March 2, 2014


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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After a campaign that’s felt so long it seems like there should be a presidential inauguration at the end of it, here we are.  The 86th Academy Awards are about to begin, and while tedium is inevitable (Ellen DeGeneres, although certain to be less obnoxious than last year’s Seth MacFarlane, isn’t exactly a fount of innovation and excitement, and the theme for the night is “heroes,” yawn), there are some genuinely wide open major races to keep us interested.  For the record, our predictions are here, and our confidence level in them is less than overwhelming.  Let’s have some upsets!

5;31:  There’s something vaguely creepy about those android Oscars behind Ellen.

5:34:  Ellen is doing exactly the middle-of-the-road monologue the Academy wanted.

5:38:  Of course, the line can be blurry between “middle-of-the-road” and “toothless”

5:40:  OK, points to Ellen for that 12 Years joke.  A very sharp end to the monologue.

5:42:  Things kick off with a big but not surprising win for Jordan Catalano.  The bigger question:  how long will Leto’s acceptance speech be?

5:46:  The audience didn’t dare play him off.  Not as long as at the Spirit Awards yesterday, though.

5:48:  Children, there was a time when Jim Carrey was actually funny.

5:50:  An ABC broadcast featuring mostly Disney animated clips within the show’s first half-hour.  Who would have imagined?

5:51:  Pharrell should have done the song wearing his red carpet shorts.

5;58:  Probably meaningless, but American Hustle would have liked to win Costume Design.

6:00:  The Academy dodged the bullet of having to give an Oscar to either Bad Grandpa or The Lone Ranger.  Dallas Buyers Club already has 2 Oscars, and virtually certain to take a 3rd.

6:03:  Is there some connection I’m missing between Harrison Ford and any of these movies he’s introducing?

6:11:  Let’s just think about how beautiful Kim Novak was in her classic movies.  And be nice.

6:13:  First upset in Oscar pools around the nation:  Mr Hublot beats Disney’s Get a Horse!, which was attached to every screening of Frozen for the past 3 months.

6:14;  But no worries, Frozen takes its own prize.

6:21:  Please let these “hero” montages end.

6:22:  if Gravity had lost Visual Effects, the space-time continuum might have ruptured.

6:24:  Right now might be the highlight of the night for Her fans.

6:32:  There was no real favorite for Live Action Short, so Helium was as likely a winner as any.

6:34:  A movie about a 110-year old Holocaust survivor.  Instead of The Lady in Number 6, they should have just titled it Give Us The Oscar Now

6:39:  The enjoyable 20 Feet From Stardom beats the upsetting Act of Killing for feature Documentary.  Does that mean anything for Best Picture?

6:43:   It’s not really a bad thing that the Honorary Oscars are reduced to a handy montage.

6:50:  Despite all the buzz that an upset could happen in Foreign Film (The Hunt or Broken Circle Breakdown), the Great Beauty won as expected.  A deserving win, too.

6:51:  Tyler Perry is appearing on the Academy Awards.  This just seems wrong.

6:54:  Brad Pitt is introducing U2’s Mandela song.  Because Harvey Weinstein could only get one favor from the Pope.

6:57:  For a minute, it looked like Bono was going to do the Vegas version of the Mandela song.

7:03:  Ellen is an awfully… busy host.

7:04:  Hey, Michael B. Jordan–the good news is you get to be on the Oscars.  The bad news is that the technical awards are  the annual bathroom break portion of the telecast.

7:10:  We’ve reached the Gravity part of the evening.

7:15:  12 Years takes a huge step with the win for Lupita Nyong’o.  Jennifer Lawrence shrugs and figures she’ll pick up her next statue in a year or two.

7:20:  It’s the year of the pizza gag Oscars.

7:24:  And actually, the Academy President speech is a good time for a snack.

7:28:  Good on Bill Murray for getting a jump on the In Memoriam segment for Harold Ramis.  And another technical award for Gravity.

7:35:  Pink wasn’t the obvious choice for Over the Rainbow, you have to give them that.  Anne Hathaway, who’s supposed to play Judy Garland in a bio one of these days, must be wondering where her call went.  

7:39:  Other 1939 movies not honored:  Stagecoach, Dark Victory, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, and of course that year’s Oscar winner, Gone With the Wind.

7:44:  Whatever else you can say about Baz Luhrmann, he does get his wife to the Oscar podium.

7:47:  …and we’re back to the completely unnecessary Heroes montages.  Because otherwise the night would have been too brief.

7:54:  Glenn Close is this year’s Grim Reaper.  James Gandolfini gets the 1st slot, anchor goes to Philip Seymour Hoffman.

7:56:  Did we really need a montage of the dead AND the sad Bette Midler song?  We get it, people died.  Let’s move on.

8:09:  Let It Go:  the average age of Oscar viewers just dropped 3 decades.

8:16:  Another Gravity win.

8:18:  All those 13 year olds are very, very happy, as Let It Go takes the Oscar.

8:25:  12 Years has its 2d award with Adapted Script.  The question is what happens from here.

8:27:  Yay for Her!  Even though I predicted American Hustle, which now has the very real chance of walking away without a single win tonight.

8:35:  The entire audience is very happy that Sidney Poitier made it through that.  Oscar 7 for Gravity, as David O. Russell wonders just what the hell he has to do to get a win.  NBC is now updating every promo for Believe to say “from Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuaron.”

8:37:  Smart, funny speech from Cuaron, and bilingual too.

8:44:  The Cate Blanchett coronation.  And she dared to thank Woody Allen by name.  Plus taking a stand for womencentric films.

8:51:  Kate Hudson must look at Matthew McConaughey’s career over the last few years and wonder where she went wrong.

8:54:  Somewhere McConaughey’s speech became a late-night public access motivational speech.

8:55:  No offense, but they couldn’t do better to give Best Picture than the star of After Earth?

8:58:  The magical final award goes to 12 Years A Slave, the triumph of Oscar seriousness.  Gravity has the most wins but only 1 in a major category, Her ekes out a win, and American Hustle is blanked.


And that, finally, is it!  The long campaign has come to an end, and with this week’s opening of The Grand Budapest Hotel, time for the next saga to start…










About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."