Oscar Results 2014

How '12 Years a Slave' Pulled Off Best Picture and

THR's awards analyst Scott Feinberg dissects the 86th Oscar results, the telecast itself and his own final forecast, while offering a few thank-yous as well.Lupita Nyong'o Kevin Winter/Getty Images

THR's awards analyst Scott Feinberg dissects the 86th Oscar results, the telecast itself and his own final forecast, while offering a few thank-yous as well.

As you are presumably aware, the 2013-14 awards season - the longest and most competitive in the 13 years I've been covering this stuff - came to an end Sunday night at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood. Because I've been spouting Oscar opinions, analysis and predictions on this blog ever since the Cannes Film Festival in May, I think that it's only right to now provide you with a full and candid postmortem of the results, my predictions and the show itself. And to share a few thank-yous.

There were nine nominees for best picture, three of which had a real shot of winning: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle and Gravity. Unlike a lot of high-profile pundits, who somehow concluded that the preferential ballot would play to the advantage of Gravity - I never understood their reasoning, since Gravity is at least as love-hate as 12 Years - I never really wavered on 12 Years since seeing it for the first time at its Telluride Film Festival world premiere back in September. Why? Because it is an extremely well-made, well-acted, powerful film, derived from revered source material about historical subject matter that still applies to the world in which we live today. In short, it is "important." And that description can be applied to a lot more best picture winners than "3D sci-fi movie" or "period piece dramedy." (There has never been an instance of the former, and the last instance of the latter came 36 years ago, when Woody Allen was the new kid on the block.)

This argument is not intended to diminish in any way Gravity, which was my favorite film of 2013, or American Hustle, which was made by the most exciting writer-director working today and a killer cast. It is just a reflection of reality. Gravity was this year's Avatar, Hugo or, most aptly, Life of Pi, another 3D, effects-driven epic that dominated the tech categories and grabbed best director but ultimately lacked the gravitas necessary to bag the top prize. And American Hustle was this year's Silver Linings Playbook - a fun film that scored almost all of the major noms it could have hoped for and had its best shot at recognition in a performance by Jennifer Lawrence and a script by David O. Russell. Last year people fell in love with J-Law, so she won, and Russell came up a little short. This year they fell in love with Lupita Nyong'o - as I'm relieved I recognized before it was too late - so she won, and Russell came up a little short again. Zero-for-10 is not a fate this film deserved, topped - or bottomed? - only by The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1985), which both went 0-for-11.

But back to 12 Years a Slave. Too many wannabe psychoanalysts labeled the Academy - because its members are predominantly old white men, and because some didn't wish to subject themselves to an extremely upsetting moviegoing experience - as racist. That's BS. Hollywood hasn't attracted the ire of conservatives for nothing: It's a town that has always had a real social conscience that has been ahead of most of the rest of American society when it comes to difficult social issues. I'm sorry, but just because Brokeback Mountain didn't win the best picture Oscar eight years ago doesn't mean that isn't the case. (It lost to Crash, for God's sake.)

As was universally expected, Gravity's Alfonso Cuaron did top 12 Years' Steve McQueen in the best director contest, largely because he bit off the most of any of the nominees and managed to chew it very well. Consequently, we have now had back-to-back best picture/best director "splits" for the first time since the Oscars honoring the films of 1951 and then 1952 - but that's just a statistical fluke. Splits aren't nearly as rare as some have insinuated; in 24 of the 86 years of Oscar history - 28 percent of the time - the prizes have gone to different films.

Meanwhile, Dallas Buyers Club - thanks to the performances and sheer likability of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, who won everywhere this year except at the BAFTA Awards - became only the fifth film to ever claim both the best actor and best supporting actor Oscars. They join some pretty impressive company: best picture winners Going My Way (1944), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and Ben Hur (1959), plus fellow best picture nominee Mystic River (2003). Interestingly, Dallas Buyers is the only one of those five films that did not also receive a best director nomination - although its director, Jean-Marc Vallee, was nominated for best film editing (under the pseudonym "John Mac McMurphy"), which none of the other four can claim.

It's a shame that Leonardo DiCaprio, who gave a performance for the ages in The Wolf of Wall Street, lost for the fourth time in 20 years and remains Oscar-less. But Leo has already established himself as one of the all-time greats, and I have no doubt that he will be back in "the game" - and win it - before long. He's just gotta pick better years in which to be - to borrow Paramount's great promotional keyword - "awesome." So far he's come up against the steamrollers that were Tommy Lee Jones for The Fugitive (1993), Jamie Foxx for Ray (2004), Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland (2006) and now McConaughey. That's just rough.

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