Academy Awards steps up from last year

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres hosted the 86th Academy Awards on March 2. Photo courtesy of

Sandy Cho, News Editor

This year, the stage of Dolby Theaters was filled with plastic gold statues of the Academy Award trophies. Movie stars, dressed to the nines in sparkly designer gowns and suits, announced the nominees. An envelope was carefully opened, breaths were held and when the name was announced, the theater exploded in cheers.

Whether a teary acceptance speech from a first-time winner or an endearing delivery by a veteran follow suit, no one can deny that the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, is one of Hollywood’s biggest nights. This year, the 86th Oscars took place on March 2.

After Seth MacFarlane’s eyebrow-raising hosting gig from last year incited criticism, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) played it safe this year with the likeable TV show host Ellen DeGeneres, seven years after she first hosted the awards in 2007.

DeGeneres brought her infectious energy and feel-good humor to the stage this year, though she surprised us with snarky jabs at Liza Minelli and the AMPAS during her monologue.

However, she surpassed expectations with her wholesome fun, taking a selfie with powerhouse actors, actresses and Lupita Nyong’o’s brother that became the most retweeted tweet, ordering three boxes of pizza for the famished audience and changing her wardrobe multiple times, including a frilly pink gown as Glinda, the good witch from the musical “Wicked,” and sleek black and white suits.

This year, the musical performances mainly included popular hits that constantly played on our radios. Pharrell Williams riled the crowd with the contagiously exciting “Happy,” from “Despicable Me 2,” while dancing with actresses Amy Adams, Nyong’o and Meryl Streep. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend performed the haunting “The Moon Song” from “Her” and U2 sang “Ordinary Love” from biopic “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.”

Despite the name blunder by John Travolta, Idina Menzel belted the popular “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” Both the movie and song received Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song, allowing one of the composers, Robert Lopez, to join the “EGOT” club, due to receiving all four major entertainment awards: the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.

In addition, many films received well-deserved accolades, such as “The Great Gatsby” for both costume and production design and “Gravity” for visual effects, cinematography, film editing, original music score, sound mixing and editing and directing for Alfonso Cuaron.

The show also commemorated the class 1937 film “Wizard of Oz” as singer P!nk, dressed in a gorgeous deep red gown similar to the color of Dorothy’s legendary red shoes, paid tribute with a moving “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Many of the results stayed true with the predictions made by media sources, such as New York Times and Yahoo. As expected, “12 Years a Slave” picked up Best Movie and Matthew McConaughey received Best Actor for his powerful performance in “Dallas Buyers Club,” dramatically losing around 40 pounds for the movie, over strong contenders Chiwetel Ejiofor and Leonardo DiCaprio. However, many fans of DiCaprio expressed disappointment on social media as they had hoped DiCaprio would finally receive the elusive award after the actor’s five Oscar nominations throughout the years.

Despite the tight race between Jennifer Lawrence and Nyong’o for Best Supporting Actress, Nyong’o walked away with the award for her evocative performance in “12 Years a Slave.”

The show ultimately came to a clean end as the cast of “12 Years a Slave” celebrated on stage with their Best Picture win, before the roll of ending credits and sweeping orchestration, unlike the mess of MacFarlane and Kristin Chenowit’s “loser” song and dance performance that ended last year’s ceremony.

This year was a vast improvement under DeGeneres’s aegis. With her charm and powerful presence in social media among the younger generation, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her again as host for next year’s Oscars.