Oscar Reactions (2014)

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PRE-SHOW THOUGHTS: Will there be any surprises tonight? It seems like Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto) and Best Actress (Cate Blanchett) are all but sewn up. Best Picture is a battle between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. Can we see any upsets tonight? Could Leo finally win? Will Wolf of Wall Street score any victories? Hey, it happened last year, remember Christoph Waltz took home Best Supporting Actor when everyone thought Tommy Lee Jones or Robert DeNiro were going to take it home.

THE HOST: After last year’s controversial hosting job by Seth MacFarlane, the Oscars “played it safe” by bringing in Ellen DeGeneres. This was a smart move, not because she’s “safe” but because Ellen is a generally likable personality. Her opening monologue was fantastic, her joke about Jonah Hill’s penis in Wolf of Wall Street being something she hadn’t seen in a long time was classic. She also had great off the cuff remarks and her constant ribbing of Jennifer Lawrence was great (it didn’t hurt that Lawrence played it off perfectly). Her smaller asides and costume changes fell flat. However, her pizza gag and the world’s most retweeted photo bits were both some of the more memorable Oscar moments (from a host) we’ve seen in quite some time. If Ellen became the new generation Bob Hope or Billy Crystal and was a consistent long-running host that’d be perfectly fine. Then again I thought the same about Seth MacFarlane.

THE PERFORMANCES: Pharrell’s “Happy” is such a good song. It’s infectious and man can that guy sing. Who knew that Lil’ Skateboard P had such good pipes AND would get nominated for an Oscar?Karen O gave a sweet, yet ultimately forgettable performance. Love them or hate them, U2 always delivers a grandiose performance even unplugged. Actually loved the stripped down version a lot and they gave the best performance of the night. That is until Pink tore the house down with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler had a very odd, near high school level orchestration backing it. Very weird. Then there was Indina Menzel. First off John Travolta, her name isn’t that hard to say. Second, there was definitely something up. The whole number, which had been hyped for weeks, seemed rushed as all hell. A real shame, because this is actually a good song.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: To be expected. The 30 Seconds to Mars frontman and the former Jordan Catalano wins an Oscar. I think 20 years ago no one would’ve ever expected this. Scratch that, one year ago no one would’ve expected this. Leto, who was off-the-rails at the Independent Spirit Awards with his acceptance speech, gave a really sincere, sweeping speech tonight.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: I didn’t see 12 Years a Slave but Lupita Nyong’o’s clip for the nomination made me want to see this movie. Her speech was excellent and her smile while walking to the back was one of the most sunny and sincere things we saw all night. Playing “Pure Imagination” from Willie Wonka was a perfect choice.

BILL MURRAY: Presenters are presenters — hit or miss, they usually don’t make or break a show. But no presenter is Bill Murray. While he was showing a bit of age, the man just owns the stage. He has the same charisma and charm that he did 30 years ago when we first fell in love with him. Then came the moment…he was supposed to read the winner of Best Cinematographer, but instead said, “Oh, we forgot one. Harold Ramis for Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day.” We all have read the story of Murray and Ramis’ falling out all those years ago and with Ramis’ passing still fresh on our minds it was touching for Murray to shout out his fallen friend. And frankly, only Bill Murray could get away with that.

BEST SONG: U2, Karen O and Pharrell get beaten by a cartoon. It’s pretty cool to see a cartoon defeat some of the biggest musicians in the world. The acceptance speech by the writer’s was a little annoying at first, but if you really give it a listen it’s actually quite clever. The end of the speech really drove the point of Frozen home, nice touch.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Why should I even comment on this? Because it’s Spike Jonze! The same guy who brought us Jackass, who directed some of the best music videos of all-time, now has an Oscar win to his name. Jonze has made some fantastic movies in his time like Adaptation and I really don’t think he gets enough credit from the film world outside of us movie geeks. So great to see him win.

GRAVITY IS THIS YEAR’S LIFE OF PI: Remember last year when Life of Pi won a trio of Oscars (Original Score, Visual Effects and Cinematography)? That’s what happened with Gravity this year and it makes complete and utter sense. It was a spectacle film — it was the type of movie one must see in theaters (and probably IMAX if possible) in order to really capture the true feeling of fear and horror the situations in the film creates. Everything from a technical aspect has to be near-perfect and the Oscars realized that Gravity was above and beyond better at achieving this than the other noms. However, when 12 Years a Slave took home the Screenplay Oscar and Gravity didn’t, the Cuaron film was destined to lose. Glad to see Cuaron win and I really think you should check out his older films like Children of Men or Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban.

BEST ACTRESS: This was a lock before the show even started. Blanchett is one of the true acting treasures in today’s film world. She is resplendent in everything she does no matter the film.

BEST ACTOR: Alright, alright, alright! The “McConaissance” is in full effect. Just a short time ago we all wrote off Matthew McConaughey as nothing more than a six-packed star of rom coms. Now, he’s the man. He owns television right now with True Detective and he’s dominated film in 2013 with three films (Mud, Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyer’s Club) and his dominance will continue this year with Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. His speech was perfect — honest, heartfelt, funny, charismatic. The guy just has it all going for right now.

BEST PICTURE: Now I have to see this movie. 12 Years a Slave had a rough start at the Oscars as Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor lost in their acting categories and Steve McQueen did not pick up the directing statue. It also lost its technical and production nominations too. Yet when Lupita took home her Oscar, the film seemed destined to win. This was an important movie, one that reminded us of the utter cruelty of slavery, something still real to this day. Oscars like a movie with a message and it seemed like when this film came out it was destined to take home this statue. Glad to see the oft-nominated Brad Pitt finally take home some gold.

OVERALL: The show had its positives, but overall kind of a boring and uneventful event. It ran crazy long — there were no music cut-offs for speeches that ran long, some of Ellen’s bigger gags took a while to set up and those montages about “heroes in the movies” took up a lot of time. Plus, we had all the musical numbers, some years we have hardly had any, this year five big musical numbers. The “heroes in the movies” theme really didn’t work for me especially when you include movies like The Karate Kid (the Jaden Smith version) and Air Force One in there. Don’t force a theme, the Oscars themselves are theme enough. The big awards were pretty much sewn up weeks ago. American Hustle was an early frontrunner around Globes time as was its cast to take home gold, but that all changed as Dallas Buyer’s really put the strange hold on the two top male awards and 12 Years re-emerged quickly. Last year’s Argo controversy sold the drama of the night, but tonight there was no drama. The Oscars are still fun, but of the past decade, this might have been one of the weaker entries.

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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