Well, let’s look and see what went down, shall we?
Best Picture – 12 Years a Slave
Absolutely spot-on. The best of the nominees, basically the best film of the year, an important milestone in Academy history…there was some speculation that Gravity might take this at the last minute, and reports of Academy members who found the film too painful to watch gave cause for concern, but really…doesn’t this feel like the best choice? It does to me. It did to them. Plus, I got to see Steve McQueen literally jump with joy. Perfection.
Best Director – Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
I mean, I’d rather McQueen have won this, but he was a producer on 12 Years and got his gold, plus Cuarón did a good job and apparently got screwed over for Children of Men (which I haven’t seen but hear good things about). So I’m cool with it. It was a good job. Plus, he’s the first Latino director to win.
Best Actor – Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
He was the heavy frontrunner, so I was sort of prepared for it. I still don’t quite see what was so great about this performance (or the film, for that matter), and would rather they had gone with DiCaprio (or Chiwetel Ejiofor, but the odds were pretty heavily against him), or even Bruce Dern…but maybe I’ll come back to this film someday and appreciate it more. And given how much he turned his career around and how much good work he’s been doing as of late, I can live with it. Nice acceptance speech, too.
Best Actress – Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Yawn. She pretty much won everything for this, and the competition was fairly weak (though Amy Adams is badly overdue, and Sandra Bullock and Judi Dench were both quite good), but the clips I’ve seen don’t impress me much. I don’t really care, since they didn’t nominate the actual best performance, but…this will look weak down the road.
Best Supporting Actor – Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Eh…I still say he didn’t really deserve it. Way too baity (and they chose the “when I get to Heaven, I’m gonna be pretty” clip…and this script was up for an Oscar?), straight cis guy playing gay trans, not that incredible of a performance… Fassbender would have been the best choice, but Jonah Hill would’ve been cool, Barkhad Abdi would’ve been cool, even Bradley Cooper would’ve been passable. This I don’t really like. Not vehemently so (since he was the absolute frontrunner), but the fact that 12 Years got Best Picture and not this might not look so good in retrospect.
Best Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Whew. I was so glad they didn’t fuck this up. She was definitely the best choice, and had they gone with Jennifer Lawrence, I feel like no one would have been truly happy with it. This, everyone can be happy with. Plus, she gave a super-classy acceptance speech. This was a bull’s-eye for AMPAS.
Best Original Screenplay – Her
Another one they almost messed up (i.e. almost gave it to American Hustle), and instead got thoroughly right. A great script, and Spike Jonze is awesome. It’s a shame this was all Her won, but since some thought it wouldn’t click with older members of the Academy (there were fears it wouldn’t even get a Best Picture nomination), it must be counted as some kind of triumph.
Best Adapted Screenplay – 12 Years a Slave
Though I slightly prefer the script for The Wolf of Wall Street, this was a more than worthy winner. It’s a superbly constructed film, from what I’ve seen extremely faithful to Northup’s book, and forceful without being heavy-handed. Well done, John Ridley.
Best Cinematography – Gravity
Greenscreen again? I’m glad Emmanuel Lubezki finally won (though he should’ve won in 2011), but this is the third year in a row a CGI-heavy 3D film has won this, and I don’t like that. At all. Plus, it meant Roger Deakins got shafted yet again (for his work on the underrated Prisoners).
Best Film Editing – Gravity
Sure, whatever. I had hoped Captain Phillips would get this, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.
Best Production Design – The Great Gatsby
It works. Her winning would’ve been too much to ask for (the nomination was enough).
Best Costume Design – The Great Gatsby
I’m not wild that this film has two Oscars (and it feels weird, since the 1974 version also won this award), but the flashiness of this beat out the realism of 12 Years and the 70s-ness of American Hustle (which, I must say, I’m not unhappy that got shut out completely. David O. Russell is my nemesis, after all). It makes sense.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Dallas Buyers Club
This film won three Oscars. That’s as many as 12 Years a Slave won. Just think about that. Anyway, this was the only sensible choice in this category. Not Jackass. Not Johnny Depp as Tonto. The film that apparently had a lavish makeup budget of $250. That they delivered Oscar-winning work on that low a budget…I give them props for that. 12 Years and Prisoners not getting on was ridiculous, though.
Best Original Score – Gravity
I’m not a big fan of this score. It’s intrusive and repetitive. Her should’ve won this.
Best Original Song – “Let It Go” (Frozen)
I’m just sick of this song. It’s not even the best song in the film. “The Moon Song” and “Ordinary Love” would have been better choices, in my opinion.
Best Sound Mixing – Gravity
I thought the mixing wasn’t all that incredible, but I’m willing to cede that the theater I saw it in wasn’t perfect. Lone Survivor was better, though.
Best Sound Editing – Gravity
No love for All Is Lost? Lame. I mean, this isn’t a bad choice, but Gravity sweeping like this, to me, just makes the Academy look lazy.
Best Visual Effects – Gravity
Okay, even I admit it deserved this.
Best Animated Feature – Frozen
I’d have really rather seen The Wind Rises or Ernest & Celestine win this. But some things are inevitable.
Best Foreign Film – The Great Beauty
This film had its moments, but I found a lot of it kind of sluggish and meandering. The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown (and to some degree, The Missing Picture) sound more compelling. Let’s just say this will not be as well remembered as Amour.
Best Documentary Feature – 20 Feet from Stardom
This made me actively angry. The Act of Killing is an out-and-out masterpiece. But the Academy just had to do away with the “you have to see every nominee to vote” rule for these categories, so softball shit like this wins. I’m sure it’s just fine, but it’s not what should have won. At all. And yes, I know Darlene Love can belt like hell.
Best Documentary Short Subject – The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
This makes sense. Weighty subject matter, and the subject literally died in the past couple of weeks (at the age of 110!). No complaints here.
Best Animated Short Film – Mr. Hublot
This looks cool. The Disney short was nice, but I’m glad they didn’t automatically go with it. This seems worthy.
Best Live Action Short Film – Helium
A lot of people didn’t seem to like this. Not that this category is particularly important to anyone. But Just Before Losing Everything was apparently much stronger.
Overall, a mid-range year, but it succeeded where it counts, and only one of the choices do I strongly disagree with. It’s a damn sight better than 2012.
Bring on 2014!