While you were probably spending this Sunday night studying, I threw my thesis out the window and cozied up to the T.V. with a plate of greasy Chinese food to glamorously celebrate the year in film with a three and half hour marathon known as—The Oscars. So, here’s my cheat sheet as I break down the ten biggest lessons I “learned” from watching the 86th annual Academy Awards.
10. You don’t need college: Wish I learned this gem four years ago. Ellen started off the show with an effortlessly funny monologue where, in her trademark quirky way, she managed to dish out some solid jokes, classing up the show after last year’s mixed reviews (how can anyone forget Seth McFarland’s boob song). Ellen kept it light and easy, teasing a clumsy Jennifer Lawrence, calling an unhappy Liza Minnelli a man, complementing a wispy-haired Jared Leto, and making sure Jonah Hill keeps it in his pants. She also dropped some very insightful knowledge, quipping that between all the nominees, they’ve made over 1400 films and gone to a total of 6 years of college. Moral of the story—if you want to become a successful, respected, awarded millionaire, drop out of school and run to Hollywood, kids.
9. I don’t watch nearly as many movies as I thought: Jared Leto took home the night’s first trophy for his work in Dallas Buyer’s Club, giving a meaningful tribute to victims of the AIDS epidemic and also graciously thanking his mother in one of his best speeches this awards season. Afterwards, the bulk of the first part of the show went to awarding many lesser known, but equally well-made documentaries, shorts and animated films. With that said, I haven’t seen any of them. So, moving right along to other pressing Oscar moments . . .
8. Pharrell and his hat are still a thing: Both Pharrell and his now signature Arby’s hat made an appearance, performing his Oscar nominated song “Happy” for the movie Despicable Me 2. Many other notable performances were made including Bette Midler singing the “In Memoriam” tribute, Pink doing a flawless cover of “Over the Rainbow,” and (my personal favorite) Karen O and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend singing the hauntingly mellow “Moon Song” from the soundtrack of Her. Oh, yeah, and Bono was also there, performing with U2, but both he and Pharrell lost the gold to Frozen’s “Let it Go,” sung by Idina Menzel who gracefully took the stage after John Travolta gracelessly butchered her name.
7. Your dreams are valid: The night was defined most notably by its heartfelt speeches given by many deserving winners. Lupita Nyong’o tops that list, stealing the show and the Oscar for her gut-wrenching portrayal of cotton picker Patsy in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. Lupita gave us another sincere and humbling speech, dedicating her award to the spirit of her character: “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s.” The Yale trained actress also thanked her school, reminding us that there is a plus to going to college and getting an education. But then again, it’s Yale, so hold on to that grain of salt.
6. Twitter can break: Ellen’s hosting skills were on full display over the course of the night, as she panhandled with Pharrell’s hat, dished out pizza to hungry stars, and even crammed a bunch of famous faces in a selfie that then exploded twitter. It’s safe to say that Ellen herself is amongst the winners this year, and if you haven’t seen the infamous selfie yet, get out from under your rock.
5. Don’t forget to thank Sandy: Gravity raked in the awards, taking home seven gold statues, including best score, cinematography, and director. A bright-eyed and ever-so radiant Sandra Bullock perfected the smile and nod, as each winner took turns bombarding her with thanks for her over the moon, down to earth, out of this world [insert more space puns here] performance. She was the face of that movie and brought it to life, and even though the Academy didn’t award her, it’s good to know she wasn’t lacking in praise.
4. The best movies contain something called a “Hero”: Have to mention it, but the theme of this year’s show was “heroes,” which essentially paid tribute to any movie that contains a protagonist. Basically, the Academy took shots from almost any movie ever made (or any movie they’ve ever given an award to) and stitched the clips together to make some montages. Try again next year, Academy.
3. The World is Round: Cate Blanchett continued her award season’s blitz, taking home the gold for her portrayal of the martini sipping, sweat oozing, Xanax popping homeless socialite in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. In keeping up the night’s trend of incredibly crafted speeches, she took the stage with her trademark zeal, reminding us that “the world is round” and that movies that feature women are not niche—they actually, get ready to gasp, make money. (I think Sandy knows a little something about that.) It’s great to see actors using their time on the stage to start meaningful conversations about contemporary problems in society. Who would have thought a glitzy Hollywood bash would actually get me thinking about issues regarding sexuality, race, and women???
2. Never Meet your Hero: The gratitude-ridden night was overflowing with sincerity as a teary-eyed Matthew McConaughey delivered one of the night’s best speeches. To round out this “heroic” awards show, he shared a story from his childhood, relating that when asked who his hero was as a boy, he would say himself ten-years from now. Always having his future self to look up to gave him the motivation to never stop working, never settle, and constantly push himself to be a better man. Those are some words to live by.
1. “Best” is a very descriptive word: Steve McQueen was literally jumping for joy as 12 Years a Slave took home the night’s top honor, beating Gravity and sending American Hustle home empty handed. It was a tight race, with many excellent films vying for the top spot, but in the end, a very important, masterful, heartbreaking and beautiful film deservedly won. If that’s not enough motivation to get you jumping out of your seats, consider this—we now live in an era where Brad Pitt has an Oscar. Kudos, sir.
Grade: “A” (Thanks galore, a night of appreciation, laughs, and oh so many sparkles brings award season to a shimmering finale.)
Michael Cummings is a senior in the English and Creative Writing Departments.