The 86th Academy Awards

by deerinthexenonarclights

So, after a longer period of press predictions than even the elections of late we’re finally here, getting the Oscars over and done so we can start shortlisting the twenty-fifteen selections. For now though we’ll say our final words on the films we’ve all spent the last year talking too much about. I’ll be updating as we go.

“Possibility Number One: 12 Years a Slave wins best picture. Possibility Number Two: Y’all are racists.” Seems a fair statement of where the night should go, but we’ll see if there are some surprises left after all this speculation.

Bold = Winner

Italics = My preference

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

While not my personal choice I can see why Leto would win. Physically his performance was the most powerful, more powerful even than Matthew’s – whose win I won’t understand half as well, despite being a fan otherwise. It wasn’t a great movie but it was a great transformation, even if Fassbender pulled off something just as great looking identical to how he does sitting in the audience.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
“American Hustle,” Michael Wilkinson
“The Grandmaster,” William Chang Suk Ping
“The Great Gatsby,” Catherine Martin
“The Invisible Woman,” Michael O’Connor
“12 Years a Slave,” Patricia Norris

Her would have been my choice; the costumes there were both beautiful and telling about the type of time and place in which the film was set.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
“Feral”
“Get a Horse!”
“Mr. Hublot”
“Possessions”
“Room on the Broom”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
“The Croods”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Ernest & Celestine”
“Frozen”
“The Wind Rises”

Both crowd-pleasing and legitimately good Frozen deserved the win, even if it might not have in a tougher, PIXAR-featuring category.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
“Gravity,” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
“Iron Man 3,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
“The Lone Ranger,” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
“Star Trek Into Darkness,” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

The reason why Gravity deserves this win is the fact that it stands apart from the other four nominees. They are all bombastic, effect-driven blockbusters that, while pretty, all look clearly computer generated. Gravity on the other hand did whatever it could to hide the seams and keep the special effects subtle, though they were also what drove the majority of the movie. A contradictory and challenging position that they nailed.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“The Act of Killing”
“Cutie and the Boxer”
“Dirty Wars”
“The Square”
“20 Feet from Stardom”

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
“The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Belgium
“The Great Beauty,” Italy
“The Hunt,” Denmark
“The Missing Picture,” Cambodia
“Omar,” Palestine

Though The Hunt effected me more personally The Great Beauty was a remarkably well-made movie, one about aging artists no less, so its win should have been expected and is surely deserved. Given that the Academy saw and loved it I wonder how they can justify not putting Paolo Sorrentino up for Best Director; the film is as driven by his direction as Gravity was by Cuaron’s.

BEST SOUND EDITING
“All Is Lost,” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
“Captain Phillips,” Oliver Tarney
“Gravity,” Glenn Freemantle
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Brent Burge
“Lone Survivor,” Wylie Stateman

BEST SOUND MIXING
“Captain Phillips,” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
“Gravity,” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
“Inside Llewyn Davis,” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
“Lone Survivor,” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

I’m still sort of confused as to just what differentiates these two categories and the incestuous doubling up of nominations and nominees only makes that harder, but as far as I can tell Gravity had some of the most effective sound useage of the year: deafening you then cutting to silence, going to whatever extreme was either most necessary or most suitable for the story. That said, Llewyn Davis sounded amazing during the songs and spoken sequences alike and deserves some sort of win.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
June Squibb, “Nebraska”

JLaw, as the kids may have once called her, was the clear favourite to win this and she’s the only winner that I would be dissapointed to see walk away with the award. There aren’t many strong lead roles for women in Hollywood productions but there are clearly some great supporting ones; even Julia Roberts gave a great turn in the unfairly maligned August. Lupita’s Patsy though, boy, as great as Efijor is as Soloman and McQueen is as director she really steals the emotional heart of the film. Her speech was a little grating, but on screen she earns your complete sympathy.

BEST FILM EDITING
“American Hustle,” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
“Captain Phillips,” Christopher Rouse
“Dallas Buyers Club,” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
“Gravity,” Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger
“12 Years a Slave,” Joe Walker

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
“The Grandmaster,” Philippe Le Sourd
“Gravity,” Emmanuel Lubezki
“Inside Llewyn Davis,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Nebraska,” Phedon Papamichael
“Prisoners,” Roger A. Deakins

The Academy should just institute a policy that Roger Deakins wins this award every time he submits; he normally does anyway but I guess they decided differently this year. Perhaps it’s because Prisoners isn’t on their radar, lacking as it does any serious nominations, but his work on it was as good as its ever been; without his work behind the camera it wouldn’t have been half as moody and menacing as it was. That said, I again find it hard to fault the choice of Gravity since it was clearly a superbly shot film. Should we read into all of these technical wins a sweep of the later ones? Or are these consolation prizes for the once favourite?

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
“American Hustle,” Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
“Gravity,” Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
“The Great Gatsby,” Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
“Her,” Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
“12 Years a Slave,” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

The same thing I said on costumes also applies here. Gatsby looked great with its gaudy period fare nostalgically recreating the era, but Her‘s production design – the architecture, the videogames, the furniture – not only helped convey the story they created an entirely new, purely imagined future period.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
“The Book Thief,” John Williams
“Gravity,” Steven Price
“Her,” William Butler and Owen Pallett
“Philomena,” Alexandre Desplat
“Saving Mr. Banks,” Thomas Newman

William Butler? Who knew Win was a nome-de-plume? There is a clear pattern here, me loving her and Gravity winning. This time though I’m not sure if it was so deserved. I honestly can’t remember a note of the non-diegetic music used in the film, primarily because it was so sparsely employed; but I guess Gravity is just having one of those nights.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
“Let It Go” from “Frozen”
“The Moon Song” from “Her”
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”

Frozen had the best collection of songs, so it should have taken the award, but solo this one doesn’t do much for me, especially in that live performance. I do like a good EGOT winner though.

Now for the ‘real’ awards.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
“Before Midnight,” written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
“Captain Phillips,” screenplay by Billy Ray
“Philomena,” screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
“12 Years a Slave,” screenplay by John Ridley
“The Wolf of Wall Street,” screenplay by Terence Winter

Well, First off i’m not sure how Before Midnight even ended up in this category given that it’s an original film, albeit a sequel. It was a great screenplay regardless, a film that really relied on the writing more than any of these others. The win for Ridley is deserved though, this was a real leap up for the man, his best work by far and an authentic adaptation. It doesn’t tell us much in terms of the competition though, since none of the other competitors ended up in this category.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“American Hustle,” written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
“Blue Jasmine,” written by Woody Allen
“Dallas Buyers Club,” written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
“Her,” written by Spike Jonze
“Nebraska,” written by Bob Nelson

And the crowd goes wild! The best screenplay of the year by far, with the boldest concept and the cleverest execution. It’s good to see the Academy make such a brave choice. Did Woody Allen’s recent scandal impact their choice? I’d like to think no. Is this a sign that American Hustle has basically been shut-out of contention? It certainly seems so yes. I doubt that we’ll see Spike Jonze on stage again tonight but one is better than none.

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave.”
Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Though I’m generally a bigger fan of Payne, Scorsese and Steve McQueen I found faults in all of their works, which were comparably lesser given the great films they’ve made in the past. Cuaron’s work in Gravity was his best though; all of the awards that the film won prior to this are owed to this man. His oversight of the sound, special effects, etc. etc. is what made them all so extraordinary and that is directing. So, well won I suppose.

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”

“As random and subjective as this award is, it means a great deal” That probably sums the whole night up. A great quote from what was a pretty great speech, as far as these things go. Thanking Woody sums up her stance on that whole issue. Blasting the misogynistic men-in-suits that say female protagonists can’t be profitable was similarly strong.

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale, “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

A predictable and pretty disappointing choice. Not the best performance of the year, not even Matthew’s best performance of the year, not even his second best and yet people seemed sure that he would win from the beginning. Thankfully the speech was entertaining, if a little baffling in its dedication to god, given what Rust has been spouting of late, and i’m not sure that his hero conceit was completely comprehensive but he got a nice comedic callback in there so I guess its alright (alright, alright).

BEST PICTURE
“12 Years a Slave”
“American Hustle”
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“Gravity”
“Her”
“Nebraska”
“Philomena”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”

Her was my favourite of the films listed but 12 Years a Slave was the best choice for ‘Best Picture’. It’s not a small, personal and subjectively great film like Her; its a big, universal one that will stand as a milestone in years to come, which is what Best Pictures should do. Gravity was a technical marvel, it took film-making technology and craft to new levels but Slave was more than the craft, it was art. Tough, traumatic and terrifying art, but that’s arguably the most important kind; at least the Academy seems to think so (Argo and The Artist exceptions that prove the rule).

All in all it was another pretty great year for film and these awards did a decent job of representing that. Now bring on the next crop.

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