Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The 2015 Oscars

As I do every year I watched the Oscars on Sunday. I thought the year of movies was good, not great, more on that in another post. The Oscar race had a lot of locked categories but several were a tight race of a couple of contenders including Best Picture and Best Director which meant it could stay interesting until the end. I was also looking forward to Neil Patrick Harris as host.

I thought the opening number was fun. He skipped doing several minutes of standup comedy but his one line of "tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest...brightest" worked. He then went right into the song which I liked, including Anna Kendrick (can she host?) and Jack Black (just the right amount of him). The greenscreen stuff in his number was busy but clever. In the various film clips it was easy to miss that NPH was inserted in all of them. Most importantly, at 8 mins the opening was the right length.

I thought his introduction was a perfect summary of what an Oscars show could be:

But tonight is not just about the eight Picture nominees. There are 60 films the Academy has recognized. Tonight is for the composers and the computer animators, the set designers and the screenwriters, the sound mixers and the makeup masters. But tonight is also for the people who love these movies, who bought a ticket, who took a ride, who got lost in the stories that inspired us, the stories that motivated us. That remind us to be brave in the face of danger, to chase impossible dreams and to stand up for our rights. Tonight on this stage we have come together to celebrate and hopefully to fall in love with moving pictures all over again.

NPH the rest of the night was just ok. A few laughs, a bunch of misses, some subtle digs. When introducing presenters Jennifer Anniston and David Oyelowo he said "two people who absolutely deserve to be here tonight" referencing that many consider both should have bene nominated. That worked. I think the Birdman underwear bit was a little over the line. His (improved?) line, "I love that dress, takes a lot of balls to wear a dress like that" to the woman who won Documentary Short and had just mentioned her son who committed suicide, really not right.

There was much less banter by the presenters, which was good and sped things up, but I think also made it more boring. Keven Hart and Anna Kendrick briefly joked about being short and animated while presenting Best Animated Short was cute and Idina Menzel and John Travolta (aka Glom Gazingo) also worked, but that was about it.

So maybe they took my advice from previous years and made it about the award winners and let them speak. Unlike last year, the orchestra was definitely playing people off the stage (I think most had a 45 second limit), though several ran quite long.

Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, winner for Foreign Language film Ida wasn't leaving until he was done. He did have a good line. "Oh God, how did I get here. I made a film about as you saw black and white, about the need for silence and withdrawal from the world, and contemplation. And here we are at this epicenter of noise and world attention. Fantastic, you kow life is full of surprises." That and the applause it got took him just over 30 seconds, then at 55 the orchestra started up, got very loud and then gave up at 78 seconds before picking up again at 93 seconds. His speech went 96 seconds more then doubling the limit and got a nice round of applause for the audacity to speek for a minute and half.

There weren't too many other speeches from the minor awards (and I hate calling them that) that were interesting. But there were some great speeches. JK Simmons was thankful and humble, thanking his wife and kids and told people to call their parents and thank them, a fine sentement and a good speech. I don't think anyone has ever been happier to win an Oscar than Eddie Redmanye.

Patricia Arquette did a great job. She wasted no time and read her speech. She thanks lots of people though it wasn't just a list. She pitched her charity givelove.org and for wage equality and equal rights for women. She got Meryl Streep and JLo to stand and fist pump. Julliane Moore opened with a great line: "I read an article that said that winning an Oscar could lead to living five years longer. If that's true I'd really like to thank the Academy because my husband is younger than me." Common and John Legend also gave a good speech and while I knew the US's prison population was enormous, I didn't know that more black men are in the correctional system than were enslaved in 1850.

I think Graham Moore, the screenwriter for The Imitation Game gave what might be the best speech in Oscar history. It takes a lot of guts to tell a billion people you attempted suicide.

Thank you so much to the Academy and to Oprah [who presented it], for this. I need to show love and kisses on everyone who was a part of our Imitation Game family. [He then listed a lot people by first name] So here's the thing, Alan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this and look out on all these disconcertingly attractive faces. And I do. And that’s the most unfair thing I think I’ve ever heard. So in this brief time here what I want to use it to do is to say this. When I was 16 years old I tried to kill myself, because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here. And so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: Yes you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, and then when it’s your turn, and you are the one standing on this stage, please pass this same message to the next person who comes along. Thank you so much!

I found the song performances pretty unmemorable. The Lego song was a great number, but sounded terrible. The Lego Oscars that they handed out to the audience were fantastic. The one performance that was amazing was Glory. It deserved the standing ovation and the award.

Last year they did a few montages of movies (which were odd collections) and they got rid of that. This year the only big non-award thing was a tribute to The Sound of Music for its 50th anniversary. Lady Gaga sung a montage of songs brilliantly and Julie coming out afterwards really made the moment.

Meryl Streep gave the performance of the night giving the introduction to the In Memoriam segment. I believed that she personally knew each and every person who passed away this year. I don't know why they just showed drawings for the people and not actual pictures and no video segments. And they copied the time wasting from last year by having Jennifer Hudson sing a song in tribute afterwards instead of during the montage.

The clips introducing the actors seemed a little longer which I liked. There weren't really "clips" for the other awards, no actual pictures of sets for Production Design or Costumes or anything. The way they grouped the presentations and clips of the Best Picture nominations worked well.

Introducing Channing Tatum to introduce the young filmmakers handle the awards can be cut, or moved to the pre-show where they can be given a moment to talk.

Given the controversy about no black nominees they seemed to have tried to have more black presenters. I'd say diverse but it didn't seem diverse in any other way. To me this felt rude since I watched black people hand white people their Oscars ten different times. Only one time did a white person give black people an award (for the song Glory). It seemed representative of Hollywood trying to getting race right and being just off.

So overall I found the show meh. NPH's opening was good and he was likable but he really needed better writers. They did okay managing the time (just admit it's a 3.5 hour show). I'm not sure they did much to honor the moviegoers or all the off-screen filmmaker roles other than presenting awards, but ok. Most of the speeches didn't do much but there were some very very good ones this year. Andrew O'Hehir takes it a little far for me, but I mostly agree with him,, Oscars 2015: Nuggets of electric political theater, amid oceans of lame. Maybe running a pool keeps it more exciting for me. Same with Anna Silman, Neil Patrick Harris’ painfully boring Oscar night: How did a great host get it so wrong?

As far as my pool goes, this year I came in 9th, my worst showing ever. I missed 6 awards, a quarter of them. Though I have to say, for all the predictions that I got wrong, I think the academy gave the award to the more deserving nominee. So I can't complain about that. Nate Silver had a pretty interesting article, How History Judges The Oscars’ Closest Calls

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