The Academy Awards 2015 (Review)

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The Academy Awards.

It is hard not to talk about the Oscars without ruffling the feathers of people around the globe.

Some love it, others think it is an overlong pageant of indulgent self-importance and most couldn’t care less about it (I guess you can already tell which camp I’m in).  So, was the Academy of Motion Picture and Science’s annual snooze fest worth the hype? There will be a full list of winners at the end of this article.

The first Academy Awards took place in 1929 and lasted about 15 minutes.  I, like many who laboured through the plodding ceremony this year, longed for the same briskness exhibited all those decades ago.  It began as it always does, the same tired questions shouted on the red carpet.  I had the added pleasure this year of enjoying the build up in Germany, so it was humorous to watch the interviewees desperately try to make what they’re saying relevant. Michael Keaton offered up that he’d once been to the Oktoberfest in Munich whilst later on, a bemused Ethan Hawke stood by and listened to a conversation between German director Wim Wenders, waiting for an English question to be thrown his way.

Then the ceremony proper began.  Neil Patrick – Harris ascended from beneath the stage and burst swiftly into a high paced musical number about falling in love with the moving picture once again, much more innocuous than Seth MacFarlane’s misogynistic We Saw Your Boobs song.  He was joined by Anna Kendrick and “interrupted” by Jack Black, who sang that Hollywood is now full of executives “pitching tents for tent-poles and chasing Chinese bucks.”  It was a convincing opening that had precisely what the Oscars have been lacking recently, self-awareness.  It’s a shame that this same energy couldn’t be maintained.  Patrick – Harris proceeded merrily with his monologue, with few jokes hitting (a particular one about Oprah representing American Sniper’s box office haul was chuckle worthy).  He then introduced a running gag that was painful to say the least: locked in a suitcase, on the side of the stage, he had written down his Oscar predictions.  He asked Octavia Spencer to keep an eye on it for him to make sure nobody tampers with it whilst he bounded centre-stage to get on with entertaining the some billion people who had tuned it to see the awards.  Patrick – Harris also wandered amongst the audience with more jokes that fell flat, one about seat fillers and another forcing David Oyelowo (whose name Patrick – Harris continually struggled to pronounce correctly) to read a lame joke were among the nail on chalkboard and toe curling gags inflicted on the audience.  A skit of Birdman’s famous Times Square sequence nearly put Patrick – Harris back on track but it turned out to be a rare moment in an otherwise forgettable stint as host.  Oh, don’t forget the locked suitcase, guys!  That’ll be really important!  Promise…

Elsewhere, things went a little off-piste too.  Current Academy president, Cheryl Boone, gave a lecture that dragged for what felt like half an hour about how wonderfully diverse a range of films The Academy Awards recognise, rather misjudged considering the white washed acting categories.  Presenters flubbed their lines and John Travolta finally managed to say Idina Menzel’s name correctly, whilst creepily stroking her face.  There was an endless tribute to Sound of Music, in which Lady Gaga belted out the film’s tunes.  Musical performances were largely devoid of any interest apart from the Lego Movie’s out of tune “Everything is Awesome,” which featured a brilliant cameo from Will Arnett as Batman and John Legend & Common’s fantastic rendition of Selma’s “Glory.”  That got a thoroughly deserved standing ovation and had many of the audience in tears.  Acceptance speeches made by Julianne Moore, J. K. Simmons, Patricia Arquette, The Imitation Game’s Graham Moore and John Legend and Common are worth watching later.

So turning to the awards themselves, then.  The acting awards went precisely where they were expected to, Redmayne, Moore, Simmons and Arquette.  The Grand Budapest Hotel hovered up all of the artistic technical awards like production and costume design as predicted.  Perhaps the biggest shock of the evening, though, was Boyhood losing out in the Best Picture and Director race to Birdman.  Fear not, though, fans of Boyhood.  Just because it didn’t win, it doesn’t mean that every DCP/35mm print and DVD/Blu Ray copy of it must be destroyed.  It’ll still be a great film.  The same goes for most of the film’s that lost out this evening.  Don’t worry.  It’s only the Oscars.  Great films survive not because they win Oscars!  The overused example of this is Citizen Kane losing to How Green Was My Valley?

As promised, here’s a list of The Academy Awards winners:

Best Picture: Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

Best Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Supporting Actor: J. K. Simmons, Whiplash

Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Original Screenplay: Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game

Animated Feature: Big Hero 6

Documentary Feature: CitizenFour

Foreign Language Film: Ida

Editing: Whiplash

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezski, Birdman…

Visual Effects: Interstellar 

Original Score: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Original Song: Selma

Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Make Up and Hair Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Sound Editing: American Sniper

Sound Mixing: Whiplash

Best Live-Action Short: The Phone Call

Best Documentary Short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Best Animated Short: Feast

Oh, I nearly forgot, Neil Patrick – Harris’ suitcase!  Yeah, it really wasn’t worth the set up!

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