Sunday, February 22, 2015

Academy Awards 2015

One of the unfortunate occurrences when a non-comedian hosts the Oscars is that they usually resort to a production number to open the show rather than a comedy routine. Still, host Neil Patrick Harris did a good job, and there were some very interesting special effects that accompanied his performance. He was also joined by Anna Kendrick onstage and in a nice cameo by Jack Black coming out of the front row to take part in the song that trashed the trend of unoriginal films that have flooded movie screens for the past decade. To be fair, Harris was able to interject a lot of humor into the proceedings, which included a life internet feed of his own Oscar predictions kept in a glass case onstage during the show. Throughout the show, various screen personalities introduced the best picture nominees, while the best song nominees were also performed at various intervals, the most moving of which was the Glenn Campbell song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” which he recorded for his wife and daughter before the onset of Alzheimer’s claimed his performing abilities.

The first award is always for best supporting actor. It was a strange set of nominees this year from an odd assortment of films, but the Oscar went to J.K. Simmons for his role in Whiplash, a category he also won at this year’s Golden Globes. For costume design, an award usually going to the work on some kind of historical film, it went to the great Milena Canonero who took home her fourth Oscar for The Grand Budapest Hotel. The next award, for makeup artist, also went to The Grand Budapest Hotel for the team of Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, who took home his second award. The category for best foreign language film had some very interesting Eastern European films nominated this year and, not surprisingly, the winner was the Polish film Ida. Best live action short film went to The Phone Call, a British film about a crisis center operator. And in a similar vein, the documentary short subject was won by Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. Viola Davis introduced the Governor’s Award winners, which went to, among others, Maureen O’Hara and Harry Belafonte. The award for sound mixing was given to Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley, the second win for the film Whiplash, while sound editing went to Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman, the first win for Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. The best supporting actress category was particularly strong this year and the well-deserved award went to Patricia Arquette, from what I assumed wrongly would be just the opening salvo by Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.

For visual effects, usually a sci-fi category, this year was no exception as the award went to the Interstellar team of Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher. Next, in the animated short category, the winner was Feast, about a dog with a ravenous appetite, and for the best animated feature Big Hero 6 took home the Oscar. Far be it from me to suggest undue influence, but it’s no surprise that both these films were produced by John Lasseter at Disney. Like costumes, the award for production design almost always goes to a historical film and this year it went to The Grand Budapest Hotel again for the work of Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock. And best cinematography went to Emmanuel Lubezki for his innovative work on Birdman, the first award of the night for that film. Eventually it was time for the list of those who have been lost in the last year, which included Mickey Rooney, James Garner, Elizabeth Peña, Edward Herrmann, James Rebhorn, Louis Jourdan, Richard Attenborough, Ruby Dee, Robin Williams, Rod Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Eli Wallach, Bob Hoskins and Mike Nichols. The next award was for best film editing and went to Tom Cross, the third award of the night for Whiplash, while the best documentary feature went to Citizenfour, the story of whistleblower Edward Snowden. The best song came from the film Selma, and the song “Glory” received a standing ovation when it was performed at the ceremonies. One of my favorite categories, best film score, was won by Alexandre Desplat who was nominated for two films, winning for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

After that, all that remained were the awards for the big six. The first of these was for best original screenplay. The award went to writer-director Alejandro Iñárritu and his writing partners Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo for Birdman. For adapted screenplay the winner was Graham Moore, the first Oscar of the night for The Imitation Game. For best directing the Oscar also went to Alejandro Iñárritu for Birdman, but with the unique style of the film it was fitting. And he also made a terrific speech. The best actor category, with one glaring exception, was also a close race with Eddie Redmayn--who gave a once-in-a-lifetime performance as the world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking--taking the Oscar for The Theory of Everything. The nominees for best actress were very diverse and really could have gone to any one of them, but this was the biggest disappointment of the evening for me when Julianne Moore won for Still Alice. Finally, it was the moment we’d all been waiting for, best picture. And the winner is . . . Birdman. It was stunner for me, but even though the film didn’t win the most awards, it was certainly the big winner of the evening.

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