TV Review - 87th Oscars, or the Unexpected Virtue of Expected Winners
|Neil Patrick Harris spoofs 'Birdman' at 87th Oscars|
The Grand Budapest Hotel was also nominated for nine Academy Awards, and it too took home four Oscars, including Best Costumes, Best Makeup/Hairstyling, Best Production Design and Best Score. The impeccable details that filmmaker Wes Anderson put into this film makes all these wins perfectly reasonable. It's colorful and fanciful. It's also exquisitely well-constructed.
Whiplash was nominated for five Academy Awards. It took home three, including Best Sound Mixing, Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor for J. K. Simmons who scooped up all the presumptive prizes like the Golden Globes Award and the SAG Award.
All the other films that won only won once. Interestingly, two short films won that were both about crisis hotlines. The Phone Call won Best Live Action Short. Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 won Best Documentary Short Subject. Also notably, the two animated films that won were the two Disney animations that were screened together. Big Hero 6 won Best Animated Feature and Feast won Best Animated Short.
Emmy and Tony Award-winner Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Oscars this year. He did a nice, opening musical number, which didn't possess a lot of complicated choreography but did possess a lot of great background projection. He didn't have a long monologue with a lot of jokes. He made one awkward American Sniper joke, involving Oprah, which got shot down by absolute silence. He then made some complimentary remarks and moved on.
Harris instead had quips and one-liners throughout the telecast, usually as a way of transitioning from one award or presenter to another. Two jokes about John Travolta's flub last year were good. He started with a snipe at the Oscars being the whitest in decades. He set the tone though with a snipe at Simmons after his win when Harris sang a parody of Simmons' Farmers Insurance commercials. Neil Patrick Harris' best snipe was probably after Citizenfour won Best Documentary Feature, and its director Laura Poitras made complimentary remarks about Edward Snowden. Harris commented Snowden couldn't attend the show "for some treason."
Harris had a few comedic bits. His quasi-magic trick where he had his Oscar predictions locked in a box was pretty good. The bit that fell flat was the one that Harris did on seat fillers. He seemed like he had something planned with Steve Carell, but Harris choked in a way. He did an another aisle bit with David Oyelowo, the star of Selma, that intentionally fell flat but still was a tad funny in a weird way, teasing about British accents.
Arguably, Harris' best bit was a parody of Birdman and the scene therein where Michael Keaton's character had to walk into a public crowd in nothing but his tight-white underwear. The film was also singled out for its Jazz drums, so the parody involved Miles Teller who starred in Whiplash, a film explicitly about Jazz drumming. It was a similar parody that was done the day before at the 30th Independent Spirit Awards, but it was better executed here, most notably because it was done live. Harris took to the stage practically naked in nothing but his tight-white underwear, which got a good laugh but he was in extreme better shape that Keaton was.
A lot of people, including myself, watch the telecast for the winners and their acceptance speeches. Eddie Redmayne who nabbed the Best Actor prize and Julianne Moore who was honored with the Best Actress Oscar both talked about ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. Redmayne starred in The Theory of Everything about scientist Stephen Hawking who continues to suffer from ALS, decades after his diagnosis. Moore played the fictional, titular character in Still Alice suffering from Alzheimer's, but her director was diagnosed with ALS in real life.
Redmayne was the happiest and probably the most shocked to take to the stage. The director of Ida, Pawel Pawlikowski, who won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, also seemed shocked and had a great comment to the fact. He said, "How did I get here? We made a film, as you saw, about black-and-white, about the need for silence and withdrawal from the world and contemplation and here we are in the epicenter of noise and world attention."
Patricia Arquette who won Best Supporting Actress for Boyhood had the most political acceptance speech. She actively called for equal pay for women. Her strong sentiments caused rousing reactions from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez.
Graham Moore who won Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game had the most heartbreaking acceptance speech. He referenced the subject of his film Alan Turing, the mathematician who was crucial to winning World War II but who was crucified for being homosexual. Moore isn't gay but talked about his attempt at suicide. June Thomas at Slate said Moore conflated his experience with grander homophobia when the two weren't comparable, yet it was still moving.
Harris clunkily introduced Lady Gaga paying tribute to Julie Andrews for the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music (1965). He clunkily said that it was going to be an "Oscar moment" that people would be talking about the next day. However, the true Oscar moment was the performance of the nominated song "Glory" from the film Selma, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Common and John Legend's performance was so powerful it generated an immediate and long, standing ovation, which actually brought to tears Oyelowo and Chris Pine (Into the Woods).
I posted a list of my favorite films from 2014. Of that list, of 30 films, I only had three that were nominated and actually won Oscars last night. Those three were Big Hero 6, The Imitation Game and Selma, so I'm happy for that and generally happy with this year's ceremony overall.