Post-Oscar Notes, 2014

My cats got me up early and I can’t get back to sleep, so I might as well make something useful out of it. And thus, a few post-Oscar thoughts.

1. For those of you who missed it, I did post some updates to my predictions prior to heading off on vacation; I appended them to my original post here. With the updates, I ended up going my usual five out of six in the major categories, sticking with Amy Adams for Best Actress mostly out of sheer cussedness (although I noted I was ready for people to say “told you so” when Blanchett won). I am however happy to say my bet that Her would get a screenplay award paid off. Go me.

2. Between the Oscar nomination announcements and the ceremony, I was surprised both by the major fade of American Hustle, which I thought was going to be a front runner, and the (to my mind) resurgence of Gravity, which I thought had peaked. But then, this is why I do an immediate prediction post and then a followup — there’s more than enough time between nominations and ceremony for things to change.

3. I noted in my original prediction post that I thought a Best Picture/Best Director split was likely this year, and I was correct about that (even if I initially was wrong about to whom the Oscar would go to). As I noted at the time, one reason a split seemed likely to me was that Steve McQueen, the director of 12 Years a Slave, was also a producer of the film. He’d get an Oscar if 12 Years won Best Picture, even if he didn’t get the director statuette. This made it easier for voters to honor Cuaron for his immense technical achievement in Gravity. Note that with Gravity and 12 Years flipping the wins in the categories would have the same effect as Cuaron was also a producer on his film. Either way, however, everyone goes home happy (except David O. Russell).

It’s also significant that McQueen is either the first black producer, or at least one of the very few (my quick jaunt through Imdb/Wikipedia is inconclusive) to win a Best Picture nod (Mr. McQueen is from the UK and therefore not African American). Cuaron is likewise the first Latin American to win Best Director. A couple more barriers down.

4. Incidentally, with 12 Years winning, Brad Pitt now has an Oscar; he was a producer on the film. We also now live in a world where Matthew McConaughey is an Oscar winner, which is a state of affairs I do not believe anyone would have thought possible even three years ago. Likewise Jared Leto. What a world. There are worse worlds to live in, to be sure. Possible few that are stranger.

21 thoughts on “Post-Oscar Notes, 2014

  1. Matthew McConaughey has shown some remarkable acting talent over the past few years, from Mud on to Dallas BUyers Club and his magnificent role in True Detective on HBO. I think he deserves it.

  2. Matthew has grown a lot as an actor the last few years – fatherhood really agrees with him because once he started having kids he started choosing better roles.

    I really enjoyed American Hustle and thought it would win Best Original Screenplay and HOPED that Amy Adams would pull an upset (though I liked Cate Blanchett, Amy was so much better). Likewise, I hoped June Squibb would take Best Supporting Actress. But, I thought last year was an exceptionally good year for movies, so determining award winners was even harder than usual. I’m particularly happy that Cuaron, who’s now directed my favorite two science fiction movies, was the first Mexican director and the first director of a science fiction movie to win an Oscar!

  3. I was thrilled to have predicted Gravity’s big evening, but I too thought Adam’s was more deserving for Actress. Cuaron was so lauded on technical achievement that I think voters lost sight of some fantastic cinema. The show itself was bland, I hope Ellen isn’t invited back, I thought she bombed. And I’m not and Ellen hater.

  4. I haven’t seen “True Detective”, but I think that McConaughey’s work in both “Mud” and “Dallas Buyers’ Club” were *amazing*.

  5. Someday a film about AIDS will have a gay man in the lead, playing a gay man, and it will be taken seriously by the Academy instead of being dismissed as a “gay film.”

    Someday a trans woman will win an Oscar™ for playing a trans woman.

    Someday cis, straight men winning Oscars™ for movies about AIDS and trans women will mention people living with, or who have died of AIDS, or the oppression suffered by real trans women, in their acceptance speeches.

    But this is not that day.

  6. First black producer to win an Oscar, check. (well there’s best documentary/short docu,( which aren’t in the same league

  7. I’ve seen precious few of the Oscar-nominated movies this year, and that seems to have enhanced my overall enjoyment of the ceremony. I might make my picks based more on heresay in the future!

    That being said, there are a number of films that have catapulted into “must-see” territory for me because of the Oscars. “Nebraska” and “August: Osage County” are now things that I must seek out ASAP. “12 Years A Slave” is another one that I’m sorry I’ve missed — it looks simply amazing.

    Was it just me, or was Matthew McConaghey’s acceptance speech kind of astonishingly weird. It was like he was channeling Rust Cohle by way of Jeff Bridges. I didn’t know what to make of it at all!

    Ellen was pretty good; she was safe, with the right amount of bite to her jokes, though I think I could have done without the Samsung selfie product placement.

    With regards to the trans* controversy about the Dallas Buyers Club, isn’t it enough of a step that the movie and the subject got major recognition and introduced a whole lot of people to a segment of the population that is little seen and understood? These things happen in stages, and we moved forward just a bit last night. We still have work to do, of course, but can’t we take a moment to be happy about the progress we HAVE made?

  8. Add me to the McConaughey fan club. Before True Detective, I’d only seen him be pretty and/or heroic in movies. He is absolutely fantastic in True Detective, especially as 1995-Cohle. That man is experiencing hell in real time and shows it with every breath. I had no idea McConaughey had that in him. It makes me sad that he was pigeon-holed as merely decorative for so long.

  9. Jakebe – when pretty much the entire trans* population is saying that the portrayal was stereotyped, poorly researched, did not ring true to trans* experiences, and offensive, no, it isn’t. I haven’t seen a single article written by a trans* person defending Leto, but I have seen dozens expressing anger, hurt, disappointment, and outrage at his performance of Rayon. I don’t think Rayon gave us any progress in how people see or understand trans* characters at all.

  10. I enjoyed Gravity, despite some moments of questionable physics. The odd thing is that the movie felt like a novella. I was very surprised to see it wasn’t an adaptation.

    I somehow managed not to see any of the other nominated movies. I guess the studios see the broadcast as a commercial for boosting the video release.

    I agree with others who say Matthew McConaughey is amazing in True Detective. I haven’t seen Dallas Buyers Club, but I’ve seen most of his other film/tv work, and True Detective I think is perhaps his best to date.

  11. @Laura Lis Scott

    I enjoyed Gravity, despite some moments of questionable physics.

    Yeah, but most of the tweaks were necessary to the narrative. I’ll be the first to concede that it was an impressive technical feat. But I think it’s real power was in leveraging the strengths of cinema as a story-telling medium, and in that it really is a director’s acomplishment. While watching it in 3D at the Alamo Drafthouse – I usually don’t bother with 3D but Gravity used it spectacularly well – I remember thinking that this would translate poorly to the written page for the same reason many literary achievements don’t work on the screen. It was the novella equivalent of great cinema, but I doubt it would actually make a very good novella. That said, I do think other space-set science fiction movies would be wise to learn the take-away lesson of Gravity, and that is that verisimilitude can be even more harrowing than traditional space tropes. Sound in space and hand-waved artificial gravity should now be as distracting a cliché as slapping meat together during fisticuffs.

    Oh, and except for some nice period sets, American Hustle was really overrated IMHO. Barely worth the price of admission.

  12. Am I the only one who is not at all shocked that McConaughey can act? He started his career as a dramatic actor in things like A Time To Kill and Contact. He was decent then, and two decades of experience since have paid off.

  13. I enjoyed ‘American Hustle’ when I saw it, but it wasn’t the best film of the year by far. I thought ‘Nebraska’ was a much more deserving movie and June Squibb never had a chance, but deserved her nomination in spades. ’12 Years ‘ is, from what I’ve heard, a fantastic movie that I have absolutely no desire to see. ‘Gravity’ sounds great, but I just never got to it. Eventually I will.

    Honestly, my favorite film of 2013 was ‘Pacific Rim’ and I have no shame about that fact. It was a movie that knew what it wanted to do and executed that concept flawlessly in the exact way I desired it to do so. Giant robots punched giant monsters. Did it have gravitas? Of course not. But it was fantastic cinema and I loved it immensely.

    I find I’ve enjoyed the Oscars once I realized that it was a celebration of specific things within the movie industry, as opposed to a more universal celebration of cinema. Certain types of movies simply won’t win and films that don’t aspire to a certain artistic presence can only ever hope technical awards. Once I realized that and understood it, I could contextualize the Oscars for what they were and not what they were not and enjoy them in that regard.

  14. Ryan H:

    Oh, I knew he could act. But a lot of his career is very light stuff, and that can be counted against you. It’s nice that in his case it wasn’t.

  15. @Ryan H: “Am I the only one who is not at all shocked that McConaughey can act?”

    The issue is more that most folks thought, IMHO, that McConaughey was basically portraying himself onscreen and had no real range. I mean, in Contact the thing that was most noteworthy until recently was that he kept his shirt on more often than not. Is that a fair assessment? No, but as Theyis mentions, his choice of film projects played into those ideas.

  16. I enjoyed the big Twitter-crashing selfie, and the pizza delivery. I think the producers of the Oscar telecast have noted how their show suffers in comparison to the Golden Globes, and wanted to loosen it up a bit.

  17. I’ve liked McConaughey’s entire career. (And True Detective is indeed a revelation: how in the world does he signal the change in how Cohle inhabits his body from early 30’s to late 40’s? Such a subtle shift in confidence and weariness and self-knowledge that he nails perfectly.) Likewise other ‘pretty boy’ actors like DiCaprio and Ben Affleck (The Town is one of my favorite films of the last decade.) Then again, my admiration for Paul Haggis’s Crash also hasn’t morphed into sneering contempt like most folks I know. And I’m sad that my favorite movie this year, American Hustle — which I totally and unashamedly enjoyed — was complete shut out by the Academy.

  18. I loved Gravity, and I think Sandra should have won the Oscar for the way in which she endured so much in order to bring that movie into existence. Beautiful ensemble work with Clooney, but the movie rested solely on her shoulders. She’s not just the heart and soul of the movie, she’s the sine qua non of the entire movie.

    So I wished that she had won…

  19. For an early Matthew McConaughey movie that demonstrated his potential check out Lone Star from 1996. A brilliant movie.

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