To read Mark Harris’s analysis of the results, click here.
On Lupita: Princess for a Night, or Queen for a Lifetime?
Wesley Morris: When a host does most of her hosting down among the audience, the odds are high that the actors seated on the aisle or very near it will be turned into props. Last night, Ellen DeGeneres’s most frequented aisle included Meryl Streep, Liza Minnelli, Julia Roberts, and the Jolie-Pitts. That’s also where Lupita Nyong’o sat, next to her brother. She wore a Prada dress in fresh-off-the-ice-cream-truck blue. The neckline plunged to the waist and created a pleasing contrast against her deep brown skin. The dress was topped by a vaguely tiara-like headband. A gold bracelet and small, upended-crown earrings lent the impression of power.
Earlier in the evening, she told the reporters studding the red carpet that the blue in the dress reminded her of Nairobi, where she’s from. She won the Supporting Actress Oscar and gave a poised, exhilarating speech that acknowledged the enslaved woman she played and dared other little girls and women to follow their dreams. It’s the sort of thing artists who win prizes tend to say. But with Nyong’o, it resonated. There she was last night, in on DeGeneres’s jokes, seemingly a new member of the Hollywood firmament.
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But it’s too easy to get carried away. A Supporting Actress win lately spells trouble. The list of vanished or diminished winners isn’t short. Sometimes you turn into Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, or Angelina Jolie. Sometimes you’re Kim Basinger, or Jennifer Connelly, Catherine Zeta-Jones, or even Mo’Nique, and nothing after is quite the same. (At this point the best thing for Amy Adams might be to keep losing.)
Nyong’o presents an additional vexation. She won for her excellent performance as a slave in a movie that’s also excellent. Her skin is dark, and as much as we’d all like to think Who cares?, people do, and some of those people make our movies. They’ve cared for as long as we’ve had movies. Whoopi Goldberg has had a great career by any reasonable standard. But by Hollywood standards, it’s been extraordinary. So the question regarding Nyong’o now is: What else can she win for?
I watched her as a flight attendant in Non-Stop, waiting for the movie to give us more than the back of her head. That’s not the movie’s fault. Who was “Lupita Nyong’o” before the cameras rolled? But that’s changed. Playing with DeGeneres in the aisles, Nyong’o seemed both newly arrived and very much at home. Simply dressing for awards shows and giving acceptance speeches has turned her into a star. She was dressed like a princess last night. But the movies now have to realize that a lot of us are desperate to worship a queen.
Stop Apologizing for Yourself, Oscar
Andy Greenwald: For years there were only two guaranteed winners at the Emmys: John Larroquette and whatever slumming movie star deigned to show up. From Al Pacino to rapping Gwyneth Paltrow, the trophy nearly always went to the biggest name, not the best performance. Television, long the redheaded stepchild of the entertainment industry, couldn’t help but broadcast its insecurities, even on what was ostensibly its biggest night.
The strangest thing about last night’s Oscars — stranger than the wall of moldering typwriters, Bette Midler’s moldering song choice, or the endless callbacks to an unfunny pizza bit — was the way they confirmed that the movie industry is the one now dripping with flopsweat. Regardless of the quality of the broadcast or the nominees, the Oscars remain a cultural behemoth. Motion pictures remain a multibillion-dollar business. In a culture dominated by celebrity, it’s the one night of the year when every single famous person in America gathers in the same place to politely applaud for a Frenchman who makes animated shorts. And yet for the third straight year a slam dunk of a show was marred by a stunning series of bricks. Why do the Oscars need a “theme” other than “beautiful people thank each other”? Why do we need multiple montages of popular movies on a night that’s already about celebrating popular movies? Why are we talking about “cartoon heroes” and “inspiration” when Sidney Poitier, Bruce Dern, and Martin Scorsese are sitting right there? Is the industry afraid that 10 minutes spent with Lupita Nyong’o and Cate Blanchett will give us box office cooties and somehow make us forget about Batman? The guy who won Best Picture last year is now playing Batman. We all know how the game works. Relax!
America long ago agreed to an unspoken compact with Hollywood: We will indulge your grandiosity, your plastic surgery, your ability to praise “ordinary people” and make it sound like you’re complimenting something cute and fictional, like leprechauns or Smurfs. And in return, you will act like normals for one lavishly televised night per year. You will let your guard down and you will dress up. You will give awkward, emotional speeches. You will fall over. And yet every year the Oscars seem to run further and further away from their core conceit. The show oozes across four hours, fatted with wink-wink Samsung commercials, Poochie-like appearances by Zac Efron and Twitter, and larded with unnecessary clips from Iron Man 3 and Harry Potter 7. And yet the acceptance speeches are rushed along with military precision. As if they were somehow unwanted and uninteresting. As if they were something to be hidden, like a documentary or a foreign film. They’re not bugs, they’re features! Let the show go till midnight if it must. But there are better ways to do it and most of them involve Lupita Nyong’o.
Just as movies have nothing to apologize for — they’re movies! — neither should the Oscars. As a TV critic I should be thrilled that the biggest reaction of the night was for Kevin Spacey drawling a little bit of Frank Underwood into the mic. But I was mostly just bummed out. Even in bad years you never see the Yankees acting like the Mets. Nearly every Oscar winner last night was deserving; the Oscar speeches were some of the best I can remember. Too bad about the Oscar show.
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Mark Lisanti: Over the course of this typically interminable awards season, through the stultifying fights over mostly ginned-up controversies now washed away in a bubbly river of Vanity Fair–proffered champagne, we’ve at least been able cling to one delightful constant as he collected statue after statue, swaggered on podium after podium, delivered speech after speech. He just kept living, and we were just watching him live. All right, all right, all right.
And last night, it finally happened. They called his name, and he got his gold. An inevitability, sure, but one that felt earned, after endless discussions of the McConaissance and snickering reviews of the Failure to Launches and Ghosts of Girlfriends Pasts on his slow-developing résumé.
He thanked God. He thanked his family. And then he thanked himself. Well, not himself-himself, but the himself-hero of 10 years hence, always running off into the future, inviting an endless chase around the edge of time’s flat circle, never to be caught. [We now pause to acknowledge the obligatory “time is a flat circle” reference, and move on, satisfied that we nailed it and it was not at all an awkward thing to do.] It might not have been the humblest thing a winner has ever said while basking in the all-too-temporary glow of Hollywood’s fickle love, but it was honest. An actor’s always his own biggest hero.
Maybe a fortysomething Wooderson will allow himself a minute to bolt that Oscar to the front of his Chevelle, but he’s going to lay a case of Lone Star down on the gas pedal, take one last drag of his cigarette, and sprint off in hot pursuit of that bad boy as it roars off into the distance. A hero keeps getting 10 years older, but an actor remembering his moment always stays the same age.
Your Official “Nominees Who Danced With Pharrell” Ratings
Amos Barshad: Her peers might be content to bandy about all willy-nilly; Amy Adams had laid out a specific point-by-point “impromptu dance flourish” strategy hours before the ceremony. COMMITMENT: It’s the Amy Adams way. 6.4/10
Meryl Streep: “I don’t CARE you wrote a hit song. I don’t CARE that it’s the Oscars. I don’t CARE that I might come off as overly consciously ‘on-brand.’ I am NOT standing up. I will, however, do a modified Walker Wiggle.” 7.2
Lupita Nyong’o hadn’t yet won (and so hadn’t yet delivered that killer speech) at this point. But, clearly sensing the inevitable, she acted accordingly. I give it uh, a 10! A 10! A fucking 10!
Leto the Right One In
Sean Fennessey: Even though I once wrote 2,500 words in praise of the Lord of Haircuts, I have found his standing as the presumptive favorite for Best Actor in a Supporting Role more than a little confusing. Because as impressive as his performance was — and it does just that, impresses upon you with all its might that LETO. IS. ACTING. — Jared Leto spent all of awards season, well, being Jared Leto. Which is to say, looking moon-eyed, saying pretentious and meaningless things, and faintly accepting that his beauty is the butt of the joke. He thrives on the ontological study of his own looks. Leto is an old-fashioned himbo with a better bookshelf, and his speech last night hinted at scrolling through the New York Times app on his iPhone just before the ceremony. He did what we expected him to do, the thing we saw coming. His acceptance speech was sort of sweet and sort of stupid and, man, he looked swell. His victory already seems like a “Huh?” while clicking through Oscar lore on Wikipedia.
So why this guy, and not Bradley Cooper, whose ginned-up performance and movie-star standing might have been a walkaway in another year? Or Michael Fassbender, he of the fire beard, who was the agent of chaos in the year’s Best Picture winner? Barkhad Abdi would have been a great story, and Jonah Hill would have brought an ounce of humor to an event that seemed to be designed in an 18th-century drawing room. (Plus pizza.) The answer is not momentum or skill or even the power of transformation. The answer is Leto. He rises above. He is indomitable. And pretty.
The Selfie That Broke the Internet
Rembert Browne: As far as hip Internet shticks that double as Samsung commercials go, it may be hard to top Ellen’s A-list posse-selfie. Sure, the moment she admitted — aloud, on television — that the goal was to make this the most popular tweet ever, you cringed, but within seconds it was clear the moment was worth it.
Cooper. DeGeneres. Streep. J-Law. Roberts. Pitt. Jolie. Queen Lupita. PHOTOBOMBIN’ SPACEY. All in one picture. It’s hard to be salty about that.
But, for a few moments, I was. Because, like every good party, someone decided to crash it.
Lupita’s brother, Peter.
While the soon-to-be-awarded Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress was stuck in the back, trying to sneak her face into the photo, an uninvited younger brother Peter occupied prime real estate. Seriously, Lupita’s brother? You realized what you’ve become, right?
But then I started to feel bad. Why be so cynical in such a good moment? This was a night for all Nyong’os, after all.
So I did some background on Lupita’s brother. And you won’t believe what happened next.
• Peter Nyong’o: a college freshman
• Peter Nyong’o: the greatest hypeman for a sibling, perhaps ever (see Instagram feed)
• Peter Nyong’o: often posts the best pictures of Lupita and famous people, like her and an almost-smiling Kanye
• Peter Nyong’o: increasingly posts pictures of himself and famous people, like him and Julia Roberts
• Peter Nyong’o: celebrated an early Lupita magazine cover like this:
• Peter Nyong’o: has impressively upped his style game in the past four months, trading in shiny shirts for tuxedos
• Peter Nyong’o: wrote the single greatest Instagram caption.
“I was sitting in my room in Turi last may or something, revising for my Theatre exam. I get a call from this beast of a sister that is Lupita Nyong’o and I think we’re just going to catch up. Nahhh son. The babe tells me very casually that she just got cast in a film alongside the homie Fassbender. Now please understand, young Fasso was everyones hero in Flat 3 at the time after his performance in Shame. Evvvvry one loved that homie, so I flipped. Man I was walking around schoolooking foolish just jumping around screaming. Next she tells me ati the movie is produced by Brad Pitt. Im weak.. Jelly legs ibjust lie on the grass and starr telling this babe how proud I am of her. A year and a few months later I have the privellage of seeing a great woman turn into a great woman that will destroy Hollywood. I love you sis, and lets go kick ass #TIFF#TIFF #TIFF”
Beast of a sister? The homie Fassbender? Young Fasso? Im weak.. Jelly legs?
My man earned a spot in that selfie. And an Oscar for Best Picture. And anything else he wants. Young homie Peter is living his best life. Let’s celebrate that.
But Not So Fast, Liza Minnelli!
When Will Leo Finally Catch a Break in Life?
Molly Lambert: Poor Leonardo DiCaprio. He has everything in the world that anybody could want: fame, fortune, his pick of the best roles, a never-ending stream of skinny, blonde, barely legal Victoria’s Secret models in his lap. There’s just one thing he can’t seem to get his hands on, no matter how many bills he makes it rain or hands he shakes or Tobey Maguire’s kids he holds. He is seriously the Great Gatsby. All he needs is ONE LITTLE OSCAR. You know, just one. Preferably for Best Actor, although it’s not like he would have sneezed at a Supporting Actor nomination for Django Unchained. I mean, it’s not like he can hate on winner Matthew McConaughey, who technically has seniority. He just taught Leo how to be a trader in the beginning of The Wolf of Wall Street! McConaughey’s looseness rubbed off on Leo, resulting in Leo’s most elastic performance to date. Shaking off the uptight, troubled square he’d played in movies like Revolutionary Road, J. Edgar, and Inception, Leo was as deft and sparkling as he last was in Catch Me If You Can.
Maybe playing Calvin Candie in Django, his first real villain, inspired him to take larger risks. After all, what good is being the world’s biggest movie star if you can’t fuck with the audience’s expectations a little bit? So it must be frustrating to put in a career-best performance and then stand there panting on the world stage like Michigan J. Frog, waiting to see if the audience agrees it was great. Leo has parlayed the gifted impulse that makes some child actors into baby geniuses at hitting their cues and finding their light into a long, respectable acting career. But there is still something of the young striver to Leo, a dab of Lisa Simpson. He clearly won’t be happy until he wins the big award, and at this point denying him one has clearly become something of a sadistic game for Academy voters. He’s always great, but there’s always someone else who wins and was a little more great, or is having a better career year, let’s say riding the wave of a great TV show. Leo knows he gave it his all, and somebody else was just judged to be better somehow. He’s the Nancy Kerrigan of the Oscars. The Oscar voters were clearly not as charmed by The Wolf of Wall Street as I was. Was it too much like looking through a grotesque mirror for men with too much money? Was it too bleak? Or not bleak enough? Or was it just too damned funny? Leo will get other chances at an Oscar. He’ll make sure of it. He was just in the path of a phenomenon even larger than Leomania: the McConaughan Dynasty.
“Adele Dazeem” Is High Travoltan for “Idina Menzel”
“Oh, I really liked the way I pronounced that. Round of self-applause. Mr. Crambleboots, fetch me my Just for Men brush, will you? I might need a touch-up. The camera absolutely loves me tonight.”
Fashion Wins or Fashion Sins?
Emily Yoshida: Oscar fashion gets a bad rap — on a night when we’re supposed to come together to celebrate which movie won at art more decisively than the other movies, it can seem like a superficial distraction. But if you’re like me, then you know that the question of how much and which kind of fabric a famous person will decide to wrap around their body is just as important as which 90- to 180-minute motion picture will be bestowed the same honor as Driving Miss Daisy, Chicago, and Crash. Take a stroll with me down the red carpet, weep for the unexpected passing of the GlamCam (and the stunning resilience of the Mani-Cam), and most important, find out if some of the strongest looks of the night were fashion WINS or fashion SINS!
Jessica Biel stuns in a gossamer Chanel creation. Like many of the actresses on the red carpet tonight, if you squint your eyes and cross them a little the dress just about blends together with her alabaster skin! I especially like the way the sad little holes where her eyes are still stand out against the white blur. Fashion WIN!
She’s bulletproof, nothing to lose (because she was not nominated for any awards this year!) — Anne Hathaway isn’t messing around in this aggressive, take-no-prisoners, mean dress. The flash of leg is a great way to say, “Don’t worry, these are still here!” Fashion WIN!
Jennifer Lawrence goes red-hot with the white-hot peplum trend, which is where it looks like a tinier dress is sitting on top of a longer dress! Nice try, J-Lawr, you can’t fool us, that’s clearly one dress! Fashion WIN!
We hear the brave and beautiful Elsa Pataky told her stylist, “Screw all those fashion commentators who say so-and-so looks ‘great for a pregnant lady.’ I would like my baby bump to cause mild alarm.” Fashion WIN!
Hey, men can wear clothes, too! These shoes scream Weekend, but the socks are 100 percent Vampire! New York rock star Ezra Koenig tells Hollywood to suck it with this irreverent footwear combo! Fashion WIN!
Pharrell may write music for soundtracks now, but when it comes to fashion, the only voices he’s guided by are Lanvin! Fashion WIN!
Bow down to Liza Minnelli, who’s still got the red carpet magic. The great thing about advanced age in Hollywood is that you don’t have to break out a gown for every event. You can just wear a top and pants that are reminiscent of a gown. Pants are really just two dresses for each leg, anyway. Fashion WIN!
My Top 10 Oscar Moments
10. My mom: “What is Ravit?”
Me: “I’m pretty sure they said Gravity, Mom.”
9. Tyler Perry coming out to the theme from Dances With Wolves.
8. Inspector Clouseau getting stuck in the hero/action montage.
7. Mom: “I like the song performances this year. They don’t have a lot of loud songs.”
6. The last person to unironically tweet the Oscar selfie: the Blue Jays’ Dan Evans:
5. Mack Brown’s live tweets:
4. “Multiple Oscar nominee” Glenn Close.
3. The Angelina Jolie and Sidney Poitier slow walk.
2. Will Smith’s non-tie — the analog to the towel his Muhammad Ali wore around his shoulders.
1. Mom: “Who’s that actor?”
Me: “Jared Leto.”
Mom: “Never heard of him.”
Oscar Gossipmongering: What’s the beef, John Ridley and Steve McQueen?
Juliet Litman: In case you missed it, the 12 Years a Slave crew is not entirely one big happy family.
Best Adapted Screenplay winner John Ridley is on the outs. I think we all want to be Team Nyong’o, and most of us are probably Team McQueen. I admire him for sticking with those same glasses for all of this year’s protracted awards season. But is there a scenario in which we should all be Team Ridley? Nikki Finke says it’s a dispute over a credit, presumably McQueen’s missing screenplay credit. By most accounts of the 12 Years development, McQueen was looking to do an American slavery project. His wife supposedly suggested adapting Solomon Northrup’s memoir, and Ridley first wrote the script for free after meeting with McQueen in 2008. He was ultimately paid on the first day of filming and awarded an executive producer credit. The Daily Mail points out that of McQueen’s three features, this is the only one on which he is not a credited cowriter. Though he is getting all the praise and now the Best Picture Oscar, maybe McQueen feels he’s not getting enough.
In the name of good rumormongering fun, let’s hope all parties increase sniping and shit-talking now that awards seasons is over.
Get Off My Slice
“Boy, I promise you this: If you take this pie to that punk DiCaprio first, I will end you. Now gimme one with lots of mushrooms. Love fucking mushrooms. [Greedily eats four slices on camera as Calista Flockhart glowers nearby.]”
We Have an EGOT! We Have an EGOT!
John Lopez: For mere movie stars, the Oscar might be the ultimate metric of life fulfillment. Millions watching, tearful thanks to your mother and agent. Ellen ordering you pizza. All that’s well and good, but somewhere high above the celebrity firmament lies an achievement so breathtaking that only 11 people had previously accomplished it. Tennis has the Grand Slam; horse racing has the Triple Crown; showbiz has the EGOT. This evening, a 12th creative genius joined the fellowship. Winning for Best Original Song, Frozen’s Robert Lopez completed the cycle tonight: He has an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. And, oh yeah, he’s the youngest person to do it. Frankly, at this point, it would be totally understandable if Lopez’s life devolved into pill-popping shambles, with him composing ad jingles for tick-infested Ottoman muppets in an Istanbul brothel as he tries to hock his Emmy for smack. Really, there’s nowhere to go from here but down.
Until then, from one Lopez to another: Well done, sir. If you don’t know much about Robert Lopez, this handy little New York Times video about him and his wife/collaborator Kristen Anderson-Lopez will do the trick and warm the cockles of your heart. I confess, I didn’t. But now that I know he’s the wunderkind behind Avenue Q’s “Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist” (not to mention The Book of Mormon), I almost wonder if the EGOT is enough of an honor. Still, forever being on the same list as John Gielgud, Helen Hayes, Audrey Hepburn, Rita Moreno, Whoopi Goldberg, Marvin Hamlisch, Richard Rodgers, Jonathan Tunick, Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, and Scott Rudin: not too shabby. No, not all Lopezes are related. But right now, I kinda wish I were.
That’s Foxx With Two X’s
Tess Lynch: Jamie Foxx (onstage with his Stealth costar Jessica Biel — yes, Hollywood Reporter, I do remember), presenting the award for Best Original Score, was in full goofy mode. A good score can blow … your mind; “Chariots of Fire” comes to life when you run in slow motion in a tuxedo in front of a microphone; and when Pharrell gets robbed, you hand the envelope over to your copresenter because you want no part of that. Foxx is always refreshing to see in these kinds of scenarios, because he doesn’t self-censor and he always seems like he’s just revving up for the after-party (even with his daughter as his date). That keeps things lively, which is always appreciated during a fifteen-thousand-hour ceremony during which you’re contemplating the loss of $10 in a poorly chosen pool.
When I pack up my belongings and move to McConaughey Island, I’m taking Foxx with me.
The First-Screen Experience
Zach Dionne: I want to believe that the Oscars were better than fine this year — Lupita got what was hers, the right film won the big one, Ellen’s crowd work and made-for-Internet randomness somehow felt refreshing, and McConaughey infinitely complicated all our True Detective conspiracies with that “hero from the future” speech. But I know nothing was truly different and that the show sat right in the center of Average, as always, as it was written within the sands of time and Sidney Poitier’s eyes. The only difference, the one that made the show feel not only superior but inexplicably shorter for me, was ditching Twitter. Every awards show for the last few years has been mostly eaten by my phone’s dumb screen, by this nightmarish, never-ending cycle of Twitter, blogs, and the insipid game du jour (these jours: Star Wars: Tiny Death Star; I don’t know what’s wrong with me, either). It’s not awards-show exclusive, either — I’ve been helplessly sitting by as second-screen non-watching poisons everything from House of Cards binges to the Olympics to catch-up seshes for Game of Thrones and The Americans.
Something about Oscar night seemed like the time to finally sit still and look at a single horizontal screen for 210 minutes. And I’m basically here to tell you that if you’re going to put your phone down for an entire program — to give your brain a holiday from Witty #PharrellsHat tweet duty — you’ve gotta try the Oscars next time around. You find yourself not despising them for turning into a repulsive shell of what you loved as a kid, and it’s like the weight of a trillion Dumbos taking flight after they’ve lived in your cynic’s heart for decades. You find yourself imagining that no one’s snarking anywhere in the world. That everyone just really loves movies and montages about them. That you might be able to go into work the next day and be like, “Man, those Oscars! I liked the little cue cards and the animations they had as they announced the nominees! Great details, huh, buddy?” and your coworker won’t be like, “Man, what the fuck is wrong with you?” Even skimming Twitter’s evil seas of clever downers during commercial breaks (c’mon, I wasn’t going to put my phone in a whole other room or something) didn’t kill the vibe.
But now it’s True Detective time, so I’ll have to catch up with these nice feelings again next year.