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Academy Awards 2014 – Few Surprises But Some Delights

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Academy Awards 3I always say I am not going to watch the entire Academy Awards broadcast because there is just too much wasted airtime; however, the best intentions seem to never be realized as I get sucked into viewing and not wanting to miss the possible “big” moment. Even with the awards being up against a new episode of The Walking Dead (which I opted to record), I got hooked on host Ellen DeGeneres’s monologue and then, despite an extremely and unnecessarily bloated telecast, I fought off sleepiness and stayed awake until the last award was announced.

Let’s get this out of the way – there were few surprises. One made me very happy when Lupita Nyong’o won for her role as Patsey in Twelve Years a Slave. Her performance in that incredible film (which in another of my three surprises won Best Picture) is indelible, creating such heft in her sorrow and power in her anger and yet remains in utter hopelessness. It is a beautiful and memorable role the likes of which you cannot forget. She deserved a “golden statue” more than anyone in that room last night.

Most of the rest of the proceedings was rather status quo. All the usual suspects were in the front rows, and the ones you expected to win otherwise did win, except for Alfonso Cuarón’s most deserved Oscar for direction of the extraordinary Gravity, which must have been the most difficult picture to direct this year (besides the unappreciated All Is Lost starring a basically mute Robert Redford).

Jared Leto won Best Supporting Actor for an almost impossible role of a dying transgender AIDS patient opposite Matthew McConaughey’s (Best Actor) powerhouse role as a tough cowboy fighting AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club. The Best Actress award went to Cate Blanchett for her incredible role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine (despite all the recent negativity of the renewed look into Mr. Allen’s child abuse allegations by ex-partner Mia Farrow).

So in my mind there could have been something to shake up the proceedings. What could have happened to make things not so business as usual? Well, for starters, why were Jared Leto, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matthew McConaughey able to have their mothers sitting up front and center, while 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen’s mother had to shout out from literally the back row? Me thinks I smell something rotten in that seating arrangement.

Other shake-ups I would have liked to have seen – Bruce Dern winning Best Actor for Nebraska, Judi Dench getting Best Actress for Philomena, Barkhad Abdi Best Supporting Actor for Captain Phillips, and June Squibb as Best Supporting Actress for Nebraska. Not only are all those mentioned extremely deserving of the respective awards, but it would have shown that the academy members were thinking out of the box for once. Unfortunately, almost every year there is salient proof that they stick with mostly the safest choices, and that’s why we are subjected (as it seems almost every year) to seeing Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Daniel Day Lewis, and other way too familiar faces in or near the front row.


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I think film is one of the great American contributions to the world, for as Orson Welles once said, it’s a “ribbon of dreams.” As Lupita Nyong’o noted in her lovely acceptance speech, she hoped that her winning “this golden statue” would remind “every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” Film has that amazing quality to inspire, to delight, and to move people to try things, take risks, and shoot for the stars until sometimes (incredulously) they become one. That is what makes me still believe in film, even when the academy tends to disappoint each year with the usual suspects getting recognition (I mean, seriously, does Jennifer Lawrence need a nomination every year?).

As for the rest of the night, here are some of my most memorable moments:

Academy Awards 5Biggest Flub: John Travolta introducing the truly talented Idina Menzel as “Adela Dazeem.” Whether the teleprompter quit on him or he was thinking of some Scientology visitor from outer space, Travolta blew it. Needless to say, Menzel knocked the ball out of the park singing “Let It Go” (Oscar winning song) from Disney’s Frozen (Best Animated Feature Film).

Smokey the Bear Sighting: Pharrell Williams continues to delight as he sings, this time performing the song “Happy” from Despicable Me 2. He also insists on wearing his trademark big hat also worn by that bear who fights forest fires. Well, where there’s Smokey there’s fire, and that was obvious during Williams’ crowd pleasing number. Pharrell even danced with Lupita Nyong’o, Amy Adams, and Meryl Streep as well. Way to go, Pharrell!

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There’s No Place Like Home: Ellen appearing on stage as Glinda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz. Ellen had several costume changes, but this came right after the sequence that honored the 75th anniversary of the film and made a funny and memorable visual.


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Let’s Order a Pizza
: One thing the Golden Globes has that the Oscars lack is food. Obviously hungry stars were more than willing to pull money from their tuxedo pockets (Harrison Ford and Martin Scorcese seemed ravenous) and drop it in Pharrell’s overturned Smokey hat that Ellen held out to them. If she ever wants a second career, DeGeneres would do well as a church usher and no doubt would be more successful than those old men shoving wicker baskets into pews.

Darlene Love Forever: When the legendary singer took the stage for the winning 20 Feet from Stardom documentary, she wooed the crowd with an impromptu a capella version of “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Man, we need more Darlene Love, like every year. Oscar, are you listening?

In Memoriam: Why have Bette Midler sing the wonderfully apropos “The Wind Beneath My Wings” after the memorial pictures had already been shown? Clearly, she should have taken the stage and sung as the faces flashed on a screen behind her. When a montage came of all those who died at the end of the song, it was too little too late. And why did they leave Corey Monteith of Glee fame off the list? There seems to be a glaring omission every year. This is an emotional moment that the academy needs to get right.

Bill Murray Moment: Bill looked a bit worse for wear as a presenter, completely (and necessarily) deferring to his co-presenter Amy Adams. However, he did manage to sneak in a tribute to recently deceased old pal Harold Ramis. Nice, classy job, Bill!

Funniest Presenter: Hands down this goes to Jim Carrey, who when talking about special effects referred to the magic as coming from the use of LSD (to tremendous laughter). He was quite funny in his brief time on stage, and like Darlene Love, we need more Jim, Oscar. Please, lots more of Jim (who‘d be a blast as host), who seemed to be channeling the late Bob Hope in noting his lack of a golden statue.

Overall, the 86th Academy Awards felt like it usually does, dragged on way too long, and provided a few moments that were memorable. Unfortunately, I do not like watching these things the next day online; therefore, I guess I am doomed to keep repeating my annual sentence of watching a bloated, mostly boring Oscar telecast. Until next year then, good luck, Adela Dazeem, wherever you are!

Photo credits: abc.com

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.