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Oscars 2014: 8 things we learned
The Oscars loves its award show conventions. But while we can count on stilted teleprompter banter between co-hosts, plenty of cinematic montages and poor time management of the entire production, we can also learn a lot. Here are our takeaways from the 86th Academy Awards, in no particular order.
1. Oscar style is officially homogeneous. Though we've been in the Age of the Stylist for years now, we can usually find flavor in the musical performers. These are the people to live for, now that Cher tends to stay home. Those hopes were largely dashed this year, with singer Karen O preferring a perfectly respectable red gown and Pink dipping into the same closet. Only Pharrell Williams showed some personal style, dressed in a reverse mullet of a tux (long on the top, short in the back). His nod to Angus Young was noted, and appreciated.
2. The notion of the auteur is dying. For decades, Academy voters subscribed to American film critic Andrew Sarris' auteur theory, the concept that a film's director is its driving artistic force. But this year and last, the 6,000-some ballot casters split those categories, so that in 2013 Ang Lee ("Life of Pi") took best director and "Argo," directed by an un-nominated Ben Affleck, won the top picture honor. This year followed suit, with "12 Years a Slave" grabbing best picture and "Gravity" landing its seventh statue for best director Alfonso Cuarón.
3. There is still plenty of history to be made. Steve McQueen won best picture for "12 Years a Slave," the first black director to do so in Oscars' 86-year history. This was after Mexican filmmaker Cuarón won best director, and Lupito Nyong'o, who shares Mexican-Kenyan citizenship, walked off the stage with the statue for best supporting actress. In addition to these wins, show producers offered numerous multi-racial presenting duos -- Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx, Anna Kendrick and Gabourey Sidibe, Penelope Cruz and Robert De Niro. Yes, mainstream cinema is still riddled with stereotypes, but this Oscars, led by an openly gay host, was encouraging. And a reminder that films should reflect the diversity of their audiences.
4. We love J. Law, but not that much. She was the frontrunner to take home the best supporting actress nomination for "American Hustle," but Jennifer Lawrence lost out to Nyong'o. Lawrence won best actress at last year's Oscars for "Silver Linings Playbook," and it would have been historic had she, at age 23, taken home the supporting statue this year. But here are reasons for fans to still put forth the love: She once again awkwardly tripped in her gown (this time, on the red carpet rather than on stage) and she said she brought a Slim Jim with her.
5. Ellen DeGeneres is Billy Crystal. At least when it comes to hosting, there wasn't much difference between her straightforward humor (Bruce Dern age jokes, ordering pizzas for audience members then asking who could pay for them) and his one-dimensional 2012 turn. Which is to say, amusing at times in a safe way, but The Academy is a reactionary group and, after last year's far-edgier Seth MacFarlane hosting, the producers when with a tried-and-true choice.
6. The up-to-10-films-nominated-for-best-picture experiment should end. Begun with the 2009 awards, it was and remains a transparent ploy to tempt more viewers. No one ever thinks that an "Avatar" (a 2009 nom) or "Toy Story 3" (2010) should or could win, and the same continued this year with a number of films. "Dallas Buyers Club," set in the 1980s, centers around an interesting story, but it was told with poor pacing and riddled with continuity errors (such as the poster of a Lamborghini Aventador, a car that wasn't introduced until 2011).
7. Selfies have jumped the shark. In the hour after DeGeneres tweeted her selfie with a flock of stars including Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper and Meryl Streep, it was retweeted some one million times. That's akin to a leather-jacket-clad Arthur Fonzarelli on water skies flying over a shark, right?
8. "All right all right all right" -- three times in a row, with a Southern drawl -- is officially in the lexicon. Your co-workers will say it. Your mom will say it. If he could, your dog would say it. Matthew McConaughey, in his lengthy best actor acceptance speech, made sure of that. He closed with: "So, to any of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we’re chasing, to that I say, 'Amen.' To that I say, 'All right, all right, all right.' To that I say 'just keep living.'"