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Maybe it's just the movie-buff online gangs that I run with, but there sure do seem to be a lot of folks who hate the Oscars but watch them every year anyway. Some of those folks are younger than I am and haven't yet developed the equipoise of age, the life perspective that even if a Transformers sequel wins Best Picture it will have zero impact on most people's day-to-day existence, and the same holds true if your favorite movie of the year wins. It just isn't that important except to the winners, and you're not one of them. We watch the Oscars for the shiny pageantry, the often hypocritical lip service paid to the magic of cinema, the great moments and embarrassing moments that will be talked about the next day and then usually forgotten (unless the embarrassing moments are really embarrassing).
Aside from consistent, apparent problems with teleprompters that caused various verbal fluffs (and led John Travolta to make entertaining spinach out of Idina Menzel's name), nothing in the latest Oscar ceremony was really embarrassing. It was, top to bottom, a night mostly bereft of surprise, though Gravity had a sweep going that seemed to point to a Best Picture win before 12 Years a Slave sat it back down. I found myself fairly sanguine about everything and everyone that took a trophy; it would have been nice if Miyazaki's The Wind Rises had pulled the rug out from under the Disney juggernaut for the Best Animated Feature honors, but Frozen is actually a good movie, and it meant that the number of Oscar-honored female directors has now been upped to two.
The number of Oscar-winning black directors remains at zed, as the British say; 12 Years a Slave is the latest Best Picture winner that apparently directed itself, though I can't really begrudge Gravity's Alfonso Cuaron's triumph. In the end, the overrated Nebraska and American Hustle now have exactly the same number of Oscars as Bad Grandpa. There was no tension involved in the acting categories except for Lupita Nyong'o, whose speech was easily the most heartfelt and satisfying of the evening. Matthew McConaughey's work in Dallas Buyers Club was legitimately great and deserving, but factors larger than his performance were in play; Hollywood loves comeback narratives, and McConaughey has been restoring his credibility as an actor for a couple of years now. The Academy knew it was time to forget about Failure to Launch and embrace the good ol' boy again. And hey, now 1994's legendary crapfest The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre can boast two future Oscar winners (Renee Zellweger having won a decade or so back).
Ellen DeGeneres returned as host, and she's shaping up to be the next Billy Crystal in terms of presenting an unthreatening, safe aura. She's certainly no Seth McFarlane. Her moment of glory was the selfie of herself and a gaggle of stars, the hilarious resulting Tweet of which actually broke Twitter for a while. I've never felt that it truly matters who hosts; past a certain point, the show is its own unwieldy beast, and a host can only hope to ride it across the finish line without getting thrown off its back. DeGeneres kept her hand in throughout, reminding us that she was in fact the host, and that's about all a host can expect to accomplish with this, the uber-show, the awards ceremony to dwarf all awards ceremonies.
Let's see, what else? There were pointless-seeming montages and time-eating musical numbers, as there always have been and always will be. To complain about such things on Oscar night is to shake your fist at the sun. It accomplishes nothing and says less. Maybe it's because nothing truly offensive to my soul won anything (hell, even the dumb new Gatsby at least earned its two Oscars for looking so spiffy -- yes, Daisy, those shirts were beautiful), but I don't see much to get in a tizzy about. Jared Leto was the target of much scorn among the Oscar livebloggers, and I couldn't stand the sight of him before, but he was more than fine in Dallas Buyers Club -- I wouldn't have sobbed if Jonah Hill, who for me gave the comic performance of the year, pulled an upset. But what the hell, Leto now has an Oscar, and -- it bears repeating -- this in no way affects the way you will lead your life from this day forth. If it does, maybe you have bigger issues than Jared Leto having an Oscar.
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