The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Academy Awards

When I do my predictions next year, if I say anything along the lines of it being an “unpredictable year”, you have my permission to promptly slap me in the face. Despite all the discussion about how the winner of each category was so wildly difficult to nail down, everything pretty much went to plan, besides perhaps one major shocker. I am being completely genuine when I say that I was totally surprised to keep placing a tick next to prediction after prediction on my list.

In the end, I walked away with three misses from my predictions, and really two of them were just me being foolish by not banking on Birdman. My final standing amongst the over-3000 Gold Derby users that placed their predictions was 25th, and that’s my best placing ever…but let’s not talk about how I would have ranked 5th if I had gone with Birdman for Picture.

As for the ceremony itself, I wouldn’t say it was the worst Oscars, but it was far from one of the best. Let’s take a closer look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the 87th Academy Awards.

It was a real pleasure to see four very deserving actors being rewarded for four incredibly powerful performances. It’s always nice when we have winners that have never taken one home before, and even better when three of them are rewarded from their first nomination. Veteran actors like Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette were long overdue for recognition, particularly Moore, so it was wonderful to finally see that recognition being given. While I was disappointed Michael Keaton wasn’t also rewarded, Eddie Redmayne was still completely deserving, and perhaps someday Keaton will get another chance. At least now people are willing to take him seriously, right?

The quality of the speeches were some of the best we’ve ever seen. From Arquette’s empowering plea for equality for women in the workplace to Simmons’ beautiful words of advice for everyone to call their parents more regularly, we saw a great showing of speeches from the best in the business. The one speech to top them all was Graham Mooore’s incredibly moving and powerful acceptance speech, after he won Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game. Moore silenced the room, and likely those watching at home, when he admitted he had contemplated suicide as a teenager because he felt weird and different, but now here he was on the stage at the Academy Awards. His brave revelation, and the advice for all those teenagers in a similar situation to “stay weird and stay different”, was the most genuine moment of the evening. You just don’t realise the effect this could have on someone watching at home. To Graham Moore, I say thank you, sir.

Amazingly, every film nominated for Best Picture ended up taking home at least one award. While I will say that I obviously would have liked to have seen some films take home a few more awards than they did (ahem, Boyhood), it was still fantastic to see none of these great films go home empty-handed. Last year, it was painful to see films like American HustleThe Wolf of Wall Street and Philomena suffer this injustice, so I’m glad we didn’t witness that nonsense again. I’m not one of those Oscar pundits that thinks one film should sweep everything. Certain films are better in certain areas, and that’s how the awards should ultimately be determined.

I am a self-confessed Disney fanatic. I am one of the biggest devotees of the House of Mouse you will ever find. And yet, even I wasn’t brave enough to think Big Hero 6 could actually take home Animated Feature. Obviously I thought it deserved to, but none of the precursor awards had gone its way, so it didn’t seem remotely plausible that it would topple How to Train Your Dragon 2. This surprise win was quite possibly the highlight of the entire ceremony for me this year, even if it was a strike against my predictions. That makes it two years in a row for Disney, and entirely deserved too. It’s a shame that streak won’t continue, with no Walt Disney Animation Studios film scheduled for this year, but perhaps it’s time to give the spotlight back to Pixar.

Lady Gaga. I have been telling people for years that this girl can sing, and finally she got her chance to really prove it. Admittedly, hearing that a tribute to The Sound of Music was to be performed by Ms Gaga was somewhat of a surprise, and a slight cause for concern. Thankfully, it ended up being a master-stroke by the Oscar producers. Her voice soared through a medley of the film’s classic songs, and the audience rightly rewarded her with a standing ovation. Receiving the obvious approval of the legend that is Dame Julie Andrews was just the icing on the cake. Easily the most enjoyable moment of the entire ceremony.

Idina Menzel and John Travolta. Another master-stroke by the producers, and the most humourous moment of the evening. Bravo to Travolta for being a good sport about the whole “Adele Dazeem” nonsense of last year. Their interaction was a delight…except perhaps the rather creepy face-touching from Travolta. Get your hands off Queen Elsa, buddy.

I love Neil Patrick Harris. He’s been a wonderful host of the Tony Awards and the Emmys, and yet, as an Oscars host, he was a bit of a dud. I don’t think it was entirely his fault. The writing was fairly atrocious, and he was doing the best he could with each joke and setup. It’s just every single one of them kept falling flat, and the audience were only ever really giving sympathetic laughs. While the Birdman spoof was cute, it had already been done at the Independent Spirit Awards, just two nights ago. The opening number was impressive, but when you have a comedic host, he should be performing a comedic song. Not a semi-serious think-piece about the impact of film on our lives. I suppose he didn’t offend anyone, like Seth MacFarlane, and he didn’t suffer from a lack of energy, like James Franco, but compared to the phenomenal effort of Ellen last year, poor ol’ Doogie Howser came up well short.

Besides “Glory”, the Original Song performances were a massive failure. Actually, the nominees themselves were the real failures. I’ve said before that it was a bad year for this category, and these performances proved it. I quite liked “Everything Is Awesome” in the context of The Lego Movie, but outside of that world, it was just bad. Kudos for the Will Arnett cameo, but by that time, my ears had started bleeding in agony. I have no idea what Adam Levine, Tim McGraw or that girl who was in Fifty Shades of Grey for fifty seconds sang because I completely zoned out for each of their performances. I know it’s tradition for all the nominees to be performed at the ceremony, so let’s try and nominate some songs that people actually give a shit about next year, hey?

Was I the only one that found the front-and-centre seating position of the team from Selma to be a massive slap in the face? That area is generally reserved for the big nominees, and we all know that wasn’t anyone involved with Selma, besides maybe Oprah and John Legend. It just felt ridiculous to seat them in an area where they were surrounded by of all the nominees from all the categories they weren’t a part of.

The stage design…yeesh. Talk about garish. And what was with the two bellhops opening the fake doors for every presenter? I know the show was dominated by The Grand Budapest Hotel, but come on.

This is a personal one, so forgive me if you don’t agree, but Boyhood going home with only one award is a disgrace. I’m confounded by the fact that a film like this didn’t sweep every award it was nominated for. I genuinely feel terrible for Richard Linklater, and everyone involved in this labour of love. I know people don’t set out to win Oscars when they’re making a film, or at least that’s what they say, and it probably doesn’t bother them as much as it does me. However, at some point over the last twelve years, the thought “surely they’re going to give me an Academy Award for this, right?” must have entered into Linklater’s mind. After pouring so much effort over so many years into such a production, there has to be some feeling of disappointment to not being awarded for it by the Academy . It was also a chance to finally award an underrated auteur like Linklater, and that chance has now gone begging.

Adding to the above point, it’s also quite hard to accept the fact that these films all only won a single award – SelmaThe Theory of Everything, and The Imitation Game. And something like Foxcatcher went home empty-handed…oh, and Gone Girl, but I’ve said enough about that film this season.

We lost Joan Rivers in September, but you wouldn’t know that from the In Memoriam segment. Now I know she wasn’t known for acting, and she wasn’t a member of the Academy, but the woman single-handedly pioneered red carpet coverage of the very awards that have snubbed her. They’ve included non-industry people in the past, like Roger Ebert just last year, so it could have happened. Let’s be honest – the red carpet was fairly irrelevant before Joan. There weren’t red carpet specials on every network, but nowadays, those red carpet segments often get far more media attention than the awards themselves. She was a revolutionary for awards season, and failing to acknowledge that is incredibly disrespectful. I know Joan wouldn’t give a shit, and that’s the only thing that comforts me.

That bit with the predictions in the locked briefcase. Talk about the worst pay-off for a joke ever. After continuously reminding us that the briefcase was there, and dragging poor Octavia Spencer along for the ride (because you just know she wasn’t in on the gag), the ultimate reveal was the biggest flop of the night. As poor NPH kept going down his list of predictions, you could just hear his inner-monologue screaming “THIS. ISN’T. WORKING!”. Completely unfunny, and a complete waste of time.

Look, let’s be clear. Failing to win an Academy Award for Best Picture doesn’t change the fact that a film is a masterpiece. At the end of the day, one film has to win, and several others have to lose, and even more don’t get nominated at all.

Every year, there are truly deserving films that don’t make it into Oscar’s special winner’s club, and that’s a simple fact of the Academy Awards. Is the film that wins Best Picture really the best film of that particular year? Ultimately, the answer to that question is entirely up to you. It has nothing to do with what a bunch of people decided to vote for.

I’ll let you in on a little secret; most voters aren’t actually voting for the merits of the film. Shocking, I know. Why are they voting for that film then? Well, they’re voting because maybe they just happened to like it, or, more often than not, a smart campaign told them they should like it. They’re voting because they know the people in it or the people who made it, and who doesn’t like to give their friends a pat on the back? They’re voting because they’ve heard a particular film is going to win, and they want to be on the winning team. It goes on and on. Each year, there are a myriad of reasons people choose to vote for a certain film over voting for others.

It’s naive to think that winning the Academy Award for Best Picture is the only determining factor in what is the best film of the year. Sure, it’s a great indicator. No one’s saying it isn’t. After all, the truly “bad” films of the world don’t make it to the Oscar stage. You can look to the Razzie Awards for that. It just can’t be fallen back on as the be-all and end-all of how one looks at great films of each year.

Whether the Academy got it right or wrong this year, and every other year, is entirely your decision to make. I’ve just come to realise over the past few years that the ultimate outcome doesn’t matter. The Academy Awards don’t matter. If you love a film or a performance or a piece of writing or the work of a cinematographer, nothing can take that love away. Nothing. Certainly not losing a damn beauty contest like the Oscars.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Academy Awards. I still love awards season. I’ll still talk about both incessantly every year. It’s a great way to celebrate the year that was, and it’s still an enormous honour for any film or artist to win. You just can’t take the outcome each year to heart. As Sasha Stone, the Queen of Oscar blogging, often says, “the trick is not minding”…

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