Now that the bright, beautiful Lupita Nyong’o has arrived, what will become of her fate in Hollywood? We all know the statistics. We know what kinds of movies mostly get made. I wonder if it’s too much to ask that one actress inspire the five white guys in suits to think a little differently about whom to cast in what kind of part? Can she, like Jennifer Lawrence, become so popular she invents her own genre? I think yes. I hope, yes. She is someone who doesn’t seem phased by the statistics but has nothing but opportunities open to her — as an actress, perhaps as a filmmaker someday in her own right. The story is unfinished and there isn’t any point in my trying to finish it. It’s an exciting thought, imagining how she herself might right it.
As we headed into last night’s ceremony, many of us who cover the Oscars thought it would be the most wide open race in a long time, perhaps since the year 2000. Either we’re all getting better at our jobs or we’re getting more confused and distracted. Either way, the race followed along consensus lines with the only major upset being in animated short where Get a Horse lost to Mr. Hublot. While there were minor disagreements here or there, the majority wrestled this thing to the ground thanks in large part to a pre-determined split vote that began at the Golden Globes and carried through the season. This split was the same dynamic that occurred back in 1967, when Mike Nichols was winning for The Graduate’s visionary directing while In the Heat of the Night won Picture for its revolutionary take on civil rights. The same dynamic played out completely last night, with civil rights in play for 12 Years a Slave’s win, and Alfonso Cuaron’s visionary directing rewarded for Gravity.
It’s funny how, even with the preferential ballot, this dynamic could play itself out and yet it did. That meant 12 Years a Slave probably came in with the most number 1 votes but if it wasn’t number 2, it would be number 3. We’ll never know how close the race actually was — just like we’ll never know which film was the Bonnie and Clyde in the race, or the Dr. Dolittle or the Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Back in 1967, however, the wins were spread out among several films but last night, only 4 out of 9 walked off with Oscars.
Yet if 2014 is 1967 all over again we can appreciate having gone through one of the best years for film and the best Oscar years in a long while.
This is the
fifth fourth consecutive year that Best Director went to someone born, raised and educated outside America. With all of the shorts, many of the documentaries being represented by directors from other countries it is really time for America to continue with the soul-searching to figure out why that could be. Alfonso Cuaron insisted that Gravity star a woman, almost 50 years old. It took Steve McQueen and Brad Pitt to finally tell the story of slavery from the point of view of the slaves rather than the slave owners, but specifically to dig into America’s past to find heroes that don’t fit the mold ordinarily filled by a white male central figure. Argo, The Artist, The King’s Speech all revolved around the central white figure and they won Best Picture. So perhaps it’s premature to say that it’s time for American directors to step outside their comfort zone; after all the recent winners were not films that were outside the comfort zone of Academy voters but rather fit right into their wheelhouse.
Still, if it were me and I was a major American film director I’d start thinking — you know, maybe it’s time to start telling different stories. How many more ways can we deconstruct the young, middle-aged and older white male figure? I don’t know, maybe it’s time to start thinking differently. Those kinds of stories usually drive the box office and the Oscars — they just didn’t last night.
Last night, for once, it was about a movie that had a woman at its center, and another movie about African American history. I don’t know anything about anything but it seems to me that the notion that those kinds of films aren’t successful or don’t make money or win Oscars has just been proven false. It was proven false with the box office — Jennifer Lawrence’s Hunger Games topped out the year, Gravity has almost made $300 million domestic, and Frozen is about to hit $400 million. As Cate Blanchett so eloquently said, if you build it, people will come.
In a split vote scenario, editing goes to either Best Picture or Best Director (not 100% but a recent trend)
No film without a screenplay nomination or SAG ensemble can win Best Picture, SAG ensemble nod still key to Best Picture win.
No film with as few as two actors can win Best Picture.
No film set in space can win Best Picture.
No film that is designed for 3D can win Best Picture.
Jennifer Lawrence would have become the first actress to win consecutive Oscars with lead and then supporting.
The Producers Guild called both Picture and Director in a tie — since Best Picture expanded, the PGA has called it with their preferential ballot. Clearly, it was a very close year.
Precedents broken, assumptions proved false:
The DGA did not call Best Picture, as was widely expected.
Reports of Academy members not watching 12 Years a Slave did not prevent the film from winning.
The SAG ensemble nod did not have a direct impact on the split vote for the first time since SAG began.
Woody Allen’s personal life did not impact Cate Blanchett’s win.
For the first time all four Spirit Award winners went on to win Oscars in the acting categories.
Gravity has won the 2nd most Oscars without winning Best Picture, behind Cabaret which holds the record for eight and also in a split year (not counting Dr. Zhivago and Star Wars, which didn’t win Pic or Director).
Gravity becomes the second film since 1997 to win Sound, Sound Editing, and Cinematography.
12 Years a Slave becomes the first film directed by a black filmmaker to win Best Picture.
Alfonso Cuaron becomes the first Mexican film director to win
Lupita Nyong’o is the first Kenyan actress to win.
Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey are the only first time nominees to win in lead and supporting for same film.
[NOTE: Dennis Bee reminds us that Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker won lead and supporting in MY LEFT FOOT (1989)].
Dear Oscarwatchers, I need to spend some time thanking people but first and foremost you loyal readers who have been coming back for 15 years to read thoughts on the Oscar race. You’ve stuck it out with me when this site was nothing more than a few links to other stories and predictions. You stuck it out through victories and losses, each year defined by how much the films we love are validated. Maybe it means something, maybe it doesn’t but it means a lot to me that you come here to read what I have to say, what Ryan has to say, what Jackson Truax, Marshall Flores and Craig Kennedy has to say. Rob Y for all the hours he devotes to the Simulated Oscar Ballot every year. There are more Oscar sites than ever, many more people adding their predictions and voices to the mix but it moves me beyond words that you keep returning year after year.
Thanks to Ryan Adams for not just being a great friend but for toiling on this site during a difficult time in his personal life (TMI?), as always, the littlest Oscarwatcher, Emma for being such a smart reader of the films and Oscars and for putting up with a mom who works this much. To Jeff Wells for being such a pal, and to the ragtag bunch of weirdos who make up the Oscar blogging scene: Anne Thompson, Steve Pond, Pete Hammond, Scott Feinberg, Tom O’Neil, Kris Tapley, Anthony Breznican, Dave Karger, Kyle Buchanan, Tomris Laffly, Brad Brevet — who am I forgetting?
This year is put to bed. Cannes is just months away. Then it all starts over again.