Monday, February 23, 2015
Paul's 2015 Oscar Reactions
Another year of the Academy Awards has come and gone. Congratulations to the winners, especially "Birdman" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" for walking away with four awards each. And congratulations to every nominee. To have the honor of even getting to a candidate for an Academy Award takes a lot of passion, hard work, dedication and a bit of luck. There were a lot of deserving films this year, with each category have several nominees that could have easily gotten these prestigious awards.
This was one of the hardest years to judge cinema in some time, since there were so many noteworthy and fascinating films to come out. "Boyhood," "American Sniper," "Nightcrawler" and "Wild" are some of the others that blew my expectations and made me forget that cinema is more than just a bunch of moving pictures.
Speaking of "Moving Pictures," let's talk about the Award show itself. Last year, I felt that the awards were decent, with the highlights being the acceptance speeches, the bad points being the award presenters and the strange being Ellen Degeneres as host, specifically her trying to balance her usual style of comedy and pleasing to a bigger audience.
But after watching this year's award show, I think my opinion of last year's has changed a bit, especially on Ellen. This was accomplished by looking at this year's host - Neil Patrick Harris. This man knows how to make an award show funny, energetic and something that you want to see. He's done that multiple times with the Tony Awards.
Yet, NPH often fell flat on the Oscars this year. Most of his jokes were stilted and awkward, where he just stared at the camera waiting for a response, followed by a weird smile. Sometimes he nailed it, like with the opening musical number, with NPH reenacting scenes from "Singing' In The Rain," "North By Northwest" and others, and even getting Anna Kendrick and Jack Black involved.
It felt like the jokes which NPH improvised worked spectacularly, like the payoff to his predictions briefcase. But other times, when he had pre-planned jokes, it all fell apart before Neil could finish the joke. Just like Ellen did last year.
This has convinced me - Scripted comedy always sucks for the Oscars. Why do you think Billy Crystal was such a great host? Because he came up with his own material and was great improv comedy. James Franco and Anne Hathaway were terrible hosts because they didn't know much about stage comedy and how to work an active crowd.
So I apologize to Ellen Degeneres for my awkward criticisms of her hosting abilities last year. I was under the impression that you were in charge of most of your own jokes. But clearly, the production crew behind the Academy Awards had pre-planned jokes for you to make. Jokes that were not funny and that you were not behind, just like NPH was this year. Both Ellen and Neil are great comedians, but the Oscars is not the place for good comedy.
If there is a lesson here, it is this - Pick Oscar hosts who are great at improv comedy, and let them write every single joke. Maybe then you'll find a host that can match Billy Crystal.
Anyway, outside of that debacle, there were several parts that I adored this year. The previously mentioned opening musical number was the first, and it managed to encapsulate so many reasons why movies are a joy to watch. That they are more than just entertainment and a medium to make money, but a gateway to other worlds, to meet people we grow to love or despise. NPH was clearly having a blast with his own shadow, and so was I.
Like last year, most of the acceptance speeches were great, especially J.K. Simmons speech about talking to your parents and not texting them. Or the winner for "The Imitation Game"'s screenplay, who talked about the kids who don't feel like they belong because they're different, and to tell them they're not weird and to embrace what makes them different and unique.
But the segment that I will remember for a long time is the performance for "Everything Is Awesome." From the visual style heavily relying on Legos, to Batman coming on stage and singing his hit song, this was everything that made "The Lego Movie" the great movie that it is. I especially liked the construction workers handing out lego-constructed Oscars to people in the audience, especially Oprah and Emma Stone, as if they knew neither of them were going to win an Oscar so they'll get this one instead.
Seriously, can I get one of those Lego Oscars? Please?
Finally, John Travolta got his vindication. A chance to apologize for butchering Idina Menzel's name last year, though after a bit more ridiculing. I loved that, because of that incident, neither of them will ever live it down. Travolta touched Menzel's face a bit too much during it, but that just seems to be how he rolls. Over-actor gonna over-act.
However, aside from the scattered comedy throughout the show, there were still some points that I did not care for. In particular, the over abundance of political agendas by some of the winners like Patricia Arquette and John Legend/Common. Arquette used her time to talk about how women need more money in the work place, and John Legend mentioned that the U.S. has more African-Americans in jail now than there were slaves.
Look, I could not care less what your political stance is on either of those issues. Whether you think women should get paid more than men or that criminals should roam the streets just because they're African-American is not my concern. But that kind of stuff does not belong at the Academy Awards.
This is a celebration of everything cinema, showcasing the best that film has to offer in the last year. I don't want to see someone get up on their soap box to talk about their world issues when they just won an award for acting. Politics do not belong in an awards show celebrating film.
Also, what exactly was John Legend trying to say? That we should let lots of people out of jail because they're African-American? Because those people were put in jail for a reason. The majority of them were put in there for breaking the law, and putting them back out on the streets means that they could do it again, including murder, rape, abuse and burglary. That sounds like a smart idea.
I'm not sure that's what he meant though. That's just what I got out of it, and it sounded stupid.
Overall, this was a fairly uneventful Academy Awards. The comedy was dull, though there were a few surprises every once in a while, the acceptance speeches ranged from poetic and heart-warming to preachy and confusing, and several musical numbers were the highlights of the night. Neil Patrick Harris clearly did the best that he could with what he had to work with, even if the production team behind the Academy Awards limited what he could do and say.
Not many big surprises for winners, aside from Richard Linklater not winning Best Director for "Boyhood." I felt that he had that one all wrapped up, only for "Birdman" to sweep most of the big awards. A nice evening was had though, with a few very nice and awesome moments thrown in.
And I can honestly say I did not expect some select songs from "The Sound Of Music" to ever be played by Lady Gaga. That came as a big surprise to me.