Reflections on the 2014 Oscars

As usual, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to watch this year’s Oscars, since this year’s highly lauded list of best picture nominees largely leave me cold. I already talked about my lack of interest in the two SFnal nominees in my post about the Nebula awards. And while Twelve Years a Slave, Philomena and Dallas Buyers’ Club are undoubtedly important films and either of them would be a good choice as examples of other countries coming to terms with the darker parts of their history. Ditto for The Wolf of Wall Street, only that I don’t think it would be a good choice. Captain Phillips – well, Americans probably think it’s important. As for American Hustle, I have no idea why this is even nominated – and I’m usually a sucker for stories about good-guy thieves and con-artists. Besides, did it win anything at all, even in a side category? Finally, there’s also Nebraska, which I’d never heard about until today.

The full list of winners is here BTW.

As for Ellen DeGeneres (whom I usually like), the good news is that she’s not Seth MacFarlane. The bad news is that she isn’t much better. In the first ten minutes or so, she made a joke about the nationality of a Somali nominee for best supporting actor, an ageist joke about an elderly actress nominated for the best supporting actress award as well as not one but two transphobic jokes. At least, she hasn’t sung about anybody’s boobs… yet.

To be fair, she did get less offensive as the show went on and I actually liked the bit where she served pizza to the audience. Not sure what to make of the star-studded selfie.

Regarding the make-up category, couldn’t they have scrapped that altogether this year or just given it to Dallas Buyers’ Club by default rather than nominate The Lone Ranger – a film that was widely and rightly criticized for its use of Redface – and a bloody Jackass film?

Again, they should just rename the Best animated feature film category “Best Pixar film” and be done with it (even though I would have preferred the Miyazaki). Besides, if you have a presentation about “Great animated films”, maybe a bit less CGI and a bit more traditional animation (and any sort of non-western animation at all, since there was none) might be in order.

Loved the woman who sang during the acceptance speech for the best longform documentary BTW. I actually liked her better than some of the people nominated for best song. Okay, the “Happy” guy was great (and got several Oscar nominated actresses to dance with him in the aisles) and U2 was U2, but the Her song was just insipid and the Frozen one not much better. I’m not happy it won either, though Disney/Pixar film songs often win Oscars.

Loved Bill Murray’s unscheduled tribute to Harold Ramis, though he was of course included in the official memorial as well. Meanwhile, the German cultural TV program kulturzeit completely ignored the death of Harold Ramis, though they did honour an East German film director who happened to die the same day.

And for those who were playing “Spot the Avengers” at the Oscars, we got Hawkeye on the red carpet, Thor, Captain America and Nick Fury on stage and all of them in clips.

Two great choices for best supporting actor. Loved Jared Leto’s acceptance speech and his tribute to his Mom and Lupita Nyong’o is simply lovely (great acceptance speech, too) plus it’s always great to see people of colour winning Oscars (also great seeing more people of colour presenting Oscars). Though I feel sorry for her that she had to kiss Christoph Waltz. Blame Tarantino for bringing him to Hollywood – German speakers would have been happy to continue to ignore him.

Surprised that Cate Blanchett won best actress after the current debate about Woody Allen. I would have preferred Judy Dench to win, though I loved Cate Blanchett’s shout-out to the fact that films focussed on women can and do draw audiences. Matthew McConaughey was widely picked as the favourite to win best actor and I can’t really argue, though personally I had hoped for Chiwetel Ejiofor to win. Plus, McConaughey really did go on and on and on in his acceptance speech, didn’t he?

There sure is a lot of love for Gravity this year. Now I don’t begrudge it the various technical wins, but Alfonso Cuarón for best director? I would have preferred Steve McQueen.

Finally, Twelve Years a Slave won a well deserved Oscar for best picture. Definitely the best choice, though I wouldn’t have minded Philomena or Dallas Buyers’ Club either. Great acceptance speech from Steve McQueen as well.

BTW, here is the New York Times article that was the base for Twelve Years a Slave.

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12 Responses to Reflections on the 2014 Oscars

  1. Daniela says:

    Looking at the list I’ve watched almost none of the movies. Guess that’s one of the many reasons why the Oscars leave me cold. I do wonder though why they didn’t nominate “The Hobbit” for Make-Up as well. Or “The Great Gatsby”. Both would have been better choices than “The Lone Ranger”.

    • Cora says:

      Pretty much anything would have been better than The Lone Ranger or Jackass. The Hobbit or The Great Gatsby or even the various zombie films that came out last year all would have been better.

      I’m also surprised why Pacific Rim wasn’t nominated in the special effects categories, while The Lone Ranger was.

      • Daniela says:

        Politics? Nothing else really makes sense.

        • Cora says:

          That’s probably the reason. The Lone Ranger, though fraught with racial issues and a mega-flop, still got more nominations than the much better Hobbit (which was a success) and Pacific Rim (apparently considered a flop, though I liked it). I must confess that I frequently don’t get Oscar decisions, e.g. why was American Hustle nominated for so many awards or why were Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep nominated for yelling at each other in a film I’ve never heard of.

          • Daniela says:

            Wasn’t there a similar issue with the first two installments LotR which wasn’t nominated for as many Oscars as many assumed it would? And only got the nimonations and some Oscars with the third installment?

            But yeah, I also often don’t get nominations. Or the decisions of the Jury which is why I no longer really bother with the Oscars. It’s also very biased.

            • Cora says:

              And once Return of the King won the Best Picture Oscar, you got the usual cultural commentators on TV treating it like the apocalypse. Because Lost in Translation, a film everybody likes except translators, Japanese people and people who know something about Japan, would obviously have been a better choice.

              Or how about choosing L.A. Crash over Brokeback Mountain? Because the fact that there are gay cowboys is obviously still too shocking.

              • Mark says:

                Didn’t Lost in Translation only win a Best Screenplay Academy award? I also have to admit that I rather liked that movie and thought the cultural misunderstanding was a bit of the point of that movie (if it would be a well-informed portrait of Japanese culture it would be a completely different movie).

                Brokeback Mountain won three Oscars (Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score). I thought it was better than Crash, but so were probably 100 other movies that year, so I don’t see this as a political statement.

                By the way, I think no movie should win more than 3 Oscars, because it is simply very unlikely that a movie was the best in each and every category. And so I think it’s also okay to split Best Movie and Best Director, even it’s considered to be the exception.

                I neither watched the Oscar ceremony this year nor did I really care about who won, mostly because I haven’t seen most of the movies yet. I also checked first if McQueen won for Best Director (as the first black director), but I obviously have no idea if it was also the best directorial performance of the year.

                • Cora says:

                  Lost in Translation won the best original screenplay, while Lord of the Rings won best adapted screenplay. But a lot of people were upset that Sofia Coppola didn’t win best director and the film didn’t win best picture. But then it seems to be a love it or hate it movie with very few people neutral about it. I wouldn’t go so far as hating it, but I don’t like it. I actually do think that Bill Murray should have won Best actor over whoever it was that won that year.

                  The issue with Brokeback Mountain was that neither of the two lead actors won, though both were nominated and Heath Ledger won posthumously one or two years later. And Crash was simply not a very good film or at least not one that interested anybody outside Los Angeles. And I’m pretty sure the decision was political, considering that many Americans still have an issue with gay people and gay cowboys were apparently shocking. Judging by the Oscars, it seems GLBT characters are only acceptable when dying of AIDS (see Philadelphia and Jared Leto’s character in Dallas Buyer’s Club).

                  I’m not sure whether limiting Oscars to 3 categories would be a good idea, though it is telling that the same films get nominated again and again, even in categories where there would have been other options available. Though wins seems to cluster around certain categories. There’s usually one film that takes the technical awards, effects, sound editing and the like, like Gravity did this year. Then there is one that takes the costume and art direction awards, like The Great Gatsby this year. Best animation often takes the music awards as well and acting/writing/directing is often clustered on one or two films as well. Films that win ten or more Oscars are rare (and not always all that good, e.g. Ben Hur or Titanic, both of which were popular but not very good). Films that take best actor, actress, screenplay, director and movie are even rarer. As far as I know, there have only been three so far, It Happened One Night sometime in the 1930s, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975 and Silence of the Lambs in the early 1990s. None of them are among the best movies ever made IMO.

              • Daniela says:

                It is strange how Fantasy movies are so often often dismissed by the critics while SF isn’t. Of course Peter Jackson also didn’t to a very good job of really bringing out the underlying message in LotR and instead focused on other things (the usual problem of turning books into movies).

                • Cora says:

                  Only a certain kind of SF though. Hence Gravity and Her are lauded and gain Oscar nominations (ditto for District 9), while Iron Man or The Avengers, which are just as much SF, are largely ignored, as is any kind of fantasy at all. The Oscars laud a certain type of realistic picture and realistic SF sometimes gets a break. Other SF or fantasy not so much.

  2. smd says:

    Just to clarify: Frozen is not a Pixar movie. Disney owns Pixar, but it still has its own animation division separate from Pixar, which itself mostly operates on its own.

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for the clarification. I rarely watch animated movies these days, so Disney and Pixar tend to blur kind of together in my mind.

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