Children of Men, The New World), it felt well deserved.
  • Just don’t tell Roger Deakins, now an 11-time loser, I said that.
Jared Leto's hair.

Jared Leto’s hair.

  • Will we ever find out who Jennifer Lawrence was back talking to as she got to the microphone to present Best Actor? Hollywood mysteries.
  • For those of us with working sets of eyes and ears Gravity‘s domination of the technical awards comes as no surprise. With maybe a slightly more complex script (and maybe an appearance in a year without a movie depicting the agony of slavery), Gravity would have been the overwhelming favourite. Now come on Alfonso, don’t disappear for another seven years!
  • I do not support the Steve McQueen vs. John Ridley feud. We need you guys.
  • A ranking of the best acceptance speeches: 1) Lupita N’yongo 2) Matthew McConaughey … 24) That back-up singer who decided to bellow into the microphone. Yikes.
  • As expected, 12 Years a Slave did end up winning Best Picture. It is too early in the morning for me to check this but when is the last time a film only won two other Oscars (in this case, Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay) and then went on to win Best Picture? The first one that springs to my mind is The Godfather in 1972, but there must be another couple in the intervening years.
  • My Oscar picks from Friday were good for a 17 our of 24. Did anyone win a pool using them?
  • Time to make an admission: I chickened out on three of my picks and changed them up right before the show (Best Score, Editing and Documentary Feature). Not to brag (OK, but a little bit), I ended up picking 20 out of 24 and winning 50 bucks. Kind of makes it all seem worth it, right?

And there we have it. The Oscars broadcast ended up topping out at three and a half hours or so. It still felt like it had one too many montages, the winners still felt mostly easy to predict, and it somehow felt like there were far fewer funny presenters this year and much more dour seriousness. But then, that’s the Oscars. They don’t really mean anything yet somehow end up feeling like they mean everything. It’s that old Hollywood magic we’ve been enthralled with for 86 years.

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