The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the 86th Academy Awards

Steve McQueen pumps his fist and trophy into the air as the cast of “12 Years a Slave” celebrates onstage during the 86th annual Academy Awards on Sunday, March 2, 2014.  (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

 

Last night was, as they say, Hollywood’s biggest night. As the red carpet unfolded in front of the Dolby Theatre and the stars made their way down the strip of flashing lights and chanting fans, the 86th Academy Awards was headed for showtime.

With such incredible nominations this year, the March 2 broadcast had so much potential, but did it live up to its granted title?

The Good

It is safe to assume that if Meryl Streep or Martin Scorsese are involved with a movie, they are probably going to get nominated for an Oscar. But what gave this year’s awards show a breath of fresh air were the numerous first-time nominees including the painfully fantastic performances by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave,” Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips,” Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine” and the not necessarily new but newly recognized June Squibb, who played alongside Bruce Dern in “Nebraska.”

Three of the first-time nominees were even transformed into first-time winners. Jared Leto won in the Best Supporting Actor category for his portrayal of Rayon, an AIDS-stricken transgender woman, in “Dallas Buyers Club.” Leto’s co-star Matthew McConaughey took home Best Actor, which he capped with what seems to be his favorite phrase “Alright, alright, alright,” and Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress for her role in “12 Years a Slave.”

Not only was she one of the big winners of the night, but Nyong’o gave perhaps one of the most elegant speeches, recognizing the strife of the character that she played.

“So much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s,” Nyong’o said during her speech.

The Bad

While some of the night’s films were a bit heavier in Oscar gold, like “Gravity” with seven awards, others were left empty handed. “Nebraska” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” were both contenders in multiple categories but winners of none. The biggest of the night went to “American Hustle,” which received a total of 10 nominations and a staggering total of zero wins.

However, at least “American Hustle” can say it had so many nominations. Another downfall of the night was those who didn’t receive the proper recognition at all. The Coen brothers’ film “Inside Llewyn Davis” was left out of all categories except for two, and although “Her” did leave Spike Jonze with an award for Best Screenplay, where was his nomination for directing, and Joaquin Phoenix’s for acting?

The Ugly

The Academy Awards are meant to be a night of poise and grace, but they’re also meant to be a night of entertainment. Who doesn’t enjoy a little slip in the poise department, like watching Jennifer Lawrence fall going onto the stage last year? This year’s Oscars could have used a bit of that unprepared flair that having a drunk Dustin Hoffman present an award gives to a show. Although there were potential moments like John Travolta butchering performer Idina Menzel’s name, overall, the show was a bit too safe. As host, Ellen DeGeneres started the show with some edge by calling Liza Minnelli “sir,” and joking that Jonah Hill showed her something in “The Wolf of Wall Street” that she hasn’t “seen in a very long time,” but she somehow lost it along the way, resorting to ordering pizza to keep the show going.

Overall

This past year saw some great contributions to the world of cinema, and the 86th Academy Awards did, for the most part, pay a respectable tribute to those who brought these films to life. However, if they decide not to wait another seven years to bring Ellen back as host, hopefully she will take a note from this year and help create a more memorable show for next year.

For comments/questions about this story, email arts@thewhitonline.com or tweet @thewhitae.

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