Welcome to the Short Form. The Short Form gives you all the angles on last night’s awards show so you can watch The Walking Dead with your Sunday night instead. Tonight is the 86th Academy Awards, the Super Bowl of awards shows. Ellen DeGeneres took the hosting reigns this year from the controversial Seth McFarlane, which should guarantee a different tone on Hollywood’s biggest night.
Ellen’s Hosting Job: Ellen seemed a touch jittery during her opening monologue, but in spite of that, she delivered a sharp monologue that managed to throw a touch of farce with the usual celebrity zings (including a particularly pointed one directed at Liza Minelli in which she mistook Minelli for an impersonator (ending on the quip “nice job sir”). The monologue was a welcome reprieve from Seth McFarlane’s rambling set pieces last year, clocking in at a brief eight minutes.
Ellen also played traffic cop considerably more than what we’ve seen in other shows, often personally introducing most of the presenters and hanging out in the audience more than we’ve tended to see with recent awards shows. I definitely like the move towards shorter interstitial pieces, as it always feels off when we only see the host once or twice throughout the show. That being said, many of the audience segments were flat out weird, asking about ordering pizza or taking selfies.
Is this the Grammys, because the music is the best part of this show!: On a night where everything felt a little off tempo, we got some killer musical performances that were a real bright spot for the show. Whether it was the spectacle driven performance of Pharell’s “Happy” or the intimate performances by Karen O and U2, this year’s ceremony has stepped up it’s game in its’ musical segments. Idina Menzel also shined with her performance of Frozen’s “Let It Go”, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd (including best song competitor Bono). This strength extended outside of the best music nominees, with Pink stepping up her game in tribute to Judy Garland. The one exception of the rule came at the worst possible time: Bette Midler’s punchless performance of “Wind Beneath My Wings” after a particularly brutal memoriam segment that showed how death hit all aspects of the movie world whether you preferred Peter O’ Toole, Harold Ramis, Philip Seymour Hoffman or even Paul Walker.
The pacing felt weird, especially in hour one: In a night with numerous teleprompter issues, it often felt like Ellen in particular was rushed, while presenters and speeches were given more room to breathe (the orchestra was extremely passive this time out). Furthering this is the fact that most of the early awards were often presented in twos or threes at a time. There were also an alarmingly high number of video packages, which felt unnecessary due to lack of heavy stage changes throughout the show. The end result was a long show (the show went three and a half hours) that often felt too deliberate in some parts and incredibly rushed in others.
Big Winners and bigger snubs: Gravity, American Hustle, and 12 Years a Slave received most of the best picture hype, and the academy had two clear favorites. Gravity cleaned house with 7 awards (particularly on the technical side), picking up best cinematography, best director (somewhere NBC is incredibly glad they can use this in advertising for Believe) best film editing, both sound awards and the best visual effects. Frozen managed to bat 1.000, picking up a couple of awards for best animated feature and best original song (for “Let It Go”), while The Great Gatsby picked up a pair of stylistic awards courtesy of Baz Luhrmann’s decadent vision. Cate Blanchett was one of the few to defeat Gravity in a category tonight for her work in Blue Jasmine, while Dallas Buyer’s Club picked up not only expected wins for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor (Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto respectively). The big winner of the night was 12 Years A Slave, which not only picked up the big prize, but awards for best adapted screenplay and best supporting actress.
In terms of movies that were ultimately snubbed are the years two most similar films, as American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street both got blanked, as did Captain Philips and Nebraska.
The red carpet front: I’ve been seeing a lot of green out on the red carpet, ranging from jade greens to darker hunter greens (like Idina
Menzel’s Vera Wang dress). The biggest star rocking this look out there is best actress nominee Sandra Bullock. The most divisive dress had to be Liza Minelli’s cobalt blue dress, which love it or hate, is a suitably spotlight stealing look for a suitably spotlight stealing star. In a rare occasion where I’m looking at men’s fashion, Pharrell’s shorts/Capri tux came off like a complete eyesore. On the other hand, both Cate Blanchett’s and Amy Adams’ dresses were incredibly classy affairs, and Matthew McConaughey’s white smoking jacket is pretty swank.
The night in speeches: The night started out with Jared Leto’s incredibly pretentious awards ceremony speech in which he managed to sneak in a plug for his band, as well as mentioning the civil war like situations in Ukraine and Venezuela. This was followed by an equally bizarre set up by Jim Carrey for an animation montage that included a random shot at Bruce Dern, prop glasses, and an LSD reference. We got an equally bizarre presentation moment later in the night with Kim Novak and Matthew McConaughey, where it looked like McConaughey wanted to go full Groucho, making it seem like he was trying ad-lib off a teleprompter (a delivery McConaughey would then follow for his best actor acceptance speech). After a tepid couple of hours, we got a bizarre speech from the co-writers of “Let It Go”, that involved quoting the birthday song and a scream of “Brooklyn!”
In terms of speeches I enjoyed, both documentary award recipients had quick and heartfelt speeches, with Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed discussing the subject of their film The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved my Life, while Darlene Love gave a rousing verse in the middle of the acceptance speech for 20 Feet to Stardom. Where Leto’s speech felt pretentious, Lupita Nyong’o’s best supporting actress speech was amazingly heartfelt and emotional (and the orchestra threw her a bone by playing her out with Willy Wonka).