Thoughts On The 87th Academy Awards – NPH Holds Long Unpredictable Evening Together!

87th Annual Academy Awards - Show

Neil Patrick Harris wasn’t brilliant for most of his first evening hosting the Oscars®, but when he picked his spots he definitely sparkled – his few comments on the lack of diversity in the Academy’s selections (‘…celebrating Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry, brightest;’ Oh, sure ! You like them now!’) may not have been many, but they were perfect – making the point and then moving on (from that first dig right into a stunning eight-minute song and dance number that dropped him into classic movie scenes).

His Birdman moment (above) was also a palpable hit, and his running Oscar® predictions bit paid off beautifully. Then, instead of disappearing for large periods, he popped up after almost every segment with a pun or a compliment.

Other highlights included an unexpectedly awesome performance of a Sound of Music medley by Lady Gaga (Lady’s got pipes!); John Legend and Common’s stirring rendition of Glory (which won Selma’s only Oscar®) and their incandescent acceptance speech; Patricia Arquette using her acceptance speech to speak out on equal wages for women, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s comment on immigration.

Clearly, one of the reasons that NPH didn’t have to be brilliant every time up was because many of the award winners had important things to say.

The show, as usual, ran long – by 33 minutes – but thanks to NPH, it didn’t feel that long.

But what about the Awards (I hear you say). Well, they were partly expected but mostly unexpected. Who expected The Grand Hotel Budapest to win four? I mean, that’s as many as Birdman or (The Unexpected virtue of Ignorance). Who expected Boyhood to walk away almost empty-handed (Arquette being the film’s sole winner)? Who expected Whiplash to win three awards? Or Interstellar to win any?

So, here’s a quick look at the winners:

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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, Producers

Going into the evening, it was a toss-up as to whether Birdman or Boyhood would win this. Both were risky films that were innovative as heck; both were extraordinarily well done, technically, and both had unique stories to tell. The Academy went with the one that made the most noise and featured a tortured actor. Birdman would have been second on my ballot behind The Grand Budapest Hotel, so I wasn’t too badly disappointed.

 

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

I had an aunt who suffered from a form of dementia, so Moore’s performance rang true every step of the way. This one of the few awards that could have been considered a no-brainer going in.

 

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

The race here was between Redmayne and Birdman’s Michael Keaton. Redmayne had to play a man slowly succumbing to a disease that was turning his body into a living pretzel, while still having to deal with a staggeringly wide range of emotions about other things, as well. Even Steven Hawking said he got it right. I’d have had Keaton winning here, but I’d have marked Redmayne as choice 1a.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

This is where everyone thought Richard Linklater would have won. Telling the story of a boy growing to manhood over twelve years – that is an audacious concept. The Academy chose a film about an actor trying to reinvent himself to save his career – but the story was as much a series of none-too-gentle- pokes at everything Hollywood does – sequelitis, typecasting, going for tentpoles over more ‘substantial’ fare, and so on. I’m sure the technical brilliance of the film behind the camera – as well as Keaton’s incredible performance – impressed everyone to some extent.

Birdman would have been first on my ballot.

 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Imitation Game – Written by Graham Moore

Whiplash didn’t belong in this category – the short that became the movie was a proof of concept reel to help raise money to make the film. But, even so, I think the Academy went wrong with their choice here. The Grand Budapest Hotel was simply a better movie from page one.

On the other hand, Graham Moore’s acceptance speech – in which he revealed he’d tried to kill himself because he felt weird and didn’t belong, and pleaded with the weird kids out there to hang in there and, when they had the opportunity, to pass his message along – was inspirational.

 

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Absolutely the right choice.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SCORE)

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat

Again, absolutely the right choice.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Glory” from Selma – Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

Musically, I preferred Everything Is Awesome, but as a song that encapsulates the essence of the movie, Glory was clearly the best choice – also the best live performance of a nominated song.

One small bitch here: Gugu M’Batha-Raw should have been singing Grateful. Rita Ora did an okay job, but M’Batha Raw killed it in the movie.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

CitizenFour – Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Quite possibly the most important movie of the year. It would have been number one on my ballot. Lovely, appropriate acceptance speech by Poitras, too.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

Whiplash – Tom Cross

Another category where it was thought that Boyhood would be a lock – editing twelve years worth of material down to under three hours and making it seem invisible had to be a monumental task. Instead, Tom Cross won for Whiplash, which was at least as difficult to edit since it had to be edited to a very specific set of musical pieces as well as for the performances of the cast, the lighting and such.

I would have gone with The Grand Budapest Hotel, but after thinking about it overnight, this was the better choice.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Emmanuel Lubezki

For the second year in a row, Emmanuel Lubezski won (he won last year for Gravity). Any of the nominees in this category could have won and been a good choice. I would have picked Robert Yeoman for The Grand Budapest Hotel, but it might also have been cool to see Roger Deakins win for Unbroken (the only nomination the film deserved).

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Any year in which a Wes Anderson film is nominated for this category and doesn’t win, the Academy has gotten it wrong. They didn’t get it wrong this year.

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR

Big Hero 6 – Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli

One NPH’s best digs (‘If you’re at a party with the LEGO movie guys this is where you might want to start distracting them.’) made it clear to anyone who was watching that the best animated feature film of the year wasn’t even nominated.

That said, the best of the rest was Big Hero 6. Easily.

 

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Feast – Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Did these people not see The Dam Keeper? Talk about a rubber stamp winner…

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS

Interstellar – Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

Because the Academy felt they had to give Interstellar something – despite the visual effects in four other movies being, y’know, better.

Personally, I’d have given it to guardians of the Galaxy, but any of the other films would have been a better choice than Interstellar.

 

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

The other sure-fire lock of the year. Because she was just that good.

Seriously, anyone who was raised through their adolescence by a single mother will attest to that.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

American Sniper – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

I thought Birdman would win here.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

Whiplash – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

I’m not complaining, but I thought this would be where the Academy would throw American Sniper a bone. Instead, they went with the best choice.

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 – Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry

I did not see the nominees.

 

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

The Phone Call – Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

I did not see the nominees.

 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR

Ida (Poland)

I did not see the nominees.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

I would have gone with Guardians of the Galaxy, but upon reflection, with the number of characters, spread over three time periods, this was the right choice.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero

Absolutely.

 

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

One of the ‘Brutally Honest Voters’ printed in The Hollywood Reporter called his performance one-note. That anonymous Academy voter must not have been paying attention.

And that’s it until next year.