With this year’s telecast being rather dull and Neil Patrick Harris being unable to generate the level of laughter and warmth that Ellen Degeneres provided the year before, the majority of the ceremony’s “entertainment” was with the announcement of winners. In that regard, the acceptance speeches ranged from being overly rehearsed, which lets be honest, some winners were 5 for 5 with the precursor awards. They KNEW they were going to win. Other acceptance speeches hinged upon being obnoxious, self-serving, and sometimes almost having zero correlation with the award they held in their hand. This is typical in today’s Oscar-cast, yet this is also something that would have mortified classic Hollywood if they could see how lackluster and self-serving the ceremony has become. However, there were some components of the ceremony that did make up for these weaknesses, which mirrored a classic Hollywood sentimentality. That gem of the night was, of course, Lady Gaga’s beautiful performance in which she sang a medley of The Sound of Music songs in commemoration of the film’s 50th anniversary. This was an extraordinary moment of the night that represented an era of Hollywood that is all but gone now; a sense of beauty and awe that Hollywood lacks now. Furthermore, if there are still critics who doubt Lady Gaga’s singing ability, even after her phenomenal duet album with Tony Bennett (Cheek to Cheek), they will lose credibility if they still claim Gaga lacks talent after her Oscar night performance.
When comparing the winners in each category with my own predictions, I finished the night with a 16-24 spread (66%) accuracy on my predictions. Yet, most of what I predicted inaccurately did fall within my “should win” category, technically still falling in line with what won in each respective category. This was the case with Sound Mixing and Editing, which I claimed Whiplash could pull an upset within. Incidentally, I also predicted Whiplash would win more than expected if Boyhood walked into the Oscars without the clout it once had. This was undoubtedly the case on this evening. Whiplash winning Best Editing over Boyhood essentially debunked the concept that the editors of Boyhood had the difficult task of editing 12 years of footage together to make the effective film it was. Most pundits and critics felt this category was supposed to go to Boyhood, largely because of their focus on the gimmick nature of the film, rather than the construction of its content. I had claimed frequently that the content of Boyhood was too disjointed to even be nominated for a Best Editing Oscar and its loss in that category on Oscar night proves that. Unfortunately, though, I predicted a Boyhood win since I suspected it would sweep at this year’s Oscars.
There were only two categories that I will admit I got flat out wrong despite one of them being in my “should win” category. Those two categories are Best Animated Film and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. For the Animated category, while I wanted Big Hero 6 to win the award, I thought How to Train Your Dragon 2 was a guaranteed winner and my surprise was tremendous when I heard otherwise on Oscar night. Yet I must state I was slightly disappointed Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t take home Best Makeup since the entirety of that film was focused upon the visual, makeup being one of the largest components of that film. It seemed to be that The Grand Budapest Hotel’s win in this category was more due to the film being at the forefront of voters’ minds and also, most likely, more voters watched Budapest over Galaxy, giving the film an edge on winning this award.
This now leads into the three major awards of the night: Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. Original Screenplay seemingly was guaranteed to go in the direction of The Grand Budapest Hotel, which would finally give Wes Anderson an Oscar win. While I thought Birdman had a more imaginative and cohesive script, I could not deny that the quirkiness of Budapest was worth mentioning. Yet I claimed in the past, and in my Golden Globe Rebuttal about Budapest winning (https://playitagaindan.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/award-rebuttal-why-birdman-should-have-won-the-golden-globe-for-best-comedy-movie) that while the script for Budapest was excellent and original, it was fundamentally flawed and Wes Anderson desperately tried to mask that with how he created the film. By placing big name actors in roles that were sometimes only a minute long, it took attention away from the script and placed the focus upon the actors making their cameos. Not to diminish these actors but Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson and Tom Wilkinson almost had no reason to be in this film at all. They were a distraction that took away from the film’s script. Voters may have recognized this and realized Birdman was the better script in form and content and may have also noticed that the script was the foundational structure that allowed the completed film to be what it is.
Going into the top two awards of the night, Best Director and Best Picture, these were two battleground categories for Boyhood versus Birdman. Three months of momentum, speculation and analysis ended when these two awards began to be announced. I had predicted a Boyhood win, not because I personally felt the film was the better of the two, but rather because the popularity for this film was seemingly ignoring precursor awards that claimed Birdman was the better film. I had come to believe the PGAs, SAGs, and the DGA wins were going to be ignored, thus prove that popularity could trump over a film with genuine artistry. It is safe to say that the credibility of the Academy Awards was on the line this past Sunday; the credibility being the Academy’s ability to recognize that a film should not be judged as the best based upon the technique in which it was filmed, but by the content of what the film offers. In that regard, the majority of viewers and critics who spoke of Boyhood mostly vocalized that one concept. How Boyhood was filmed was the only true conversation starter with how the film differed from its other Best Picture nominees. In contrast, the groundbreaking technique of filming Birdman in long, sometimes 15 minute long, unedited takes was rarely discussed, if at all. Instead it was what Birdman represented, its content, that was discussed by most. Therefore, Birdman won its awards because it truly offered something different to viewers. While the content may be cynical and satiric, there are so many dimensions to the film that it simply couldn’t be ignored and be placed in the number 2 position. There may be critics or viewers that will still claim decades from now Boyhood was robbed, but that is not my position. I think the Oscars not only awarded the correct film for Best Picture, but they also maintained that they are still a relevant awards ceremony.