Space thriller Gravity took home the most Oscars Sunday night, but the wrenching historical drama 12 Years a Slave won the trophy that mattered most: Best Picture.
In all Gravity won seven of its 10 nominations: Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron, as well as for original score, visual effects, sound mixing and sound editing, cinematography, and film editing. 12 Years a Slave won three of its nine nominations, including Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong’o and Best Adapted Screenplay by John Ridley, both first-time winners. Nominated for 10 Oscars, The ABSCAM comedy-drama American Hustle by director and co-writer David O. Russell was shut out.
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And while there was some drama about which film would take top prize, the acting categories played out according to the heavy favorites. Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor for Dallas Buyers Club and his co-star Jared Leto won Best Supporting Actor, while Cate Blanchett won Best Actress for Blue Jasmine.
RELATED ARTICLE: '12 Years A Slave' wins best picture at Oscars
Disney’s Frozen picked up Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Original Song, “Let it Go,” while Her writer-director Spike Jonze won for Best Original Screenplay, and 20 Feet From Stardom, a documentary exploring the roller-coaster careers of back-up singers like Darlene Love, bested acclaimed fellow nominees The Act of Killing and The Square to claim Best Documentary Feature.
As it turned out, the latter was the only surprise of the night.
The 86th annual Academy Awards were mostly about playing it safe and uneventful, a tone quickly set by Ellen DeGeneres. Returning to host the Oscars for the second time in seven years, DeGeneres’ monologue was about delivering lighthearted gags that poked at celebrities but never bruised egos, like speaking loudly to 84-year-old June Squibb who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Nebraska. “I’m telling everyone that you were wonderful in Nebraska! That film you did was wonderful!” Or remarking that Barkhad Abdi, Best Supporting Actor nominee for Captain Phillips, is from Somalia, which makes him a “Somalia” -- pronounced like “sommelier” -- “so he knows a lot about wine.”
The jokes were as cutting as a plastic spoon, save a funny line about Liza Minnelli looking like a male impersonator that the actress didn’t seem to appreciate.
Later there was a celebrity selfie gag involving DeGeneres and A-list talent like Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence that went on to set a record for most-retweeted photo, and a bit about a pizza delivery to the Oscars with the much-delayed punch-line of who would pay for the food. It was as funny as it reads.
Even worse was what followed the always-moving in memoriam tribute to the famous and not-so-famous dearly departed in Hollywood in the last year, as Bette Midler took the stage and sang “The Wind Beneath My Wing.” The song was a lime-green Jello sundae to follow the lobster meal. Or perhaps it was a meta tribute to the tribute, but that’s giving this Oscars telecast too much credit.
Playing it safe isn’t always the smart move. And when it comes to the Academy Awards, it’s not particularly fun or inspired either.
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