The best approach to take to tonight’s blitzkrieg of hype, blather, nonsense, tears, bad jokes, and long strange stretches of awkward silences—we’re speaking, of course, of the 86th Academy Awards—might be that proffered by Anthony Lane:
Whether Leonardo DiCaprio or Matthew McConaughey, or neither of them, will be crowned Best Actor is a matter of such brazen unimportance that we have gone crazy trying to call it.
Brazen unimportance, indeed. That being said, it was a fantastic year for film. And if it takes a gargantuan mediapocalypse like tonight’s Oscars broadcast to bring attention to some of those films, if sending actors strutting down a red carpet and answering the same questions they’ve been answering for six months now will get another few thousand people to seek out August: Osage County, then so be it.
I covered many of the Oscar-nominated films in this year’s edition of my annual film guide, Eyes Wide Open — it’s available in paperback or more instantaneously in ebook from. Here’s a quick rundown of the Oscar-nominated films included in the book and where they ranked in my lists:
- 12 Years a Slave (Best Picture, Actor, Actor-supporting, Actress-supporting, Costume Design, Director, Editing, Production Design, Adapted Screenplay) — #2: “Steve McQueen’s blistering adaptation of Solomon Northup’s pre-Civil War memoir about being kidnapped into slavery in Louisiana is memorably horrific and heroic in equal measures.“
- Gravity (Best Picture, Actress, Cinematography, Editing, Director, Original Score, Sound Editing Production Design, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects) — #3: “Alfonso Cuaron’s stunning outer-orbit thriller hinges on the parallel between a character’s personal isolation and the terrifying physical isolation of space.”
- The Wolf of Wall Street (Best Picture / Actor / Actor-Supporting / Director / Adapted Screenplay) — “An overly slick comedy with painted-on cynicism.”
- Inside Llewyn Davis (Best Cinematography / Sound Mixing) — #9: “The Coen brothers are caught between their Barton Fink and O Brother, Where Art Thou? modes in this wintry dream-odyssey of a deadpan comedy swaddled in gorgeous music.”
- August: Osage County (Actor, Actress) — #13: “A saga of family and dysfunction—cleanly truncated by Tracey Letts from his 3-hour-plus Pulitzer Prize-winning play—whose dark, acid humor never undercuts the recurring tragedy glowering underneath.”
- Frozen (Best Animated Feature) — Honorable Mention: “Disney’s impeccably animated return-to-form is both Broadway-ready musical and sweetly inspirational sibling melodrama where for once the choice for the heroine isn’t which man to choose.”
Lastly, here’s a few of the films most deserving of gold statuettes that were most egregiously overlooked but made it into Eyes Wide Open:
- Stories We Tell — #1: “Sarah Polley’s fractured family history is a beautiful and thoughtful story about how our pasts don’t just happen, they’re created.”
- Upstream Color — #8: “A metaphysical love story that baffles and excites in almost equal measures.”
- Much Ado About Nothing — #18: “Joss Whedon’s minty-fresh adaptation turns his team of quick-witted TV actors on Shakespeare’s most durable comedy and comes up a winner.”
Last word on the Oscars, as often makes sense, to Anthony Lane:
We are already looking forward to looking back in anger at the awards that confounded our hunches, at our loss of the office sweepstake, at the stop-start tears, the sagging jokes, and the normally rational women who choose, for one night only, to dress like exploded cupcakes.