Ellen DeGeneres hosted the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night in front of 30 million viewers. She was humorous in her personable way, breaking down barriers between actors and regular folks. The Oscars winners were at times surprising, at others poignant, but throughout, Ellen drew in the audience – both live and at home.
Ellen’s humor and sense of style were aimed at offending no one, and including everyone. She began the evening by saying that California was undergoing difficulties – that it’s raining, but “we’re o.k.; thank you for your concern.” She walked up to actors who might otherwise have had staunch faces and involved them – with or without their consent. In most cases, they responded with laughter or at least a smile.
Part of Ellen DeGeneres’s ability to get up close and personal lies in the fact that she knows many of the actors, since she has them on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Another is due to the fact that she understands what it is like to be excluded, a point that was made during her show, Ellen, which ran for four years in the mid-1990s. (See video below where she provides clues to coming out as gay.)
That show was 20 years ago, however, and a lot has changed since then. Ellen DeGeneres has been out as a lesbian since she came out on her TV program in 1997 and she has grown a lot more comfortable in her skin and reaching out to others. Some of her lighthearted jokes while hosting the Oscars reflect that.
Ellen’s decision to include others and give away gifts was exemplified lightheartedly during the Academy Awards. For example, she offered a consolation prize – Lotto scratch tickets – to Bradley Cooper, who didn’t win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in American Hustle.
Another example was classically Ellen DeGeneres: she asked the actors in the audience if they were hungry and said she was going to order pizza. When the pizza was delivered, she came on stage with the delivery man, saying, “I lied. We’re not going backstage.” She then asked him, “Who’s your favorite movie star? They’re here.” After handing out pizza slices, she said she had no money to pay the delivery man. She said to Sandra Bullock, “Sandy, you have a lot of money.” And, then, “Where’s Harvey Weinstein? No pressure – only a billion people watching. Whatever you feel is right.” Later she borrowed Pharrell Williams’ hat and lightheartedly said she thought she’d pass it around and get money for the pizza. When she reached Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar winner for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (12 Years a Slave), Ellen told her, “You just won an Oscar. Your stock just went up.” Whereupon Lupita reached into her bag and put something into the hat. It was her lip balm. Ellen remarked that that would be worth a lot!
Ellen kept the crowd guessing what she would do next. She alternately popped up in the audience, surprising the people sitting in front of her by announcing the next presenter from a seat, and moments later appeared on stage in yet another outfit change. The one that got the most response was the “Glinda the Good Witch of the South” (The Wizard of Oz) which followed Pink’s performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
The antic that took got everyone involved, however, was when she told the audience that she would be “Tweeting throughout the night.” She first said she would take a picture of herself looking at the actors. Several tweets later, she took a photo with a group of actors to post on Twitter. Within two minutes, there were 50,000 re-tweets. After 11 minutes, it was up to 277,000 re-tweets. According to one tweet, she posted “the most iconic photo ever and temporarily broke Twitter.” After 46 minutes, one million people had re-tweeted. And, one hour after the posting, there were two million. She told the audience, “We broke Twitter. It’s back up now.”
Oscars night had moments of extreme happiness , such as when Lupita said that her role and winning have been the joy of her life. It also contained complex emotion, such as when Cate Blanchard won Actress in a Leading Role and appreciated by name all the women who did not win, saying that films with women at the center are not niche, and in fact, they make money. Throughout it all, Ellen DeGeneres set the tone for accessibility and moreover, provided the evening with a host to remember.
Editorial by Fern Remedi-Brown
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