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The Best & Worst Moments Of The 2014 Oscars

by Oliver Lyttelton
March 3, 2014 1:03 PM
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Darlene Love & The Frozen composers
Ok, this might have been something of a love/hate moment — they were both simultaneously a little cringe-making, and a bit thrilling, but these two musical acceptance speeches were definitely more memorable than most. Darlene Love belting out a number when "20 Feet From Stardom" might have been vaguely reminiscent of an aunt at a wedding, but it was also a moment in the spotlight for someone denied it for so long, and a nice capper for the film's story (though we still would have liked to have seen what Anwar from "The Act Of Killing" would have done had that film won...) Meanwhile, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez's rhyming speech for writing "Let It Go" from "Frozen" felt a touch calculated, and yet, also genuine — they are, after all, musical theater folk, and that's exactly what would happen when musical theater folk win Oscars. There was enough sincerity behind it to make it charming, rather than gag-inducing, particularly when they dedicated the song, and award, to their kids.

Cate Blanchett's speech
In fairness, Cate Blanchett had roughly four million precursor awards in which to practice her Best Actress thank-you speech, but happily, she pretty much nailed it, with one of the best speeches of the night. Gracious without feigning surprise, acknowledging the "random and subjective" nature of the awards, sincerely thanking the other nominees, coming up with a number of great gags (#suckit!) and pulling off a hugely effective rallying cry for movies with women at the center. As ever, it was a class act, and made the least surprising award of the night as pleasurable as anything else.

Kevin Spacey
There was some good supporting work from a number of people throughout the night, but the stealthy MVP among the guests might have been Kevin Spacey. After a few years where he's been mostly absent from movies in favor of theater and television, Spacey is going to be heading back to the movies when he leaves the Old Vic Theater in London in 2015, and last night was a fun reminder of what a good presence he can be. From ad-libbing in character as Frank Underwood (which was greeted by huge cheers), to quipping "that's for you" to Ellen as she passed the hat to pay for pizza, to pulling an instantly meme-able selfie face, Spacey quietly stole the show in a way that he hasn't done anywhere since the mid-90s, and made a pretty good case for being a potential host in a future year.

Alfonso Cuaron
Not only did it seem to us perfectly fair that Cuaron won for “Gravity,” the director’s speech was charming , smart and genuine, even lapsing into Spanish at the end to thank his mother. He paid tribute to both his stars but very much to Sandra Bullock calling her “one of the best people I have ever met," and even got a couple of good laughs, especially when he corrected his Freudian slip of “the wiseguys at Warner Brothers” to “the wise people at Warner Brothers.” Overall he struck a good balance between professional and personal and, if we weren’t already a little in love with Cuaron, we probably would have been after this speech.

Pairing presenters
Just a little one, but we liked the way that producers had seemed to emphasize double-act presenters over solo names this year. It got more star-wattage up on stage, inspired plenty of fantasies (who doesn't have their fingers crossed that Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron hooked up? Or Matthew McConaughey and Kim Novak, for that matter...), and inspired a million #TrueDetectiveSeasonTwo jokes. That's definitely something that can stick around for future telecasts.

Spike Jonze won an Oscar!
It had seemed in the cards, but many were still tipping "American Hustle" for the Original Screenplay nomination, so no one was quite sure if Spike Jonze was going to win an Oscar. But he did, and it was one of the most warmly received victories of the night. Jonze's speech was sweet, but brief, but more than anything, it was a worthy recognition of one of our most talented and original filmmakers.

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  • snehal | March 15, 2014 7:48 AMReply

    Does someone know what song was played when jared leto won the supporting actor award?

  • Kerry | March 6, 2014 5:18 PMReply

    haha- your review of Matthew Maconaheyhey's speech is EXACTLY why people HATE Hollywood- seriously? He was Humble, adorable and True to himself. #hater

  • Brett | March 11, 2014 5:23 PM

    I agree, McConaughey gave a great speech

  • ryan | March 6, 2014 3:57 PMReply

    Anne Hathaway's beautifully and gracefully delivered speech to the Supporting Actors , was the best Oscar presentation to the nominees ( and she was one of the few who didn't flub her lines ) . Plus , she did it with unbelievable star power and a great stage presence ( On the opposite spectrum , Jennifer Lawrence was awkward on stage with no presence and no star power . ) Charmer Jared Leto's speech was glorious . Karen O. and Pharrell performances soared .

  • sylvain | March 6, 2014 8:29 AMReply

    Someone once said that MMC was arrogant and pretentious...
    Didn't understand why... until his despicable speech.

  • Moses | March 12, 2014 8:08 PM

    How was his speech despicable??

    It was honest and genuine. i thought it was Great

  • Mabs | March 5, 2014 3:07 PMReply

    You're critiquing others while lobbing this sentence at us, "She's did a decent enough job seven years ago..." Shameful really. That negated anything I read before or skimmed after.

  • David | March 5, 2014 11:14 AMReply

    Jim Carrey was funny and Matts speech was great

  • RobD381 | March 4, 2014 10:17 PMReply

    I only disagree with two of your 'worst' moments (I too thought Harrison Ford was odd - maybe having a stroke?). I liked Bette Midler's song, and its placement (it cut down on the inappropriate clapping of American actors at the Oscars In Memoriam presentation like it was a horse race to see who was missed the most) -- my problem was that her sparkling eyes were closed during most of the song - surgery? Not good. Secondly, I completely disagree with your assessment of Matthew McConaughey's acceptance speech (and your dismissal of Jared Leto's moving acceptance speech too). I certainly had no problem understanding what he was saying and what he meant. I have heard many seemingly insincere references to God and thanking Him (most of which are sports-related) and I am skeptical of any Oscar acceptance speeches where everyone but the movie goer (the money maker) is thanked, but Matthew's talking was different. He can be slick in the movies, and very snake-oil salesmany, but this was different, and it was coherent. He was thanking Above, Around Him, and Chasing. I am assuming the Chasing was what bothered you, but how wonderful would it be if we all wanted to be our own Hero, and chased that idea 10 years at a time, never attaining that goal but always chasing it. This is an idea that could change the world, to be a better You every 10 years or so. He seemed perfectly sincere thanking a God that was within him, and, as he said, in YOU, and thanking his small circle of loved ones and family that were around him. Alright, alright, alright Matthew. Great speech!

  • Aurora | March 4, 2014 3:07 PMReply

    This is the best one of these lists I have seen and I have seen a few. I agree with pretty much everything. So happy btw you included Kevin Spacey, he was definitely a highlight for me and they really need to let him host something! I've a feeling he could be the best host in a looong time if they gave him a chance.

  • Joseph Byrne | March 4, 2014 11:20 AMReply

    Though not a believer, I had no problems with McConaughey thanking God in his speech. It was what came after that was problematic. Claiming he was his own hero came off as narcissistic, and it was not really in accord with the humility we might expect from a devout Christian.

  • - | March 9, 2014 2:20 PM

    "Claiming he was his own hero"
    What exactly is wrong with what he said apart from the phrasing? He flat out said something like "I know I'm never gonna be my own hero", so if you actually look at what he said there's nothing objectionable in it. You either didn't watch the speech or you're just going off your kneejerk reaction to it.

  • RobD381 | March 4, 2014 10:22 PM

    He never claimed to be a devout Christian, and what he said went against what the worst of church-associated religion thinks: that God is within YOU. The hero part wasn't NOW, it was what he was chasing, 10 years at a time. How wonderful to be chasing, to be always trying to be a better you and strive to be your own Hero (never quite attaining it).

  • Sean | March 3, 2014 8:45 PMReply

    Yea I agree with most other the McConaghey bit you guys are saying as "worst" uh absolutely not. The guy can talk about his faith or whatever the hell wants for that matter. I dont believe he was rambling & his speech was brilliant & even a great lesson for those watching.

    Travolta your an idiot. We know your dyslexic sure. But why not practice your line before hand? Ya know like you do the shitty movies you play in...

    U2 wasnt nearly as bad as you may have thought!

    While Pink on the other hand thumbs down...

    Spike Jonze huge surprise. And you are a gem & a brilliant talent to film & culture. Thank You! :)

    I HAVE BEEN SAYING IT EVER SINCE THE SHOW ENDED! KEVIN SPACEY FOR 2015!!! Can we make or some1 please make a banner or a poster or somethin! Spacey 2015! He would be marvelous!

  • RobD381 | March 4, 2014 10:24 PM

    Bono for official Peace Ambassador of the World - anything to get U2 to disband. Reminded me of a bunch of boys playing in a garage....

  • murphious | March 3, 2014 7:51 PMReply

    Hey, Mr. Travolta. Next time you have a job to present or introduce a person, don't just show up that evening and expect to be able to do everything perfectly---get their name on a slip of paper and practice saying it first.
    Besides, with all those weird Scientology names of aliens and their planets you would think Idina Menzel would be an easy one!

  • Chris138 | March 3, 2014 6:48 PMReply

    I agree that McConaughey's speech was largely disappointing, but not because of him mentioning God or his faith in it. It was a slight step up from the truly rambling speech he gave at the Independent Spirit Awards, but it still was all over the place and came off a bit unendearing overall. I don't know why it's such a big deal that he mentioned his own faith. Denzel Washington mentioned God in his acceptance speech when he won for Training Day, and I don't recall anyone making a big deal out of that.

  • Jack Reacharound | March 3, 2014 7:07 PM

    Yeah what does the man thanking God have to do with anything. If God is his inspiration, then God is who helped him make it to that stage. I didn't find his speech rambling at all. He thanked everyone from the cast and crew he needed to thank and then gave us an insight into who he is as a person. It made me see him as more deserving of that award than anything.

  • Brian Miller | March 3, 2014 6:35 PMReply

    All of the music except for Karen O's bit was horrible. I wasn't a big fan of MM mentioning God either, but it really sounded more political than anything, as if to say to the mainstream: I'm not the nihilist you see on True Detective. I still love the man.

  • kerry | March 6, 2014 5:20 PM

    Why on earth do YOU care if he mentioned God? are you serious????

  • Jamie | March 4, 2014 3:47 PM

    I don't see how you got anything "political" out of MM's speech. There is nothing wrong with him mentioning God, he didn't tell everyone "Now,let's all pray" and he certainly didn't mention any political issues or make any stands for or against anything. I think you read way too much into a man being happy that his hard work was recognized and telling a story about how he intends to keep reaching for perfection.Also,if you think Idina Menzel's performance was horrible( especially after hearing her name butchered by Travolta) or Pharrell Williams' joyous and obviously crowd pleasing performance was horrible,then you must just be a person that can't stand other people's joy.

  • Keith | March 3, 2014 5:23 PMReply

    If you think McConaughey's mention of HIS faith and HIS belief in God was preachy then you obviously has some pretty strong hate towards that. Whether you're religious or not there is no way those brief opening comments were too much or excessive. Give me a break.

  • RobD381 | March 4, 2014 10:27 PM

    BossAirplane, I'm sure he capitalized HIS to show emphasis, as in HIS remarks rather than YOUR remarks. There's not an option for underlining or italicizing remarks in Comments.

  • BossAirplane | March 3, 2014 9:41 PM

    "His" is not capitalized. In this context, you were referring to Matthew McConaughey, not God.

  • sati | March 3, 2014 5:09 PMReply

    My God what is your people problem with Matthew? Are you a bunch of Leonardo fanbots? Each article I see here on Oscar season criticizes him.

  • Jake Mason | May 29, 2014 3:32 AM

    Because he is a pretentious D-bag that's why.

  • Dan | March 3, 2014 5:07 PMReply

    Only because you don't believe in God doesn't mean you give it a worse because someone does. Is just your opinion anyways, I liked his speech.

  • let it be | March 3, 2014 2:57 PMReply

    That Carrey LSD bit was fun. Keep fantasizing about Chris Hemsworth cheating on his pregnant wife with Charlize Theron.

  • Jorge Clooneigh | March 7, 2014 7:06 AM

    I am glad someone else pointed that out - a little crass to "hope" that married man cheats on his expecting wife with another woman just because she looked amazing. Way to make Charlize feel cheap too.

  • black stars | March 3, 2014 2:54 PMReply

    McConaughey should've quoted some Ligotti instead of that God nonsense.

  • Ugh | March 4, 2014 2:10 PM

    Because only what you and people like you think is right, right?

  • Lauren S | March 3, 2014 2:44 PMReply

    I couldn't disagree more about your feelings on Pink's performance of "Over the Rainbow". To me it was the highlight of the night. That movie is forever cemented in the hearts and minds of children/adults of any age and deserved every second of that tribute. And to say Pink sounded like she was on "American Idol" is insulting on so many levels. I can't think of ANY professional singer today (okay maybe Jennifer Hudson, only) who would've given a better live performance of that song.

  • RobD | March 4, 2014 10:30 PM

    Lauren S I completely agree. It was a beautiful rendition of the song, without any affectation usually seen in these situations or in "covers." Pink has a beautiful voice. I was impressed.

  • DG | March 3, 2014 2:06 PMReply

    I thought Mcconaugheys speech was fine

  • Kerry | March 6, 2014 5:24 PM

    it was great, the opinions on this are why the world is the way it is today- seriously

  • Murphy | March 3, 2014 2:32 PM

    Best of the night

  • az | March 3, 2014 1:52 PMReply

    Your Cabaret fact, drove me to wiki - I'd always thought it won best picture - Amazed to see what a rocking year 1973 was (Deliverance, Fat City, Sounder) And doubly amazed to see that Coppola didn't win best director for The Godfather. The Godfather only won three, wow.

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