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Some fine Oscar speeches this year

In response to Lupita Nyong’o’s Emotional Acceptance Speech For Winning Best Supporting Actress (Video):

I haven’t paid much attention to the Oscars in years, and maybe this year that was a mistake, because it seems like there were some humble and moving speeches.  A cynic might wonder if Hollywood is getting nervous about audience revulsion toward the arrogance of the entertainment industry, which has a nasty habit of mistaking humble-bragging for humility.  Not so with Lupita Nyong’o, who I thought richly deserved her award.  

It’s hard to argue with Matthew McConaughey winning Best Actor for “Dallas Buyer’s Club,” or indeed quibble with anything the mad genius of the bayou does these days, but as a longtime Chiwetel Ejiofor fan, it’s disappointing to see him miss Best Actor by inches.  The degree to which McConaughey disappears into his complicated role is amazing, and that’s the kind of acting the Academy favors in the modern era – the actor who can make you forget his real name for two hours, even though you just saw it on the marquee.

I must say I think “Gravity” should have won Best Picture over “12 Years a Slave,” though.  Best Picture tends to be a category where the Academy prides itself on forgetting which movie connected better with the wider audience, which one people will still be popping into their home-entertainment systems in five years, although sometimes they do give the nod to a big crowd-pleaser.  

In this case, I tend to think “Gravity” succeeded better as an all-around full-spectrum movie, an experience of incredible immersion, tension followed by exhilarating release.  “12 Years a Slave” was a very good movie on all counts, and certainly belonged in contention, so this is not a matter of Internet-troll-style “the winning movie sucked” sour grapes.  “12 Years” was a terrific showcase for the talents of its actors, but no one could possibly call the experience “enjoyable” or really even “entertaining,” and I’ve always felt those qualities should be associated with the Best Picture winner, at least as a tiebreaker in a close contention between equally fine movies.

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