Dallas Buyers Club and Gravity were the toast of the 2014 Oscars on Sunday (02Mar14), but it was 12 Years A Slave which was named Best Picture on Hollywood's biggest night. The Steve McQueen slave drama was a triple threat, also scoring Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong'o and Best Adapted Screenplay for John Ridley.
AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club served up a double win in the male acting categories with Matthew McConaughey earning his first Oscar for Best Actor and Jared Leto claiming Best Supporting Actor, while Cate Blanchett took home the Best Actress title for her star turn in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.
However, it was Gravity which scored the most wins of the night with seven, including Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron and a string of technical awards.
The 86th annual ceremony was presented by Ellen DeGeneres and she opened the prestigious event by joking about the heavy rain which has lashed the usually-sunny state of California in the past few days, and poking fun at Jennifer Lawrence for her clumsy nature after she stumbled and fell to her knees on the red carpet as she arrived at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood - a year after she tripped up the stairs on the way to pick up her 2013 Best Actress Oscar.
Each of the nominations for Best Original Song were performed, but it was Frozen star Idina Menzel's rendition of Let It Go which earned husband and wife songwriting team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez the award.
Pop star Pink helped to celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz by belting out Somewhere Over the Rainbow in front of Judy Garland's children Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft, who were among the guests in the audience, and Bette Midler made her performance debut at the awards by singing Wind Beneath My Wings following the annual In Memoriam segment, which featured tributes to the likes of James Gandolfini, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Karen Black, Paul Walker, Annette Funicello, Peter O'Toole, Richard Griffiths, Sid Caesar, Shirley Temple Black, Harold Ramis, film critic Roger Ebert and former Academy president Tom Sherak.
The full list of winners at the 2014 Oscars is:
Best Motion Picture of the Year:
12 Years A Slave
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years A Slave
Best Achievement in Directing:
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Writing, Original Screenplay:
Spike Jonze, Her
Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay:
John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave
Best Animated Feature Film:
Frozen - Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee & Peter Del Vecho
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year:
The Great Beauty (Italy)
Best Achievement in Cinematography:
Gravity - Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Achievement in Film Editing:
Gravity - Alfonso Cuaron & Mark Sanger
Best Achievement in Production Design:
The Great Gatsby - Catherine Martin & Beverley Dunn
Best Achievement in Costume Design:
The Great Gatsby - Catherine Martin
Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling:
Dallas Buyers Club - Adruitha Lee & Robin Mathews
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score:
Gravity - Steven Price
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song:
Let It Go from Frozen - Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing:
Gravity - Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead & Chris Munro
Best Achievement in Sound Editing:
Gravity - Glenn Freemantle
Best Achievement in Visual Effects:
Gravity - Timothy Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk & Neil Corbould
Best Documentary, Feature:
Twenty Feet From Stardom - Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen & Caitrin Rogers
Best Documentary, Short Subject:
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Best Short Film, Animated:
Mr Hublot - Laurent Witz & Alexandre Espigares
Best Short Film, Live Action:
Helium - Anders Walter & Kim Magnusson
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award:
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
When crafting a follow-up to the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time it’s understandable that one might be reticent to mess with a winning formula. But director Todd Phillips and writers Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong seem to have confused revisiting with recycling: The Hangover Part II so closely mirrors its blockbuster predecessor in every vital aspect that it can scarcely claim the right to call itself a sequel.
The only significant new wrinkle introduced in Part II is its setting: Bangkok Thailand a location that at least theoretically augurs well for a second helping of inspired lunacy. The story structure of the first film has been copied wholesale a game of Mad Libs played with its script. The action is again set around a bachelor party this time in honor of buttoned-down dentist Stu (Ed Helms). Again the boys (Stu Bradley Cooper’s boorish frat boy Phil and Zach Galifianakis’ moronic man-child Alan) awaken the next day in a hideously debauched hotel room with little memory of the previous night’s revelry. And again there is a missing companion: Teddy (Mason Lee son of Ang) the brother-in-law to be. (Poor Justin Bartha is once again relegated to the sidelines popping up now and then to push the plot forward via cell phone.)
The amnesiac/investigative angle of the first Hangover made for a refreshing twist on the contemporary men-behaving-badly comedy. Repeated here its effect is arguably the opposite: Too often the action feels rote and formulaic. Gone is any hint of surprise an aspect so crucial to good comedy and a huge part of the first film’s appeal. Key comic set pieces – a tussle with monks at a Buddhist temple a visit to a transsexual brothel a car chase involving a drug-dealing monkey – reveal themselves to be merely variations of memorable bits from the first film.
Tonally Part II is darker cruder and a bit nastier than its predecessor. Female characters never a priority in the first film are further marginalized in the sequel. (The only woman with significant dialogue a Bangkok prostitute also happens to have a penis. I’ll let you ponder the implications of that one.) The three leads Helms Cooper and Galifianakis still work well together and despite the inferior material enough of their chemistry remains to make the proceedings bearable – and occasionally funny. But their characters feel somehow degraded reduced to coarse caricatures of their former selves. Speaking of caricature Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) the fey faux-gangsta villain of the first film returns in an expanded capacity in the sequel his garbled hip-hop slang more gratuitous – and more grating – than before.
I can’t help but wonder what might have been if a planned cameo by Mel Gibson playing a tattoo artist hadn’t been scrapped reportedly due to objections by Galifianakis. Liam Neeson Gibson’s replacement apparently proved ineffectual in his first go-round and when he wasn't available for re-shoots his scene was eventually shot with Nick Cassavetes in the role. In its existing incarnation the scene is purely functional a chunk of forgettable exposition. The presence of Gibson an actor of not inconsiderable comic talent would have at least added an air of unpredictability something the scene – and indeed the movie – sorely lacks.