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Records, Milestones and Feats at the 2014 Oscars

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The 2014 Oscars have come and gone. 12 Years a Slave was named Best Picture whereas Gravity won the most honors of the evening. Whether the winners were deserving or not is subjective. What’s not are the facts. And here are a bunch of them I picked up from this Sunday’s ceremony. Yes, I’m a nerd. No, I won’t stop doing this. And the answer why is because I enjoy it.Read on…

  • To get the obvious one out of the way: 12 Years a Slave marked the first time in Oscar history that a movie directed by a black filmmaker (Steve McQueen) won Best Picture.
  • There were five credited producers who won Oscars for 12 Years a Slave, the most since 1998 when Shakespeare in Love stole Steven Spielberg’s Oscar.
  • One of those five producers is Steve McQueen who becomes the first black man to win a Best Picture Oscar. Yea, McQueen’s the man!
  • Another one of those producers is Brad Pitt – who now gets the advantage of calling himself an Academy Award winner. He becomes the third “Sexiest Man Alive” winner to win the Best Picture Oscar in two years (after his buddy George Clooney and Ben Affleck won last year). I bet Steve McQueen is thrilled about that factoid.
  • 12 Years a Slave joins Argo and Crash as the only Best Picture winners in the last 30 years to win three or less Oscars. Interestingly, all three films won Best Picture without winning the Best Director Oscar.
  • Okay, this is silly but 12 Years a Slave is only the third Best Picture winner to have a numeral in its title: The previous two were Around the World in 80 Days and The Godfather Part II. No, It Happened One Night and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest don’t count. Neither does Million Dollar Baby.
  • Gravity is the first film since Cabaret in 1972 to win seven or more Oscars and still not win Best Picture. Cabaret won 8 awards in 1972 but lost Best Picture to The Godfather which, like 12 Years a Slave, won three. Coincidentally, Francis Ford Coppola’s epic also won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and an acting award.
  • Alfonso Cuaron becomes the first Mexican and Latino to win Best Director. I’d like to think his Best Film Editing Oscar was for directing Children of Men.
  • Third time’s not the charm. David O. Russell and Alexander Payne have now registered back-to-back-to-back Best Director losses for their last three films. Russell didn’t win for The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Payne missed for Sideways, The Descendants and now, Nebraska. At least Payne won screenplay Oscars for the first two.
  • Cate Blanchett becomes the first Australian actress to win two Oscars. She previously won Best Supporting Actress in 2004 for The Aviator.
  • Blanchett is the sixth actor to win an Oscar for a Woody Allen film after Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Michael Caine (Hannah and Her Sisters), Dianne Weist (Hannah and Her Sisters, Bullets over Broadway), Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite) and Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona).
  • Blanchett also joins a very small club of actors who have won both leading and supporting acting Oscars. This group includes Ingrid Bergman, Gene Hackman, Helen Hayes, Jack Nicholson, Maggie Smith, Robert De Niro, Jessica Lange, Jack Lemmon, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and most recently Denzel Washington. Mighty fine company!
  • Lupita Nyong’o becomes the ninth Best Supporting Actress winner to win for her film debut.
  • Additionally, as a Kenyan citizen, she’s also the second African actress to win an acting Oscar. The first was South African actress Charlize Theron, who won Best Actress in 2003 for Monster.
  • Dallas Buyers Club is the fifth movie to win both Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey) and Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto) Oscars. The others were three Best Picture winners Going My Way, The Best Years of Our Lives, Ben-Hur, and Mystic River, a Best Picture nominee.
  • All four acting Oscar winners also won at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday. The same four also won at Screen Actors Guild awards and the Critics Choice awards in January. So much for originality! At least the BAFTA decided to mix things up by only handing Blanchett their award.
  • This marks the second year in a row in which character actor Scoot McNairy appears in the year’s Best Picture winner. He played one of the Americans under house arrest in 2012’s Best Picture winner Argo. In 12 Years a Slave, he played one of the two violinists who kidnap Solomon Northup and sell him into slavery.
  • He gets a shot at making it three-in-a-row this year with David Fincher’s Gone Girl.
  • This is the first time since 2009 that three of the four acting winners were first-time nominees. 2005 was the last time when all four winners (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon, George Clooney and Rachel Weisz) were first-time nominees.
  • American Hustle joins Sunset Boulevard and My Man Godfrey as the only films nominated in all four acting categories to go 0-4. It’s also the only film that was nominated in all seven major categories to go home empty handed.
  • After not winning this year, Amy Adams is now 0-5. Incredibly, she’s received her five nominations in the last nine years. The only actresses who have been nominated more than her and never won are Deborah Kerr, Glenn Close and Thelma Ritter. Kate Winslet was the previous actress to hit this nomination count within a similar time frame (6 nods, 11 years). She won on her sixth attempt. Fingers crossed, sixth time’s the charm for Adams.
  • Poor, poor Leonardo DiCaprio is now 0-4. A pessimist will say that he’s halfway there to Peter O’Toole’s all-time 0-8 record but the man still has a long way to go on the loser chain. If it took Al Pacino seven nominations to finally get it, Leo can wait. After all, he goes home every night to a new trophy girlfriend.
  • John Ridley is only the second African-American writer to win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Precious screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher won the same award in 2009.
  • The Gravity technical awards sweep is the biggest haul for a single film since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King did it in 2003.
  • Gravity is the first film since Traffic in 2000 to win the Best Film Editing and Best Director awards but still lose Best Picture. Not coincidentally, that was another split year in which three films (Gladiator, Traffic and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) split all the precursors (Gladiator won the PGA, Traffic won the SAG and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won the DGA).
  • This is the third year in a row that a 3D movie has won the Visual Effects Oscar. Life of Pi won in 2012 while Hugo won it in 2011.
  • More interestingly, this is the fifth year in a row that the Best Visual Effects winner has also won the Best Cinematography prize: Avatar (2009), Inception (2010), Hugo (2011), Life of Pi (2012) and Gravity (2013). Although very few will deny that Emmanuel Lubezki, arguably the best working cinematographer alive, isn’t worthy this year, there were serious concerns in the cinematography community when Avatar, Hugo and Life of Pi were awarded for work that was allegedly mostly visual effects driven.
  • The Great Gatsby was nominated for and won the same number of Oscars as the 1974 Robert Redford version. Like the older film, this too won the Best Costume Design Oscar. I guess some stories are just fashioned for costume Oscar glory.
  • The Great Beauty becomes the 14th Italian film to win the Foreign Language Film Oscar. No other country has won more trophies. France is second with 12 while Spain and Japan are a joint distant third with four wins apiece.
  • By winning Best Animated Feature, Frozen became the first non-Pixar Walt Disney Animation Studios film to win the Best Animated Feature prize since the category was created in 2001.
  • With his Oscar for “Best Original Song,” Robert Lopez becomes only the 12th person in history to join the exclusive EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) club. He’s also the youngest to do so. Previous EGOT winners are Richard Rodgers, Helen Hayes, Rita Moreno, John Gielgud, Audrey Hepburn, Marvin Hamlisch, Jonathan Tunick, Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, Whoopi Goldberg and Scott Rudin.
  • Frozen also becomes the first Disney film to win two Oscars since the studio’s renaissance period in the early 90s which saw twofers for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and Pocahontas.
  • After this year’s Oscars, Roger Deakins, the other greatest cinematographer in the world, is 0-11. Hopes are high that he’ll win the prize next year for his already promising-looking work on Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken.
  • Poor Thomas Newman is batting even worse. He’s now at 0-12, making him the most nominated composer alive who has yet to win an Oscar. Deakins and Newman were most famously nominated together for The Shawshank Redemption in 1994 and again last year for Skyfall.
  • The combined 10 Oscars won by Warner Brothers’ Gravity (7), The Great Gatsby (2) and Her (1) is the most for a studio in a single year since New Line Cinema won 11 for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003.
  • American Hustle’s 0-10 tally puts it in joint second place among Oscar’s biggest losers. It shares that dishonor with True Grit and Gangs of New York. Still, all three trail behind The Color Purple and The Turning Point, both which went 0-11. Ouch!
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