TIME Oscars

Oscars 2014: Viewership Hits 10-Year High

86th Annual Academy Awards - Show
Ellen DeGeneres onstage during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Kevin Winter—Getty Images

The fun-but-safe show brought in impressive ratings

Sunday night’s Oscars scored 43 million viewers this year — up 2.5 million from last year, according to Nielsen ratings — meaning that Ellen DeGeneres courted the most viewers since Billy Crystal in 2004.

Only NFL playoff games have earned comparable viewership numbers in recent years. The Oscars telecast was the biggest non-sports audience on network television since the 2004 season finale of Friends.

It turns out the awards show is better off erring on the bland side than when they stir up controversy. A wider audience tuned into DeGeneres’ unexciting but fun hosting stint than Seth MacFarlene’s boob-gate Oscars last year, which earned only 40.4 million viewers.

DeGeneres and her writers stayed mostly on the safe side with her jokes, opting for a long bit in which the host distributed pizza to Hollywood starlets over, say, jabs at Leonardo DiCaprio about his sex life. The harshest stab went to Liza Minnelli: “And I have to say, one of the most amazing Liza Minnelli impersonators I have seen in my entire life,” DeGeneres said, as the camera showed the real Minnelli in the crowd. “Good job, sir.”

This year’s show even stayed steady in the finicky 18-49 demographic with a 12.9, down from 13.0 last year — either thanks to or in spite of the incessant Twitter and selfie jokes. Hashtag blessed.

TIME Oscars

Review: Pizza Night at Ellen DeGeneres’ 2014 Oscars

86th Annual Academy Awards - Show
Host Ellen DeGeneres (right) and actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (far left) with pizza delivery man in the audience during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood. Kevin Winter—Getty Images

The 86th annual Academy Awards, hosted by television funnywoman Ellen DeGeneres, was bland and predictable as the host focused more on creating "moments" -- like one heck of an epic selfie -- rather than making jokes, writes James Poniewozik

As a TV show, last night’s was not an exciting Academy Awards. It was not very risk-taking or memorable, and I’d have a hard time coming up with a line from the host you’re likely to remember and quote in years to come, or maybe even tomorrow. Of course, last year’s Oscars did, and that line was “We saw your boobs.” That may give you some idea of what the Oscars were going for, a year after Seth MacFarlane celebrated topless actresses, with second-time host Ellen DeGeneres and a generally friendly but tepid and slack awards-cast this year.

DeGeneres’s most distinctive acts as host were less about making jokes than creating moments. At one point mid-ceremony, she crowded together a gaggle of celebs near the stage–Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Lupita Nyong’o, and many more–for a cheery, crowded group selfie, with the goal of creating the most-retweeted photo ever on Twitter. It worked; the pic blasted through Barack Obama‘s record, collecting millions of RTs in a few hours. And the smartphone, in the outstretched hand of Cooper, happened to be a Samsung–a major sponsor.

It was Oscars in miniature–a little stuffed and crowded, designed to involve the folks at home and show the stars in a good light, not take itself too seriously or make anyone too uncomfortable, and sell a bunch of stuff along the way. Seth MacFarlane saw your boobs. Ellen DeGeneres saw you take a really cool selfie with the Samsung Galaxy!

For a few minutes in the monologue, it looked like DeGeneres might take a different, sharper tone: she and her writers worked up a set of zingers just this side of mean, and maybe on the other side of it, as when she cited Liza Minnelli as “One of the best Liza Minnelli impersonators that I have seen in my entire life… Good job, sir!” She closed with her best joke, which both foreshadowed the predictability of the major awards (a lot of people did really well in their Oscar pools last night) and hinted at their pop-cultural stakes: “Possibility number one: Twelve Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists. And now welcome our first white presenter, Anne Hathaway!”

After the monologue, DeGeneres settled into her comfort zone, which was helping everyone else settle into their comfort zones. She wasn’t a host, like Jon Stewart or Chris Rock in the past, firing barbs from outside; she was a go-between for the viewers at home and the celebrities in the room. Unlike in many recent awards shows, the host didn’t vanish halfway through the awards; she went into the crowd and worked the room, notably with an extended bit in which she ordered pizza for the crowd (or at least those lucky folks down in front).

The running jokes about paying the delivery guy didn’t kill, but like the selfie stunt, the gag created some funny visuals and had the side benefit of letting the Stars Be Just Like Us, chowing down on slices (or at least seeming to get ready to) in front of a pizza-loving America. (Compare that with a really cringe-making pre-Oscar skit by ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, who walked through a TV and lectured a slovenly couple, cheese-puff dust on their fingers, for writing mean tweets about celebrities.)

The whole broadcast, really, was like a party-sized order of standard cheese pizza. You weren’t going to go to your grave craving it. It was a little bland. But nobody actively hates it, and at least there was a lot of it. A whoooooole lot; while the broadcast ran an unfortunately standard three and a half hours, it felt slack and slowly paced by the producers. There were interminable clip jobs of movies from Hollywood’s past. (Don’t like this year’s movies? Hey, you can always rent these!) There was a squishy, vague “Heroes” theme, unassertive policing of winners who ran long at the podium, and momentum-killing productions like Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” after the In Memoriam reel.

But the plain-cheese pie that was the 2014 Oscars did provide a canvas for the toppings, the unpredictable moments created by the stars and newcomers the night is meant to celebrate. Lupita Nyong’o of Twelve Years a Slave gave an absolutely stirring acceptance of her first Oscar for her first movie, honoring the real-life slave woman her character was based on and telling the world audience, “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” Songwriter Robert Lopez–accepting with a dueling-lines speech with his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez–won the real-life version of 30 Rock’s coveted EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards). Singer Darlene Love belted an a cappella acceptance for the documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom. Kevin Spacey won big sheers slipping into the voice of House of Cards’ Francis Underwood, a reminder of the increasing cachet TV carries now even on the movies’ night. And it wouldn’t be Hollywood without at least one head-scratcher: John Travolta, introducing Frozen singer and Broadway star Idina Menzel as–I think?–“Adele Dazim.”

Year after year, the Oscars attempts a feat, bringing a world audience together to see blessings showered on the already blessed and to feel good about it. I can’t say I was wildly entertained by DeGeneres or the show producers built around her. But if they managed to get a crowd at home chuckling at the site of take-out being ordered for a theater of people already going home with platinum goodie bags, they accomplished something. Ellen DeGeneres did not show up at the Oscars to deliver blistering comedy. But at least she delivered pizza.

TIME Oscars

Oscars 2014 Recap: ’12 Years a Slave’ Is King, and Lupita Nyong’o the Princess Bride

Lupita Nyong'o
Lucy Nicholson—Reuters

On a ragged Oscars show, the Best Supporting Actress gave the year's most powerful performance

“It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s,” said Lupita Nyong’o, accepting the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 12 Years a Slave. She paid tribute to Patsey, the doomed, winsome slave she played, and to her director, Steve McQueen, “for putting me in this position. This has been the joy of my life.”

Tears of joy overwhelmed Nyong’o for a second, but she pressed on, emotion not impeding but rather, stoking her eloquence. “I’m certain that the dead [slaves] are standing about you and watching, and they are grateful, and so am I.” She glanced at the award and added, “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that, no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” As she strode off stage to cheers from the Hollywood swells who, six months ago, didn’t know her name — let alone how to pronounce it — she cradled the Oscar like her own newborn.

Among the major awards show, the Academy bash is at a disadvantage. On the Grammy and Tony programs, performers sing the number that got them nominated. The Emmys are at least consistent: TV stars get prizes on TV, and the TV audience watches. But the Oscar winners, the famous ones, are actors who strain for one night to play the public version of themselves — unless a ray of genuine emotion fills this cathedral of self-congratulation, as with Nyong’o’s two minutes in the spotlight. Radiant in her ice-blue Prada gown, with a headband as a talisman of her Kenyan home, she gave testimony that was both nakedly honest and some kind of great acting. No wonder she won. Primed by her work in 12 Years a Slave, the voters wanted to see her give another passionate performance, and she rewarded their faith.

(SEE: Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar acceptance speech)

Good thing, too, for the 86th Academy Awards, which was hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and lasted three-and-a-half hours — or, and just try comprehending this, longer than The Wolf of Wall Street — was a glam but tame affair. Its winners held few surprises for the cognoscenti (i.e., the readers of our Oscar predictions package last week).

McQueen’s scalding antislavery document — and, in a way, the anti-Gone With the Wind — took Best Picture, Supporting Actress and, for John Ridley, Adapted Screenplay. The space-survival drama Gravity won seven awards, most prominently Alfonso Cuarón’s Best Director prize. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto took their expected citations as Actor and Supporting Actor in Dallas Buyers Club, and Cate Blanchett was named Best Actress for Blue Jasmine. Disney’s Frozen received its inevitable awards for Animated Feature and Best Song —”Let It Go.”

(READ: Why Gravity was never going to win Best Picture)
Slave, Gravity, Dallas and Frozen accounted for 15 of the 21 feature-film awards; the others winners, besides Blue Jasmine, were Her for Original Screenplay, The Great Gatsby for Production Design and Costumes, The Great Beauty for Foreign Language Feature and Twenty Feet From Stardom for Documentary Feature. That means a lot of major contenders got nothing but a slice of the pizza that DeGeneres handed out to the more celebrated members of the Dolby Theater audience. Of the nine finalists for Best Picture, five got totally stiffed: a putative frontrunner, American Hustle, plus Captain Phillips, Nebraska, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street. That’s just one reason that the Academy should trim the number of Best Picture nominees from the current bloated nine or 10 to the old svelte five: It would keep the producers of the bottom four or five films from spending millions on Oscar campaigns likely to result in soul-crushing disappointment.

There’s a certain charm in DeGeneres’ pretense that hosting the movie industry’s most watched and important show is no big deal; less charm when the whole enterprise carries the whiff of amateurism. Her call for an all-star selfie, which briefly busted Twitter, was fun (for Twitter), but the pizza-delivery gag quickly turned cold and soggy. The cameras didn’t always pick up the celebrity who needed to be glimpsed at a telltale moment. The film-clip tributes to Heroes, the evening’s theme, were often perfunctory, outshone by the clever or affecting two-minute commercials for GooglePlay, iPad Air, Pepsi and Chobani Yogurt. Oscar commercials are as fancy as Supper Bowl spots but are aimed at the predominantly female viewership; they have more references to movies and fewer kicks in the balls.

(READ: Why Twitter was the biggest Oscar winner)

Dropping the usual opening musical number was a good idea — DeGeneres also refrained from dancing with the stars — since later Pink would be performing “Over the Rainbow” (including the infrequently heard intro) and Bette Midler was to follow the Deceased Artiste photo montage (sadly ignoring Alain Resnais, the great French director who had died at 91 the night before) with “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” The two divas were fine, but Idina Menzel gave a sloppy, overly mannered reading of “Let It Go.” Perhaps she was frazzled when presenter John Travolta, in an almost Olympic feat of dyslexia, announced, “Please welcome the wickedly talented, one and only Adele Dazeem.” Now everyone wants a John Travolta-style name at an awards show.

So one had to go trolling for incidental pleasures, guilty or otherwise: Leto’s pledge of solidarity to viewers in Venezuela (where the broadcast network had dropped carrying the show) and Ukraine; Bill Murray’s elegiac adding to the list of cinematographer nominees “And Harold Ramis for Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day“; cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki’s thanking of his teachers — “not all of them but some of them”; and the acceptance speech of Laurent Witz, the upset winner of Animated Short for Mr. Hublot. (How could we not have urged readers to vote for that wonderful film?) Holding a paper with the names to thank, the director’s hands literally shook with nervous joy. In front of a billion or so viewers, Witz was palsied with pleasure.

Nyong’o, another Oscar novice, was more poised, and even more touching. She gave the finest performance of the young 2014.

TIME

See TIME’s Portraits of the Winning Actors From the 2014 Oscars

Beautiful photographs of the four winners in the acting categories show their craft

The Oscars have come and gone, but these four performances are enduring. Here, find TIME’s portraits of the actors who took home the top prizes at the 86th Academy Awards: Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o.

TIME

Now You Too Can Be In the Celebrity Selfie From the Oscars

Just enable your computer's camera, and you're all set

At the Oscars last night, host Ellen DeGeneres managed to pack more than 10 celebrities into a single selfie. The Internet seemed to realize how impressive that was, because after Ellen posted it on Twitter, it became the most-retweeted tweet of all time.

Seriously, this selfie has everybody: obviously Ellen, and then also Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong’o, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, Channing Tatum, and Jared Leto’s eye.

Feeling left out? We don’t blame you. Luckily, somebody created a handy little tool that allows you to put your own face into the photo. It activates your computer’s camera so you can pose accordingly, or you can upload an old photo. We tested it out, skeptical at first:

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 10.14.35 AM

But see? It looks totally authentic. Now everyone will think TIME reporters attended the Oscars:

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 10.21.14 AM

You can also put dogs in there, which clearly makes it even cooler:

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 10.19.05 AM

(h/t Business Insider)

TIME celebrities

Arby’s Bought Pharrell’s Weird Grammys Hat for $44,000

The 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Pre-GRAMMY Gala And Salute To Industry Icons Honoring  Lucian Grainge - Show
Pharrell Williams performs onstage during the 56th annual GRAMMY Awards Pre-GRAMMY Gala and Salute to Industry Icons honoring Lucian Grainge at The Beverly Hilton on January 25, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. Frederick M. Brown—Getty Images

But which fast food chain will buy the black version he wore at the Oscars?

Arby’s bought the oversized brown fedora that Pharrell Williams wore at the Grammys for $44,000 on Sunday, just before he performed at the Oscars in a black version of the signature Vivienne Westwood hat.

The singer, who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song with Despicable Me 2‘s infectious “Happy,” tweeted:

And the fast food chain responded:

The hat went viral after Pharrell’s Grammy appearance, spawning photoshop tributes and even its own Twitter parody account. Proceeds from the eBay auction will be donated to Pharrell’s nonprofit, From One Hand to AnOTHER, which provides learning and arts resources for underprivileged kids.

TIME Oscars

Who Is Adele Dazeem? Watch John Travolta Flub Idina Menzel’s Name

2014 G'Day USA Los Angeles Black Tie Gala
Actor John Travolta at the 2014 G'Day USA Los Angeles black tie gala at the JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on January 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Paul Archuleta—FilmMagic

Look who's talking nonsense

If you watched Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony and found yourself confused about who John Travolta was introducing to sing the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go,” you’re not alone. Apparently, even Travolta himself wasn’t sure.

Though it was Idina Menzel—who Travolta correctly, but weirdly, described as “wickedly talented”—who was singing the hit song from Frozen, the Pulp Fiction star introduced her as Adele Dazeem. (Adele Dazim? Adela Dazeem? We’re not even sure!) You can watch the flub on this Vine from Modern Family‘s Eric Stonestreet, below:

Luckily, Menzel didn’t let Travolta’s misstep rattle her, as she went on to turn out a “wickedly” amazing performance.

[BuzzFeed]

TIME Oscars

Benedict Cumberbatch is Lord of the Photobomb

Move over, 12 Years A Slave. This was the night's real Best Picture.

Benedict Cumberbatch would like to thank U2 for giving him such an incredible opportunity, and God for giving him the strength to reach for the stars. And the Academy, and his family. Bono, it’s been an honor working with you.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch jumps behind U2 at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood

© Mike Blake / Reuters / REUTERS

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch jumps behind U2 at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California March 2, 2014.

TIME

Watch All the Best Moments from the Oscars in Four Minutes

From the Pizza Delivery to Lupita to Jared, these are the highlights

+ READ ARTICLE

The quick and easy way to recap what everybody will be talking about. You’re welcome, America!

TIME Oscars

5 Reasons Why Twitter Was the Real Winner of the Academy Awards

And it didn't even get a golden statue.

The real winner of the 2014 Academy Awards didn’t get a shiny, golden statue. While we have yet to know how many people were watching the live broadcast, one thing’s for sure: whether they were in couture at the Dolby Theatre or in underwear on their living room couch, everyone was paying close attention to Twitter during the Oscars.

The social network was weaved throughout the ceremony. It was at the center of some of the show’s funniest moments and amused folks at home when things got slow in the 3.5 hour broadcast.

Here are 5 reasons why Twitter won the Oscars:

1. Host Ellen Degeneres turned tweeting into one of her main schticks throughout the show. And for better or worse, it provided some of the broadcast’s best parts. She was taking selfies from the first 15 minutes.

2. At one point, Degeneres decided to get the A+ listers in the front rows with her to take a selfie with her, explicitly to get a lot of retweets. Whether she was joking or not, the photo — featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, half of Jared Leto’s face, and more — almost immediately became the most retweeted tweet of all time.

The photo trumped Obama’s “four more years” tweet after he won the 2012 election (retweeted almost 800,000 times) in minutes. And two hours later, it reached 2 million retweets, and counting.

3. Oscar online buzz got so crazy, that Twitter even broke down. “We crashed and broke Twitter. We have made history,” Degeneres said. “See, Meryl, what we did, you and I?”

4. Twitter lingo was even incorporated into Cate Blachett’s best actress acceptance speech. “Julia, hashtag suck it,” the Oscar winner said to competitor Julia Roberts.

5. Twitter also provided a necessary outlet to viewers who got bored during the 3.5 hour broadcast. Instead of changing the channel, people looked down to their second screen during inevitable slow bits.

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