Writing about an award ceremony when the world has bigger fish to fry does seem a little crass. Russian troops have fired warning shots at Crimea’s Belbek airbase and Kunming City in China is still in shock after the brutal attack by Xinjiang separatists left 29 dead and over 130 injured. So watching Hollywood’s finest trooping the red carpet and spilling their guts over a gold statuette takes a certain warped pleasure when the West are unable and unwilling to intervene in the Ukraine and another Oscar stands trial for murdering his girlfriend.
But don’t worry; poor, gorgeous, rich Leonardo DiCaprio has been snubbed again. Annexed and robbed! How was he going to beat off the double pincer movement of two “worthier’ performances? If Matthew McConaughey hadn’t won for his first attempt for “Dallas Buyers Club” then surely Chiwetel Ejiofor would have triumphed for “12 Years a Slave?” Ejiofor would be a deserved winner but Leo’s sensational comic turn as the thoroughly debauched Jordan Belfort is whacked out genius.
The problem is that Leo has always delivered. He’s never given a shoddy performance, he’s like the kid who does everything right at school but never gets noticed because he’s too good. McConaughey was always that naughty boy who pulled it out the bag for his last few movies. How did it go at the Academy? Good old Matt. We always knew you had it in you. As soon as that shirt went on we had your back. Leo who? Oh, he blew the coke up that hooker’s ass in his last film and smashed up a Lamborghini on ludes. He can act but did you see the amount of weight Matt dropped?
What a shame Sandra Bullock didn’t win for “Gravity.” Cate Blanchett was so obvious. Who would have thought America’s sweetheart could hold a film with such burning physicality, flaming spirituality. As the cosmos erupts on screen, that familiar voice, her very breath anchors a movie with no sense of up and down. We want Sandy to fly, that girl on the bus grown up, dealing with real trauma, real tears as she explodes from the sky and emerges from water like the first human being on earth.
Still Alfonso Cuarón won best director for “Gravity” against some real heavyweights. Scorsese directs “The Wolf of Wall Street” with the wild abandon of a spring breaker. “American Hustle” has that beautiful light touch and “12 Years a Slave” is the next stage in the development of Steve McQueen as a master helmsman. “Gravity” is a game changer in the same way as “Saving Private Ryan.” Remember what war films were like before “Ryan?” Think how combat is lensed now. Every movie set in space from now on, even the new Star Wars franchise, will look and feel like “Gravity.” Maybe the cinema will spin around your seat.
And to best picture. What else could have won other than “12 Years a Slave?” Thank god its greatness measured up to the subject matter. The necessary treated with sublime skill and technique. That eloquent acceptance speech from Lupita Nyong’o, not quite the undiscovered newcomer you are led to believe in. The dignified face of loss etched into Michael Fassbender, the successor to Daniel Day-Lewis who will one day hold three Oscars (no doubt at the expense of dear Leo) like the greatest actor who ever walked the face of the earth. That win for Steve McQueen just one of a crop of outstanding British directors alongside, Paul Greengrass, Andrea Arnold, Lynne Ramsay and Christopher Nolan. Perhaps McQueen’s film makes writing about the Oscars a little less crass.
Photo by Marjin de Vries Hoogerwerff, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license