Oscars: Results are as expected

The Oscar telecast gave us very few shockers and a surprising number of pleasant moments. Some winners disappointed (I still think American Hustle showed much more technique and character with its costumes than The Great Gatsby) while others were well chosen (I should have bet on my favorite animated short, Mr. Hublot!).

Hostess Ellen Degeneres showed guile in choosing to substitute easy jabs at movie stars with glimpses of the humanity and humor innate to them (particularly with a selfie for the ages). And we were given the honor of witnessing the immensely talented composer Robert Lopez winning a well deserved EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) for his song “Let It Go” from Frozen.

So it’s hard to complain about an overall tame, delightful awards ceremony (despite John Travolta forgetting how to read and completely throwing off poor Idina Menzel). And the awards themselves included very few surprises, though enough to elicit shock when they did happen. I’m very content with my twenty correct guesses out of twenty-four, but let’s take a closer look at the details of the wins.

12-years-a-slave-posterBest Picture: 12 Years a Slave

Ellen closed her opening monologue with a genius, insightful joke about this winner: “Two possible scenarios tonight. One: 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Two: All of us are racists.”

The Academy chose the history and horror of 12 Years a Slave over the innovation and thrills of Gravity. Deserved? I’m not sure, but my favorite film of the year Gravity took seven trophies over 12 Years a Slave’s three, so I’m still content no matter what.

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

The performance of the year is rewarded its due, but honestly this win was about even more than that. It was recognition of a solid body of work covering years that are evidence of an actor’s growth, wisdom, and immense talent.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine

I would have been delighted to see Sandra Bullock win this one for her work in Gravity, but honestly I don’t see any way this couldn’t have gone to Blanchett. A performance of this caliber is achieved by the average actor only every few years, and Blanchett just came on the right year. That, and it only seems fair to give her a second win after earning her sixth nomination in a series of performances that were inexplicably robbed of Oscars (Elizabeth and I’m Not There, anyone?)

jaretBest Supporting Actor: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club

I’ll put my hesitation about the quality of Mr. Leto’s work in this picture aside for a minute (though Barkhad Abdi still would have been such a wonderful surprise here) just to say that Leto gave a wonderfully heartfelt, passionately earnest speech that was my favorite of the night. I’ll leave it at that and just say “Well said, Jared.”

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave

It was a close race, but the first-timer prevailed. I overestimated the pull Jennifer Lawrence had on the Hollywood crowd and incorrectly guessed a major award as a result. Still, I’m just happy Nyong’o won a well deserved trophy in her feature film debut and earned a hearty standing ovation.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity

He earned every single gram of that Oscar for an incredible effort to make every detail of his picture sing. And now we have our first Latin American to win in this category. Bravo.

Her_Poster[1]Best Original Screenplay: Her

Another close call, but the Academy got it right. Spike Jonze perfectly captured our primal, basic need to connect in a new and exciting way that showed more courage and insight than David O. Russell’s over-packed crime comedy, American Hustle.

Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave

To be honest, I wasn’t really a fan of any of these nominees. I would have much rather seen The Spectacular Now or Short Term 12 up there than these merely decent showings. But this is the Academy’s best way to honor the writing of Solomon Northrup.

Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty

It had no competition, but besides that, it was just a brilliant, beautiful piece of work that deserved to take the gold.

Best Documentary Feature: 20 Feet from Stardom

It’s delightfully presented and well constructed, but 20 Feet from Stardom didn’t take nearly as many risks as the incomparable The Act of Killing. I enjoyed the former quite a bit, but my favorite documentary of the year (the latter) was robbed, to be quite frank. Still, I will never forget Darlene Love getting up there and belting her thanks.

Best Animated Feature: Frozen

Well, bon voyage, Mr. Miyazaki. Your final picture just didn’t have enough to prevail over Disney’s best animated film in over a decade.