E: So that was illuminating, in the sense that it showed us there really is no consensus.
Now, maybe things will straighten out between now and the Oscars, but maybe this is going to be one of those year where there just isn’t one clear winner. I’m thinking of the year 2001, when Steven Soderbergh won the director trophy for Traffic and Gladiator won best picture, even more than 2005 where Hollywood wimped out on celebrating Brokeback Mountain and split director and best film, or certainly last year’s dissonance with Ben Affleck getting snubbed for a nomination.
In other news, last night’s show was just plain fun. Tina Fey and Golden Globe winner Amy Poehler were hilarious all night long. Who didn’t laugh at that George Clooney joke? Just amazing. Let’s talk about how it went down, with the emphasis on film.
I had a feeling that Jennifer Lawrence would win the face off with Lupita Nyong’o, but I’m not at all sure this is going to carry over to Oscar. I still think she’s splendid and hilarious (“HFP! Don’t every do this again, it’s so scary!”) but I can see J.Law fatigue setting in, and as I said before, rewarding the same actor two years in a row isn’t really Oscar style. In other news, a strange sort of congratulations are due to Ms. Lawrence; Catching Fire is now officially the highest grossing movie of 2013, passing Iron Man 3. It’s been 40 years since another movie starring a woman ruled the yearly box office.
And yes, that’s one of the saddest statistics ever, I am well aware.
In other Oscar related news, we can cement Golden Globe winner Jared Leto as a frontrunner for the supporting actor statuette. I thought he gave – if not a charming speech, then a clear eyed, heart-felt one speaking about his six year absence from acting (while working on his music career) and his connection to the very emotional material. While I probably shouldn’t have been, Leonardo Di Caprio’s win over Bruce Dern did surprise me a bit. Sure, he’s the big star, but Dern had more critical acclaim; this just continues to muddy the Best Actor waters. Matthew McConaughey gave a brilliant performance in Dallas Buyers Club (and what a great night for a great movie!), but a strange and wandering speech. (I also can’t help wondering if he isn’t going to get some flak for addressing his white fellow nominees as Mr. Hanks and Mr. Redford, and the men of color as Chiwetel and Idris. Odd, no?) In other words, that race is now as clear as mud.
Best actress, on the other hand, might be a little clearer. Cate Blanchett – witty and glamorous – might have cemented her hold on the Oscar last night. I’ve always adored her from the very first time I saw her on film, and I’m thrilled to see this coming together. By the way, this is a little bit more the way Oscar likes to annoint two time winners – with a good chunk of time in between. It’s a funny thing when you think about it, since the race is in large part about popularity, momentum, buzz and groupthink, but there it is. Jennifer Lawrence is clearly the actress of the moment; Cate Blanchett will stand on her talent forever. We’ll see how much of a distinction they make between the two modes of being come March.
Well. Not that they’re going up against each other, of course. The bigger question in lead actress is whether Amy Adams or Meryl Streep will get a nod at all. Does Adams’ win here (after 5 nominations) signal movement in her direction? I guess we’ll find out on Thursday morning.
American Hustle wins Best Picture: Musical or Comedy – no surprise there. What does interest me is that David O. Russell lost both screenplay and directing, which indicates clearly the limitations in their support of his film. This feels telling;it make me wonder if it’s not really a contender after all, or if everything’s simply just a big confused mess. Alfonso Cuaron received a well earned direction award for his groundbreaking work in Gravity, yet loses the big award to 12 Years a Slave. I forget that Steve McQueen is British, and I enjoyed listening to him talk (and seeing the tears in his eyes). Both he and Cuaron spoke well (Cuaron got bigs laughs out of mocking his accent, saying that Sandra Bullock misheard his offer to give her an earpiece as herpes), but it’s just not clear whether they’ll continue to split prizes, or somehow resolve the confusion.
In other highlights: Jennifer Lawrence started a trend of the winners arriving at the stage as shaking, speechless messes. I found Jacqueline Bisset’s long walk to the stage and long silences rather moving. Didn’t you love Matt Damon introducing himself (after the hosts’ crack) by saying “Hi, it’s me. The garbage man”? Between the hosts, Melissa McCarthy, Jimmy Fallon and Michael Douglas, his name was on a lot of lips. He wasn’t the first to experience a teleprompter mishaps – Jonah Hill and Margo “my dress cannot contain my butt cheeks” Robie had to read their speeches off a sheet of paper. Planned or not planned? Robert Downey Jr. knocked it out of the park in his ode to the Comedy Actress nominees: “let’s see how this plays out for me.” Emma Thompson’s boozy rant about her shoes (“this red is my blood!”) cracked me up as well as Spike Jonez’ fear of public speaking. “I’m bad at speaking English, and it’s my only language.”
And, yay, Frozen!
From Tiny Fey’s first dress to Amy Poehler making out with Bono after she won best actress in a television comedy, it was really a fantastic night for the hosts. How hilarious was their little riff about Kerry Washington’s baby bump? Tina and Amy, long may they reign! Gown trend that I loved – metallics. Kate Beckinsale looked like she was armored (amazing!) and Elizabeth Moss was tiled (super cool). Reese Witherspoon glowed in aqua, Lupita Nyong’o in red-orange, and Jessica Chastain’s amazing necklace could probably light up a room. I know the idea of a dress/pant combo is definitely different, but I can’t even stand how cool and fresh and awesome Emma Watson looked. And weird, but I kind of enjoyed seeing Olivia Wilde look like a pregnant alien in highly body conscious emerald green glitter.
I don’t really know how I feel about the color blocking trend (good, maybe?) shown by Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock, Taylor Swift and Julie Bowen, particularly with Adams and Bowen featuring almost classing shades. Cate Blanchett bucked those trends by wearing a striking classic lace gown (which she fidgetted with as much as Jennifer Lawrence in her white strapless dress). Liam Neeson showed up under-dressed (it’s a good thing he’s Liam Neeson and can do whatever he wants, huh?) but Orlando Bloom made me smile with his bow tie. U2 was endearing and awesome paying tribute to Nelson Mandela. I was far less enamored of Paula Patton’s body length ruffle, Zoe Saldana’s multi-tiered and bespangled oddness, and Drew Barrymore’s flowered maternity gown. Props to Bing/Microsoft for the best commercial of the night, Celebrating the Women of 2013. Oh, and Woody Allen didn’t show up. I don’t know how I feel about that; part of me thinks they should have awarded someone else if the famously award shy writer/director couldn’t bring himself to show up.
None of my television favorites won, so I don’t have much to say about that. I liked seeing the real Philomena Lee introduce her movie, and I’m still bemused by Steve McQueen calling Sarah Paulson the Bette Davis of America. Bette Davis is American. What does that even mean? Ah well. It’s cute, anyway.
I’ll be back by Wednesday with thoughts about Thursday’s Oscar nominations. Before I go, let me leave you with the words of musician Alex Ebert (better known for fronting Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Tones) who gave the best line of the night after his win for best score – and no, I’m not just saying that because I too once attended a party with him. (Who knew I would ever have anything in common with P. Diddy?) As befits a lyricist, his words were elegant and clear, and they sum up for me the creative and collaborative nature of movie-making. “Even the most deft pen is a clumsy tool, and yet we try for magic. Thanks for letting me try all over your movie.”