It’s been an unusual year at the Oscars because by and large the right films were nominated and the right films won. The last time I recall being quite so satisfied was exactly ten years ago when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King dominated proceedings. But there is a down side to the rare cases of the Academy getting it right. I have nothing to rant about.
Well, not quite nothing in this case. I have one or two quibbles as you will see from my assessment of the main winners.
Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave – I would personally have chosen Gravity, but 12 Years a Slave was an outstanding piece of work, and I don’t begrudge the win at all.
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) – I completely, one hundred percent agree. The direction in that film was nothing short of mind-blowing. Now if the Academy can just give Christopher Nolan a directing Oscar next time he deserves it (he has on at least two occasions already this decade), I’ll be even happier.
Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze (Her) – No, no, no. Sorry I just could not suspend disbelief in that film. Yes, it was well-acted, well-directed and vividly brought to life visually, but the ideas in the screenplay had been done before and much more entertainingly in everything from Weird Science to Simone and even an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Moreover, there is no way it should have beaten the sublime Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen’s finest screenplay in sixteen years.
Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) – I’d have gone for Philomena personally, but again a fine win for 12 Years a Slave.
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) – An excellent performance, even if it does tick a lot of Academy friendly boxes. I personally would have chosen Chiwetel Ejiofor’s extraordinary performance in 12 Years a Slave, and I’m astonished Tom Hanks wasn’t nominated for Captain Phillips, but yes, still a worthy win and not worth getting too upset about.
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) – I personally would have gone for Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave, but again, a very good performance in a very good film, and I don’t begrudge the choice.
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) – Yes! Yes! Yes! Blanchett has been one of my favourite actresses for years, and it’s great to see her win an Oscar for this career-best performance.
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) – Hurrah! One of the most astonishingly committed performances in recent memory, Nyong’o’s truly mesmerising turn is a completely deserved win. I’m so pleased this award didn’t go to Jennifer Lawrence’s (admittedly amusing) performance in the entertaining but overrated American Hustle.
Best Animated Film: Frozen – No contest really. If you didn’t see this wonderful animated gem last Christmas you missed a treat.
Best Original Music Score: Steven Price (Gravity) – My favourite score of last year, so a well-deserved win.
Best Original Song: Let it go (Frozen) – Good, although I would have been just as happy if “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 had won.
Best Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity) – Bit of a controversial choice this one, not because Gravity didn’t look fabulous (it did), but because I think cinematography ought to be exactly that. So much of what one sees in Gravity is CGI, so by all means give it every visual effects gong under the sun, but for me cinematography should be about capturing something real, not something on a blue screen that then has CGI components added and is graded and art directed in post-production to within an inch of its life. I would have given it to Roger Deakins sterling work on Prisoners. Those grim, rain-swept, November, Midwest landscapes really added so much atmosphere and tension to an admittedly overheated but nevertheless first-rate thriller.
Best Editing: Alfonso Cuaron, Mark Sanger (Gravity) – A no-brainer.
Best Production Design: Cathering Martin, Beverly Dunn (The Great Gatsby) – Actually, I’d have given this to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. But Gatsby looked great too, and it’s great that the most unfairly critically mauled mainstream film of last year actually won something.
Best Sound Editing: Glenn Freemantle (Gravity) – A no-brainer (although All is Lost was another very worthy contender).
Best Sound Mixing: Skip Lievsay, Christopher Benstead, Niv Adiri, Chris Munro (Gravity) – See above really.
Best Visual Effects: Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould, Nikki Penny (Gravity) – Yet another Gravity no-brainer. In fact, the most no-brainer no-brainer of all the awards Gravity won.
Best Foreign Film: The Great Beauty (Italy) – A decent win from a slightly odd selection of nominees (Denmark’s The Hunt was released later in the US than in the UK, hence why it was nominated).
Best Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom – I’ve not seen this, but I’m very surprised The Act of Killing did not win.
One last quibble: Generally I was pleased the good but overrated American Hustle went away empty handed, but it should have won at least one award: Make-up and Hairstyling, as it contained the most monumental, landmark comb-over in cinema history. Shockingly it wasn’t even nominated in that category, but I suppose since the Academy got so much else right this year, I’ll add my congratulations to Adruitha Lee and Robin Matthews who won for Dallas Buyers Club.
Overall, I expect this year to be a blip in the Academy’s long and proud record of outright injustices.I look forward to a far more vitriolic rant next year, when I expect business as usual at the Oscars.