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The Best & Worst Moments Of The 2014 Oscars

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist March 3, 2014 at 1:03PM

Well, after months of speculation, thousands upon thousands of column inches, millions of dollars in campaigning and plenty of furious arguments, the Oscar season is over. Last night's 86th Academy Awards saw "Gravity" pick up seven prizes, but being beaten to Best Picture by "12 Years A Slave" (only "Cabaret" won more awards without taking the big one), while "American Hustle" failed to win anything from its ten nominations (full list of winners here).
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Bette Midler Oscars

The Worst Moments

The whole thing was almost too laid-back and low-energy
Like we said, we enjoyed the casual vibe of the show, but only up to a point. Despite (and sometimes because of: the pizza bit was fun, but went on for nearly fifteen minutes on and off) Ellen's efforts, the show was very saggy and even subdued — some presenters, naming no names HARRISON FORD, had very odd energy, to the extent that we worried that there might be a gas leak in the building. And, like an awards show version of "This Is 40," skits and bits seemed to go on way past the natural end point, and the editing and cues of the show itself seemed a bit slack (there was quite a lot of time spent just watching presenters, Ellen included, making their way up to the podium). It felt like this could have been a lot tighter when all was said and done.

Endless montages
Someone at the Academy is very keen on them, but we are still completely baffled by the insistence of including montages that have very little to do with anything. Themed this year, particularly tenuously, around "Heroes," we had three separate clip packages, none of which were much better put together than the sort of thing you can watch (or, ideally, ignore) online, and none of which added anything to the evening other than the chance to check Twitter without missing anything good. We know the Academy and ABC are constantly chasing the younger demographic, but the chance to see two seconds of "Iron Man 3" are not going to make any more kids tune in.

Matthew McConaughey's speech
Honestly, nothing last night came close to being as disappointing as Matthew McConaughey's speech. Not that his win wasn't deserved — it's a great performance. And McConaughey seemed to do everything right on the night, being gentlemanly while presenting with Kim Novak, and passionately kissing his wife when he won, then graciously thanking his fellow nominees. But then he kept going, and the speech got worse and worse as it went on. If God's important in your life, that's great, but McConaughey thanking the almighty felt more like a preachy door-to-door bible salesman than a sincere gesture, while his conversations with his past/future selves was both a bit self-involved and kind of incoherent. Maybe we just wanted more of a Rust Cohle-vibe to the whole thing, but it was a bit of a bum note on which to end the first act of the McConaissance.

Still basically ignoring the Honorary Awards
All the digressions and gags and montages and musical numbers are all well and good, but it sometimes feels like it's coming at the expense of the really good stuff. Despite the Honorary Awards having provided some of the most powerful and moving moments in Oscar history, they've been downgraded to also-ran status in recent years, and this time around, we only got brief clips from the Governor's Awards, without the recipients even being in the house. Is there anyone alive who'd rather have seen Pink singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" rather than see Angela Lansbury or Steve Martin give a speech honoring their careers? We feel like we complain about it every year, but each time around, it feels like the Honorary Awards are treated more and more shoddily.

Jim Carrey
There's always a big comedy name popping up to present something, and this year, it was the somewhat faded A-lister Jim Carrey (whose last two movies, "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" and "Kick Ass 2," both tanked). Coming very early in the show, Carrey proceeded to pretty much let all the air out of the room immediately, with a misjudged and awkward "Don't patronize me" response to Ellen's introduction of him as the star of "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," before launching into a Bruce Dern impression, which was admittedly pretty good, but just continued to feel a bit awkward. Closing on a rather tired LSD gag, it was a pretty disappointing appearance from someone who'd done a good job at the Golden Globes recently.

U2
As U2 were introduced to perform their Best Original Song nominee "Ordinary Love," you could practically hear 800 million people going for a toilet/cigarette break. Even fans of the band who are stuck around must have acknowledged that the performance was far from their finest hour. The song is firmly B-side material, and despite a stripped-down acoustic arrangement, it still felt bombastic and self-important, which is an impressive achievement. Bono getting in on the audience-interaction game by serenading the front row didn't help all that much either.

Pink & Bette Midler
As the show drags on, it's easy to feel more and more negative about the less necessary digressions, and a couple arrived in musical performances from Pink and Bette Midler. The latter was at least accompanying the In Memoriam reel, but it felt strangely tasteless to be singing "Wind Beneath My Wings," and the pace of the thing wasn't helped by Midler singing after the reel finished, slowing the whole thing to a halt. Can we not just make In Memoriam about the people it's honoring, rather than about what ever tear-jerking song accompanies it? Pink's version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" felt even less essential. Sure, it's the 75th anniversary of the movie, but it's the 75th anniversary of a lot of movies ("Gone With The Wind," "Stagecoach," "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington," among many others), and even so, we're not sure that the makers of the film would have felt particularly honored by Pink's technically impeccable, but very "American Idol"-y performance of a song everyone's heard a million times before.

Adele Tazim
Given that he's been stuck mostly in straight-to-VOD fare of late, it felt a bit odd for John Travolta to be introducing "Frozen," but we suppose appearing in "Grease" will always get you the chance to do something like that. Probably not any longer: Travolta hilariously/mortifyingly botched his introduction of singer Idina Menzel, calling her something "Adele Tazim." Whether it was an autocue malfunction (it did seem to be playing up a bit last night), or some kind of weird Scientology-induced disconnect, it was one of the more baffling Oscar-related moments we can remember.


This article is related to: Awards, Academy Awards, Oscars, Features, Feature


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