The Oscar 2014 Series: The Academy choose wisely Armin Fakouhi March 5, 2014 1 107 A great night of entertainment has passed and I’m slowly catching up to my regular sleep schedule. Sadly, I wasn’t able to stay awake for the really big award but after reading the next morning, I was very glad to learn about the choices of Academy for the following reasons. Reason 1: American Hustle was not that great When American Hustle first came out, I just heard about the raving reviews and then after learning about the 90%+ rating on Rottentomatoes, I kept wondering: Is this really a new masterpiece of cinema or will it be forgotten in six months from now? And the answer is the latter…Yes, the actors are great, the story is fun and somewhat interesting and the execution is pretty flawless (as we have been seeing by David O’Russel in the past years). But it is nothing that will stick over the next 4,5 or 10 years; it just lacks that special element which other gangster classics like Good Fellas or Heat and con comedies like A Fish Called Wanda (yes, I’m serious). American Hustle was a fine movie but 12 Years A Slave was impactful, courageous and told an interesting story in a visually compelling way. It also didn’t have the “game-changing” element of Gravity – which brings me to reason 2. Reason 2: Alfonso Cuarón did deserve to win best director I may have said this multiple times by now but I was truly blown away when watching Gravity. And the “blow-away” factors were mainly director driven. The illusion of space has never been so masterfully put in screen since I can remember, in particular the transitions into space with sound suddenly muting. Spaceships being torn to pieces by meteors, explosions taking place and astronauts flying through space … and all of a sudden, there was pure silence. The other reason is the (finally great) use of 3D; ever since James Cameron brought this technology into mainstream with Avatar, movie after movie has tried to take advantage of this breakthrough and failed miserably for several reasons (terrible scripts, gross overuse of the technology and/or all of the above). Gravity combines the perfect amount of 3D in the exact right moments in a gripping movie with an outstanding Sandra Bullock who redefines her character and grows to become a fully new person over the course of 91 minutes. Granted that some of the factors are driven by other people in the movie (see below) but ultimately the director is the CEO and visionary oft the film. And it the CEO of this great project was Alfonso Cuarón who created a new visual masterpiece and for that he was rightfully rewarded. Reason 3: The courage to choose a newcomer like Lupita Nyong’o The race for best actress – both in supporting and leading role – was certainly not as fierce as the race in the male category. Nevertheless, the Academy could have picked “easier”; after winning the trophy while stumbling to the podium last year, Jennifer Lawrence has become America’s super sweetheart. With American Hustle taking home so many nominations, she would have almost been the obvious choice to give the movie a little bit of love and not completely shunning it after teasing a big night with 10 nominations. It would have been a safe choice which would have been a classic Academy play. But this time, they actually chose to be more courageous and give the award to the most deserved supporting act of 2013. Lupita Nyong’o’s role as Patsy in 12 Years A Slave was awesome, intense and real. Seeing her being raped at night, whipped during the day for wanting to be clean and while still delivering employee-of-the-month performances on the cotton field day after day was the most raw depiction of the injustice of slavery. Bravo to the Academy for awarding that and congratulations to Lupita. Reason 4: Giving the Oscar to McConaughey instead of DiCaprio I admit that I was rooting for Leo and that I was hoping for a political award this time around. Also truth to be told, I had more “fun” watching The Wolf of Wall Street than Dallas Buyers Club but let’s be real here, the former was just a kickass ride. Yes, it was a contemporary topic and Leo acted the hell out of the Jordan Belfort character. But McConaughey really “method-acted” his character Ron Woodroof, he lost weight to an almost life-threatening low weight to really look like an AIDS patient. And in his role, he did depict the brokenness of a formerly tough Texas cowboy in the utmost raw form (remember the scene of him crying in the car). And even if I’m sure to watch Leo again once the movie comes out as the Directors Cut, McConaughey’s performance was the more important one. It reminded us that there was a time when society didn’t know how to handle AIDS both from a medical but also from a humane side. And yes, there was a time when HIV was directly associated with careless homosexual (mis)behavior. In some parts of America and other western societies times have changed but there is still a lot of work to do until homosexuality is accepted as a standard way of living. And this movie along with McConaughey’s performance reminds us that we have made some progress since the 1980s but that we still have work to do. That’s why he did deserve the Oscar for this year, but Leo did deserve it for his cumulative acting performances in the past years. But his time will come, I mean look at his mentor Martin Scorsese, he was denied the Oscar for the undeniably best gangster movie of all time just be awarded for an excellent but not decade defining gangster movie The Departed. Keep acting Leo… Reason 5: Gravity wins almost every category it was nominated in The Oscar night of 2014 had three strong contestants with one clear winner – Gravity. 12 Years A Slave won 3 of its 9 nominations with the heavyweight title “Best Picture” and the 2 rather important and prestigious Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay – all of them were highly deserved. American Hustle went into the race with a stunning 10 nominations, and was completely shunned at the Awards – also completely deserved in my mind. Gravity went into the night also with 10 nominations and came out with an astonishing 7 Golden Boys which makes this film the clear winner of Oscar 2014. And this was reward for a 5 year project which changed the way technology is used in cinema. The cinematopgrahy was amazing; the beautiful shots of Earth, the way how space was used to create a notion of distance and the amazing no-cut shots in the beginning were really impressive and this year’s best effort in the category. Granted that winning the Editing prize for making the shortest movie could be regarded as cheating but I did in fact feel that the 90’ish minutes went by in no-time and all elements of the film were put together in the perfect sequence with the right length; the other contestants did do a good job but Alfonso Cuarón (yes, he also did the Editing) together with Mark Sanger did an amazing job here. With regards to the Music, it would be hard for to make an objective comparison as I haven’t seen any other of the contestants (even though I would have thought Inside Llewyn Lewis would have had a fair shot here) but I did think that the music in Gravity was used quite effectively to create suspense, tension and “freedom”. Looking at the award for Production Design, it is a tough choice; in this particular category, I do actually think that American Hustle was worthy of a trophy as the depiction of the 1970s was really well executed – starting from big hair over big suits to staying at the discotheque. Gravity did obviously aim at something different but did an equally great and unique job at creating the notion of space. And maybe that uniqueness gave it the edge of American Hustle. Coming to the most obvious winners of Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects; I don’t think they need further explanation or justification. The sound was one of the best weapons in this movie, with its help the notion of space was even more effective than only through pictures. And well visual effects is a clear choice, just the fact that Clooney and Bullock had their faces inserted to the floating space suits after the fact is already amazing enough to award the movie with the trophy….So in a nutshell (which this article clearly wasn’t), my hats off to the crew who brought Gravity from vision to the screen, you did some amazing work and deserve all the credit in the world… Share this:TweetShare on TumblrPocketMore One Response The reviewer's reviewer March 5, 2014 Nice summary…. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.