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Pop Off: Academy Awards recap

By Brendon Field
On March 3, 2014

If somebody spoke to me two weeks ago and falsely claimed to have traveled forward in time to watch Sunday's Oscar presentation and then proceeded to tell me who won every award and how Ellen DeGeneres was as a host, they could quite easily have convinced me that time travel was possible. The presentation of the 86th Academy Awards Sunday night had to be the dullest and most predictable since I started watching. I began to wonder why I was wasting the last hours of my weekend on them, and why I shouldn't just check the results on Wikipedia the next morning like I do for almost every other awards show.
To the surprise of nobody, not even the man who put his (theoretical) money on "The Wolf of Wall Street," Best Picture went to "12 Years A Slave." For the second year in a row, there was a split between Best Picture and Best Director, with Alfonso Cuaron winning the latter for "Gravity." The acting awards went to Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong'o, as everybody and their cat predicted. Here's an idea, how about the Oscars take place in January, before all the inferior ceremonies, so there's just the slightest thrill when the winner is announced. The only upset of the night was "The Square" losing Best Documentary to "20 Feet From Stardom," continuing the Academy's tradition of choosing light, feel good features over ones capturing events of political and historical importance.
It was Ellen DeGeneres' second hosting stint and she played it safe, except for one jab at Liza Minnelli, which did not boil over well. If Seth MacFarlane's comedy routine last year was three alarm buffalo sauce, DeGeneres' was unflavored hummus. It was interesting that she treated it like just another episode of her talk show, interacting with an audience of the richest and most prominent figures in Hollywood like ordinary people. Handing out pizza to attendees and giving Bradley Cooper scratch lottery tickets as a consolation prize were her funniest moments. I'm also disappointed that for the second straight year, there was no opening montage of the host appearing in the nominated films. MacFarlane had a creative alternative with William Shatner, but DeGeneres just approached it like she was hosting Saturday Night Live. Her overall time on stage seemed light, and we her saw after a return from a commercial break holding a guitar, which I don't recall being used.
As for the rest of the ceremony, there isn't a whole lot to say. Most of the presenters were dull. I was pleased to see the Academy give animation some long overdue recognition with the animated heroes segment, although it did appear to be hastily thrown together. The presenters didn't offer much. It was great to see Sidney Politier, but who in the name of D.W. Griffith allowed Tyler "Writing and Directing Skills of Nine Year Old" Perry to present an Oscar? His pre-award blurb, clearly written for him, is the most intelligent thing he ever will say on or off camera. The "In Memoriam" segment had its usual exclusions, but at least Roger Ebert was included, after his longtime colleague Gene Siskel was left out in the 2000 ceremony.
This was a good year for the Academy in terms of giving the awards to deserving people and film, Best Director excluded. But the ceremony was boring and seemed phoned in. It would be nice for The Academy to take a few more risks next year, and maybe break from their formula. Even when it's my job to review the ceremony, I don't like watching it to feel like a chore.

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