Ellen DeGeneres to Host the 86th Annual Academy Awards on March 2
By: Ellis Nassour
The red carpet already rolled out on Hollywood Boulevard, fans have already camped out in prized bleacher locations, and maintenance crews are putting the finishing touches on the giant statue of "Oscar," as Bette Davis according to legend named him, and the elaborate set. The actual 86th Annual Academy Awards get underway Sunday, telecast live from the ornate Dolby Theatre on ABC. The "big show," with its Movie Heroes theme, gets underway at 8:30 and will go into the wee hours. The glittering red carpet fashion show and arrivals begin at 6:30 P.M. locally and 7 P.M. nationally.
Hosting the Oscars is both a prestigious gig and a tough one; but somebody has to do it. And producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron along with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences know that Ellen DeGeneres can; and that she’ll shine. Without a doubt, she won’t be compared to Seth MacFarlane and she will be compared to those Golden Globe gals Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Maybe the Oscars would be a lot of fun if it was a booze-filled party, but things are taken a lot more seriously here.
DeGeneres has her loyal fan base from her daytime talk show and she’s been there, done it, and knows to sidestep issues that get you stuck in quicksand, how to zinging without the sting, and how to delicately, but hilariously burst humongous egos without bruising them.
Who’ll win in the Battle for the Gilded Statuette of the naked man with the sword, is anybody’s guess, but it’s going to be more than a bit anti-climatic after the fatigue of the long awards season that’s including the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and various critics’ associations awards.
American Hustle and Gravity lead in the Best Picture nominations [see Academy Awards Nomination Highlights feature for more details] with 10 nominations each, while 12 Years a Slave follows closely with nine. The Academy changed rules a few years ago bumping up the allowed number of films in the category from five to 10. However, this year, the category only lists nine – an affront to two of the most celebrated films of the year: August: Osage County and The Butler. It’s mindboggling that nominators didn’t find either film worthy of inclusion; or the extraordinary performances of Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, in the latter, nomination worthy.
Okay, so who’ll be handing out those heavy gold-plated statuettes? Joining such stellar old-timers and Golden Age Tinsel Town stars as Glenn Close, Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert De Niro, Sally Field, Goldie Hawn, Harrison Ford, Jamie Foxx, Whoopi Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Murray, Kim Novak, Sidney Poitier, Kevin Spacey, and John Travolta is an A-List of past winners and nominees and those who wish they were. They include Amy Adams, Kristen Bell, Jessica Biel, Jim Carrey, Bradley Cooper, Penélope Cruz, Benedict Cumberbatch, Viola Davis, Zac Efron, Jennifer Garner, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Angelina Jolie, Anna Kendrick, Jennifer Lawrence, Matthew McConaughey, Ewan McGregor, Tyler Perry, Brad Pitt, Gabourey Sidibe, Will Smith, Channing Tatum, Charlize Theron, Christoph Waltz, Emma Watson, Kerry Washington, and Naomi Watts.
Tony-winner Idina Menzel [Frozen; and soon to be back on Broadway in If/Then], Bette Midler, Grammy-winner Pharrell Williams, Karen O, Pink, and U2 will entertain. You can expect tributes to the late Shirley Temple [Black] and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Several special awards were recently presented and will be seen in highlights on the telecast. They include a Lifetime Achievement Oscar to Tony and Emmy-winning Dame Angela Lansbury, presented by Emma Thompson, Geoffrey Rush, and TCM’s Robert Osborne; the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Angelina Jolie, presented by, among others, Gena Rowlands and director George Lucas, saluting her work as a U.N . Goodwill Ambassador and Special Envoy, which has taken her to over 30 strife-ridden countries; Lifetime Achievement Oscar to Steve Martin, who has hosted the Awards three times; and Italy’s innovative costume designer Piero Tosi, who, beginning in the 50s, worked on classics [and earned Oscar nominations] directed by Visconti, Fellini, and Zeffirelli [accepting in his absence was Claudio Cardinale].