Here we are again after the Golden Globes, Mike Fleming and Anita Busch taking on the task of play by play during the most wide-open Oscar race we can remember. Even on the party circuit, industry insiders who usually have a grasp of who’ll walk away with Oscars were evenly torn between Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D masterpiece Gravity and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. Then again, there were so many terrific films that got Best Picture nominations, and all of them have at least a puncher’s chance at an upset.
That includes American Hustle, where David O Russell co-wrote the Best Original Script nominee with Eric Warren Singer and got tour de force performances and nominations for Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Perfs so strong there was no room on the nomination roster for perennial Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner. The film is up for 10 awards, and has grossed over $240 million on a $40 million budget.
Then there is The Wolf Of Wall Street, with Leonardo DiCaprio giving the most emphatic and complete performance of a great career, and Jonah Hill right there with him as his crazy con man sidekick. The film is up for five nominations, including Martin Scorsese for directing a terrific adaptation from The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire vet Terence Winter.
You cannot rule out Dallas Buyers Club, with Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto the favorites to win the Best Actor and Supporting Actor prizes in a Jean-Marc Vallee-directed AIDS drama that screenwriter Craig Borten started when he met the film’s subject, Ron Woodroof, in 1992. After a parade of big male stars came in and dropped out, producers Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter came along and found the surging McConaughey and Leto, helping the movie finally emerge from development hell. On a tiny $5 million budget (the lowest for a Best Picture candidate), the film has grossed over $31 million worldwide.
Even though Tom Hanks surprisingly didn’t get a nomination despite a final scene that ranks among the best he’s ever turned in, and even though Paul Greengrass also got skunked for Best Director, there has been a lot of enthusiasm for Captain Phillips and especially Barkhad Abdi, who went from a transplanted Somalian who drove a limo in Minnesota to Best Supporting Actor candidate in perhaps the most unlikely screen debut emergence since Haing S. Ngor, a Cambodian doctor who like the character he played (Dith Pran) endured a horrific Khmer Rouge nightmare to win the Best Supporting Actor in 1984’s The Killing Fields. Abdi found his way into the desperate Somali pirate and even came up with the film’s most memorable line, “I’m the captain now.” Even though reports are that he got paid scale (like Hill did to work with Scorsese), Abdi’s performance and amiable nature will see him get a chance to be a working Hollywood actor. The $55 million film grossed $217 million worldwide.
Then there is Nebraska, which rivals Gravity as the most unlikely film to get made by a major studio. Paramount’s priority is tentpoles like Mission: Impossible, Star Trek and a Terminator reboot, and yet it gave director Alexander Payne a $12 million budget black-and-white film anchored by a 77-year-old protagonist in Bruce Dern. And after waiting patiently behind peers like Sean Connery, Gene Hackman and Jack Nicholson who got all the good roles, Dern stayed sharp and ready, and those guys retired and it was he who turned in the defining role in a great career that gets a relaunch even if he is not expected to win Best Actor. Same for June Squibb, who played his acerbic wife and is up for Best Supporting Actress, and don’t forget Bob Nelson, the 57-year-old who finally got his first script made more than a decade after writing it. He’s up for Best Original Screenplay.
There is Her, Spike Jonze’s inventive film that starred Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely writer looking to make an emotional connection and is surprised to find that he does it with the sultry voice from an operating system designed to meet his every need. That voice, provided by Scarlett Johansson, gives the premise a believability and should make iPhone’s Siri ashamed of her librarian-like blandness. While Jonze got crowded out of the directing category as did Captain Phillips’ Greengrass, he is up for Best Original Screenplay and his work is certainly as original as anything else in that category. That film cost $23 million to make, and has grossed over $30 million worldwide. It is one of two nominated movies bankrolled by Annapurna’s Megan Ellison, who continues to establish herself as the patron saint of auteurs.
Finally, the dark horse in this Best Picture category is Philomena, the tiny Irish film that is the lone entry from The Weinstein Company, which has come to dominate these proceedings. The $12 million film, about Philomena Lee’s journey with a journalist to locate the son who was stripped from her by a convent in Ireland after she got pregnant and became an indentured laundress, is the long shot of this race. But you might agree that it has won its share already. Beyond grossing an outsized $86.2 million worldwide, the film has given Lee a forum to take her crusade for transparency in forced Catholic adoptions to Capitol Hill and even to the Vatican, where she met Pope Francis and got to show this small gem of a film to il Papa and his holy cohorts. How is that for the power of film?
Most feel that Best Picture will come down to Gravity, a juggernaut of a movie that by all rights should never have gotten made. Universal kicked it to the curb after Angelina Jolie dropped out, and Warner Bros. struggled mightily with the film, going back and forth between actresses like Natalie Portman and others before finally giving the great role to Sandra Bullock. After Robert Downey Jr dropped out, George Clooney answered an SOS but even then it wasn’t easy. The film had no taker among Warner Bros.’ established co-financing partners and even though its new slate financier RatPac Dune came on, that was after the film completed shooting. The most ambitious experiential 3D film since Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi, the film is vying for awards for Bullock, who has a shot (and reportedly will make $70 million or more from her gross deal), and Cuaron as Best Director might be the closest thing to a lock. The $100 million film has grossed north of $704.8 million worldwide, and its impact on Hollywood has been such that TriStar chief Tom Rothman exited the theater after seeing it, and decided to finance the Robert Zemeckis-directed 3D movie that will star Joseph Gordon-Levitt as aerialist Philippe Petit, and his daring 1974 tight rope walk between the North and South Towers at the World Trade Center.
If its path to Best Picture is blocked, it will most likely be done by 12 Years A Slave, the Fox Searchlight/New Regency-financed $20 million budget film that has grossed $140 million worldwide. Beyond Best Pictures, the film’s nine Oscar nominations include director McQueen, screenwriter John Ridley, supporting actor Michael Fassbender, supporting actress Lupita Nyong’o, and Best Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who, after a career’s worth of wonderful work positively shines as Solomon Northup. Some feel that McQueen’s accomplishment presents an historical injustice not seen onscreen since Schindler’s List and that it has to win, while others wonder if the brutal depiction might have steered older Oscar voters away.
Add into that mix Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett (also considered a lock despite the controversy surrounding Woody Allen) and co-star Sally Hawkins, the impassioned turns by Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep in the adaptation of Terry Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County, and we are looking at arguably the most balanced and high-quality smattering of talent Oscar has seen in many years.
It is also particularly satisfying that while Hollywood major studios place the greatest emphasis on global-minded tentpoles, 2013 revived interest in sophisticated subject matter that challenged viewers and showed that adults will in fact go to the movies if there is something worthwhile to see. Those successes go beyond the nominees, as the industry marveled that Lee Daniels’ The Butler grossed $168 million on a $30 million budget, including $51 million overseas, becoming one of the most successful indie films in recent memory.
As for the Oscars, will the love be limited to the favorites, or will the Academy spread the golden hardware around? It is nice to focus on an interesting race, instead of what the stars are wearing on the red carpet, or what Ellen DeGeneres says in her monologue. This should be fun.
Deadline’s Dominic Patten and Jen Yamato are contributing to this report
Here are our predictions for how tonight will and should play out in key categories:
What Will Win: 12 Years A Slave, the most important film historically. And the life of a true American hero Solomon Northup.
What Should Win: Gravity for pushing the envelope with special effects, having to work in a way that hasn’t been done before with every department within the filmmaking process and even creating their own tools to get the effects that they needed. The long shot alone — a 12-minute single take opening scene. They even created a first of its kind LED light box where actress Sandra Bullock sat inside and they moved the environment around her. It was incredibly impressive to see on large format and was entertaining as well. That being said, my favorite movie of the year was American Hustle from director David O. Russell that had a killer ensemble cast.
What Will Win: Gravity. The momentum for this film lately probably puts it over the edge.
What Should Win: Fruitvale Station. It hit me hardest, personally, of all the films I saw last year. It got lost in a strong year, but I expect big things in the future from writer/director Ryan Coogler, and star Michael B. Jordan.
Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Who Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron for all the reasons listed above.
Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron. What he did with a 68-page script written with son Jonas, two actors and a true auteur’s achievement was the best 3D achievement since Ang Lee won Best Director for Life Of Pi. The film made an extraordinary amount of money and when I saw it, I kept thinking, I can’t believe a studio made this movie. Lot of the credit for that goes to Jeff Robinov, who’s setting up a new production company at Sony (I’ve been hearing that he’ll likely have backing from Russian financier Len Blavatnick), and Warner Bros exec Lynn Harris, who just left the studio and is likely to return back in business with Robinov.
Who Should Win: Cuaron, for an outsized achievement. Special props to David O Russell, who created an outrageous period tapestry, managing to house wonderful performance from the quartet of nominated performers, and others like Jeremy Renner, Jack Huston, with Robert De Niro showing up briefly to show that no living actor can deliver a deadly stare like he can.
Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Who Should Win: Christian Bale, American Hustle. He was the strength of the movie and the driving force in the ensemble cast.
Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey. The weight loss, and the idea that a good actor typecast for a trippy persona and rom coms can find a second wind by going all in as Ron Woodroof in a serious drama that had every actor’s fingerprints on the script, and which is fueling what will be as remarkable a second wind as any actor. He won the Spirit Award yesterday and got to practice his “alright, alright, alright” signature line from Dazed And Confused.
Who Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio. The commitment to playing scoundrel Jordan Belfort was all encompassing. DiCaprio’s tour de force performance touched all the bases from drama, to desperation, to outright physical comedy. I thought his performance as Howard Hughes was heartbreaking in The Aviator, but this movie, which was made because of his unshakeable faith in it, is his crowning achievement.
Who Will Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Who Should Win: Cate Blanchett … no need to ask why.
Who Will Win: Cate Blanchett. Despite the distractions involving Blue Jasmine director Woody Allen, her steely portrayal of the disgraced, self-centered, unlikeable and deluded ex-wife of a Bernie Madoff-like conman was riveting.
Who Should Win: I’m torn between Sandra Bullock and Amy Adams. The latter has been so good, so often, in movies like The Fighter and Julie & Julia. Watch this space next year, when she plays 60s painter Margaret Keane opposite the domineering husband who took credit for her work (Christoph Waltz) in the Tim Burton-directed Big Eyes. As for Bullock, there were questions of whether she could anchor a movie, mostly by herself, and she crushed it.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Who Will Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club…he’s won every award under the sun.
Who Should Win: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years A Slave … the most memorable performance for me this year in the supporting category.
Who Will Win: Jared Leto. Good actor who has been away too long chasing a music career, and returns in a performance with an utter lack of vanity, and a lot of empathy. Has been the toast of the award circuit so far.
Who Should Win: I love Jonah Hill’s performance in The Wolf Of Wall Street, and Fassbender was notoriously ruthless in 12 Years A Slave. But to me the best supporting actor turn I saw belonged to Daniel Bruhl in the Ron Howard-directed Rush. It completely fell through the cracks, but Bruhl’s turn as German driver Niki Lauda, who overcame a near-fatal crashed that torched his body, to return to the winner’s circle. His tightly wound character was a perfect foil for the easygoing ladies man rival played strongly by Chris Hemsworth.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Who Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years A Slave…the soul and the conscience of the film.
Who Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o
Who Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence. She seemed a long shot but has come on strong with wins at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs. Early favorite was Lupita Nyong’o, but she might have peaked too soon in the Oscar season.
Who Should Win: Nyong’o. Her performance was just heartbreaking.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Who Will Win: Spike Jonze, Her, for the most wonderfully original story of the year and a cautionary tale in the era of technology.
Who Should Win: Spike Jonze
Who Will Win: American Hustle’s David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer. If Cuaron is carrying Best Director, it will be nice to see David O walk away with a trophy of some kind. He managed to pack in a detailed scam story, and create spectacular moments for his four Oscar-nominated actors, and several others. He was changeable all the way through, describing to Deadline how much of Jen Lawrence’s dialogue was tailored specifically to how she interpreted her character. He did the same with the other actors.
Who Should Win: Sticking with David O here.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Who Will Win: Billy Ray (Captain Phillips) because it won the WGA Award and it often follows.
Who Should Win: John Ridley (12 Years A Slave). Having started reading the book, the vernacular is exact at the beginning and mirrors the language in the screenplay. It respects the biography of Solomon Northup and was an excellent narrative.
Who Will win: Terence Winter, The Wolf Of Wall Street. This guy is the cream of the crop of TV writers with The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. He has honed a formula where he can create highly dramatic moments and outrageously funny ones, the kind where you laugh and later on feel badly that you were entertained by bad deeds perpetrated by awful people.
Who Should Win: I’m sticking with Winter, though 12 Years A Slave’s John Ridley is right in there.
Who Will Win: Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki (Gravity)
Who Should Win: Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska). I’m a sucker for black and white films like The Artist, Paper Moon, Good Night, And Good Luck, Raging Bull, The Last Picture Show.
What Should And Will Win: Emmanuel Lubezki. Gravity was such a towering technical achievement that this will be one of several such awards like visual effects. Props to Nebraska’s Phedon Papamichael, because that film was shot gorgeously.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
What Will Win: Frozen (Disney)
What Should Win: Frozen (Disney), any story about unconditional love has me.
What Will Win: Frozen. Can a billion dollars’ worth of moviegoers be wrong?
What Should Win: The Wind Rises. The swan song of Hayao Miyazaki.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM
What Will Win: 20 Feet From Stardom
What Should Win: 20 Feet From Stardom
What Will Win: 20 Feet From Stardom. First Oscar for new Weinstein Company multi-platform releasing company RADiUS. These gals appeared last night at a Harvey Weinstein dinner party that previewed his Broadway show Finding Neverland, and they can just plain bring it. After standing 20 feet from stardom, they are getting their moment and I heard that none other than David Bowie cold called one of them, Claudia Lennear, and told her he wants to write songs for her to record. Coming from the elusive Bowie, that is high praise indeed.
What Should Win: The Act Of Killing. An unprecedented achievement, getting architects of genodical acts to recreate their nasty deeds. I’m going off what I’ve heard, because I just had no tolerance to watch myself.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
What Will Win: The Great Beauty
What Should Win: The Broken Circle Breakdown, Science vs. God with a political bent
Of the Best Foreign Language candidates I’ve seen nada. So I’m skipping this.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
What Will Win: “Ordinary Love” (Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson)
What Should Win: “Ordinary Love”
What Should And Will Win: U2, “Ordinary Love”. This poignant song smartly doesn’t laud Nelson Mandela, but focuses on the circumstances that created the rift between Mandela and his wife Winnie, and forged radically different paths for each. This kind of stuff brings out the best in Bono and The Edge, reminiscent of the beautiful “Walk On”, which shone a light on Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese academic who was chairperson of the National League for Democracy and spent 21 years under house arrest for defying the brutal military regime that got its start by murdering her father as he was taking over the country. This was captured in the Luc Besson-directed The Lady with Michelle Yeoh.
OK now on with the show….
Anita: Ellen looks like she’s wearing the puffy shirt from Seinfeld. “Who’s the wine captain now?” Very funny. Tonight is about heroes and she pointed out the real Captain Richard Phillips and Philomena Lee and then hailed a great Liza Minnelli impersonator and said thank you sir. It was Liza, so, bulls-eye, Ellen! Kinda mean.
Mike: Ellen is doing pretty well, but that outfit, designed apparently by the wardrobe department of Pirates Of The Caribbean, is distracting. Bless her for not doing an opening song/skit.
Anita: I think she’s doing an incredible job. Ascerbic and funny.
Mike: Jonah Hill worked on Wolf of Wall Street for $60,000 and though his rep team will hate this, he told me that if the Coen Brothers call him, he would be open to doing it again. And Paul Thomas Anderson. But everybody else needs to pay retail.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Who played Rayon, a transgender dying from AIDS. He spoke lovingly about his mother who was there with him at the show and thanked her for teaching him how to dream.
Anita: Nice shout out to those struggling in the Ukraine and Venezuela. Very nice speech, despite his Mr. Peabody tie.
Mike: You can hear this guy’s actor price quote going up as he speech rambles. If anybody wants to make a new movie about Jesus Christ, and not a retread like the film that opened this weekend, here’s your guy.
Anita: Jim Carrey, sporting his Martin Scorsese glasses, introduced beloved movie heroes in animation … would rather see the true-life heroes that are sitting in the audience. Good theme this year.
Oh, look the Academy Awards just become the Grammys. Pharrell Williams is even wearing the same kind of Vivianne Westwood hat he wore then. By the way, this is the first Academy Awards where the No. 1 song, Williams’ Happy from Despicable Me 2 and the number 1 album (the Frozen soundtrack) are both Oscar nominees with Let it Go from Disney animated pic is nominated in the Best Original Song category.
Mike: Good self awareness tweet from Albert Brooks, Ellen’s co-star in voicing Finding Nemo: The great thing about Hollywood is they actually think Ukraine is watching the Oscars.”
Best Costume Design
Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby
Anita: Martin actually pulled out as many details that she could from the book, including the fact that Tom was a life long customer with Brooks Brothers … and that pink suit. Nice. I still think that Nebraska should have been nominated for costumes.
Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
Robin Mathews and Adruitha Lee, Dallas Buyers Club
Anita: She only had $250 for the entire make-up budget and even called her mother while on location in New Orleans during the 23-day shoot to gather up grits and cornmeal from her pantry to be able to create the dermatitis on her actors Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey. I really thought Bad Grandpa‘s Stephen Prouty had it this year as he had to make that make-up believable to fool people close up and personal, but at the union’s awards show you could hear an audible gasp when Mathews talked about the small budget she had to work with.
Mike: Nice that they have a guide to get winners from the cheap seats to the stage in timely fashion. Jackie Bissett could have used GPS or Google Maps as she got lost trying to find the stage at the Golden Globes, leading into her sprawling speech. Meron and Zadan so far seem to have thought of all this because the show so far is nimble and efficient.
Mike: Another good tweet from my man Dominic Patten, courtesy of The Roots bandleader Questlove: “Ellen missed a classic moment. she shoulda said @SamuelLJackson was Larry Fish #Oscars. A dig at Sam Rubin’s clumsy Robocop interview with Sam when he mistook him for rival African American financial services pitch man Laurence Fishburne. Boy did he make Rubin marinate. Kinda funny.
Anita: Kim Novak, it is what it is.
Mike: Too easy, and too cruel.
Best Animated Short
Mr. Hubolt, Laurent Witz, Alexandre Espigares
Best Animated Feature Film
Frozen, Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
Anita: Disney animated picture is passing the $1 billion mark this weekend and is still in the top 10 at the box office in its 15th week in release. Unheard of. A story about unconditional love gets me every time.
Mike: In years past, we saw a lot of showtune numbers and distractions and felt like maybe it’s better to drop the puck and just give out the damn awards. Gotta say though, this is getting pretty boring, even though people aren’t going with a litany of agents in their thank you speeches. I’m sure that will come later. But it would be nice if they broke up this hardware handout with something fun and something that reminds us why we felt excited coming into this broadcast, because of the films in the running.
Anita: Watching the clip about ordinary people who are heroes introduced by Norma Rae herself, Sally Field, gave me pause. I know many ordinary heroes. Too many who have died, many who are still fighting to change this world.
Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Gravity, Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, Neil Corbould
Anita: In accepting his first Oscar, Tim Webber, the special effects artist for Gravity — a man who interestingly has his education in physics, math and art — thanked the team at Framestore. They spent three years on the space epic. He has worked before with Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron on Children Of Men. Karen O from the Yeahs Yeahs Yeahs is the first to sing tonight with “The Moon Song” from Her and U2 will be performing “Ordinary Love” from the Mandela movie tonight. Also up is Idina Menzel who will be singing “Let it Go” from Frozen.
Best Live Action Short Film
Helium, Anders Walter, Kim Mangusson
Best Documentary Short
The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life, director Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
Anita: Nick Reed is a former ICM agent who worked for a long while to get the financing together for the film and has segued to becoming an entrepreneur in social media. Kudos to him. And sad that Alice Herz-Sommer, who was known as the oldest living Holocaust survivor at the age of 110, died this past Sunday. The filmmakers just cemented a deal with Netflix.
Mike: Two things. A shout out to our drowned out old friend Nick Reed, a good ICM agent who left and now has won an Oscar as a producer. He should have known from his years squiring winning clients that you always want to be the first to speak because if your partner bogarts the microphone, you are screwed. Second, to Ellen, when you waste time walking up and down the rows talking to the stars, off the cuff isn’t the best way to do it. Her interstitials have been lacking so far.
Best Documentary Feature
20 Feet From Stardom
Mike: Wow, that’s a surprise. Big moment for Tom Quinn and Jason Janego’s upstart distributor RADiUS-TWC. Darlene Love is the sole member of the principal cast to take the stage, but big things are happening for these gals.
Anita: Wasn’t a surprise to me, Mike. Totally expected this one.
Best Foreign Language Film
The Great Beauty (Italy) Nicola Giuliano and Francesca Cima producers
Anita: I felt like I was watching a Fellini film with this one. Although beautifully shot, it was hard to follow. This show is lulling me to sleep. How about you, Mike? I mean Ellen walking the aisle asking who wants pizza? You gotta be kidding me.
Mike: Huh? I’m up. I wasn’t snoring. I was regaled by Tyler Perry’s introduction of Nebraska. But it would have been more fun had he embraced Jared Leto’s big night and done it as Madea.
Anita: From bad to worse. What the hell is Ellen wearing now? She looks like a circus barker. And now Sound Mixing and Sound editing is next? Bathroom break.
Mike: What does it mean when the two highlights of the evening were musical performances, first by Pharrell and then after U2′s superb rendition of its song “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom? Songs are carrying the night here, and there are only four nominated because the scandal that got “Alone Yet Not Alone” disqualified because one of its architects, Bruce Broughton, was a former Academy governor who lobbied his old pals to vote for him. We’ve only been through 10 of 24 awards. It’s a strange Oscar so far, though the lone clippage of screen heroes was quite nice. Ellen: be more funny!
Anita: This is unfunny. The record for the most waste of time. Not even half way through and she’s doing this? Stop talking and get through the next awards. Please. A commercial for Samsung’s phone. Really?
Mike: Did Ellen think we were still on commercial break when she did that dopey photo bombing op? This is like one of those movies you hear about when everybody says, “I don’t know how it ended up being so bad, we just had so much fun while we were making it.” I miss Seth MacFarlane. And Tina Fey. And Amy Poehler. Wow you can just feel the air being sucked out of the room.
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Gravity, Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, Chris Munro
Anita: They receive the second win of the night for Gravity, which was heavily nominated in the below-the-line categories.
Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Gravity, Glenn Freemantle
Anita: Make that three. And nice of him to wear the black ribbon for Sarah Jones who died on the set of Midnight Rider in Georgia just a couple of weeks ago.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years A Slave
Anita: Yes. This is incredibly well deserved. She was the heart and soul of this film. She wins the first award for 12 Years A Slave for her brilliant portrayal of Patsey who was horribly victimized as a slave, producing the most for her slave owners, sexually assaulted and beaten to an inch of her life. So genuine, this girl. Kenya must be proud. “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” Sweet girl. Her birthday was yesterday where she won at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Mike: Wow. I thought Jen Lawrence was going to win, but Lupita’s speech was the highlight of a night without many of them. What a vision, and an incredible performance to back it up. Such heartfelt thanks in all the right places.
Anita: Dominic reports that Twitter keeps crashing. Did Ellen’s selfie crash the site?
Mike: Ellen, channeling her inner Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High and ordering pizza during class? Where is Mr. Hand when you need him, to nip this in the bud? Wow, was this a bad idea. So next year, maybe Jimmy Kimmel, or Jimmy Fallon? What about Jerry Seinfeld? Maybe Tina and Amy will want to host a real meaningful awards ceremony? Who else?
Anita: I think I need a Jello shot (Too early?)
Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki
Anita: Known by his nickname ‘Chivo,’ Lubezki combed through 300 to 400 stills from NASA, which he had called his bible on the picture. He previously worked on Terrence Malick’s Tree Of Life and The New World. He found himself having to create his own tools and build his own equipment as he faced the challenge of framing a virtual world and integrating seamlessly with live action. Love that Bill Murray honored the late great Harold Ramis who he worked with on such memorable comedies as Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day.
Best Achievement in Film Editing
Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger
Mark up Oscar No. 5 for this film.
Mike: Bill Murray, always funny. His shout-out to longtime cohort Harold Ramis was superb. Pink now crushing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. I remember seeing her screen test when she was going to play Janis Joplin. I don’t know if this girl can act, but she seems ideal for a musical movie. And while numerous actresses have lined up to play Janis, nobody can belt it like that girl.
Anita: Agreed. Now favorite Ramis movie?
Mike: Gotta go with Animal House, which was a visual handbook of my college experience at C.W. Post.
Anita: Caddyshack here … ‘Be the ball,’ ‘It’s a Cinderella story.’
Mike: This just in, a tweet from Donald Trump, who just will not survive without getting a blowhard blow in. Trump tweets: “Judy Garland was much better, to put it mildly,!” Liza seemed to be in support, as she and Donald seem to have the same hairdresser.
Best Achievement in Production Design
The Great Gatsby, Catherine Martin, Beverley Dunn
Anita: Her second win on Gatsby … oops someone fell on the camera (what the heck was That?) … Martin’s production design, in combination with the special effects team, was a colorful look at 1920s America. She also won an Art Directors Guild Award for her work.
Mike: Since many of the boring speeches have come from the people involved in providing the VFX for Gravity, I wish they’d thought to have them give their acceptance speeches in a zero gravity booth, trying to remember family members as they spun around with trophy in hand. Long night here.
Mike: We’ve now seen our third member of The Avengers cast take the stage, in Chris Evans. Wasn’t this Oscars supposed to bear a hero theme? It has been so subtle, not enough connective tissue. There doesn’t seem to be much of a theme at all tonight.
Anita: Hard to see so many of the industry greats on this In Memoriam list. They only got mentioned for one film (Phillip Seymour Hoffman – Capote) or one job (Tom Sherak – Academy president). Bette Midler is the best live performance I’ve ever seen … although I never got to see Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd. But seriously, she is one of the greats. Standing ovation. Not surprised. “Wing Beneath My Wings.” Love her. And Sarah Jones, the 27-year-old killed on the production of Midnight Rider after getting hit by a train on a train track as the crew was trying to get a shot just got a shout out from the Academy … that campaign paid off as the Academy screenshot her name after Bette’s song. Classy move, guys. I still cannot believe that anyone would shoot on a live track.
Anita: Eight more awards … still awake?
Mike: Our Pete Hammond reports that the announcer asked the audience during a commercial break to hold applause during montage of those who passed away. Seems impossible that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Walker were among them. Way too young.
Mike: John Travolta, after saying how much he loved movie musicals, introduces the Frozen tune and its singer, Idina Menzel as the wickedly talented Adele Dazi? And this Oscars is such a snore probably nobody noticed. And hey, Adele Dazi just got a standing ovation!
Best Original Score
Gravity (Steven Price)
Anita: Price used all kinds of sounds on this film, mixing music with the sounds of radio waves and swapping from one melody to the next. He told Deadline a couple of weeks ago that it was “a year of experiments.”
Frozen, “Let It Go”, Music and lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Anita: What?! Big upset as everyone thought it would go to “Ordinary Love”. Bono looked like most U2 fans when the band released that dud of an album Pop in the 1990s.
Mike: U2 sure didn’t look happy, and I’m sad on their behalf. Glimpsed Saving Mr. Banks a moment ago and talk about a good movie that was completely forgotten in the race. Pic seemed to have momentum until Meryl Streep introduced Emma Thompson at some tribute and called Walt Disney sexist and an anti-Semite. That pretty much closed the casket on the film’s Oscar season, didn’t it? Meryl has such power in Hollywood.
Best Adapted Screenplay
12 Years A Slave (John Ridley)
Anita: John Ridley, the one who should have one. Yes. If you remember, he was the one who left the guild during the strike. He credited his script coordinator who helped him get started. Ridley went financial core, during the strike. Big of the writers to overlook that and vote him an Oscar on the merits.
Best Original Screenplay
Her, Spike Jonze
Mike: A good year for Spike Jonze, who in The Wolf Of Wall Street introduced Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) to the penny stock game where he let loose his reign of decadence, and who nearly had the female lead in Bad Grandpa, shooting all the scenes in drag (he was not as pretty as Jared Leto) and playing the one who got away, the great love of Bad Grandpa’s life. He was cruelly cut out of the movie by director Jeff Tremaine, who, as Tremaine said he broke to Jonze, “You’re on the cutting room floor. Eat shit.”
Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron
Anita: This was the seventh award for Gravity. Who will he thank now? Jonas, his son, Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, his crew, the “wise guys” of Warner Bros. … oops! And finally, Jeff Robinov gets a nod from the previous regime who was knocked out of the studio by those wise guys. Oops, I meant …
Mike: Nice speech from Cuaron, and his achievement shows that an auteur with a vision can get dinged up and see it through and show everybody he knew what he was doing. One of the most unbelievable success stories of recent years. While Robinov certainly deserves props, a lot of people tell me that the unsung hero was Lynn Harris, who just left the studio and is expected to resurface with Robinov though she will have no shortage of jobs. As for Ellen saying the Oscars were over, she has been so hit or miss some of us took it as wishful thinking, or figure maybe she just forgot. Also on Angelina Jolie, I have a feeling she’ll be a big part of the next Oscars, for directing Unbroken, the Louie Zamperini story for Universal.
Anita: Robinov and Harris will be a powerful duo if they so join together.
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Anita: No surprise. Will she avoid the elephant in the room named Woody? No, she thanked him. She repeated a lot of what she said the day before at the Independent Spirit Awards about women and the power of female roles. Yes, they make money and then came Hunger Games actress …
Jennifer Lawrence, the Chevy Chase of the Oscars. She didn’t fall … yet.
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Anita: First off, he thanked God. “When you got God you got a friend and that friend is you.” He thanked family and his father who has passed, “you taught me what was to be a man.” To his mother, who taught him to respect himself and others. He thanked his family. He has his priorities straight. He keeps chasing the hero in himself … what a wonderful speech and of course he had to end it with Alright, Alright, Alright, Just Keep Livin’.
Mike: He has been trippy in the past. But McConaughey gave a most grateful classy speech. His life has been such a trip — I once did an interview with him for Playboy where he talked about taking on the best wrestler in a tribe in Africa he visited, and earning so much respect in battle that the young man walked him to the next stop to protect him from being eaten by a lion that had been wandering nearby. Another story involved him wandering through the desert in the Middle East, running out of water and being near death until he stumbled into a stranger in a tent. The stranger gave him water, and nursed him back to health. By comparison, his cinematic journey, being discovered in the John Grisham pic A Time To Kill after Dazed And Confused, and then battling back to a rom com ghetto with edgy no money roles that led to Dallas Buyers Club, the smash HBO limited series True Detective, and now the lead in the Christopher Nolan-directed Interstellar. Easy guy to root for. So happy for Matthew.
12 Years A Slave
Long show … where’s Mike? Mike?
Mike: Actually, I am delighted that 12 Years A Slave won. Steve McQueen’s speech was eloquent (is it possible that 21 million people are enslaved in this world?), so was Brad Pitt’s speech and let’s face it, this film deserved to win, even if it was hard to watch. Those victory speeches in the major categories were stirring, but it was Ellen who left me feeling a bit flat in the spaces between the important moments. Maybe the Oscar is just too constrained in its format to ever be a truly entertaining experience, but the stories behind the nominated movies, winners and losers, made it worth staying up for. The decision to take no risks in the broadcast was a mistake, and when the big bit of the evening involves a selfie with movie stars to cripple Twitter, that’s a pretty forgettable Oscarcast.
Anita: But no First Lady, no big surprises, few moments to remember. Highlight for me Lupita Nyong’o and Matthew McConaughey’s speeches. And Bette. Good night folks.
Mike: One final note on our pre-Oscarcast picks. Anita got 10 right, and I got seven. I also contracted acute bronchitis this week, and I lost the entertainment journalist award at Friday’s Publicists Guild Award (wearing an “L” for the second straight year). For me, it was one of those weeks.
Mike: And one final shout out on Twitter: Uhuru Kenyatta, president of Kenya, just tweeted:
— Uhuru Kenyatta (@UKenyatta) March 3, 2014
This seems like a nice way to end this.