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Backstage at the 86th Oscars

Glenn here. The people who are lucky (or random as Cate Blanchett might say) to win an Academy Award get their moment on the stage and then dive headfirst into a throng of press backstage who proceed to ask them generally innocuous, occasionally offensive, usually bland, nationally-biased questions. This year was no different, but there's usually at least one tasty lil bon mot hidden amongst the winners' videos so while the Academy haven't released the full videos yet, we can still use what we've got to find those anecdotal morsels and quick quips.

All the acting winners, Frozen, Cuaron, Jonze and the make-up artists after the jump...

Cate Blanchett:

This is an auction! I'm for the highest bidder."


The amusing thing about watching these videos where the press are invisible, it really does sound like an auction with reporters holding paddles waiting for their turn to raise them for attention. "Only 86? I'm worth a bit more than that..." Cate was obviously a good sport, but my favourite moment was her foul-mouthed "And don't you f**king forget it!" when one Australian reporter reminded her that she is the first Australian actor to win to Academy Awards.

Steve McQueen & Brad Pitt

Van Halen, 'Jump'"

I'm now picturing Steve McQueen bouncing around his living room listening to Van Halen and playing the air guitar. Lupita could perhaps do the same, but to the Pointer Sisters' "Jump" instead.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine on Facebook recently made the amusing parallel between the "we're just like you! we eat pizza! we take selfies!" theme of the ceremony - and basically celebrity life in general these days, thank you Ms Lawrence - and those humorous TV specials where they would let cameras into their home. Remember Mommie Dearest and the Christmas TV special scene? Or this immortal, hilarious Brenda Dickson video from 1987. Brad Pitt's "I picked up dog poop" is basically that. Anne Hathaway really was born into the wrong era of Hollywood.

Lupita Nyong'o

I felt quite fabulous."

As one would when Liza Minnelli gives them a "bear hug" (an extremely odd moment, but I'm just glad Liza didn't have to give away her Oscar to Matthew McConaughey like she'd promised!) I am dying over her "I think it belongs to me!" after a reporter rather puzzlingly refers to Lupita as "one of [Mexico's] own... How much of this triumph belongs to the Mexican people." I am baffled. Can anybody illuminate any of this? 

Jared Leto

No I'm not done yet!"

Within seconds of getting to the press room stage Jared was thanking his publicist whom he had forgotten in his speech (dedicating awards to mothers can do that to a person, getting all caught up as they do) and passing his statue around to be "fondled" by the press gallery. Whereas Cate likened the atmosphere to a auction, Jared equates it more to a game of Bingo (hah! Christoph Waltz would giggle). I also liked that somebody asked him about, and allowed Jared to speak to, the make-up artists. Meryl's shout-out for her Iron Lady win remains such a lovely speech moment from recent years. It still bothers me that Charlize never thanked them. LAST THING: Jared was clearly ahead of the curve knowing that "selfie" would be the word of the night.

Matthew McConaughey

McConaissance? I don't know what that is, but it sounds good."

"Go for the experience. What's the personal experience I can get out of this as an actor?" Wise words. I always think back to that incredible 2010 actress roundtable (really, we should always thing about the 2010 actress roundtable) and how Natalie Portman discussed the advice that Nicole Kidman gave her about choosing by the director because even if it doesn't work out you're at least guaranteed an interesting, educational experience. I like that McConaughey here mentioned the likes of Killer Joe and Magic Mike because, as the term "McConaissance" suggests, he wouldn't be up there if it weren't for his choosing interesting directors and interesting roles again.

Alfonso Cuaron

I don't think that there's enough attention being given to amazing expressions of Mexican culture..."

A question later in the Best Director's press conference asked about what the success of Gravity means for the British film industry (remember that seemingly random Best British Film BAFTA citation?), but what I liked most of all was his call for more attention to be paid to Mexican cinema, by Mexicans, about Mexicans. I don't see enough because not all that many find substantial releases, but with directors as exciting as Gerardo Naranjo on the scene one can hope they finally will.

Spike Jonze

The movie speaks for itself"

This video goes for six minutes and 25 seconds, which means that six minutes and 25 seconds to ogle and stare at Spike Jonze. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't even able to concentrate all that well on what the screenplay winner was saying because he is so perfect looking. Sigh, you guys. Sigh. I did notice, however, that all the questions that Spike had to field involved the film, its themes and the creation of its world. Nothing about what hair product he's using or how long it took him to find a tux. Cate was right.

Catherine Martin

My prizes go straight to the pool room."

Poor Catherine was a bit too short for the Oscar press room microphone. Alas, in true Australian style she mentions The Castle and quotes the famous "pool room" gag. Australian through and through! On a more serious note, I also really liked what she had to say about costume design as an artform with fashion, proving that it's not (as some would suggest about her husband's films) just throwing glitz and sequins at everyone, but a delicately honed craft that takes elements from all elements of life and filters it through the visual medium and allows characters to express who they are and what their situation is.

Robin Matthews and Adruitha Lee

We didn't really have any choice."

I am so glad the Dallas Buyers Club make-up and hair people said that when asked how they "make it work". They, as well as everyone else in that industry (well, most) are artists with a job to do. It's not like they or anybody else is deliberately not doing a good job the rest of the time, you know? If you only had $250 then you do the best you can because you really don't have any choice. "They were committed; we were too." I must confess I'm loving these two although you may never look at grits and cornmeal the same way again.

Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho

We watched all the YouTubes"

Their Oscar speech was a perfect example of how to allow all your winners the chance to speak (for instance, do the five visual effects nominees not speak to one another before the ceremony to plan what they'll do?) and they give an entertaining interview. They very casually bypass a question about China, but I enjoyed their response to the Norwegian reporter.

Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares

I might use it to work out."

The Academy Awards' male hotness ranking went something like this: Spike Jonze > Chris Evans > Chris Hemsworth > Joseph Gordon-Levitt (below) > This co-director of Mr. Hublot. Oscar winners have said that they use their statues as doorstops, bookends and various other uses, but I'm not sure I've heard it used as a dumbell for working out. I approve. 

That's all the press room videos that appear to be online although they do exist so we will see them eventually. This Mexican news report that I found features the "Let It Go" songwriter being given an EGOT necklace and so after also giving the funniest speech of the night I am desperate to see their press room footage! I would also really like to see the three men that bounced up on stage for The Great Beauty since they seemed so energetic and fun. 

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Reader Comments (17)

Lupita Nyong'o was born in Mexico City, but she grew up in Kenya.

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Lupita is ethnically Kenyan. But was born in Mexico hence how a Kenyan girl received the name Lupita.

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Regarding the "Mexico" question Lupita fielded: she has dual Kenyan/Mexican citizenship. She was there as an infant, but returned as an adult and spent some time in Mexico. Her name is a derivative of that of the Virgin of Guadalupe and therefore is laden with meaning for all Mexicans. The question was surely one that Lupita should have anticipated and I thought her answer was uncharacteristically ungracious. The Oscar telecast is viewed by people all over the world, many of whom have to stay up to the wee hours to see it because of time differences across the globe. Foreign honorees are few and far between generally. And when a foreigner wins, it is somewhat common place for the winner to graciously acknowledge his country of origin. This year, we had more than a few examples: Sorrentino thanked Naples, Rome; Cate gave a special shout out to Australians and her Australian theater company; Cuaron reverted to Spanish during his speech. I think the AP Spanish journalist was asking an obvious question and was giving Lupita a chance to do the same. It's a shame that she seemed to take the question as an affront when, instead, she could have said something positive about her Mexican connection and perhaps, in doing so, opened some minds about cultural integration for those who have immigrated to Mexico from abroad. Especially in light of her name. The Wikipedia entry for "Our Lady of Guadalupe" summarizes some of the associations that come with Lupita's name and underscore why the question was asked and why her answer was taken the wrong way by some. Here is the relevant portion of the entry:

Guadalupe continues to be a mixture of the cultures which blended to form Mexico, both racially and religiously,[44] "the first mestiza",[45] or "the first Mexican".[46] "bringing together people of distinct cultural heritages, while at the same time affirming their distinctness."[47] As Jacques Lafaye wrote in Quetzalcoatl and Guadalupe, "as the Christians built their first churches with the rubble and the columns of the ancient pagan temples, so they often borrowed pagan customs for their own cult purposes."[48] The author Judy King asserts that Guadalupe is a "common denominator" uniting Mexicans. Writing that Mexico is composed of a vast patchwork of differences – linguistic, ethnic, and class-based – King says "The Virgin of Guadalupe is the rubber band that binds this disparate nation into a whole."[46] The Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes once said that "you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe."[49] Nobel Literature laureate Octavio Paz wrote in 1974 that "the Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery".[50]

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdavide

anyone who has watched a mexican telenovela knows the virgin of guadalupe is a big deal in mexico.
but maybe it was better for lupita not to mention her because people were turned off by matthew thanking god (?). (still don't get that... and I'm an atheist)

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

You forgot Chris Evans in the male hotness ranking :)

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJase

Hey Nathaniel, I love your Oscar posts and there can never be too many! My family and I devour everything on your blog throughout the year--but especially anything about Hollywood's Nigh Holy Night!

I just wanted to make a quick correction on you mentioning the news report about Mr. Lopez winning the EGOT and his wife giving him his (very cute) pasta necklace. The report is Philippine, not Mexican.

That said, thank you so much for your hopes for the future of Mexican cinema--I agree about Gerardo Naranjo and I just know Mexico's first Oscar is just around the corner (after what I believe have been 8 nominations). My husband is a Mexican actor and we were all so happy for Alfonso and 'El Chivo's' awards for Gravity. May they be the first of many to come!

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDebra de Rodriguez

Thanks for these videos, looking for Oscar videos the next day can be an exhausting and endless task.

I felll in love with Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, but her pulic apperances have only made me love her even more, she's such a delight to listen to, I'm going to miss her.
Also, Jared Leto is ten times funnier in this video than in the entire season, what were you waitng for, man?

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

Lupita's reponse was ungracious, the guy above says? Is it ungracious to be blunt when asked a stupid question?

Well, HOW did the Mexican people contribute to her performance in the movie? She was just born there. Her Kenyan father was just visiting Mexico when she was born.

The Oscar statue belongs to her. Just because she's being seen by a billion people doesn't mean she has to let other people take credit for her own work.

I'm sure the Mexican people will live through this.

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

I clearly haven't read enough Lupita pieces since I was unaware of her Mexican birth. But, yeah, I can't imagine her Mexican birthplace playing any part in her performance.

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Maybe it's a cultural thing, but name-checking your country and its people is something that many foreign winners have done even though, obviously, one's birthplace doesn't necessarily determine the greatness of a performance. It's a way of acknowledging the cultures that shaped your life. And it's a way of acknowledging the audiences in those countries for their support of your work. In the context of a show that is heavily USA-centric and that celebrates an industry that has done much to affect (sometimes for the worse) cultures across the globe, shout-outs to foreign nations and their people are pretty standard fare on the rare occasions that a non-US or non-British actor manages to win. Cate did it this year. But so too did many other foreign-born actors.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ybgg4H4zTHo Benigni

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83xAOGOeCJg Bardem

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLjmshg_0Fo Binoche

As for referencing name-checking the Virgin of Guadalupe...she's already made an appearance on the Oscar stage:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gqk-vogchFk (this winner very clearly articulates one reason why it's nice to give a shout-out to foreign viewers: time differences and other access issues make watching the moment of victory something of a challenge in some places)

That is why I don't think the journalist's question was stupid: I think he was giving Lupita an opportunity to send a special shout-out to the people of a country with which she identifies. There were much better ways of answering the question and I think a statement from her during her moment of victory could have provided a powerful message to a country that, like so many others, has a lot of work to do with respect to racism and discrimination based on skin color.

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdavide

Thought it was worth pointing out that Charlize did actually thank her makeup. Check 2:50 of this video:

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe K

Davide, I was born in Mexico and raised there and I totally thinks the question is beyond stupidity.

She had no obligation to mention Mexico because even though she was born there, she grew up in Kenya! Most of her life! She is a Kenyan. If I were born in France, but live most of my life in the States, I would not identify with France. Lupita has acknowledge in many occasions the love she has for Mexico and her culture. Yes, she went back there for a bit to study at the highest national university, yes she speaks Spanish, but she has never said she identifies herself with Mexico over Kenya. If anything, the country she should've mentioned in her speech is Kenya not Mexico. But that is her prerogative, she's not obligated to do it.

Nothing ungracious about her answer. Hell no. The Oscar belongs to her and no one else, let alone not a country! Ha.

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJones

I don't know Lupita so I can't speak for her. But here is what she reportedly said with respect to the question of whether she identifies with Mexico:

"I'm Mexican and Kenyan at the same time," she said, according to El Mañana. "I've seen the quarrels over my nationality, but I'm Kenyan and Mexican at the same time. So again, I am Mexican-Kenyan and I am fascinated by carne asada tacos."

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdavide

This was a fun read and I totally agree on the hotness ranking (I thought I was weird for being madly attracted to Spike Jonze, so you've helped both me and my future therapist).

And I so don't want this to sound like an attack, particularly on you Glenn - but I'm feeling more and more icky about Australians making our Australianness such an event whether it's at the Oscars or across all the film blogs (and possibly other places, I'm shamefully limited in my interests..).

I just cringe every time I hear "that's so Australian of me", particularly about gestures that really have no greater or lesser cultural significance in this country than they do in others. It always sounds to me like we're overcompensating for an inferiority complex.

I should mention however, I am allergic to any hint of national pride from any country.

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran

I agree with what some of you have said about Lupita, I think her answer was not ungracious at all. I always find it childlike (if not childish) and as such slightly embarrassing when people ask questions like this from someone who was born in their country without ever having any cultural connection to the place. I mean, seriously, you cannot expect Lupita to identify as a Mexican in any sense - she left the country when she was 1 yrs old and went back as a teenager for a couple of months to learn Spanish. If that meant something, anyone having spent that much time in any country as a teenager could be expected to identify as partly belonging to that particular culture, but nobody does expect that, and quite rightly so. Her name might be Mexican, but again, it's a Kenyan tradition to name the children after everyday events, so so much for her being called Lupita. If she had spent part of her childhood growing up there, this question would make sense but this way she just couldn't have replied anything else if she wanted to be honest. She might have double nationality, but it doesn't mean she could find any connection between Mexico and her winning this award.

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterprincipessa

oh yes, that co director of mr hublot is HOT!

March 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercraver

The reported could have asked the question in a different way, he had time to prepare for this event. On the other hand she was nervous and most likely was not expecting a question like that.
Is like asking Luis Miguel about Puerto Rico, he spent his life in Mexico, and Lupita spent most of her life in Kenya.
What matters is that she did great!

March 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

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