The 86th Academy Award ceremony was held last night at the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood, with space thriller Gravity ending the night as the big winners – scooping seven awards, including Best Director for Mexican Alfonso Cuarón.
Heading into the awards, Gravity and David O. Russell’s critically acclaimed American Hustle led the way with 10 nominations apiece, whilst Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave had nine. Dallas Buyers Club went into the ceremony holding six nominations, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and Spike Jonze’s Her held five each.
American talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres oversaw proceedings for the second time after Seth Mcfarlane’s controversial turn as host last year. The Family Guy creator’s performance, whose stint as host was dubbed as the “meanest” in history, was met with mixed reactions amongst critics, but did see the show gain a sizeable ratings boost.
The selection of DeGeneres, who hosted the show back in 2007, was the safe pair of hands The Academy hoped for. Her chummy rapport with the A-list guests was a far cry from McFarlane’s outlandish approach. The 56-year-old, who, in true talk show style, interacted freely with guests, including the record breaking film star selfie that smashed the retweet record on Twitter. In what appeared a more stripped-back affair, DeGeneres’ performance encapsulated the night as a whole: steady but predictable.
There were few surprises in an awards ceremony the bookies seemingly had pegged for weeks. 12 Years a Slave deservedly won Best Film, whilst Gravity fittingly scooped up the technical awards, as well as Best Director, and Cate Blanchett picked up the award for Best Actress for her rather over-bearing portrayal of down-and-out Jasmine, in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. AIDS based drama Dallas Buyers Club also had a successful night, with Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey both picking up acting awards for Best Supporting and Best Leading Actor, respectively.
McConaughey’s career resurgence in recent years, including critically acclaimed performances in Killer Joe (2011) and Mud (2012), culminated last night as he picked up his first Oscar win for his breathtaking performance as AIDS suffer Ron Woodroof. McConaughey had gained a reputation as a rom-com actor after several outings in cheesy, forgettable romantically-laced flicks in the 2000’s, including 2001’s The Wedding Planner and the 2003 film How to lose a Guy in 10 Days. His performance in crime-thriller The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) sparked a mesmerising turn around in the American actors flailing career, shedding his now outdated rom-com tag and once again proving his worth as a serious, character-based actor, culminating in last nights big win.
The real success story, however, was 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o who pipped America’s sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence for Best Supporting Actress, in what was seen as one of the more tightly contested categories. The film was the 31-year-olds big screen debut, with her highly emotive portrayal of slave Patsy overcoming the threat of Lawrence’s feisty performance in American Hustle.
David O. Russell and American Hustle were the nights biggest losers, coming away with no wins despite the movie’s 10 nominations. The film, based loosely around the Abscam scandal of the 1970’s and 80’s, had cast members in all four acting categories, as well as being in the running for Best Picture and Best Director. The Wolf of Wall Street also failed to pick up a win despite being nominated for five awards, including Best Film and Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of former stockbroker Jordan Belfort. However, its controversial nature and in-your-face style was unlikely to topple the more Academy friendly films like 12 Years a Slave and Gravity.
Film Trance Verdict: In a night of few surprises, 12 Years a Slave’s Best Film success was especially pleasing given Cuarón’s Best Director victory. Gravity’s early success in the technical categories suggested that the Best Film award would not be plain sailing for McQueen’s adaptation of former slave Solomon Northup’s book. It seemed, given its ground-breaking visual and sound effects, that the Mexican director would always scoop Best Director for the space hit ahead of his English counterpart. However, it would have been a crying shame if McQueen’s own work in producing such a harrowing, yet beautifully poignant piece of work, had gone unrewarded.
Read the full list of winners here.
You can follow us on Twitter: @FilmTrance.