For some of us — I’ll admit, a very small segment of the population — the Oscars are like the Super Bowl. We spend months speculating about the nominations, making sure we’ve seen the films, taking our best shot at who will go home with the gold on the big night. And now that Sunday’s ceremony is over, the trophies handed out, the designer gowns worn, the after-party champagne sipped, there is still a lot to talk about. Here are some thoughts.
1. After establishing herself as a fashion icon throughout the awards season with her simple but bold choices, best supporting actress nominee Lupita Nyong’o unveiled her pièce de résistance at the Academy Awards, creating a sensation in her floaty, pale blue Prada gown. This stunning dress is destined to go down in red carpet history and stood in tasteful and fanciful contrast to some of the night’s more bizarre sartorial moments — Anne Hathaway wearing a chandelier, Liza Minnelli in silk pajamas and Whoopi Goldberg as flapper/geisha/Seinfeld’s puffy shirt/Wicked Witch of the West.
Nyong’o’s gown couldn’t have been more appropriate for her fairy tale moment when she took the podium to claim the prize for her harrowing work in “12 Years a Slave.” Her acceptance speech was one of the highlights of the evening, heartfelt, brimming with joy and elation.
“It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s,” she said. “And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own. … When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”
Moments like these are the reason we watch the Oscars.
2. Was it just me or were there an inordinate amount of awkward Teleprompter related gaffes during this year’s ceremony?
When it came to reading their lines, so many presenters stumbled — metaphorically, except in the case of Jennifer Lawrence, who continued her tradition of taking a fall while wearing sky-high heels.
Silver screen legends Kim Novak and Sidney Poitier really needed their glasses. Zac Efron botched his scripted patter. Even host Ellen DeGeneres flubbed, calling actor Christoph Waltz “Christopher.” There were so many awkward moments, but none of them quite as hilarious as when John Travolta introduced “Frozen” star Idina Menzel as “Adele Dazeem.”
His error has turned into something of a social media sensation. Slate even concocted this hilarious name generator based on the goof.
All of this makes me wonder. Did anyone actually rehearse before the ceremony?
3. Matthew McConaughey’s win for a role that demanded a transformation of career and body in “Dallas Buyers Club” wasn’t exactly a surprise, but his resulting comments are now the talk of Tinseltown. Many people were delighted by his mention of God, gratitude and family. Others, like me, were baffled by his improvisational style.
In regard to a higher power, McConaughey said, “When you’ve got God, you got a friend. And that friend is you.”
In reference to his dearly departed dad: “To my father who, I know he’s up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He’s got a lemon meringue pie over there. He’s probably in his underwear. And he’s got a cold can of Miller Lite and he’s dancing right now.”
And then he pretty much shattered his previous humility by declaring himself his own hero. Well, sort of.
“I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”
It was all only slightly less surreal than his Screen Actors Guild Awards speech, in which he made wacky reference to the planet Neptune, or his remarks at the Golden Globes, which revealed that apparently his wife calls him her “king.”
Whatever your reaction, you have to admit there’s never a dull moment when this guy takes the stage.
4. A spirited Cate Blanchett accepted her trophy for “Blue Jasmine” with the immortal words, “Julia, hashtag suck it!,” referring somewhat cryptically to Julia Roberts.
More memorably, she called out a male dominated Hollywood on the woeful lack of satisfying roles for women, slamming those “who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people!”
It needed to be said.
5. After last year’s poorly received performance by host Seth MacFarlane, whose caustic and sometimes offensive schtick rubbed Hollywood the wrong way, the Oscar producers’ pendulum predictably swung to another extreme in the form of the ever likable, always pleasant DeGeneres.
Don’t get me wrong. Hosting for a second time, Ellen was great, cultivating a playful atmosphere with gentle jabs at celebs during her opening monologue. She treated the bejeweled audience to pizza, stole Nyong’o’s lip balm and coaxed Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep and other luminaries into posing for that now famous selfie.
Despite her best efforts, however, this year’s ceremony often felt tedious and tame. There were few surprises when it came to the winners — “Gravity” dominated with seven trophies; “12 Years a Slave” took the best picture prize — and only a handful of moments that resonated with the genuine emotion that keep Oscar viewers coming back for more.
This year’s theme was dedicated to movie heroes, but the ensuing montages were so generic they barely registered. Bette Midler sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” after the traditional In Memoriam segment and received one of several overeager standing ovations, but considering the song is more than 30 years old, it was a strangely stale choice.
Ultimately, the 86th Academy Awards were done in by a stultifyingly conservative aura. Nobody ever got the gold by playing it safe.