Monday, February 23, 2015

The 87th Annual Academy Awards – The Winners

Another year, another Oscar telecast, and a pretty good one at that.  Sure, it wasn’t particularly memorable and it felt a bit stiff at times, but it fit in nicely with any number of modern productions’ need for efficiency and streamlining.

Neil Patrick Harris, hosting the Oscars for the first time, a job he had long cherished to nab after successfully hosting Emmys and Tonys, did a fine job and will likely be invited back, but didn’t come across as brilliant.  Understandably, there were some jitters, but some of the jokes just fell flat, which is both his fault and the writers’.

Still, he always kept control of the ceremony’s flow and commandeered our attention, especially with the stunning opening number sequence.  He can sing, dance, and act, and was aided by both technology (that projection apparatus was incredibly effective) and talent (Anna Kendrick looked stunning and sang beautifully), and Jack Black’s skit aided the number (even though I don’t count myself as a fan…)

NPHFurthermore, can anyone imagine any other Oscar host, from the past or the future, having the courage and steel-mindedness to pull off a stunt in the buff like Harris did on the stage of the Dolby Theater, in front of all of Hollywood and hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide??  I for one cannot.

Harris’ hosting gig also represented the second year in a row that the American public witnessed the quintessential entertainment show being hosted by a member of the LGBT community: Ellen DeGeneres last year and Neil Patrick Harris this year.

Not only that, but they are very open about their sexuality, they’re both very much admired by the entertainment community and the public at large, and they’re both legally and happily married.  NPH is even raising two kids with his husband.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what I would refer to as undeniable progress.

Now, without any further ado, here are the winners in each category.  (Bear in mind that having watched only a couple of the total number of movies nominated from any category, I can’t comment on how deserved or not a win really was, so my comments are more about how I felt about it)

Best Motion Picture of the Year


Birdman (2014): Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Lesher, James W. Skotchdopole

Not a big surprise, especially as the night progressed and Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel seemed to dominate.  I kind of wish Boyhood had won though, because from what I’ve heard of it, it was such a complicated effort to pull off, not to mention time consuming, and that should have been rewarded.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing all of the nominated movies.

Other Nominees:

·         American Sniper (2014): Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper, Peter Morgan

·         Boyhood (2014/I): Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland

·         The Imitation Game (2014): Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky, Teddy Schwarzman

·         The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven M. Rales, Jeremy Dawson

·         Selma (2014): Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner

·         The Theory of Everything (2014): Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten

·         Whiplash (2014): Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role


Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything (2014)

This race was, for a while now, between Redmayne and Keaton, with Redmayne picking up the majority of the most important awards leading up to the Oscars but with Keaton’s chances rising by the day, as demonstrated by Birdman’s performance.  Ultimately, I’m glad Redmayne won.

He’s young sure, but he is clearly an incredibly talented actor whose work will likely dazzle us for years (he’s also very easy on the eyes…).  Keaton never really struck me as a great actor, so while Birdman might have relaunched his career, why not wait for that theory to be confirmed before handing him Hollywood’s biggest award?

That narrative seems to be something Hollywood easily succumbs to: an actor who hasn’t done anything of note in several years, other than working in mediocre movies or not at all, suddenly lands a good role, does a decent job, and gets showered with accolades.  Praise is good, but let’s also wait and see if the magic can be replicated, shall we?

Matthew McConaughey – incredibly – won a Best Actor Oscar last year after years of silence, preceded by years of commercial boilerplates.  I say “incredibly” because if you asked me years ago whether he’d have any chances to land an Oscar I’d have just burst out laughing.  His renaissance, however, wasn’t just on display in Dallas Buyers Club, but in other projects as well (like HBO’s True Detective), so he proved that, in spite of his “lightweight” reputation, he could actually act and do a darn good job.  Hopefully we will continue to see good work from him.

Keaton had proven through the years that he’s a decent actor, but never brilliant.  Maybe he is in Birdman, but will that level of good work persist?  I don’t know.  But I wouldn’t rush to give him an Oscar simply because his career might have been relaunched by this movie.

And that’s the crux of the issue.  While the Oscar is supposed to reward the Best in the field on a particular year, I heard many voters say that they would pick him for his role in Birdman but also to acknowledge a long career in the industry.  I’m sorry, I have a problem with that.  If you want to reward a career, there’s an Oscar for that.  It’s called the Honorary Award (and I just realized it wasn’t in the telecast this year…).

Can I also throw in there that while at the beginning of the ceremony I wasn’t particularly rooting for Keaton not to win, by the end I cheered when his name wasn’t called by the divine Cate Blanchett because I just couldn’t bear the though of seeing his open-mouthed, gum-chewing face on stage accepting Hollywood’s highest award.

Learn some damn etiquette man!!

Other Nominees:

·         Steve Carell for Foxcatcher (2014)

·         Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game (2014)

·         Bradley Cooper for American Sniper (2014)

·         Michael Keaton for Birdman (2014)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role


 Julianne Moore for Still Alice (2014)

The lovely Julianne finally took the gold at the Oscars!!!  She’s one of my all time favorite actresses and I always root for her.  She has done some amazing work throughout her career in practically each and every movie she’s been a part of and I hear she’s phenomenal in Still Alice.  Can’t wait to see it.

She was a shoo-in however, so no big surprise.  Her dress was ok, didn’t wow me, but her hair and makeup were flawless.

Hot husband!! Winking smile

Other Nominees:

·         Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night (2014)

·         Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything (2014)

·         Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl (2014)        

·         Reese Witherspoon for Wild (2014)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role


 J.K. Simmons for Whiplash (2014)

Another shoo-in, I only really know him for his work on HBO’s OZ, and he was awesome, so I’m sure he’s terrific in Whiplash (and from what I’ve seen, I can’t wait to see it!).

His speech was very simple and heartwarming, perhaps a bit too simple, but it worked.  Who knows, maybe he was just so sick of giving acceptance speeches at each and every award show of the season, since he won everything…

Poor Lupita Nyong'o, who looked fantastic in that dress, messed up and said “and the Actor goes to” instead of “and the Oscar goes to,” as if she was at the SAGs LOL.  Celebrities, they’re just like us!!

Oh, and Hawke and Ruffalo sure did look good…

Other Nominees:

·         Robert Duvall for The Judge (2014)

·         Ethan Hawke for Boyhood (2014/I)

·         Edward Norton for Birdman (2014)

·         Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher (2014)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role


 Patricia Arquette for Boyhood (2014/I)

Yet another shoo-in, Arquette too has had a firm grip on this Oscar since Boyhood premiered.  She also raked up virtually every award leading up to this night but her acceptance speech was anything but short and sweet.  She instead used her time on stage to call for equal pay, treatment, and rights for women in America, a hot topic in the news recently.

I say, good for her.  I like it when celebrities use their fame and clout to bring attention to causes dear to them but also in need of attention, and this is certainly one of them.

I’ve also always liked her a lot, she always felt very real and approachable to me.

Oh, and absolutely loved Jared (the guy is so hot he can literally get away with wearing the unwearable) Leto’s introduction, when he listed all the nominees and prefixed Meryl’s with “and in accordance with California state law, Meryl Streep” LOL!

Other Nominees:

·         Laura Dern for Wild (2014)

·         Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game (2014)

·         Emma Stone for Birdman (2014)

·         Meryl Streep for Into the Woods (2014)

Best Achievement in Directing


 Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman (2014)

Just like for Best Picture, this was only in play between Iñárritu and Linklater.  The former won, I’m sure deservedly.  It was nice to see this prize go to two Mexican directors, who are also great friends, back to back.

Other Nominees:

·         Richard Linklater for Boyhood (2014/I)

·         Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher (2014)

·         Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

·         Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game (2014)

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen


 Birdman (2014): Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo

And with this one Iñárritu had the good fortune to ascend the Dolby Theater stage three times last night!!  Lucky man (and talented).

Other Nominees:

·         Boyhood (2014/I): Richard Linklater

·         Foxcatcher (2014): E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman

·         The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness

·         Nightcrawler (2014): Dan Gilroy

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published


 The Imitation Game (2014): Graham Moore

I didn’t know Moore before his name was called (after all, this was his first nomination), but he did give one of the best speeches of the night, admitting to the whole world that he attempted to take his own life as a teenager and begging the many teens out there struggling with their “otherness” to keep fighting and not give up, because they too might end up where he is one day.

I can’t really know for sure (although my gaydar tells me I’m right), but I would venture to say he was referring to LGBT teens struggling with their sexuality.  Regardless, it was a great message, very heartfelt, and it applies to any teen struggling out there.

This is another hot topic that just begs for increased attention: the epidemic of teens’ suicides, especially among those bullied and struggling with being accepted for who they are.

Other Nominees:

·         American Sniper (2014): Jason Hall

·         Inherent Vice (2014): Paul Thomas Anderson

·         The Theory of Everything (2014): Anthony McCarten

·         Whiplash (2014): Damien Chazelle

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year


 Big Hero 6 (2014)

I’ve heard it’s pretty good, but so should be all the others…  I should probably just get all these and watch them for Family Night with the kids.

Other Nominees:

·         The Boxtrolls (2014)

·         How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

·         Song of the Sea (2014)

·         The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (2013)

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year


 Ida (2013): Pawel Pawlikowski

Goodness, Mr. Pawlikowski really did not want to leave the stage once he got there LOL, but his speech was so endearing and he was so handsome, I didn’t complain…

Other Nominees:

·         Tangerines (2013): Zaza Urushadze

·         Leviathan (2014): Andrey Zvyagintsev

·         Wild Tales (2014): Damián Szifrón

·         Timbuktu (2014): Abderrahmane Sissako

Best Achievement in Cinematography


 Birdman (2014): Emmanuel Lubezki

No comment.

Other Nominees:

·         The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): Robert D. Yeoman

·         Mr. Turner (2014): Dick Pope

·         Unbroken (2014/I): Roger Deakins

·         Ida (2013): Lukasz Zal, Ryszard Lenczewski

Best Achievement in Editing


 Whiplash (2014): Tom Cross

No comment really, although I can’t imagine the amount of editing work that went into Boyhood, given that the material was collected over more than a decade…

Other Nominees:

·         Boyhood (2014/I): Sandra Adair

·         The Imitation Game (2014): William Goldenberg

·         The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): Barney Pilling

·         American Sniper (2014): Joel Cox, Gary Roach

Best Achievement in Production Design


 The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock

No comment here, the sets look amazing from the clips I saw.

Other Nominees:

·        The Imitation Game (2014): Maria Djurkovic, Tatiana Macdonald

·         Interstellar (2014): Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis

·         Into the Woods (2014): Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock

·         Mr. Turner (2014): Suzie Davies, Charlotte Watts

Best Achievement in Costume Design


 The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): Milena Canonero

No comment again, the costumes looked amazing too.  Fourth Oscar for Ms. Canonero!

Other Nominees:

·         Inherent Vice (2014): Mark Bridges

·         Into the Woods (2014): Colleen Atwood

·         Maleficent (2014): Anna B. Sheppard, Jane Clive

·         Mr. Turner (2014): Jacqueline Durran

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling


 The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): Frances Hannon, Mark Coulier

No comment once again.  From the clips the work looked incredible for all the nominees.

Other Nominees:

·         Foxcatcher (2014): Bill Corso, Dennis Liddiard

·         Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, David White

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score


 The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): Alexandre Desplat

Desplat is a great composer and has become one of my favorites, so I’m glad he finally got to take home the gold, especially given that he was a double nominee this year, which usually leads to a splitting of the votes and a loss to the benefit of a fellow nominee.

Other Nominees:

·        The Imitation Game (2014): Alexandre Desplat

·         Interstellar (2014): Hans Zimmer

·         The Theory of Everything (2014): Jóhann Jóhannsson

·         Mr. Turner (2014): Gary Yershon

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song


 Selma (2014): Common, John Legend(Glory)

This was easily one of the most deserved wins of the night.  I haven’t seen Selma but obviously “Glory” must fit it like a glove.  On top of that, it also stands on its own as a powerful and timeless ode to the struggle for civil rights anywhere and at any time.  It had to win.  Period.

As for the other songs, I’ll just have to assume that they fit in with their respective movies.  I liked Maroon 5’s performance of “Lost Stars.”  Adam Levine has a very unique voice and knows how to use it to great effect.  He’s also hotter than hell, but I digress…

Tim McGraw (who sang “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”) and Rita Ora (who sang “Grateful”) both did a great job.  Ms. Ora has an incredible voice and looked fantastic in that gown.  McGraw meanwhile, was positively smoldering.

That brings me to Tegan and Sara, who sang “Everything Is Awesome” along with a bunch of other people (I recognized perennial frat boy Andy Samberg).  Some people apparently liked the loud and colorful break into the more serious proceedings.  I wasn’t one of them.  I thought the song came across as a crazy mess and not in a good way.  I was glad when it was over.

Anyway, John Legend and Common gave and incredible and moving performance, so moving in fact that it brought to tears Selma’s David Oyelowo and Chris Pine, and many others I’m sure.  It garnered a standing ovation and gave me goose bumps.

They also gave a wonderful acceptance speech about the need to keep fighting for everyone’s freedoms and civil rights.  And Common included sexual orientation among the causes worth fighting for.

Times really are a-changin’.

Other Nominees:

·         Begin Again (2013/II): Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois(Lost Stars)

·         The Lego Movie (2014): Shawn Patterson(Everything is Awesome)

·         Beyond the Lights (2014): Diane Warren(Grateful)

·         Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me (2014): Glen Campbell, Julian Raymond

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing


 Whiplash (2014): Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, Thomas Curley

No comment.

Other Nominees:

·         American Sniper (2014): John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, Walt Martin

·         Birdman (2014): Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Thomas Varga

·         Interstellar (2014): Gary Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, Mark Weingarten

·         Unbroken (2014/I): Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, David Lee

Best Achievement in Sound Editing


 American Sniper (2014): Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman

No comment.

Other Nominees:

·        Birdman (2014): Aaron Glascock, Martín Hernández

·         The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014): Brent Burge, Jason Canovas

·         Interstellar (2014): Richard King

·         Unbroken (2014/I): Becky Sullivan, Andrew DeCristofaro

Best Achievement in Visual Effects


 Interstellar (2014): Paul J. Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, Scott R. Fisher

No comment really.  Nowadays, all the movies nominated in this category are spectacular, so picking the best is really hard.  I actually happed to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and X-Men: Days of Future Past and both were amazing, both the movies and the visual effects.  Interstellar is high on my Netflix list.

Other Nominees:

·         Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): Dan Deleeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill, Daniel Sudick

·         Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014): Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Erik Winquist

·         Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner, Paul Corbould

·         X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014): Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie, Cameron Waldbauer

Best Documentary, Feature


 Citizenfour (2014): Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky

No comment on this documentary as I haven’t seen it yet, although it premieres tonight on HBO so I’ll have to record it.  I actually saw Finding Vivian Maier and found it very interesting.

Other Nominees:

·         Finding Vivian Maier (2013): John Maloof, Charlie Siskel

·         Last Days in Vietnam (2014): Rory Kennedy, Keven McAlester

·         The Salt of the Earth (2014): Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, David Rosier

·         Virunga (2014): Orlando von Einsiedel, Joanna Natasegara

Best Documentary, Short Subject


 Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 (2013): Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Dana Perry

No comment other than on Dana Perry’s dress.  What the frak was she thinking???  It looked like she killed and skinned a poodle and then just wore it as a trophy.  It was ridiculous.  Still, this is what the Oscars are all about sometimes and I’ve recently read how the red carpet has become too safe because of all the negative publicity for past risqué ensembles, so maybe she did us all a favor.

Other Nominees:

·         Joanna (2013/I): Aneta Kopacz

·         Our Curse (2013): Tomasz Sliwinski, Maciej Slesicki

·         The Reaper (2013/I): Gabriel Serra

·         White Earth (2014): Christian Jensen

Best Short Film, Animated


 Feast (2014/I): Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed

No comment.

Other Nominees:

·        The Bigger Picture (2014/I): Daisy Jacobs, Chris Hees

·         The Dam Keeper (2014): Robert Kondo, Daisuke 'Dice' Tsutsumi

·         Me and My Moulton (2014): Torill Kove

·         A Single Life (2014): Joris Oprins

Best Short Film, Live Action


 The Phone Call (2013): Mat Kirkby, James Lucas 

No comment on the film, but the winners were funny, even though they did take a bit too long on stage.

Other Nominees:

·         Aya (2012/I): Oded Binnun, Mihal Brezis

·         Boogaloo and Graham (2014): Michael Lennox, Ronan Blaney

·         Butter Lamp (2013): Wei Hu, Julien Féret

·         Parvaneh (2012): Talkhon Hamzavi, Stefan Eichenberger

So those were my thoughts on the winners and “losers.”  And now it’s time for some random observations:

  • I loved the stage.  It amazed me during the opening number and kept changing and looking great, just like Harris’ outfits.  At least when he was wearing one…
  • The hotties of the night were Adam Levine, Chris Pine, Matthew McConaughey, Chris Evans, Channing Tatum, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pratt.  All superb.
  • Why was Jennifer “no-talent” Lopez so prominent during the ceremony?  Why was she even invited??  Does she have a new movie coming out for which she needed to do press?  And for the love of all the gods, why was she sitting next to Meryl Streep????
  • Also, why does she always have to wear dresses with such plunging neck lines??  Ok, we get it, you got a great body and an enviable figure, but less revealing outfits might help you keep it a bit more classy, which isn’t actually considered a bad thing…  Just saying.
  • Finally, by the way, that bronze was really not flattering on her.  Too close to her skin tone maybe, but just not good.
  • Nicole Kidman is starting to get on my nerves.  I read that at the Grammys, which she attended with her husband, the handsome Keith Urban, she just flat out refused to answer the questions of her interviewer.  Last night they showed her a couple times and she totally looked like she just didn’t give a frak and like everyone else there was beneath her.  I hope I’m wrong, because I really like her work.  Her dress however, while not terribly ugly, made her look like a tightly wrapped candy.  Not a look I’d go for.
  • Shirley MacLaine, who will soon turn 81 (!!) still looks fantastic, whether she’s had work done or not, and the good thing is that she still very much looks like herself, instead of a plastic doll.  The odd thing is that she really reminded me of Lily Tomlin.
  • Viola Davis and Gwyneth Paltrow looked absolutely gorgeous in their gowns.  Jessica Chastain was positively radiant.  Scarlett Johansson was a sexy bombshell.
  • Keira Knightley was unrecognizable.  All night I kept asking myself who she was, since they kept putting her on camera and she was sitting in the front row, and then finally I recognized her when her short montage played.  Incredible, even though once recognized, I wondered how it hadn’t come to me sooner.
  • Meryl Streep was simply gorgeous.  Her dress was simple, flattering, and in good taste and she looked like a Grande Dame when she introduced the In Memoriam segment.  She’s acting royalty and at this point she’s moved from Hollywood legend to simply being stately.  An institution.
  • Speaking of the In Memoriam segment, I usually like it as it is very touching, and I liked the choice of using portrait style drawings rather than pictures, but I felt like it went on too long.  I just read an article about how it’s incredibly hard to whittle down the list of those who passed for inclusion in the montage, especially because it’s hard to leave so many deserving names out.  But the segment can only be so long and so not everyone can make the cut.  Well, this year it looks like they attempted to make it a bit longer by using a musical score rather than a finite length song, and I really felt like it was way too long.  Can’t win them all I guess.
  • Jennifer Hudson looked amazing in all her outfits and sang beautifully.  I’m assuming they wanted to have a sorrowful song sung right after the In Memoriam montage, rather than during it, for maximum effect, and to avoid having the performer be overlooked by the list of dead people.  It worked.
  • The bit between Idina Menzel and John Travolta was cute even though when he started touching her face he just looked creepy.  But then I realized that she was looking at him the way one looks at a drunk friend who really needs help getting home, so who knows.  Only sure thing is that Travolta is now a total train wreck.
  • Lady Gaga’s tribute to Julie Andrews for The Sound of Music’s 50 year anniversary was spectacular.  I no longer admire Gaga like I did a couple years back because I feel like she’s abandoned her original persona, but I always thought she had a good voice.  Now I’ve seen her extending her range first at the Grammys (performing with Tony Bennett) and now here with a very difficult medley to sing, and she pulled it off beautifully.  Ms. Andrews arrival on stage afterwards to personally thank and hug her was the cherry on top.  What a pity it is that she can no longer use her terrific and unique singing voice.
  • Lastly, how did Harris pull off the trick with the secret ballot??  That was really funny.

Top Actors

All right, it’s a wrap.  Now I have to get to actually watching all these beautiful movies…