Red carpet recognition

The 86th Academy Awards ceremony on March 1 was a night to be remembered: host Ellen Degeneres ordered pizza for Hollywood’s finest (which Brad Pitt served on paper plates), Meryl Streep set a record for most Oscar nominations (and for the most retweeted photo on Twitter), Whoopi Goldberg wore ruby red slippers (while P!nk wore a ruby red dress) and, unfortunately, Robert Downey Jr. was nowhere to be seen.

The ballot for this year’s Oscar nominations was as star-studded as it gets, from the aforementioned three-time Oscar winner Streep to Jennifer “I-beat-Meryl-Streep!” Lawrence to Rom-Com actor turned Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey to the 79-years-old Judi Dench. My ballot was barely finished in time for the Oscars, but it didn’t seem to matter much anyway: I only correctly guessed eight out of 18 categories I predicted. Not that each Oscar awarded on Sunday wasn’t well-deserved but some of the announcements left a bitter taste.

Animated Feature
Surprising to no one but disappointing to me, Disney’s “Frozen” took home Best Animated Feature. “Frozen” was a cute children’s movie, but it didn’t offer anything new to the genre. My money was on Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises”. I haven’t seen the film, but everything Miyazaki touches turns to gold, and it didn’t feel like “Frozen” deserved the win.

Writing, Original Screenplay
Unfortunately, this was the only Oscar win for “Her”, a touching film that reminds us what it is to be human. I’m thrilled that “Her” took the Oscar. The writing in that film reflects natural dialogue almost perfectly without sacrificing the integrity of the movie. This was without a doubt the most deserved win of the night.

Writing, Adapted Screenplay
The Oscars were overflowing with adapted screenplays this year, including “Captain Phillips”, “Wolf of Wall Street” and “Dallas Buyers Club”. But “12 Years a Slave” took the win for this category, and rightfully so. Everything about this film’s screenplay will move you to tears – not just the words, but the silence, too.

Cinematography
“Gravity” swept the Academy Awards this year, taking home six Oscars, including Best Cinematography. My bet was on “Nebraska”, since the Academy tends to favor black and white films in this category, but “Gravity” earned its win. It was hands down the prettiest film to come out in the last year.

Costume Design
“The Great Gatsby” took home the Oscar for Best Costume Design. I was surprised “American Hustle” didn’t get the win, but I’m a little biased in that I just think “American Hustle” is a better movie period. This category tends to become a competition of which time period has the most elaborate costumes, and it seems the Roaring Twenties won out over the disco era.

Film Editing
Another statuette went to “Gravity” for Best Film Editing, which I was sorely disappointed over. My money was on “Dallas Buyers Club”. The editors did a great job of balancing scenes that showed the film’s characters as empathetic and scenes that made them seem unfeeling, but I suppose “Gravity” was just as good.

Makeup and Hairstyling
As I predicted, “Dallas Buyers Club” won this category. It amazes me that the makeup department was able to turn McConaughey into an AIDS-stricken cowboy and Jared Leto into a cross-dressing HIV patient. The transformations are simply amazing and wholly deserving of an Oscar.

Music, Original Score
The Best Original Score was a hard pick this year, with Thomas Newman (“Saving Mr. Banks”) and John Williams (“The Book Thief”) both in the running. Apparently, my guess on Thomas Newman’s soundtrack for “Saving Mr. Banks” was wishful thinking: “Gravity” got another win for Steven Price’s soundtrack.

Production Design
Best Production Design was one of the most disappointing categories for me. I was holding out for the futuristic but down-to-earth and completely conceivable setting of “Her” to win this easily, but “The Great Gatsby” got the win. I’m sure the Oscar wasn’t undeserved, but it unsettled me to see the film win two Oscars over the single win of “Her”.

Sound Mixing
Sound mixing, as opposed to sound editing below, is the way in which the audio producers put the audio to the film. Unsurprisingly, “Gravity” stole this category, too. One of the highlights of “Gravity” for me was watching Sandra Bullock careen through outer space with the harsh sound of her gasping for breath the only noise in the theater. It was definitely one of the most deserved Oscars this year.

Sound Editing
Sound editing is often confused with sound mixing, but this category rewards individual sound effects as opposed to the overall audio of the film. In other words, sound editors prepare the audio for the eventual mixing. “Gravity” unsurprisingly took this one, too, but I was holding out for “Captain Phillips”. Getting the sound of a Somalian dingy hitting a freight ship must have been a challenge (though coming up with the sound effects for blowing up the International Space Station was probably a challenge, too).

Visual Effects
“Gravity” was an easy choice for Best Visual Effects. If you haven’t read any interviews with Alfonso Cuarón, the film’s director, you might want to: they had to invent technology to make this movie work. The effects are phenomenal, and “Gravity” was the most beautiful movie I think I’ve ever seen.

Directing
Speaking of Cuarón, he won the sixth Oscar for “Gravity” when he won Best Director. I’m still miffed that Steve McQueen didn’t get the win for “12 Years a Slave”. It would have been nice to see him be the first African American to win in this category.

Supporting Actor
The first Oscar of the night went to Leto for his role as a cross-dressing AIDS patient in “Dallas Buyers Club” and rightfully so. If you only watch “Dallas Buyers Club” for one reason, make it Leto’s heart-wrenching performance.

Supporting Actress
If you haven’t seen Lupita Nyong’o’s acceptance speech for her win in this category, look it up. She dedicated her performance to Patsy, the real slave woman she portrayed in the film based on a true story, “12 Years a Slave”. Her speech – and her performance in the film – moved even Brad Pitt to tears.

Actor
I was rooting for Leonardo DiCaprio in this category for his performance in “Wolf of Wall Street”, but it wasn’t meant to be: McConaughey took the win for “Dallas Buyers Club”. Not that it wasn’t well-earned – he lost nearly 40 pounds for the role – but it hurt to see DiCaprio get passed up for an Oscar win for the fourth time.

Actress
The Best Actress category had an older cast this year that included stars like Streep and Dench, who I had cast my vote for. But Cate Blanchett took the win for her role as a newly divorced woman in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine”. Blanchett’s an excellent actress, and I’m sure the win is well-deserved.

Picture
And finally, as everyone predicted, “12 Years a Slave” walked away with first place: the Oscar for Best Picture of the year. The film definitely earned the win, but don’t pass up the other nominees just because they didn’t catch the final prize: “American Hustle”, “Captain Phillips”, “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Gravity”, “Nebraska”, “Philomena”, “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Her” are all stellar films worth taking the time to watch.

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Rachel Beard

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