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:
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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