By Christian DiMartino
The 87th annual Academy Awards aired on Sunday, Feb. 22, and I am still in awe. Even though some of my predictions were wrong, I was glad they were wrong, because something magical happened for the second year in a row: my personal pick for Best Picture actually won. Before I get there though, let’s discuss the rest of the night.
First, the host. Personally, I kind of enjoyed Neil Patrick Harris. Some of his jokes were hit or miss, but it was at least obvious that he was trying his best. Last year when Ellen Degeneres hosted, it just felt lazy, which is shocking because she is so funny and charismatic. It was refreshing to see a host enjoy himself onstage. It was not great, but it was good enough.
Next, the songs. There were too many musical performances too soon. Holy mother of God, I never thought they were going to end, and being the big film enthusiast I am, I just wanted to hear the winners. I have to say though: Lady Gaga was excellent. I do not mind her as a musician, even though she is strange, but when I heard her jam out to The Sound of Music up there, I was bewildered by just how good it was. She appeared to even blow Julie Andrews away. It was undeniably marvelous.
Alright, to the awards. Usually there are some awards that are pretty obvious. This year, there was no way that Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) and Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) were going home empty-handed. I was really hoping Michael Keaton was going to win Best Actor for Birdman, but I figured it was not going to happen. Still, they all deserved it (especially Moore and Simmons), so congratulations.
However, while some were obvious, there were a lot of surprises. What do I mean? Allow me to explain. Boyhood is probably the most groundbreaking piece of cinema to arrive in years, and at the start of the Oscar race, it was sweeping up nearly every Best Picture award in sight. But I never really agreed with it. I do agree with its Best Director awards for Richard Linklater, but as a film, on an enjoyment level, I prefer Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman. I just figured Boyhood was going to take home the gold.
It seemed like a lock, but then, the unthinkable happened: it took a sudden fall from grace. Despite winning the top honors nearly everywhere, Inarritu won the Best Director award at the Directors Guild of America awards, and suddenly Boyhood was top dog no more. Experts believed either Boyhood would still win it all, Birdman would win it all, or Birdman and Boyhood would split Best Picture and Director.
I still believed in Boyhood, despite wanting Birdman to win. As I watched the show, I honestly had no idea what was going to happen. With that said, I started losing faith in Boyhood when it lost Best Editing to Whiplash. A lot of the time, what wins Best Editing wins Best Picture. But Birdman was not even nominated for Best Editing though, so it was all up in the air.
I had expected Best Original Screenplay to go to Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, but it instead went to Birdman, leaving Boyhood in the dark again. I was beginning to raise my eyebrow.
Then, Best Director came along. I figured that if they were going to split, this award would go to Linklater, since he devoted 12 years of his life to one film. Much to my surprise though they gave the award to Inarritu. So, despite that, I still thought Boyhood could make a comeback. But here is the thing: it would be weird for it to only go home with two awards, while Birdman would be going home with four. But hey, you never know.
Then once Best Actor and Actress were revealed (let me say it again: Keaton should have won), it came down to one award: Best Picture. At this point, I had no idea which was going to win. For all I knew, it could have been Whiplash. It had already won three awards. The only nominees that did not stand a chance were American Sniper, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, and Selma.
But then, it happened: Sean Penn opened up that envelope, and when he announced that Birdman was in fact the winner, I screamed. This is a rare event, considering that I barely yell. I was so happy that it was almost pathetic. Even though I had gotten my predictions wrong, I did not care. After rooting for it for months, my dream came true.
This shows that the Academy is smarter than we think. Instead of going with the ambitious 12-year project, they went with a lively, hilarious, and just downright brilliant comedy. When you look at recent Best Picture winners, such as 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The Artist, and The King’s Speech, to name a few, Birdman does not make much sense, but I am almost too happy that it won. The real Best Picture of the year, Interstellar, did not get a nomination, but the second best did, and that is good enough for me.
I do feel bad for Linklater though. He made a great movie, but yet he went home with nothing. Oh well, Birdman is better. Better luck next year.
So, to answer your question, yes: I am happy with the choices, with the exception of Redmayne. It was an excellent performance, but it is too soon for him to win an award. Just saying. This is been a heck of an Oscar season, and I hope next year is just as interesting.
American Sniper: 1 win (Best Sound Editing)
Birdman: 4 wins (Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Picture)
Boyhood: 1 win (Best Supporting Actress)
The Grand Budapest Hotel: 4 wins (Best Costume Design, Best Art-Direction, Best Make-up, Best Original Score)
The Imitation Game: 1 win (Best Adapted Screenplay)
Selma: 1 win (Best Original Song)
The Theory of Everything: 1 win (Best Actor)
Whiplash: 3 wins (Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing)