2014 OSCAR WRAP-UP

Oscar Sunday 2014 has come and gone, and the best and brightest of Hollywood were honored at the 86th Academy Awards. We at hapless geek enjoyed the night’s festivities, just as much as we enjoyed bringing our predictions of the top award recipients of the evening to you. Let’s recap our night with a final look at the night’s winners! 

Our guesses of the night—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Lead Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor/Actress, and Best Original and Adapted Screenplay—can be found here and they weren’t too shabby. We went 7 for 8 in these categories, so here’s a rebuttal to why we got one wrong, and a boast about the ones we got right. 

Best Original Screenplay – Spike Jonze [HER]

Prediction: I’m giving this one to Spike Jonze for Her (review). While I loved Dallas Buyers Club a lot, the banter and overall writing of Her—especially for and between the two lead actors—was much fuller and richer than Dallas.

Result: We had no doubt about Spike Jonze’s screen play, we were concerned about how well-received American Hustle (see review herewas with the Academy after its popular acclaim. Her was not seen by a whole lot of people, to their detriment, and they may not have heard about it until it was too late—the film opened to 1,730 screens its opening weekend in January in the U.S., and lasted about a month. Comparatively, American Hustle opened to 2,500 screens ten days before Christmas 2013 and grossed almost $20 million its opening frame.

Best Adapted Screenplay – John Ridley [12 YEARS A SLAVE]

Prediction: Richard Linklater could be due after not scoring for Before Sunrise/Sunset, but my money’s on John Ridleyfor 12 Years a Slave. Believe it or not, the slavery film is the least controversial of the litter in this category, with Captain Philips, Wolf of Wall Street and Philomena (review here) all taking arguably unpopular liberties with the source material. That may hurt them all.

Result: Ridley campaigned hard for this film, and rightfully so. And to counter our above point, the 12 Years a Slavejourney was not without its own controversy—but it was between writer and director, as Steve McQueen had a well-documented falling out with Ridley over a desired partial writing credit for the director that was declined. The tension could have been cut with a knife on Oscar night, as neither man acknowledged one another during their acceptance speeches (Ridley for screenplay, McQueen as a producer for Best Picture). Nonetheless, 12 Years was deserving of both statues.

(from left to right) Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong’o and Jared Leto

Best Supporting Actor – Jared Leto [DALLAS BUYERS CLUB]

Prediction: This is a tough category. The newcomer Barkhad Abdi in Captain Philips (review here) throws a monkey wrench into the two-horse race between Jared Leto and Jonah Hill, in my opinion, but Leto was just amazing in Dallas Buyers Club and showed ridiculous range as Rayon. It pains me to say it, because Jonah Hill has been on a roll over the last three years, but my pick goes to Jared Leto.

Result: Leto was just waaaaaay too good in Dallas Buyers Club. The over-the-top nature of  The Wolf of Wall Street may have detracted from the great performances of their lead actors, at least in the eyes of the Academy, but it would have been a tough sell regardless compared to what a transcendent job Jared Leto did. Add to the fact that it’s been six years since he’s donned his acting hat after touring the world with his band 30 Seconds to Mars, to return to the silver screen in this fashion was just too much for Jonah Hill to compete with.

Best Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o [12 YEARS A SLAVE]

Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence was the most entertaining out of the very funny ensemble of American Hustle, but Oscar just can’t ignore Lupita Nyong’o and her masterful performance. June Squibb may get a mention because she was the most colorful character in Nebraska, but if I was a betting man I’d say 12 Years a Slave wins this one.

Result: There’s not much else to say about this other than, we knew it. Personally, Nyong’o was believable and emotionally arresting in 12 Years, but we still contend Sarah Paulson got snubbed because Patsey wouldn’t have been so arresting without Miss Epps’ harrowing portrayal of a jealous and vindictive wife of a slave master. The plight of Nyong’o wouldn’t have been as powerful if a lesser actress played her foil. Additionally, the competition wasn’t as strong this year in the category; we mentioned June Squibb in Nebraska (reviewbeing a sleeper, but Jennifer Lawrence was the only true contender to Nyong’o possibly losing this.

Best Lead Actor – Matthew McConaughey [DALLAS BUYERS CLUB]

Prediction: Matthew McConaughey, hands down. Leonardo DiCaprio was salaciously awesome in The Wolf of Wall Street, but McConaughey completely transformed himself for this role, which the Academy rewards more often than not. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Oscar finally comes to Leo after being overlooked twice before in this category, but it was just too striking a performance in Dallas Buyers Club (review) for McConaughey to lose.

Result: Dallas Buyers Club was an amazing character-driven piece. From the very beginning of the film, Matthew McConaughey made us believe he was Ron Woodroof. Granted, Leonardo DiCaprio made us believe he was Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, but he’s also made us believe he was Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover, Frank Abagnale Jr. and Jay Gatsby with equal believability. While rewarding a personality for previous accolades that yielded no awards is an unwritten rule in Hollywood, it stood no chance here. Neither did Chiwetel Ejiofor, Bruce Dern and Christian Bale for their respective performances. Oscar night was Matthew’s night. Alright, alright, alright. 

Best Lead Actress – Cate Blanchett [BLUE JASMINE]

Prediction: Many people may have Cate Blanchett taking this home, but I wasn’t as floored by her performance in Blue Jasmine than in other roles she’s done, so I’m going to give this one to Sandra Bullock for Gravity. She carried 90% of this film, and while it wasn’t the most dialogue or plot-heavy work she’s done, it was captivating on-screen work nonetheless.

Result: We stand by our opinion on who we thought brought it better this year, but we also admit Blue Jasmine was a great role for Cate Blanchett to sink her teeth into. We still think she was better in her supporting roles like Notes on a ScandalBenjamin Button and The Aviator, but we’d also portend since Blue Jasmine got very little publicity save for her performance this year, the Academy found it a great way to kill a couple birds with one stone. Dame Judi Dench and Amy Adams were both very solid in their roles, and Meryl Streep (with her record 18 Oscar nominations) is—let’s face it—Meryl Streep and is quintessential in August: Osage County, but Sandra Bullock did so much more with less in her performance and carried Gravity (reviewessentially by herself. Nonetheless, Cate Blanchett was the most enjoyable character and showed the most range in Jasmine, even though that role was in our opinion plain Jane in regards unique characters portrayed on-screen.

Best Director – Alfonso Cuarón [GRAVITY]

Prediction: This is another tough one. Because of the sheer breadth of work that needed to be done for this film just to get made, smart money is on Alfonso Cuarón to win this one for Gravity. My heart wants it to be Steve McQueen, but my gut believes it’s Cuarón’s to lose.

Result: We need to qualify that for the amount of time this film took from conception to screen, no one in this category stood a chance against Alfonso Cuarón. We had a feeling that if Steve McQueen were to win this category, the film 12 Years a Slave itself would probably not win Best Picture. Gravity in terms of overall film quality could not contend with The Wolf of Wall Street (hereor Captain Philips, but cinematography, editing, mixing and visual effects were head and shoulders this film’s bread and butter—that was all the doing of its fearless leader, Alfonso Cuarón. 

Best Picture – 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Prediction: After all the reviews were said and done and [we] had to choose which of these nine films was best of 2013, the strongest performances and most deserving accolades go to 12 Years a Slave. Steve McQueen was fearless in his approach to this material, and the actors he commissioned for it brought their A-game from top to bottom. The Wolf of Wall Street gets honorable mention but I feel McQueen did much more with less in 12 Years than Scorsese did.

Result: Powerful story, haunting performances by some of the top actors of today, and a director who has transcended movie-making and creates films that entertain and educate in the most inspiring of ways, 12 Years a Slave (reviewwas a no-brainer for Best Picture. Most moviegoers may have believed The Wolf of Wall Street was a shoo-in for this category, but most of those moviegoers probably didn’t want to stomach 12 Years a Slave either. As charged as the material was in 12 Years, it was darn good material nevertheless. The whole was so much more powerful than the sum of its parts, and the parts were formidable to say the least. Scorsese hit so many good notes with Wolf, and DiCaprio and Hill were amazing, but Ejiofor, Fassbender, Cumberbatch, Nyong’o, Paulson, Giamatti and Pitt were that much better. McQueen’s masterful camera work and unflinching eye forced us to take notice, and the Academy rewarded them all.

Oscar winners Blanchett (top left), McConaughey, Nyong’o, Leto (bottom left), director Steve McQueen (Best Picture) and Alfonso Cuarón (Best Director).

So, there you have it, hapless geeks. The beginning and end of the biggest night in movies. For more news on those who won, who lost, and the remainder of the night’s awards, log on to the Academy’s official website, www.oscar.com!

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