The 86th Academy Awards (Oscars 2014)

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Preferring instead to get a decent nights sleep rather than sit through teary, overly long, thank you speeches I must confess that I didn’t stay up to watch the 86th Academy Awards. And the fact they were being broadcast exclusively on a Sky channel I don’t receive.

However, as I passed judgement on the BAFTA Awards last month, it seems only fair I give my humble opinion to the winners and losers on the other side of the pond.

So once again, without further ado…

Best Actor
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) – Winner
Best Actress
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) – Winner
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

The Best Actor and Actress categories have been dividing opinions since the nominations came out. Mainly because you can make arguments for an against anybody winning and anybody losing and essentially, not be wrong. Both categories are essentially too strong, which is on one hand a credit to the less 12 months of cinema but also a slightly sad reflection that it’s full of big name stars, once again out shinning the little man.

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) – Winner
Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) – Winner
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)

Just like the Best Actor and Actress categories, you can easily make perfectly valid arguments for anybody in both categories taking home statues. What’s nice this time around though is that there are more first timers and suprise nominations. June Squibb must get a mention for lighting up the black and white Nebraska and you cannot be anything other than blown away by Barkhad Abdi‘s first ever time on screen in Captain Phillips.

For me, while I can’t disagree wholeheartedly with where the statues went. Jared Leto certainly steals Dallas Buyers Club but I think Abdi arguably outshining Hanks in Captain Phillips meant he should have been given it instead. Lupita Nyong’o once again is fair enough, but I honestly wasn’t overwhelmed by her performance. It’s very, very good I accept but think Sally Hawkins is better.

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave – Winner
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Director
David O Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) – Winner
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

There is a true 50/50 split to the Best Picture category. There have just been to many outstandingly impressive films over the past 12 months that mean the little gems of cinema that also get a nod, sadly, never stand a real chance of winning. A film like Nebraska is an absolute must watch and a film that not only deserve awards credit but as awards wins and yet against the revolutionary Gravity or harrowing 12 Years A Slave will never get a look in.

Best Director fell on form. I don’t see how you could look past Alfonso Cuarón and what he achieved with Gravity. He brought technology and film making together in a way above and beyond anything we’ve seen in years. I’d say it even makes Avatar’s technological strides look old fashioned. However, while I think his win is deserved, I’m still not overly sold on the final story he created.

Best Original Score
John Williams (The Book Thief)
Steven Price (Gravity) – Winner
William Butler & Owen Pallett (Her)
Alexandre Desplat (Philomena)
Thomas Newman (Saving Mr Banks)
Best Original Song
Pharrell Williams – Happy (Despicable Me 2)
Idina Menzel – Let It Go (Frozen) – Winner
Karen O – The Moon Song (Her)
U2 – Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

It’s only when we reach the musical section of the awards ceremony that I really start to disagree with where they sent the little gold statues in 2014. When it came to Gravity picking up the BAFTA awards for best original film music and best sound I wasn’t overly sure, I remember being blown away by the 3D in the cinema but I don’t remember much of the sound. So over the last few days I’ve been listening to the soundtrack while I work, and having heard it again in isolation it has totally awaken a part of my brain and a sense in the film that had been essentially missed by me.

It’s not a soundtrack you can easily listen to on it’s own. You certainly can’t listen to it without having seen the film. But listen to it after you’ve got the images in your head and suddenly you realise just how strong it is and how well constructed it is to reinforce the images and increase the tension in the action. The fact I don’t remember it as such is no longer a criticism but rather a commendation to just how good it is.

However, moving on to Best Original Song and things get nasty. Let It Go… Let It Go!?! I’m sorry how the heck can the Disney stage number be given the statue over Pharrell Williams and Happy? On one hand we have a song which has been an international smash hit. Globally the world has said “this is brilliant” and yet, a song which sounds almost as computerised toneally as the character singing it on screen is meant to be better. For me it just sums up how this year has gone animation-ise. Despicable Me 2 has been nominated and then ignored at every awards and the only reason I can think of is because it’s a sequel and thus not “as original”. But I’m sorry, sequel or not, it’s the better film and Happy was the better song.

And the winner is… Gravity!
Best Cinematography
Best Film Editing
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Visual Effects

After I’ve got that rant about music out the way the rest of the awards, essentially went with form. There are a lot of smaller awards – best documentary/foreign film/short(s) – that I haven’t seen and can’t comment on so if my opening sentence to this paragraph is wrong then I apologise but I mean it in terms of the more mainstream smaller awards.

Unsurprisingly, all the technical awards as you can see above went to Gravity, which is fair enough and would have been the shock of the night if it hadn’t. For instance, if Best Visual Effects had gone to The Lone Ranger rather than Gravity you’d be calling for more than just a recount!

Over all, the 86th Academy Awards didn’t really shock or surprise. It says a lot that the biggest impact on the night was felt not by which mantle pieces the statues ended up, or as should be tradition the over long speech that thanks everybody except the character you portrayed to win your award but rather, on a celebrity packed “selfie” that actually crashed twitter. I’d like to think that my musing here could send similar shock waves through the world of social media… but like those fellow Best Visual Effects nominees, you just know it’s going to be a case of better luck next time.

Posted on by 5WC in Film, Opinion First Edition

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