By Shay McCleavy
This past Sunday, the Oscars held their 86th Academy Awards, a celebration of this year’s achievement in film. It was a fun, if a bit plodding, award show featuring some nice off the cuff moments and wonderful speeches. Ellen DeGeneres hosted the event, opening with a playful and funny monologue. There were jokes about who would be awarded Best Picture, “Possibility number one: 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists,” as well as those aimed at individuals such as Jennifer Lawrence and Liza Minnelli, “That is one of the most amazing Liza Minnelli impersonators I’ve ever seen. Good job, sir.”
It was a good year for films based on true stories, with six of the nine Best Picture nominees inspired by our past. The nominees were: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street, Nebraska, Her and Gravity.
Gravity took the top spot for technical awards, which is no surprise for those who have seen director Alfonso Cuarón’s tense outer space thriller. The incredible visual effects, sound design and editing proved more than just eye candy to the Academy. Cuarón also became the first Mexican filmmaker to win Best Director.
Dallas Buyers Club featured the two Best Actor performances of the year with Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, both bringing home the golden statue for acting. Of course McConaughey’s last words were his charismatic catchphrase, “Alright, alright, alright!”
Best Leading Actress was awarded to Cate Blanchett for her role in Blue Jasmine, nicely praising the other nominees while stressing that films centered on women are profitable. Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years a Slave, thanking not just her cast and crew, but saluting the many slaves whose stories formed their film. She ended her wonderful speech with the lovely statement, “No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.”
In between the awards, Ellen made small talk with both the celebrities and the viewers at home, not to mention taking pictures for Twitter and crashing the social media site. She also bought pizza for some A-list stars, passing around boxes with a real pizza man looking a little lost and surprised to be serving Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence and many others.
Musical performances by U2, Karen O, Pharrell Williams and Idina Menzel (awkwardly mispronounced as ‘Adele Dazeem’ by John Travolta) set up the competition for Best Original Song. The catchy “Let it Go” from Frozen was the winner, and the film itself won Best Animated Feature.
When it came time for the Best Picture award, Gravity led the competition with seven wins. Yet, it was the absolutely wonderful 12 Years a Slave by Steve McQueen coming away with the top prize. It marks the first time in the history of the Oscars that a black filmmaker directed the Best Picture winner. McQueen was literally jumping with joy as he ran up to the stage, celebrating and dedicating the award to those who preserved Solomon Northup’s tale, while reminding us that slavery still exists in our world.