by Coop Cooper
Now that the 2014 Academy Awards are over and the Oscars have been handed out, there were a few things I noticed about this year’s ceremony that confirmed some of my suspicions about Hollywood and the Oscars telecast:
Choosing the right host is risky – Ellen did fine, mostly benign jokes – except for suggesting Liza Minnelli was a man in drag. Seth McFarland was funny but offended EVERYBODY. Whoopi was awful and offensive in general the second time she hosted. Steve Martin and Billy Crystal were always a lot of fun. For a good laugh, google “Worst Oscar Hosts” to find out why some people might never be invited to host ever again.
The show is one big commercial – Notice that Samsung phone that Ellen DeGeneres was holding all night and taking pictures with? That was deliberate product placement. Samsung sponsored the Oscars and Ellen was probably contractually obligated to take pictures of her with celebrities and tweet them to the web. Additionally, did you notice the celebrity award-presenters (e.g. Chris Evans, Zac Efron, etc…) who have never been nominated and seemed to have no business being there? They have blockbuster movies coming out this year and the studios have agreements with the Academy to let those actors get some exposure by appearing on the show to help promote their upcoming films. Even the outfits and jewelry are advertisements for high-end fashion companies (nominees get to have or borrow it for free as long as they mention where they got it from). While it is more subtle than what you see during the Superbowl, it is advertisement nonetheless.
Best Original Song is a weird category – Under what criteria are these nominees chosen? If they are so great, why don’t they get any radio play? Why do the animated films get priority? Why do so many people get up and go to the fridge when the songs are performed on the show? Is this category the least relevant? Maybe it is time to revamp the Best Original Song category.
Technical triumphs can sweep categories – “Gravity” didn’t win Best Picture but it did win a whopping seven Oscars, mostly in technical categories. It also won for Best Score and Best Director. “Twelve Years a Slave” may have been a more beloved story and film overall but Alfonso Cuaron’s filmmaking achievements in “Gravity” were so monumental that he was well rewarded and is the true winner this year.
Oscar-baiting works for the Best Actor/Actress categories – There are some roles that are so juicy from a socio-politically relevant standpoint (McConaughey) or the role is irresistibly so well-written and challenging (Blanchett) that a shrewd actor will gamble on it as their best chance at an Oscar. When this strategy backfires, it comes across as overacting and pandering. For the two deserving winners this year, it definitely paid off.
Best Supporting Actors/Actresses must be a young(ish) upstart or a grizzled veteran – This year it went to the upstarts, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o and deservedly so.
The best speeches win the night – I thought Lupita Nyong’o was pretty good in “12 Years a Slave” but she didn’t fully win me over until her impassioned and thoughtful speech showed me what kind of a person she truly is. Just for that, she will be remembered. Same goes for McConaughey and Leto. Unfortunately, highly partisan political speeches usually get a lot of attention as but nobody made one this year. The ones who blubber, fumble over pieces of paper and thank everyone including their pets will be forgotten in ten seconds.
Matthew McConaughey is unstoppable – While he was accepting his Oscar for Best Actor, his show “True Detective” on HBO was simultaneously reminding viewers why he is currently the best actor in any medium.
The yearly tribute to fallen industry professionals was done right… almost – The Academy did as I had suggested in an earlier article in that they should mute the audience applause to prevent the tribute from becoming a popularity contest. They also included people who died since the February cut-off date (I haven’t heard if they omitted anyone but it looked fine to me). Their big misstep came when they brought out Bette Midler to sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” and then suddenly the tribute and standing ovation at the end became all about HER. I sincerely hope the Academy never allows a diva to stand front-and-center in the spotlight to steal the thunder from their fallen comrades again. It was a pretty thoughtless move.