The thing about throwing an Oscar party — even an impromptu, informal one — is that it’s really tough to actually keep track of the show itself, what with making the cocktails and distributing the ballots and tipping the pizza delivery person.
Still, what I managed to catch of this year’s show was alternately stultifying and bemusing. My prediction track record was about as good as I’ve ever done, which says less about my prescience and more about the utter expectedness of this year’s winners. (We’re long overdue for an earth-shattering shock winner on the order of Juliette Binoche beating Lauren Bacall or Adrian Brody gliding past Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis.)
So much for excitement from the awards themselves, though it was sort of thrilling to see how close Gravity got to tying the record for the most awards ever given to a movie that didn’t end up winning best picture. (Cabaret remains the champion at 8; Gravity stalled out at 7, just like Star Wars did in 1977, though one of those was a non-competitive special achievement award.)
So here were my five highlights and lowlights from the entire, eleven-hour telecast.
1. Best supporting actress winner Lupita Nyong’o wasn’t my choice for the award, but she was clearly the belle of the ball. A stunning, eloquent acceptance speech (which was rivaled only by singer Darlene Love’s ebullient chorus upon 20 Feet From Stardom‘s documentary feature win), a gorgeous gown, and those giddy dance moves she busted during Pharrell’s performance of “Happy” all earned her the right to be tagged the next Audrey Hepburn.
2. Deserving if totally overdue awards go to Alfonso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubezki. Vindication at last for vehement Children of Men and The Tree of Life fanatics like me!
3. Awards presentations by legends like Kim Novak and Sidney Poitier. That said, the vicious reaction Novak received on Twitter certainly counts as the evening’s foremost lowlight. Self-Styled Siren sums it up quite neatly.
4. Ellen’s joke confusing “Somali” with “sommelier” went over Barkhad Abdi’s head, but it was still charming to see him working that reaction shot.
5. It’s pretty rare that you see someone unhappy to see their film win an award, but the rumored bad blood between 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley (who has butted heads with directors in the past and also, reportedly, went Fi-Core during the last writers’ strike) came to a head when both refused to acknowledge the other during their acceptance speeches. Well, technically I guess this epic fake clap counts as an “acknowledgement,” but not really.
1. I wasn’t disenchanted with Ellen’s performance, but it did seem too often like she was coasting on her sense of likability. That is, when she wasn’t fawning over the biggest names in the room. I get that it’s probably “pointless” to hand slices of pizza to the nominees for best documentary short, but hey, they were probably hungry too! In any case, Ellen’s performance was guilty of the exact same thing everyone blasted David Letterman for doing.
2. As if taking a cue from Ellen, the show’s pacing was all sorts of slack. By the time the In Memoriam segment segued into Bette Midler’s performance of “Wind Beneath My Wings,” I was left wondering whether the Oscarcast itself shouldn’t have been included on the roster of the recently departed.
3. Those of us who watch the show in spite of fashion were left without any notable fashion disasters or, a la Tilda Swinton or Bjork, deliberate acts of fashion sabotage. This year was marked by the tedium of good taste. Wake me when wearing credit cards is back in style.
4. Far be it from me to stand in the face of the McConaissance tsunami, but those three awards for the shallow at best, politically irresponsible at worst Dallas Buyers Club when The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle … heck, even Philomena got scratch? Not a good look. And, be he flippant or be he solemn, it’s now clear Jared Leto just doesn’t know how to give an acceptance speech.
Oh no wait, that was definitely a highlight.