2014 Oscars Recap: Exactly What You Expected

Above: Memorable moments from the 2014 Oscars
Above: Memorable moments from the 2014 Oscars

Cheese pizza, vanilla ice cream, and the 86th Academy Awards: all things that are, you know, fine, but not really all that interesting.

This year’s Oscar show opened with a straightforward Ellen DeGeneres monologue, the only spicy joke being the one about there being so many possibilities: 12 Years a Slave could win Best Picture or we could all be racists. Then the first award, for Best Supporting Actor, quickly found its way into the very deserving and very expectant hands of Jared Leto. It was almost enough to make a particularly sadistic viewer wish for a surprise Rob Ford appearance—but really, thank goodness that didn’t happen.

Even an all-star selfie and a mid-ceremony pizza delivery couldn’t cover up for the fact that Ellen didn’t seem to have much material to work with. You don’t invite Ellen to host your show if you’re looking for edgy humour, but she can be funny when she has actual jokes to work with. Unfortunately, about 40 per cent of her material was callbacks to the pizza gag, silly outfits or mispronouncing names. The most genuinely funny, and mildly concerning, moment was John Travolta garbling Idina Menzel’s name while introducing her performance of the Best Song-winning “Let It Go.” The best guess at his pronunciation was “Adele Dazeeb,” but the sound was more a linguistic interpretation of what an infant would type if you put an iPhone in its hands.

Oscar was rarely able to escape the pull of Gravity, as Alfonso Cuaron’s space masterpiece drew trophy after trophy into its orbit. Nominated for 10 awards, Gravity won seven, sweeping the technical categories and earning Cuaron Best Director and Best Editing, though it fell short in its quest for Best Picture.

On the other end of the scale, American Hustle matched Gravity’s 10 nods, including nominations in every acting category, but failed to win a single trophy. Once thought to be a frontrunner for some of the biggest prizes, Hustle lost steam early in awards season and was a surprising disappointment.

12 Years a Slave also won broad acclaim, with rookie scene-stealer Lupita Nyong’o winning Best Supporting Actress in her first major film role and writer John Ridley winning for his adapted screenplay before the film claimed Best Picture.

Matthew McConaughey joined his Dallas Buyers Club costar Jared Leto, winning Best Actor and bringing the “McConaissance” to a climax. Both Leto and McConaughey gave warm, stirring speeches thanking their families, though McConaughey added a colourful bit about his dad watching from heaven with a pot of gumbo and a lemon meringue pie while dancing in his underwear—an image too vivid for the younger McConaughey not to have maybe tried himself—while Leto paid tribute to those caught in the turmoil in Venezuela and Ukraine.

As expected, Cate Blanchett won Best Actress for her visceral role in Blue Jasmine. There was debate about whether she would thank her director, Woody Allen, who has recently faced allegations of child sexual abuse. She received muted applause when she did mention him—only appropriate, since he wrote and directed the film and cast her in it—but it was hard not to cringe hearing him praised if you believe he’s capable of doing what he’s been accused of.

Also expected was Spike Jonze winning Best Original Screenplay for Her, which wound up being an underappreciated film with all the attention directed at 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle.

The Oscars are usually pretty tame and predictable, so it’s hard to complain too much about not being particularly engaged. But with so many talented, lively entertainers in the same room we could hope for more than just an OK show. Cheese pizza—even when delivered to the stage of the Dolby Theater—is fine, but like this year’s Oscars, it could be so much more.

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Drew Berner

Drew Berner is a freelance writer born and raised in Toronto and specializing in entertainment, sports and politics. He occasionally collects vinyl records, enjoys hate-watching the Blue Jays, appreciates good beer and great scotch, and goes to sleep each night with 120 lbs. of Great Dane draped over him (it’s a lot more comfortable than it sounds). Follow him on Twitter @DrewBerner for photos of huge dogs, observational humour and assorted sports rage.

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