The 86th Academy Awards (2014) Review

Broadcast March 2 2014 on Sky Oscars and Sky Living in the UK

Pharrell wore a MASSIVELY WEIRD hat, J-Law did her now-customary tumble, Cate Blanchett dressed like Gozer as if in some odd tribute to Harold Ramis. Somewhere in the mix some awards were handed out too. Yup, that was the 86th Academy Awards of 2014 that was.

I've posted the BFI's neat summary of the awards nominees and winners at the bottom of this news piece but here are the highlights; the righteous wins, major gaffs and other grotesque crimes against culture and sanity that made up the 2014 Oscars:

  • The Academy did a kind of 'technical/artistic' divide, for better or worse. Alfonso Cuaron went home with the best director award for Gravity, whilst Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave took best film.  Cuarón’s prize for best director made him the first Latino filmmaker ever to win the award. Personally I expected this even if I find the split and the categories odd. But then I've been finding many of the Oscar category criterion/boundaries blurry recently- for example VFX versus cinematography award criteria, especially in the case of a film like Gravity that is essentially one giant digital effect.

  • It was really Gravity's night despite the prestige rightfully heaped on McQueen's film at the very end. Cuaron's film carried off seven Oscars, including Best Director, Best Soundtrack and Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Editing and Best Visual Effects (basically if it had 'editing' in the award title Gravity took it). Given how blown away I was by the film as an overall visual and audio experience, I find it hard to disagree with those choices even if I find splitting the best director and film awards an odd move. McQueen I think probably deserved both of the big gongs….

  • ...Which meant American Hustle was the big film to finally ran out of steam here, squeezed out at the final hurdle by the two big beasts mentioned above. David O'Russell's film, which I personally enjoyed though was not really stunned by in any particular area, was nominated in many of the big categories but ultimately walked away pretty much empty handed. This makes it the first film to be nominated but lose out in all four acting categories since  Sunset Blvd. in 1951.
  • Also tramping off home with little beyond a slice of Ellen Degeneres's pizza (see below), were Nebraska, Philomena and Captain Phillips.

  • McQueen may not have got best director, but newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, who played Patsy in McQueen's drama, saw off Jennifer Lawrence to take Best Supporting Actress and put another feather in that film's cap. A case of the Academy getting it right in my humble view. Lawrence has, and will do, better and more challenging work.

  • Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey made it a double for their supporting and main acting roles respectively in Jean-Marc Vallee's drama Dallas Buyers Club. Not an unexpected result, but I personally found the acting was far better than the actual feelgood/issues-type film that was constructed around the cast, and overall the film is problematical for me in all sorts of ways. The fact that Leto was cast as a transgender character as opposed to an actual trans actor- another case of Hollywood using heterosexual male actors to play gay/trans or other minority characters on screen - will continue to cause controversy amongst many viewers. Leto also dedicated his win to the people of Ukraine, which Im sure they will really find useful. My own preferences were for Chiwetel Ejifor (12 Years) and Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) to take those gongs. Hadley Freeman won't be forgiving the Buyers Club duo for crimes against tuxedo fashions though.

  • Cate Blanchett's best actress win for Blue Jasmine was widely expected, and probably deserved. No matter how I racked my noggin I never really saw which of her rivals, be they Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Judi Dench or Sandra Bullock, were going to stop her.

  • WTF moment no.1 for me was The Act of Killing not taking best documentary feature as anticipated. That award went to the US documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom. Act of Killing director Joshua Oppenheimer remained upbeat about the impact his film is having in its real life setting of Indonesia.  
  • Im still seething over The Coen's Brother's Inside Llewyn Davis barely receiving any nominations and going home with none.
  • Paulo Sorrentino's Great Beauty won Best Foreign Language film. I really need to see it, don't I? Surely I can find the £3.50 BFI Player demands for renting it.
  • Bill Murray had a nice tribute for the recently deceased director/actor/screenwriter Harold Ramis, which he squeezed into his presenting duties for the cinematography award with Amy Adams on stage:
Bill Murray gives respect to Harold Ramis at The Oscars 2014. Http://


  • Maybe my Sky reception cut out, but I seem to recall coming back from a commercial break and the camera was focused on Ellen on stage holding a guitar. Did she play a musical number, which I missed? All I saw was her put the damn thing down and carry on as if nothing had happened.
  • Nothing for Leo. Do all the coke off the backs of hookers, throw as many dwarves as you want, Wolf of Wall Street still turned out to not be the film to take you over the top poor sir. Leonardo DiCpario has never won an acting award at the Oscars despite four nominations.
  • Ellen's selfie (which Kevin Spacey proudly photobombed in an apparently successful effort to overload his own website too) crashed the internet or something. The Oscar producers came meme and retweet ready this year, even if Degeneres was something of a safe pair of hands. Twitter, Photo sharing, hashtags, a slight edge of social media fuelled improv were laced into the proceedings.

  • Oh and Benedict Cumberbatch photobombed U2, I thought this was a photoshop job (the paranoid part of me still does).

Final Awards List: (from BFI)

Best Picture

Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers

Steve McQueen on 12 Years a Slave at a press conference at the BFI London Film Festival
American Hustle
Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon, Producers

Captain Phillips
Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers

Dallas Buyers Club
Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers

Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers

Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers

Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers

Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers

The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers


Winner: Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón on the red carpet for the premiere of Gravity at the BFI London Film Festival
American Hustle
David O. Russell

Alexander Payne

12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueen

The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese

Actor in a Leading Role

Winner: Matthew McConaughey
Dallas Buyers Club

Christian Bale
American Hustle

Bruce Dern

Leonardo DiCaprio
The Wolf of Wall Street

Chiwetel Ejiofor
12 Years a Slave

Actress in a Leading Role

Winner: Cate Blanchett
Blue Jasmine

Amy Adams
American Hustle

Sandra Bullock

Judi Dench

Meryl Streep
August: Osage County

Actor in a Supporting Role

Winner: Jared Leto
Dallas Buyers Club

Barkhad Abdi
Captain Phillips

Bradley Cooper
American Hustle

Michael Fassbender
12 Years a Slave

Jonah Hill
The Wolf of Wall Street

Actress in a Supporting Role

Winner: Lupita Nyong’o
12 Years a Slave

Sally Hawkins
Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence
American Hustle

Julia Roberts
August: Osage County

June Squibb

Writing - Adapted Screenplay

Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Screenplay by John Ridley

Before Midnight
Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

Captain Phillips
Screenplay by Billy Ray

Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

The Wolf of Wall Street
Screenplay by Terence Winter

Writing - Original Screenplay

Winner: Her
Written by Spike Jonze

American Hustle
Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

Blue Jasmine
Written by Woody Allen

Dallas Buyers Club
Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

Written by Bob Nelson

Animated Feature Film

Winner: Frozen
Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho

The Croods
Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson

Despicable Me 2
Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri

Ernest & Celestine
Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner

The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki


Winner: Gravity
Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grandmaster
Philippe Le Sourd

Inside Llewyn Davis
Bruno Delbonnel

Phedon Papamichael

Roger A. Deakins

Production Design

Winner: The Great Gatsby
Catherine Martin (Production Design); Beverley Dunn (Set Decoration)

American Hustle
Judy Becker (Production Design); Heather Loeffler (Set Decoration)

Andy Nicholson (Production Design); Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard (Set Decoration)

K.K. Barrett (Production Design); Gene Serdena (Set Decoration)

12 Years a Slave
Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Alice Baker (Set Decoration)

Costume Design

Winner: The Great Gatsby
Catherine Martin

American Hustle
Michael Wilkinson

The Grandmaster
William Chang Suk Ping

The Invisible Woman
Michael O’Connor

12 Years a Slave
Patricia Norris

Film Editing

Winner: Gravity
Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger

American Hustle
Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten

Captain Phillips
Christopher Rouse

Dallas Buyers Club
John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa

12 Years a Slave
Joe Walker

Sound Editing

Winner: Gravity
Glenn Freemantle

All Is Lost
Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns

Captain Phillips
Oliver Tarney

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Brent Burge

Lone Survivor
Wylie Stateman

Sound Mixing

Winner: Gravity
Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

Captain Phillips
Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson

Inside Llewyn Davis
Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Lone Survivor
Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

Visual Effects

Winner: Gravity
Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould

Tim Webber discusses the visual effects for Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds

Iron Man 3
Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick

The Lone Ranger
Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier

Star Trek Into Darkness
Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Foreign Language Film

Winner: The Great Beauty

The Broken Circle Breakdown

The Hunt

The Missing Picture


Makeup and Hairstyling

Winner: Dallas Buyers Club
Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Stephen Prouty

The Lone Ranger
Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

Music - Original Score

Winner: Gravity
Steven Price

The Book Thief
John Williams

William Butler and Owen Pallett

Alexandre Desplat

Saving Mr. Banks
Thomas Newman

Music - Original Song

Winner: “Let it Go” from Frozen
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

“Alone Yet Not Alone” from Alone Yet Not Alone
Music by Bruce Broughton; Lyric by Dennis Spiegel

“Happy” from Despicable Me 2
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams

“The Moon Song” from Her
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze

“Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson

Documentary Feature

Winner: 20 Feet from Stardom
Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers

The Act of Killing
Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen

Cutie and the Boxer
Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher

Dirty Wars
Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill

The Square
Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer

Documentary Short Subject

Winner: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed

Jeffrey Karoff

Facing Fear
Jason Cohen

Karama Has No Walls
Sara Ishaq

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
Edgar Barens

Short Film - Animated

Winner: Mr. Hublot
Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares

Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden

Get a Horse!
Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim

Shuhei Morita

Room on the Broom
Max Lang and Jan Lachauer

Short Film - Live Action

Winner: Helium
Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)
Esteban Crespo

Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras

Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari

The Voorman Problem
Mark Gill and Baldwin Li


Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.