Lacklustre 86th Oscars hold no surprises for film pundits

DeGeneres hosts for a second time.

‘Hollywood’s biggest night,’ took place last week in Los Angeles and aired globally to the largest audience it has seen in over a decade. Last year’s show was hosted by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.His typically vulgar sense of humour did not fare well with the majority of his audience, a large number of whom are young children. It’s therefore no surprise that the Academy’s selection committee chose to hire DeGeneres, the antithesis of MacFarlane, to host this year.

Her opening monologue was perhaps the high point of the show; it was short, it showcased her whimsical side, and it was funny because it poked fun at all the right A-list celebrities. Ellen put Jennifer Lawrence in her place in calling her out on her two stumbles in two Oscars ceremonies in a row, a record almost as impressive as the three nominations Lawrence has already accrued at twenty-three.

Throughout the telecast, DeGeneres kept viewers entertained by treating the Dolby Theatre like her own studio lot, frequently walking and dancing among various high-profile Hollywood types. Like any good host, she knows that one of the keys to running a good show is breaking through the poise of the people she interacts with, which she frequently did.

Unfortunately for viewers, there was little aside from Ellen’s ebullience that kept the show afloat. Compared with last year when Cristoph Waltz, Daniel Day-Lewis, Ang Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and Adele all gave impressive, memorable acceptance speeches and performances, the only one worthy of quote from this year’s crop was that of Lupita Nyong’o for best supporting actress. She remarkably observed that a great deal of her happiness is owed to the pain of others, and that that fact doesn’t escape her for a minute. Jared Leto, who won the first award of the evening for supporting actor, showed humility in thanking his mother. However, as was the case with all the other acceptance speeches he gave during this year’s awards sweep for his portrayal of a transgender woman named Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club, Leto inexplicably was unable to utter the phrase ‘transgendered people’ in his speech, opting instead for “all the Rayons in the world”.

Overall, the most salient part of this year’s Oscars was their predictability. The entirety of the show went by without a major upset. Steve McQueen’s slavery drama 12 Years a Slave took home best picture and best adapted screenplay, successfully concluding a very lucrative trip around the awards circuit. Even the Academy’s ‘splitting’ of the two highest awards (picture and director) was foreseeable, as Alfonso Cuarón, the director of Gravity, had just picked up the best director award from the Directors’ Guild of America a few weeks earlier. Traditionally the DGA award is known as a near-perfect barometer for the directing Oscar, and Cuarón followed suit. This made him the first Latin-American director to have won the award.

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