Monday, February 23, 2015

That’s a wrap: Best and worst of Hollywood’s biggest night

Team Birdman, led by director Alejandro González Iñárritu, accepts the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Well, that’s it. Months of movie-going, campaigning, and precursor awards, and now, it is all over. Birdman, a film that most predicted would win last night, did win, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash enjoyed good nights, as well, and Boyhood went home almost empty-handed. The show ended a few minutes after midnight here on the East Coast, something the producers always strive to avoid, but if you read on, I have a few suggestions on how to cut some time from the show – as I am sure you all might.

Click here to go to a full list of winners, and read on for Last Cinema Standing’s best and worst things about the 87th Academy Awards.


The winners – People like to grouse about the nominees list every year for what missed out or sometimes for what got in, and those complaints are often valid. However, on the whole, when it comes to picking winners, the Academy does a marvelous job. Birdman is an unimpeachable Best Picture winner, Alejandro González Iñárritu is among the most deserving Best Director winners, and the film’s screenplay win delighted me to no end.

As much as I may have been pulling for other films and performances, it would be hard to argue with a winners list that includes Eddie Redmayne’s magnificent work as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, the great shorts Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, The Phone Call, and Feast, and three well deserved citations for Whiplash.

Neil Patrick Harris – I try not to read any reviews of the show for a while after it ends because I like to decide what I think first. For whatever reason, I am rarely in the consensus, in that I tend to like the show. I do not know if that makes me really unhip or just less of a grouch than most people when it comes to the Oscars. Probably a little of both. I thought Harris was fun, funny, and swift, and he killed it with Anna Kendrick and Jack Black during the opening musical number written by last year’s Best Song winners Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. I have a hard time believing Common and John Legend will be back to write next year’s opening number, though I would definitely tune in for that.

I liked the magic trick-style payoff to the predictions in the box, and it was fun watching a mostly befuddled Octavia Spencer play along. The seat-fillers bit was good, and really, once you know where to look, you cannot un-see those people. It was particularly jarring when after watching Redmayne and his wife together all night, Redmayne was on stage accepting his award for Best Actor, and someone else was sitting next to her. I thought Harris got in some good jokes, kept the show moving, and was a generally fun presence I would love to see come back.

The speeches – From Patricia Arquette winning Supporting Actress to John Legend and Common with Best Song and all the way up to Iñárritu when Birdman won Best Picture, the calls for equality rang loud and clear from the Dolby Theater last night. Arquette called for equal pay for women in the U.S. – something Meryl Streep clearly was on board with – while Common reminded us that what Martin Luther King Jr. fought for is still being fought for, and Iñárritu called for better treatment of immigrants in this nation. They were brave and important messages spoken by Hollywood’s brightest stars on its biggest stage. Good on them for using their platform to try to make a difference.

Beyond that, I loved watching Best Foreign Language Film winner Pawel Pawlikowsi talk straight through the crescendo of the play-off music and then just keep going. A couple winners did that last night, and why not? No one knows if they will ever be back, so let them soak up every last minute of it. Thankfully, no one’s microphone was cut off. If the night truly is about the winners, they should be allowed to speak, and the director and producers did a good job of letting that happen.

John Legend and Common perform “Glory” – Speaking of John Legend and Common, how about that performance of their original song “Glory” from Selma? It was a weighty moment, filled with meaning for millions across the world and many in the audience. It brought the audience in the Dolby Theater to its feet and had stars such as David Oyelowo and Chris Pine in tears. The performance will live on in Oscar history. To cap it with an Oscar win, well, how could you not vote for that song?


The Sound of Music tribute – What was that? A 50-year-old movie that most of the world has seen does not need a montage of non-descript clips and a lackluster musical performance. It would be one thing if the tribute performance had been memorable in any way, but Lady Gaga’s sedate medley of numbers from a fairly dusty musical just added to the inanity of it all.

They did this last year with the 75-year anniversary tribute to The Wizard of Oz, and it did not work then, either. A few years back, there was a tribute to movie musicals in general, which made no sense. Enough. We get it. Musical performances seem like they would make for a good show. They do not. This is neither the Grammys nor the Tony Awards. This is the Oscars. The opening musical number and the Best Song performances (see above) are plenty.

Post-In Memoriam performance – On that note, this is the second year in a row they have had the In Memoriam segment followed by a musical performance tribute. Last year was Bette Midler. This year was Jennifer Hudson. Neither year worked. As soon as the show ends, people complain about its length – and often, they do not wait that long. Doubling the running time of the In Memoriam segment does nothing to help that cause, particularly when an extra song actually distracts from the memory of those lost. Either sing under the montage or get rid of the song.

My predictions – Mea culpa. Every year, I go about predicting these things in completely the wrong way. I am always trying to beat everyone else by going with outside-the-box predictions for things that might happen. Well, that is not the way to do it. The consensus usually knows what is going to happen, and I either willfully ignore it or think I know better. No more. Next year, I’m going 24 for 24, guaranteed.

That’s a wrap

Thanks to those of you who have checked in these past few weeks and months to talk about films and indulge my hobby. I love this stuff. There is not a night I enjoy more than the Oscars, and I am glad you folks hung around these parts to share that with me. I am going to take a little time off here to recover, but I will be back soon with more reviews, more columns, and more talk about films I love that I hope you will love, too.

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