Monday, February 23, 2015

87th Academy Awards

 Alejandro González Iñárritu and his Best Director Award
This year I saw very few of the films nominated for Oscars. It is a sad fact of life that I don't get to the cinema as often as I once did, and that many Oscar nominated films are not shown at our local theatre. For that reason I do not have a real opinion on many of the films and personages who won awards last night. That having been said, it has been a tradition since my childhood to watch the Academy Awards and so I watched the 87th Academy Awards last night.

As far as the awards themselves were concerned, last night's Oscars held very few surprises. The people and films that many pundits expected to win did so: J. K. Simmons took Best Supporting Actor, Patricia Arquette took Best Supporting Actress, Eddie Redmayne took Best Actor, and so on. As I said earlier, I saw very few of the films nominated for Oscars this year, so I don't really have an opinion on many of this year's winters. There are three categories in which I either saw or, in one instance, heard the nominees. With regards to Best Animated Short, while I liked all of the nominees I do think "Feast" definitely deserved to win. As to Best Animated Feature, I do not think the best animated feature film was even nominated. Namely, The Lego Movie not only deserved to be nominated, it deserved to win. How How to Train Your Dragon 2 (which is a good animated film, just not Oscar material) was nominated and The Lego Movie was not I will never know.

This brings me to the category of Best Original Song. To be blunt, I think this is one of the worst groups of nominees for Best Song in literally years. The only song I actually liked was "Grateful" from Beyond the Lights. While I love The Lego Movie, I absolutely despise "Everything Is Awesome" (I actually dislike it more than "Happy" from last year...). As to "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" and "Lost Stars", I thought both songs were rather dull. This brings us to "Glory". I realise many have referred to the song as "inspiring". And I will agree that  John Legend and Common gave very inspirational speeches when they accepted the award for Best Song. That having been said, I do not like "Glory". For me it is a song that could have been very good had it only featured John Legend's contributions to the song. Of course, here I must point out that rap is my least favourite genre of music of all time, so I am probably biased when I think "Glory" would have been much better without a rap section.

As to the Oscar ceremony itself, I thought it was disappointing. I had been looking forward to last night's ceremony as Neil Patrick Harris has hosted several other awards ceremonies (the Emmys and the Tonys) and he has always proven funny, witty, and charming. Unfortunately, as last night's Oscars host he was hit and miss. I rather suspect the problem was not so much Mr. Harris as it was the Academy's writers. Evidence for this may be found in the speeches of the various presenters, very few of which were very good. Speaking as someone who is short himself, I thought Anna Kendrick and Kevin Hart's arguing over who was shorter when they presented the award for Best Animated Short was very funny. For me the highlight of the night came when Julie Andrews presented the Academy Award for  Best Original Score. Miss Andrews was as beautiful and eloquent as ever. She was by far the best presenter of the night.

Of course, that brings me to another highlight of the night. As most of you know, I have never been a fan of The Sound of Music (to put it simply, it puts me to sleep), but I thought the tribute to the film may have been the best thing about last night's ceremony. While I don't care for the movie itself, I have always loved the songs in both the film and the stage musical and Lady Gaga did them justice. I don't think anyone but Julie Andrews herself (who, sadly, can no longer sing) could have given a better performance.

I would say that the "In Memoriam" segment was another highlight of the evening, but unfortunately I honestly cannot. This year's "In Memoriam" segment was much better than those in the past many years. I thought it was subtle and subdued as it should be. Unfortunately, they once more omitted many who had died the past year. For me the most glaring omission was that of legendary film noir actress Lizabeth Scott. How they could have possibly left her out, I do not know. They also omitted Mary Anderson, Polly Bergen, Mona Freeman, Richard Kiel, Donald Sinden, Elaine Stritch, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and others. I am honestly beginning to think that the Academy should simply show Turner Classic Movies's excellent "TCM Remebers" segment instead of trying to do their own "In Memoriam".

As to last night's acceptance speeches, there were very few that impressed me. The very best acceptance speeches came from director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who was funny and charming every time he took the podium. Indeed, I loved the acceptance speeches for the award for Best Original Screenplay for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). It may have been the first time a dog has ever been thanked! Why more people don't thank their pets when winning Oscars I don't know. I also loved Graham Moore's acceptance speech for the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game. Not only did he bring attention to the great Alan Turing (who not only deserves a pardon, but a posthumous knighthood as well), but to some very important issues as well. I also liked Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress for Boyhood. Like Mr. Moore, she also addressed some important issues. While I did not like the song "Glory", I did like John Legend and Common's acceptance speech for Best Song. I thought it was very inspiring. 

Of course, there were several missteps during last night's Academy Awards. Having Idina Menzel and John Travolta present the Oscar for Best Song was inspired and could have been quite funny. Unfortunately I think Mr. Travolta went so overboard in touching Miss Menzel that it swiftly became a bit creepy. I also think the performance of "Everything is Awesome" was a bit over the top. Granted I really don't like the song, but I thought its performance seemed more in tune with the old TV show Kids Incorporated (yes, I know I am dating myself there) than it did the Oscars. I also thought Sean Penn's "Green Card" joke was in very poor taste.

Here I also have to say that I wish the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would return the Lifetime Achievement Awards to the main ceremony itself. For me they were always the highlight of the evening and I really do miss them. There is so much that they could cut from the ceremony to make room for them. Do presenting speeches really need to be that long? Do they really need a song following the "In Memoriam"? Do they really need production numbers? I don't think so.

In the end the 87th Academy Awards was not the worst Oscar ceremony ever, but it was far from the best either. I think it was much too dull. I would like to see Neil Patrick Harris host again, but I definitely think the Academy needs to fire its writers and get new ones. I also suggest that next year they select better songs for the "Best Song" category (I am almost certain there were better songs in films last year than the five nominees--surely last year's crop of song wasn't that bad). Finally, they really need to include more people in the "In Memoriam" segment. They can cut the superfluous song afterwards. And it might not be a bad idea to get Tuner Classic Movies to produce the "In Memoriam" segment for them!

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