Well, it went mostly as expected. I predicted 18/24 categories correctly. Had I just gone with statistical data and not bet on there being many heartfelt surprises, I certainly would have predicted more correctly. But this year, Oscar chose to play by the numbers. Here’s my thoughts on the aftermath of the ceremony.
BIRDMAN SOARED, BOYHOOD STUNTED: Well, I wasn’t shocked at all when Birdman was awarded Best Picture and I really shouldn’t have been that surprised when Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu won Director. When Boyhood lost the Oscar for Film Editing, I knew it was downhill from there. I really was hoping Richard Linklater would pull a win for his minimal, but effective work in the directing category, but in the end, they went for the inventive but no less innovative wizardry of Inarritu. Let me be clear on something… Inarritu is in my opinion a stronger director, for this particular year, I thought Linklater did a better job. So many times people say things like, “How could you vote for x person over y person? X person is so much better and Y’s body of work sucks.” That kind of talk is pure caca and here’s why: The award is NOT for Best Director for Best Achievement in Directing in a given calendar year. While Inarritu is a finer, stronger director, I think what Linklater brought to the table was worthier of an award for directing in 2014.
Yet, I slightly digress… I saw the Boyhood train derailing. It was totally this year’s Brokeback Mountain and The Social Network which enjoyed a powerful haul through the precursor awards and won kudos with virtually all critics’ groups, but in the end, it’s the industry guild awards that really matter and Birdman swept those, the guilds of Cinematography, Sound, SAG, DGA and PGA all sung its praises, Hollywood or… Oscar merely followed suit. Moral: Never underestimate the power of the guild awards prior to the Oscars.
PERFORMANCE OF PERFORMANCES: The acting categories were complete snoozers. Patricia Arquette and J.K. Simmons totally deserved their prizes. We all knew they were going to happen. Julianne Moore’s win was also a dead on given. I still don’t think she deserved it as much as Marion Cotillard, but Cotillard’s already won and this was Moore’s fifth nomination. It was time. But Best Actor was where things got scary. Most smart people put their money on Eddie Redmayne to win for The Theory of Everything. I chose not to be smart and bet on the sentiment that Michael Keaton’s passionate performance would prevail. Since the film eventually won Best Picture, I figured the momentum would drag in one of its actors… it didn’t. I yelled into a pillow and soaked in the sorrow. Keaton’s loss stung, but Redmayne gave a nice, buoyant speech. Personally, I think Benedict Cumberbatch would have been a good second place choice, but it seems Oscar again went for the physically tormented genius. This is not to knock Mr. Redmayne’s performance. He gave a nomination worthy performance.
TECHNICAL BLISS: I did a few rounds of backflips when Whiplash managed to pull off what I thought was impossible and win two tech awards for Film Editing and Sound Mixing. It SO deserved it! I was convinced the more prestige-based films would trump the little indie that could… boy was I glad to be wrong! Also, it was nice that The Imitation Game pulled off a win in Adapted Screenplay. Gone Girl’s omission in Original Score and Adapted Screenplay was inexcusable, but c’est la vie. I cheered Interstellar winning its deserved Visual Effects prize. In Animated Film, Big Hero 6 pulled off a nice upset. I was so happy it wasn’t How to Train Your Dragon 2. Too bad Isao Takahata couldn’t catch a break for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, but I suppose it was a long shot anyway. I was annoyed with The Grand Budapest Hotel winning the award for Makeup, that clearly should have gone to Guardians of the Galaxy, but when your film has a poop ton of Oscar nominations, especially in tech categories and is up for Best Picture, Makeup is an easy grab, I’ve learned.
THE CEREMONY: Neil Patrick Harris is always a welcome quantity, but I must confess, I felt he started okay, but as the show dragged on, his energy kept dropping. Eventually, he bulldozed through the categories. The humor for the show was not particularly memorable; neither was his song and dance number. The Oscar prediction locked briefcase gag also wore out its welcome well before the show’s end. The neverending promise commercial after commercial about Lady Gaga’s performance had my eyes rolling. When at last she came out to deliver a medley from The Sound of Music celebrating its 50th anniversary, I did think it was a waste of time. Then, it happened… Dame Julie Andrews stepped forth and I shrieked in glee. It was worth it!
There were some touching speeches particularly Adapted Screenplay winner Graham Moore’s touching personal story to mention one. But as a show, this one was kind of stale. Better luck next year? Sean Penn popping out at the end was also rather amusing, I must say. Him having worked with Alejandro G. Inarritu on 21 Grams gave me a strong presage of the result of his envelope, however. The standing ovation for the performance of “Glory” from Selma, which ended up winning Best Original Song was all worth it for the sight of the weepy Chris Pine. Speaking of Chris’s, didn’t Chris Evans look gorgeous? I nearly cried after the performance of “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me as sung by Tim McGraw. You really should hear the Glen Campbell recording. Too bad that song didn’t win.
IN SUM: It’s a bag of mixed feelings. There were a few pleasant surprises, but all in all it went as expected especially in the major categories. I know the Boyhood haters are gonna hate… and worse so the ones who found it “unspectacular and gimmicky” (though the same argument could be made about Birdman). Sasha Stone of awardsdaily.com makes very good points about this topic. But, I do love both films dearly. Boyhood was my favorite though and in the end, it being recognized as it was is still a triumph. When the dust cleared, the painful sting for me is Michael Keaton’s Best Actor loss. What a missed opportunity. Still, it’s been fun this season. 2014 was a great year for movies and we’ll all do this again next year!