For a night that was supposed to have few surprises, Oscar 2015 had more than its share and more than most in recent history.
Personally, I went 20 fro 24 on my pics. I managed to pic all three short film categories yet miss best picture. I have been Oscar picking since 1990 and that’s a first. This is one of my better years, my best still being 2006 (when Crash was best picture) and I was 23 for 24, missing only Best Original Song.
Neal Patrick Harris started the show with an opening number for the ages, comparable to any of the Billy Crystal routines, but with better vocals. He kinda fell flat after that, save for when he said that Edward Snowden could not be there “for some treason”. Brilliant.
The four major acting categories all went as planned, but outside that, there were plenty of upsets.
Whiplash, the small film starring JK Simmons, took home three awards, two (Sound and Editing) to the shock of everyone, including the recipients. Disney’s Big Hero 6 upset How to Train your Dragon 2.
The strongest category of the night was Adapted Screenplay, which included Grand Bupadest Hotel, front runner Boyhood and critically acclaimed Birdman. When Birdman won, I was scrambling to adjust my ballot when no one was looking. When this night is analyzed by the prognosticators, there will be long discussions on how the universal favourite, Boyhood, went home with one statue.
The night belonged to Birdman, winning for Picture, Director, Screenplay and Emanuel Lubezki’s genius cinematography. Lubezki has now taken his place as the man to have behind the camera. Grand Budapest Hotel was honoured in four technical categories and Whiplash made its mark with three wins.
The night had his highs a lows. Sean Penn, who is a pretentious d-bag on a good day, paused before reading the best picture winner and said of Alejandro Innaritu “who gave this son of a bitch his green card.” That classless moment was the worst in Oscar history since Julia Roberts said “I love my life” before reading Denzel Washington for best actor. Yes, I know he and Penn have worked together. Still, that moment, Sean is not about you.
The peak of the night was clearly Lady Gaga. Looking shockingly normal, she did a four song medley from Sound of Music and nailed it. Even Julie Andrews, who joined her on stage after, seemed speechless. LAdy Gaga performed those songs like she owned them. She commanded the stage like a seasoned pro and proved she is not ordinary pop start. Common and John Legend brought the house down with Glory from Selma, then went on to win Best Original Song. Common gave a heartfelt, powerful acceptance speech.
Count me among those who felt Patricia Arquette’s “giving birth to taxpayers” speech was off key. While I have no quarrel with her content and agree with her, I have trouble with and highly paid actor preaching wage equality to a room full of privileged white millionaires. That moment for me was soon washed out by Graham Moore’s (original screenplay for Imitation Game) heartfelt, slightly sad but oh so joyous speech, encouraging youth to “stay weird and stay different”.
While Alejandro Innaritu will now go down in film history as a three time winner for Birdman, I encourage you to look at #86 on my blog, his brilliant “21 Grams”. Like Birdman, its challenging, different, demands a lot of its viewer. It was my first exposure to his work and it is a film that continues to mesmerize me to this day.
This year also confirmed my long-standing, undying crush on Cate Blanchett, my respect for Meryl Streep and the fact that Jack Black just makes me laugh.
For a year with no Clooney, no Pitt, no blockbusters, it turned into an exciting event. By the time the last two awards arrived, Best Actor and Best Picture were truly up for grabs.
I don’t expect to see Neal Patrick Harris back. He is uber talented and funny, but did not seem comfortable on stage and his ongoing gag with his picks on stage fell flat.
Lady Gaga, Common, JK Simmons and Mr. Moore all provided moments that will long be remembered. Birdman, a truly great but genuinely unusual film, will take its place amongst lesser Best Picture winners.