The ThinkProgress Liveblog Of The 2014 Academy Awards

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"The ThinkProgress Liveblog Of The 2014 Academy Awards"

2014-Academy-Awards

Starting with the ceremony at 8 PM EST, Caitlin Frazier and I will be liveblogging the 2014 Academy Awards. Come hang out with us as we dissect the results, the speeches, our own overreactions, and maybe even a tux or two.

LATEST UPDATE
12:10 am

That's All, Folks

I am not wearing anything as awesome as Ellen’s shiny tuxedo jacket, but I’m following her off the stage. Thanks so much for hanging out with me and with the amazing Caitlin Frazier, who kept us going on Twitter tonight. East Coast folks, stay safe in the incoming bad weather if you’re coming home from Oscar parties. And I’ll be back with longer thoughts tomorrow.

12:06 am

'12 Years A Slave' Wins Best Picture, As Well It Should Have

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It would have been a remarkable historical hand-off to see Sidney Poitier present Steve McQueen with the Best Director Oscar for his work on 12 Years A Slave, to watch the actor who embodied black professionalism and dignity introduce a director who’s made a movie that is a landmark in black film in part for its messy, ugly, selfish humanity. But as a split goes, I’ll take the enshrining of 12 Years A Slave as a Best Picture, and as a Best Picture that truly deserves the title.

It’s easy to just talk about the importance of a movie like 12 Years A Slave on the grounds of its ideas, which are certainly significant. But the discussion of that significance can minimize the conversation about the movie as an artistic achievement, a bar not all socially and politically important films meet. The performances in 12 Years A Slave are exceptionally deep: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, and Alfre Woodard are all tremendous, and tremendously human. The film’s lingering perspective on the Southern landscape emphasize Solmon’s physical isolation, not just from his family, but from any civilization that might have revolted at his treatment. The film’s use of music and preaching make for a richer cultural portrait of life in the slaveholding South. And the script by John Ridley is sharp and perceptive not just about blackness, but about whiteness, and about masculinity and femininity.

Sometimes, a silly system produces a great result.

11:54 pm

Cate Blanchett Wins Best Actress For 'Blue Jasmine,' Defends Movies Starring Women

Cate Blanchett, who just won Best Actress for her performance as the coming-undone former wife of a Ponzi schemer (Alec Baldwin), used her speech to shine a bright light on films with women in the center, complimenting her fellow nominees at length for their performers, and then telling audiences of “female films” that “audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money.” It’s a terrific use of this platform to remind those of us watching at home that we are not, in fact, the niche, lonely viewers that Hollywood often makes us feel that we are. And it’s even more important that Blanchett called out her industry, daring them to call her some sort of fluke or exception to a rule.

There was one woman, however, that Blanchett didn’t acknowledge, and some viewers will certainly be frustrated for her. “Thank you so much, Woody, for casting me, I so appreciate it,” Blanchett said of embattled director Woody Allen, who has faced renewed charges that he sexually abused his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. There have been some calls for Blanchett to turn down her award, given the man who gave her the part through which she earned it. And there have been other suggestions that Academy voters should penalize Blanchett as a way to raise the costs for actors who are considering working with Allen. Neither of these things happened tonight, but the applause at Allen’s name was decidedly muted.

It will take more than a single ceremony to dismantle the enormous clout Allen has in Hollywood–he’s won too many people Oscars, and given too many people excellent parts for them to let go of him so easily. And given that this is the second time the allegations against Allen have been explored in depth, it’s unlikely that these charges will make him a pariah, either. But that quiet smatter of applause may be a sign of more sober–and separate–assessments of Allen as a man and as a director to come. That’s not legal justice or resolution for Dylan Farrow, but it is a measure of progress.

11:38 pm

Alfonso Cuaron Wins Best Director For 'Gravity,' So Maybe '12 Years A Slave' For Best Picture?

Gravity-Sandra-Bullock
I don’t do Oscar pools, but my bet has been that Cuaron would win Best Director for Gravity, which is a striking visual and technical achievement, while 12 Years A Slave would win for Best Picture. I think Gravity is a less complete movie than 12 Years A Slave: among other things, it has a much, much weaker script. But it’s still quite strong. And I can’t resent some love for a genre picture, given how disdainfully science fiction is treated by the Academy.

11:28 pm

John Ridley Wins For Best Adapted Screenplay For '12 Years A Slave'

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This will be the point in the evening at which I start reminding y’all that in addition to being an important movie, 12 Years A Slave is also, with the exception of that Brad Pitt awfulness, an extremely well-crafted one. Ridley’s script is terrific, whether he’s capturing the cowardice of the supposedly-enlightened slave owner Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose courage extends as far as his convenience and his mortgage, or the racist fury of a plantation owner’s wife (Sarah Paulson). But most of all, he captures the journey of Solmon Northup from taking his humanity as his due to recognizing that he must deny–or at least not fight for–the humanity of other people in order to survive. It’s crushing, and exceptionally well-written.

11:19 pm

Why 'Let It Go' Is Such a Perfect Movie Song

Idina Menzel the week before the Academy Awards.

Idina Menzel the week before the Academy Awards.

CREDIT: AP Images/Dan Hallman

Something seemed off about Idina Menzel’s performance of “Let It Go,” the song from Frozen that’s won some adoption as a gay and trans anthem, and that is by any measure, a terrific song–and it wasn’t just John Travlota’s hideous mispronunciation of her name. She sounded a bit eaten up by the orchestra, trying to find a tempo, and her voice seemed thin and strained by the end. But one thing that struck me about Menzel’s performance was how much it lost in the translation from animation to live-action and the stage.

Menzel was mostly still during “Let It Go,” by the songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, but in Frozen, Elsa, the queen who has a the ability to control snow and ice (and to transform things into those materials), sings it during a period of extraordinary activity. She marches up a mountain, runs up a bridge of her own design, and conjures up a palace for herself that rivals the one Dr. Manhattan spins for himself on Mars in Watchmen. She transforms her dress, spinning herself a cape of hoarfrost, and takes her hair down from its stiff updo. It’s a lovely marriage of music and action, and Elsa’s physical liberation is lovely to witness, especially after watching her fold in on herself to try to keep her power under control. Animation is beginning to catch up with live action in giving us girls who are physically powerful and who enjoy what their bodies can do, whether they’re hunting in Brave or building worlds in Frozen. “Let It Go” was a gorgeous expression of that idea.

10:46 pm

In Defense Of Pink

Pink at the premiere of 'Thanks For Sharing.'

Pink at the premiere of ‘Thanks For Sharing.’

CREDIT: AP Images/Todd Williamson

I took a pause to just listen to Pink sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” and was a little sad to come back to Twitter to find folks complaining that her unadorned, emotional performance, was just more filler. I constantly find the treatment of Pink as just another pop tart utterly bizarre. Her contralto range alone would distinguish her from many of her peers, and that’s not even taking into account her interest in blues and rock, or the way she claimed her own image back from a label that initially tried to market her as a ratchet white girl in a way that Miley Cyrus might have envied. She’s just an incredibly solid performer who makes songs that are routinely fun without being cheap or trendy. And that was nice, in a show that thus far has been relatively slack, and unfortunately commercial.

10:19 pm

Lupita Forever

Lupita-Nyong'o-Academy-Awards

CREDIT: AP Images Jordan Strauss

Well, I can go to bed without having a rage heart attack now that Lupita Nyong’o has, justly, won Best Supporting Actress for her masterful performance in 12 Years A Slave. And if this system works remotely the way it ought to, folks should sign her for a) a huge, glossy, fun romantic comedy, and b) a movie where she gets to do something fabulous and fierce without having to be remotely oppressed.

In her acceptance speech, Nyong’o says “I want to salute the spirit of Patsey…To Solomon, thank you for telling her story, and your own…[And to Steve McQueen] I’m certain that the dead are standing around you and watching and so am I.” Her performance has become one of the stand-out elements of the film, and I think one of the things that will give 12 Years A Slave a very long life. But Patsey easily could have been forgotten to history had Solomon Northup not recorded the period of his life that he witnessed. That note in her remarks, and Steve McQueen’s work in directing Nyong’o, are also powerful reminders that women alone can’t be responsible for elevating women’s stories. And the stories men tell can benefit from close, compassionate, humane attention to female characters.

10:06 pm

This Horrible Selfie Schtick Ellen Degeneres Is Doing Is Sponsored By Samsung

So reports The Verge, which observes that the phone she’s using is a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Even without that little fact, the desperate begging to make the group shot the most retweeted ever would have been irritating. But given that it’s for cash, it’s especially grating. Hopefully this will end up serving as a lesson to Samsung that it’s much more cool to go viral because you actually paid people to do something fun, creatively liberated, and interesting, than because you basically shoved a lot of cash in our faces. It’s a bad ongoing note in what’s turning out to be a somewhat flat, but generally inoffensive, performance.

9:48 pm

'20 Feet From Stardom' Wins Best Documentary In An Extremely Strong Field

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CREDIT: Drafthouse Films

20 Feet From Stardom, which is about backup singers who are, for the most part, women of color, is excellent. And 20 Feet From Stardom paints a devastating portrait of the ways in which music executives took advantage of the women who helped make much of the last century’s most iconic popular music. Darlene Love, who took the stage to accept on behalf of her fellow subjects tonight, essentially had her solo career stolen by a vindictive Phil Spector. It’s also a strong psychological look at the ways in which church choir training helped discourage some of these astonishing musicians from seeing themselves as potential lead singers, and at the psychological energy it takes to claim your place as a star.

The movie’s win ought to be an occasion for Hollywood to look at its own labor practices, most recently when it comes to visual effects artist. But as it so often is, the win for 20 Feet Of Stardom will end up standing in for a more sober self-assessment.

I really did love the movie. But at the same time, this was a very strong field of nominees, it’s a shame not to see a win for The Act Of Killing, which follows much less-savory characters and more distant history, in both time and geography. Joshua Oppenheimer’s stunning movie chronicles the “movie theater gangsters” who were hired by the Indonesian military government to carry out purges of Communists and accused Communists in 1965. These men are still living in Indonesia in positions of power, still extorting small businesspeople, and still celebrating their murders, which in one case included hundreds of garrotings on a roof. The country has only recently phased out a propaganda film shown to schoolchildren that depicted supposed Communist atrocities.

Because of the strong ties between the massacres and the memory of them and the movies, Oppenheimer recreated the killings with the subjects of his movie (the Indonesian government wouldn’t let him make a movie about survivors and their families). The result is deeply unnerving, even sickening. But it’s also one of the most powerful things I’ve seen on film in quite some time.

9:31 pm

'42,' '12 Years A Slave,' And Why The Oscars Needed 'Fruitvale Station' In That Heroes Montage

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ThinkProgress sports reporter Travis Waldron and I did not much like 42, the stiff, hagiographic, poorly written biopic of Jackie Robinson released last year that has as its main virtue getting American audiences ready for Nicole Beharie’s excellence on Sleepy Hollow. And seeing it juxtaposed with 12 Years A Slave in the montage of movies about heroes in fights for justice clarified why. In the clip from the latter movie, we see Solomon Northup (an Oscar-nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor) explain “I don’t want to survive, I want to live.”

In profoundly different ways, the viciousness of racial oppression and slavery, and the need for movement icons, strip the people affected by both of their humanity. Slavery takes away Solomon’s ability to take pleasure in his intellect and talent, his ability to form relationships with integrity, his ability to treat people like his fellow slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) with decency. And the demand that racial exemplars (or other people who do credit to their marginalized ground) live public–and increasingly, private–lives of sterile exceptionalism denies them the opportunities to make mistakes, to lose their tempers, to cry in sadness and anger. Movies like 42 institutionalize that toll, rather than challenging its necessity in ways that can feel exhausting, and that have real impacts on public policy that demand that, for example, people of color correct themselves so as not to incur violence, rather than protecting them from violence they in no way deserve.

And seeing those two movies together reminds me, once again, how badly I wish Ryan Coogler’s exceptional debut film Fruitvale Station was represented in some way here tonight. That movie, about Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) on the last day of his life before he was shot to death on a BART platform, is about exactly the kind of living Solomon yearns for so badly. Oscar jokes with a pretty girl at the grocery store where he’s gone to beg for his job back, talks a store owner into opening his bathroom to Oscar and his fellow revelers, including a white pregnant couple on New Year’s Eve, pranks his sister, celebrates his mother. It’s a lovely celebration of everyday life, and why the loss of even the ordinary opportunity to enjoy it, is such a tragedy.

9:21 pm

'Frozen' Wins For Best Animated Feature

'Frozen's Anna with her Prince Not-So-Charming, Hans.

‘Frozen’s Anna with her Prince Not-So-Charming, Hans.

CREDIT: Disney

The Wind Rises is the next movie on my to-see list, so I can’t weigh in on whether or not Frozen‘s trophy is justified. But I quite liked Frozen, which I thought was a really nice illustration of a movie that works beautifully for both adults and children. Disney movies can go one of two ways. The plot can be oriented largely towards themes that are revelatory only to children, while being surrounded with jokes that resonate with adults–this is sort of the Dreamworks formula, too. And then there are movies that trust children to handle difficult concepts, like the idea that siblings can hurt each other really badly, or that power isn’t always a gift if you don’t find a way to handle it responsibly.

Frozen falls solidly into the latter category. I don’t know if it’s an all-time great, but it’s very strong, and the sequence around “Let It Go,” which is nominated for Best Song, is one of the strongest, most exciting things I’ve seen on film this year. And as I wrote earlier this year, the movie’s riff on Prince Charming myths, and what makes a romantic interest Charming, is a smart, sweet intervention in the genre’s romantic fantasies. Lots of adults seem to have seen Frozen already. I hope this win means that more will, and that Disney takes the lesson that children can handle bigger ideas than are often served up for them.

8:49 pm

Jared Leto Wins Best Supporting Actor For 'Dallas Buyers Club,' Shouts Out Activists In Ukraine

Jared-Leto-Academy-Awards
Jared Leto, who some trans advocates feel has not brought the same grace to awards season stages that he brought to his performance as a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club, wins Best Supporting Actor, the first award given out on-screen tonight. It seems he’s gotten some advice along the way about how to speak about both trans people and politics, because Leto’s speech emphasized family, and was carefully correct when he touched on politics.

“There was a teenage girl who was pregnant with her second child. She was a high school dropout and a single mom. But somehow she managed to make a better life for herself and her children,” Leto said, thanking his mother at length for her work bringing him up. “She encouraged her kids to be creative, to work hard, and to do something special. That girl is my mother and she’s here tonight. But I just want to say, I love you mom, thank you for teaching me to dream.”

He then turned to international politics, saying “To all the dreamers out there all around the world watching this tonight, in places like Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say, we are here, and as you struggle to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible, we’re thinking of you tonight.” It’ll be interesting to see if other actors follow his lead as the U.S. struggles to shape its response to Russia’s incursions into Ukraine this weekend.

And Leto touched on LGBT issues last, dedicating his statuette to “the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS,” and saying “I stand here in front of the world with you and for you,” to anyone who’s suffered because of who they are or who they love. It’s too bad that Leto didn’t use his time on the Oscar stage to speak at greater length about trans issues, and with greater sensitivity than he has on previous occasions. But with any hope, his performance is far from the last to tell the stories of trans people, and his award opens up opportunities for trans actors and actresses. Next year, Laverne Cox.

8:41 pm

The Best Thing To Read About The Rise (And Pratfalls) Of Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer-Lawrence-Academy-Awards-2014

CREDIT: AP Images/Jordan Strauss

While Ellen Degeneres has been making jokes about Jennifer Lawrence falling over, I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend that you read Anne Helen Petersen on the history of the Hollywood Cool Girl, the tradition of which Lawrence is a party. People like to focus on Lawrence falling over because it’s the kind of incident that suggests everything about her that we like is spontaneous. But Anne Helen makes the case that there’s much more going on that simple screwball charm.

8:35 pm

Ellen Degeneres Takes Aim At Hollywood's Knowledge Of Africa In Announcing Best Supporting Nominees

When Ellen Degeneres introduced Lupita Nyong’o, she explained that because the Best Supporting Actress nominee is from Kenya, she is “a Kenyan,” which in and of itself could have been a joke about the celebrity fixation on Africa. But it got even better when she explained that Best Supporting Actor nominee Barkhad Abdi is “from Somalia. He is a sommelier, so he knows a lot about wine.” That’s pretty brutal and great. In between that little bit, and Ellen’s joke that movies aren’t the most important thing in life, youth is, she’s off to low-key, but pretty well-calibrated start.

8:31 pm

Why It's Always So Refreshing To See Ellen Degeneres Host An Awards Show

On a night, like the Academy Awards, that’s obsessively devoted not just to fashion, but to the performance of gender that fashion is in service of, it is always such a delight to have Ellen Degeneres as a host. Pop culture has played a huge role in changing American attitudes about LGB people, and increasingly trans people. But the Academy Awards are a particularly regressive night when it comes to gender, be it in the incessant questions about dresses and jewelry, the compliments of women’s looks and men’s talent on the red carpet, and the absence of women nominees in the awards for creators. So watching Ellen get up on the Oscar stage not just as an out, married lesbian, but as a woman who can rock the hell out of a tuxedo–a look that’s still considered transgressive enough that it causes comment when Angelina Jolie wears one–is just a wonderful thing. I may not love her cravat-y look tonight. But man am I glad she’s here.

8:18 pm

The Best Thing About 'Gravity'

Gravity-Sandra-Bullock
A moment ago, ABC’s Jess Cagle was talking about which movies have the most overall nominations: Gravity and American Hustle top the list. Something I thought about Gravity at the moment, which I wish I’d discussed more fully in my review, is why the movie’s 3D is so effective. Most of the folks who make 3D movies are convinced that it’s most powerful when it’s used to simulate the effect of flinging objects or people at the audience. Gravity does the opposite. It uses its 3D effects to pull the audience into the screen, to make you feel the immensity of space that lies beyond it. That’s a simple observation, but I think it’s an important one. And I hope that more 3D filmmakers grasp that insight. It’s an important way to make audiences actually feel the scale of a genuinely epic picture, instead of convincing us that 3D is just a cheap parlor trick that studios and theaters are using to charge us more for tickets.

8:08 pm

Lupita Nyong'o, Justifiably, Takes Champagne As Her Inspiration For Her Oscars Dress

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CREDIT: AP Images Jordan Strauss

“We were inspired by champagne bubbles, and I designed it with the help of Prada,” Lupita Nyong’o explained of her style inspiration on ABC’s red carpet prior to the Academy Awards. Nyong’o, who’s nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Patsey, a slave who’s been unfortunate enough to attract the sexual attentions of her master (Michael Fassbender), in 12 Years A Slave, has worn dresses from across the entire spectrum of the rainbow during this awards season, becoming a fashion icon in the process. She’s also stepped out as a powerful advocate for a more expansive standard of female beauty, most recently in a striking speech at Essence’s Black Women In Hollywood Luncheon. Her light blue gown tonight is lovely and celebratory–and it’s also a perfect example of a gown that’s particularly striking on her because of her skin tone. Fashion houses looking to show their gowns to their best advantage should take notice.

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