We know you've been waiting- here are the Ovation Professional Skills Awards! And the winners are...
Best Speech Overall: Lupita Nyong'o, Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years a Slave Anyone who can start their Oscar speech with an unabashed "YESSSS!" gets points in our book. But there was far more than that that made Lupita Nyong'o the speech of the night. Stunned, emotional, yet still charged with a purpose to her speech, she took her time not only approaching the mic, but in delivering her content. She had clearly rehearsed (good for her), and had only one- ONE!-verbal filler even under the stress of winning an academy award. She made eye contact with those she mentioned, and was confident enough to allow her true feelings to come through with an open smile and a few tears. The audience full of stars was joyfully on her side. Best speech of the night.
The 2014 Outstanding Physicality Award: Christoph Waltz presenting Best Supporting Actress That smile and stride to the mic! That super solid neutral position! That "plant and speak"! (He landed in a nice strong neutral position and took a second before he started to speak.) The wide open gesture when he said "here are the nominees!" Christoph was the shining example of strong confident physicality.
Best Use of Humor: Host Ellen DeGeneres While there were a few funny moments from presenters and recipients alike, we have to give the humor award to Ellen DeGeneres. If there's one thing that can be taken away from Ellen's hosting, it's that when you make your audience comfortable with a bit of humor, they will be completely on your side. It takes a lot to get a bunch of couture-clad celebs to chow down on pizza- unless you've already got them eating out of your palms by being the funny person that you are.
Best Examples of Pitch, Pace, Pause: Whoopie Goldberg presenting a tribue to Judy Garland and the Wizard of Oz Whoopie knows how to use pace and pause to create tension, excitement, and mystery. While Whoopie might not have a gigantic pitch range, it's more than ok! She uses the highs and lows in her natural range to add variety and point up big ideas. She also used a big pause to do something that can keep the audience on the edge of their seats- a reveal. She paused her speech to reveal some wicked ruby slippers under her voluminous gown. Well done, Whoopie.
Best Dominance Over Verbal Fillers: Paolo Sorrentino, Best Foreign Language Film for La
Grande Bellezza Viva Italia! Sorrentino deserves cheers not only for taking home Italy's 11th Oscar (the first in 15 years!), but for the fact that there was barely an ummm, uh, or other verbal filler in a speech that was not in his native tongue. Once again, it was clear that he had put a lot of work in ahead of time to deliver his speech with out stumbling. He could have even slowed down a bit- he was well prepared, and could have let the moment linger.
Best Performance of a Personal Story: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club Jared launched into his story bravely with no introduction by mentioning a young teenage girl growing up in Louisiana. As he allowed the story to slowly unfold, he then revealed that the young girl raising and inspiring two little boys was, in fact, his mother, who was there with him that evening. The audience was putty in his hands.
The 2014 Grace Under Pressure Award: A tie!
Matthew McConaughey, presenting the Best Animated Short Award When Matthew McConaughey and Kim Novak arrived to give the animated short award, Kim Novak was clearly excited to be there, and the audience was excited to see her. In the moment she went a bit off script, riffed about how happy she was to be there, and got lost in her content. But she had no reason to fear, because Mr. McConaughey was at her side. He helped keep the presenting on track, gently guided her closer to the mic when she was drifting, and focused on making her look good by graciously prompting her to present the second award when the time was right. He dealt with the unexpected from his co-presenter and kept things on track. A great example for those presenting in a group.
Charlize Theron, presenting Best Sound Design: When Charlize got lost in her teleprompter, causing her to say "Is that me?", she and Chris Hemsworth went back and forth for a split- second until they figured out to whom the line belonged. Charlize then picked it up with a smile and a laugh. Extra points for adding some humor when the camera came back to them after the clips; when Chris said "and the Oscar goes to...", Charlize snuck in "you did that so much better than me..." A good attitude is always your best save.
Best Award Presenter(s): Angelina Jolie and Sidney Poitier presenting Best Director. After a career that has spanned 60 years, Mr. Poitier's integrity, poise, and credibility still shine through. Angelina Jolies's heartfelt introduction kicked off a stirring moment with a living legend. They weathered a small bobble in their exchange with nothing but grace, demonstrating that, no matter what happens, calm, collected, confidence will get you through.
The 2014 Audience Connection Award: Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Best Song for Let it Go While it's tempting to give this award to Lupita's speech as well, we're going to go with the charming duo of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson- Lopez. The married couple went out on a limb with practiced creativity, rhyming and singing their thanks as they received the best song award. Their theatrical roots were evident in their even pace and focus, winning the room with humor and their open presence. They capitalized on the excitement in the room over Robert's EGOT (yes, this marked his coveted membership in the club of those who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) by allowing their joy through in a way that the audience coulld grab onto and follow along.