Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

12 Years, Gravity, and The Irish Times triumph at Oscars

We get 10 out of 10 in our predictions. Cumberbatch photobombs U2. And more…

Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 17:39


It’s been a funny old awards season. For close to six months, we have been saying that this is the closest Oscar race in recent memory. That wasn’t total nonsense. Until about a month ago, it really did seem as if any one of three pictures could win the top prize: American Hustle, Gravity or 12 Years a Slave. American Hustle eventually fell away as awards voters saw through its flimsiness. But, with Alfonso Cuarón having just grabbed best director, it was still far from impossible that, as the last envelope was opened, Gravity could take the big one. Steve McQueen certainly looked visibly relieved when Will Smith read out the name of his film.

Yet, for all the supposed uncertainty, your current writer, in his eve-of-awards predictions still managed to get 10 out of 10 correct. This is the first time I’ve managed this. The only reasonable deduction is that I am a raving genius. Right?

Not so much. In retrospect, only three of those 10 were properly close-run things: best supporting actress, best original screenplay and best film. The sense of uncertainty sprang from the fact that the last of those awards — the really big one — was, most unusually, among the hardest fought. This was good news. Despite the parade of victorious favourites, some small degree of tension gave the evening momentum. For a blow-by-blow account, check out the live “blog” by Tara and me. There are jokes and oddities galore.

Here are some things worth noting from the evening (the less said about a frail Kim Novak the kinder):

1. 12 Years a Slave’s success is good news for inclusiveness.

Steve McQueen did not become the first ever black person to win best director. But he was the first black producer to triumph for best picture. (And Cuarón is the first latin person to win best director.)

2. The American Hustle surge was all a big con.

Many of us couldn’t understand why David O Russell’s very ordinary film did so well early on in awards season. In the end, the film became one of Oscar’s biggest ever losers. Despite 10 nominations, it won nothing. Only two unrewarded films have been shortlisted for more awards in Oscar history.

3. Ellen DeGeneres is the new Billy Crystal

Remember when, simply by coming out, Degeneres became a hate figure to the American right. That seems a long time ago. After Seth Macfarlane’s niggly turn last year, she brought competent (if bland) warmth to the affair.

4. Walt Disney Studios have finally won an Oscar for best animated feature.

It is hard to credit, but, in the 14 years since its inception, the Mouse House has never won the main award for animation. Their corporate partners at Pixar have bossed the gong for most of that period. This time, no Pixar film was even nominated. As the weekend progressed, Frozen, the winning film, passed $1 billion at the box office.

5. Lupita Nyong’o is unstoppable.

It’s not just that she won the award. It’s not just that she has dominated the red carpet. It’s not just that she delivers the best speeches. The number one film at the US box-office this weekend — flight-terror flick Non-Stop — features Lupita in a supporting role. You go.

6. Benedict Cumberbatch knows how to photo-bomb U2

Forget that much-discussed Selfie from Ellen. The best image of the evening was surely the one above. I am assuming this is not fake. I am pretending that’s not so. It seems as if the sometime Sherlock photobombed the greatest living Irishmen as they made their way into the Dolby Theatre.

7. Ellen’s cosiness has its limits

What on earth was going on with that thing where she ordered pizza and then took collections from the a-listers? We kept waiting for a punchline that never came. It was like a sort of art experiment. Only those things are usually funnier.

8. They are slow-movers at the In Memoriam department.

Can it really have been so difficult to get an image of Alain Resnais up there in time for the tribute to the fallen? His death was announced (their time) the previous night. This is The Oscars, after all.

9. It was a weird night for Liza.

The only real bum-note in Degeneres’s monologue came when she congratulated Liza Minnelli on being an excellent male Liza impersonator. She looked unhappy. Then she failed to get her head above taller stars for that selfie.

10. Awards season 2015 has begun

I am only partially joking. Lou Lumenick of the New York Post has already posted a list of potential nominees for next year. Am I slow in doing the same?