Though Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire called this year's Academy Award nominee field one of the "tightest, toughest" he's ever seen, it turned out pretty much the way he thought it would.
That includes his prediction that "12 Years a Slave" would win Best Picture over eight other films.
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"Each one could have won during a regular year," Gire said at an Oscar party Sunday night in Wheaton. "But '12 Years a Slave' was absolutely horrifying, courageous and just a splendid example of the motion picture artform."
The party was emceed by Gire and fellow film buff Raymond Benson, who chimed in during commercial breaks at Wheaton's Studio Movie Grill. Scores of movie fans and Daily Herald subscribers enjoyed the show together and helped raise funds for Variety Children's Charity, which helps children with disabilities all over Illinois lead active lives.
The first surprise of the night wasn't who won, but the patience of show producers letting supporting actor winner Jared Leto take his time with his speech about his mother. Gire called it a "great decision."
"We saw something phenomenal tonight," Gire said. "I kept waiting for the orchestra to cut in, but they didn't. I'm amazed they didn't step all over it."
The near-capacity crowd was not only comprised of fans of movies, but movie critics as well.
For Palatine's Vigdis and Augie Tonne, the party was a departure from their usual Oscar routine. Augie dusted off his Oleg Cassini tux and Vigdis slid into her Oscar de la Renta gown instead of hosting their usual, more casual Academy Awards party.
"We always like the Oscars because we're big movie fans, but we're big fans of Dann too," Vigdis said. "We knew this would be a fun night."
Gire's lock of the night came to fruition when "Gravity" won an Oscar for visual effects. He warned the crowd to buckle in for the remaining technical awards, or "Sherman's march to the sea for 'Gravity.'"
"It's a complete cutting-edge breakthrough in all effects," Gire said. "These are remarkable sound and sight innovations that have never been seen before."
While Gire and Benson kept the crowd engaged, they were no match for the glitz of Hollywood on full display Sunday night.
"I love seeing all those fashions," said Marie Zavoli of Glendale Heights. "I'm recording the show and I'll watch it again to see if there was anything I missed."
As for Gire, his predictions were pretty spot on. His first miss was in the documentary category when "20 Feet from Stardom" beat Gire's pick of "Act of Killing."
"I should have known better," he said.
He did pick Lupita Nyong'o to win for supporting actress and couldn't have been more ecstatic for the "12 Years a Slave" actress.
"She's the heart and soul of that movie," Gire said.
The crowd at the event held its loudest applause for the tributes to native sons Roger Ebert and Harold Ramis during the memorial segment. Gire said it's no surprise.
"It's wonderful recognition that they're an integral part of the film community," he said.