2014 Oscars: And the Winners Are…

How did one of the most poorly reviewed Oscar contenders of the year win almost as many statues as one of the most acclaimed?

If you’re going by the numbers, the fact that The Great Gatsby won two Academy Awards while 12 Years a Slave won three (and both were bested by Gravity, which won seven) seems like a travesty. After all, Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel, with its laconic Jazz Age splendor, was noted for its glorious visuals—and little else. 12 Years a Slave, on the other hand, was the package deal: a terrific screenplay, riveting performances, top-notch craftsmanship, clear-eyed directing. What happened?

As expected, Gravity cleaned up in cinematography, editing, sound, and visual effects. Two of the three craft categories it didn’t win—costumes and production design—went to The Great Gatsby. (Did you really think the Academy was going to give an Oscar to a Jackass movie?) That meant 12 Years a Slave was left to duke it out in the big categories: writing, acting, directing, and best picture. It won two of the awards for which it was nominated, but just as this was the year of Lupita Nyong’o among the women, it was the year of McConaughey among the men. That left most of the principals on 12 Years a Slave raking in awards—except for Chiwetel Ejiofor. Ejiofor, a brilliant British actor in a once-in-a-lifetime role, was nominated for every major award but won almost none of them. (Peter O’Toole didn’t win for Lawrence of Arabia.) Ejiofor has every right to feel robbed.

The Academy loves an all-American hunk who can transform himself for a role, and McConaughey’s evolution from charismatic pick-up artist in an indie stoner flick to respected lead in a heavy drama makes a great story. His name recognition certainly didn’t hurt.

With Gravity wowing us technically and 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club speaking to our conscience, no single film summed up the year.

Number of Awards, by Film
20 Feet from Stardom – 1
– 1
Blue Jasmine – 1
Frozen – 2
The Great Gatsby – 2
Dallas Buyers Club – 3
12 Years a Slave – 3
Gravity – 7

Best Short Film, Animated
Mr. Hublot

Best Documentary Short
The Lady in Number 6 Music Saved My Life 

Best Short Film, Live Action

Best Animated Feature

Best Documentary Feature
20 Feet from Stardom

Best Foreign Feature
The Great Beauty, Italy

Best Music (Original Song)
“Let It Go” from Frozen

Best Music (Original Score)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Dallas Buyers Club 

Best Costume Design
The Great Gatsby

Best Production Design
The Great Gatsby 

Best Cinematography

Best Film Editing

Best Sound Editing

Best Sound Mixing

Best Visual Effects

Best Original Screenplay

Best Adapted Screenplay
12 Years a Slave

Best Supporting Actor
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club  

Best Supporting Actress
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Best Actor
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club 

Best Director
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave