oscars 2014

The Highs and Lows of the 2014 Oscars

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 02: Host Ellen DeGeneres speaks onstage during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Ellen Degeneres at The Oscars Photo: Kevin Winter/2014 Getty Images

Another Oscar night has come and gone, and with it all the glorious wins, painful losses, and seemingly endless montages. While Lupita Nyong’o’s win marked the emotional apex of the show, there was still a lot of ceremony to be had afterwards. Botched intros! Impromptu musical performances! And for some reason, Pink sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Here are your highs and lows.

LOW: The pre-shows
Both E! and ABC are in the awkward position of making something ridiculous — a red-carpet pre-show — seem like something of value. But let’s grant that we want to watch the stars arrive, we want to see what people are wearing, and we want to hear snippets of generic chit-chat. Does it have to be so excruciating? Can the hosts be vaguely knowledgeable about film, fashion, or preferably both? Our kingdom for someone who can hit a sweet spot of being pleasant without being a suck-up. ABC’s pre-show was made even more sour by Jimmy Kimmel’s tone-deaf sketch in which he crawled through the television and berated “regular” people for tweeting catty things about celebrities. Yes, how dare people sit on their couches in crappy outfits.

LOW: Ellen
Ellen’s monologue was pretty flat, and there was no opening number. No song and dance, none of the sunny silliness that’s her signature on her talk show, and not even many big jokes. (The biggest, delivered to Jonah Hill: “You showed us something in that film that I have not seen for a very long time.”) She stumbled on many of the intros for presenters, and her drawn-out crowd work segments added time but not entertainment to the process. Somewhere, Brad Pitt is still handing out paper plates for the pizza. The repeated selfies seemed like product placement for a cell phone, and even the Glinda costume wasn’t really much of a payoff. Oh, Ellen, what happened?

LOW that sort of redeemed itself: The big selfie
While Ellen’s selfie shtick was wearying and seemed thin for the Oscars, after she wrangled the ten most famous people into one product-placement photograph, Meryl Streep yelled, “I’ve never tweeted before!” and well, come on, can you resist that?

Ellen & all those Oscars stars took a selfie: on Twitpic

HIGH (mostly): Jared Leto’s speech
Jared Leto picked up the first award of the night, and gave a very moving speech thanking his mother. But just seconds after mentioning his band 30 Seconds to Mars, Leto encouraged the people of Ukraine and Venezuela to live their dreams — which is both vaguely noble and tonally odd.

HIGH: The Pharrell-Lupita Dance Party
Pharrell, King of the 2014 Award Show Meme, delivered again — first with Lupita, then with Meryl, and finally with Amy Adams. (J-Law was too scared to dance, possibly because after tumbling again on the red carpet she did not want to risk any unnecessary movements.) Watch them again!

Ellen & all those Oscars stars took a selfie: on Twitpic

LOW: No one could read his or her lines correctly
Did rehearsal get canceled? It seemed like every presenter stumbled over a word or two; even host Ellen Degeneres flubbed line after line. Reading off a teleprompter is a weird skill, but these people are actors. Feel free to memorize the four lines.

LOWER: John Travolta’s botched intro 
The king of the teleprompter screw-ups had to be John Travolta. He was supposed to introduce Tony winner and Frozen vocal star Idina Menzel, and instead, he introduced “Adele Dazeem.” Or … something.

HIGH: Darlene Love
20 Feet from Stardom won for best documentary, and among the people on stage to accept the award was one of the film’s subjects, singer Darlene Love. And when Darlene Love is on stage, Darlene Love sings. She brought the house down with a verse of “His Eye Is On the Sparrow,” proving if you really want a memorable acceptance speech, get a world-class singer to belt one out. (Even if that last note was not quite … there.)

HIGH: Lupita Nyong’o’s Emotional Speech
“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.” Watch the whole speech here.

HIGH: Bill Murray’s ad hoc tribute to Harold Ramis
When Murray was presenting best cinematographer with Amy Adams, after reading all the nominees he added, “Oh, we forgot one: Harold Ramis for Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day.” A small, but very touching, mention.

HIGH: EGOT alert!
Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez won for best original song for Frozen’s “Let It Go,” giving Robert Lopez the O to complete his EGOT. He won his first Tony in 2004 for writing Avenue Q, two Daytime Emmys for Wonder Pets in 2005, and then two more Tonys in 2011 for The Book of Mormon. In addition to the EGOT high, the Lopezes win a bonus high for the most delightful acceptance speech of the night, done in rhyme, with a little snippet of a “Happy Birthday” duet.

LOW: All those montages
There is only one montage that the Oscars actually needs, and that is the In Memoriam montage. (Done classily this year, with a clampdown on popularity-contest clapping.) This year, we were once again subjected to clip package after clip package, this time all under the vague theme of heroes, a through-line that had little to do with the ceremony — but did highlight the chronic gender imbalance in Hollywood movies: By our count, the action-heroes montage had 82 shots of men and only 13 of women (not including robots). That is not something to brag about. Next year, instead of having a meaningless theme for the Oscars, skip that idea. There already is a theme! The theme is “The Oscars.”

The Highs and Lows of the 2014 Oscars