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February 26, 2015

2015 Academy Awards Recap and Reaction

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Written by: Kurt Hall
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The 87th Academy Awards recently took place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Despite being a year filled with the lack of a clear winner for most categories, there were a lot of amazing films worth honoring. Even though the Academy snubbed a few films that I would have wanted to shine some recognition on (Nightcrawler, Enemy, Under the Skin), the nominations had little to fault aside from The LEGO Movie being absent aside from a song nomination. For my personal coverage of the event it shall be broken down in the simple fashion of the surprises, the obvious winners, and most disappointing winners of the night. Kicking it off with the positives is probably the best place to start.

The Obvious(or moments where the Academy could get nothing wrong):
Best Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
There were plenty of strong performances and female parts put up this year but Moore winning is a slam dunk on many levels. Not only did Moore have portray one of the most heartbreaking health issues that tragically breaks apart families(Alzheimer’s), but she had to delve deep into an issue a few people reading this article may experience in the future. To imagine playing such a powerful character and forcing yourself to live through Alzheimer’s would be terrible enough, but she brought her character to life through the struggle to believe she was going through the pain of memory loss as well. It would have been nice to see Rosamund Pike take home a trophy for her astounding work in Gone Girl, but Moore was the most deserving performer.

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
In the most easy decision of the night, the Academy hit nail on the head with precision. In various other years, Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke may have had a chance. 2014 was the year Simmons took over with his best work ever in Whiplash though. Not only does Simmons play one of the most detestable characters ever put to the big screen, but he dives into the role with the ferocity and intimidation needed to create a superstar in Miles Teller. Through the role, Simmons veers the line between genius and madness, sometimes crossing over to madness to prove an important point; becoming a great artist can require a few screws loose.

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Despite my disappointment with Boyhood being a bit weaker than early reviews, the one shining element that brought life to the movie was Arquette as the fragile mother. Watching her struggle through bad decisions in significant others and letting her kids go as they grow toward the future is heartbreaking, especially when she is finally forced to move forward with being the only person in her living space.

Best Documentary: Citizenfour
The choices for documentary this year were very disappointing considering how difficult finding them became over the year. Not only that, but last year was a much stronger year for hard hitting documentaries. It seemed quite obvious that any film about a major story was going to take the trophy just by being more prominent. Citizenfour hit that protocol by being about a major news figure(Edward Snowden) and being simply being the most popular nominee.

Best Cinematography: Birdman
Shooting a film to seem as of it is in real-time can be difficult, especially matching up the long takes by matching camera angles with precision. Alejandro Inarritu has been known for making a different type of film every time out, and deserves this award for being one of the boldest film artists of his time. I would argue that Roger Deakins(Unbroken) or Robert Yeoman(The Grand Budapest Hotel) should have taken the award for slightly better work, but I am not going to complain about Inarritu taking a golden statue.

The Surprises(or sequences where voters might have actually gotten it right):
Best Film Editing: Tom Cross, Whiplash
When Whiplash was announced as a best picture nominee, it was reminiscent of past ceremonies where a smaller movie was put up for a filler spot. However, Whiplash clearly had a lot more going for it according to the academy. The performance of Simmons was an obvious win but the film taking home three trophies was a shock. Just being nominated for editing is an accomplishment considering how many films are released every year, and being honored as the best for a whole year is pretty astonishing.

Best Sound Mixing: Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, and Thomas Curley, Whiplash
Oddly enough the films that should have amazing sound mixing sometimes fail in that department. Movies based on the magical art of music can be the biggest offender of this ugly trend. Whiplash much like it’s title hits the viewer incredibly hard and fast with great musicianship and a story that will throw viewers in a world of pure madness and what it takes to be great under any art form. The sound mixing is obviously a major portion to create this experience, and this trio all deserve the award.

Best Animated Feature: Big Hero 6
Everyone knew this award was tainted without The LEGO Movie being up for it’s moment of glory, but someone had to take the award. Without having to worry about the juggernaut that could block everyone, How To Train Your Dragon 2 seemed like the obvious choice. The Academy clearly disagreed, but possibly through the aggressive marketing of Big Hero 6. While the movie is very solid and interesting, it was not the best animated feature of the year and could be argued to be out of the top three in the genre. 2015 may go down as the year where no one talks about this category for the Oscars altogether.

Best Original Screenplay: Birdman
Coming into the night, it could have either been a really bad night for Birdman or a great one. It could have either swept the awards ceremony, or lost every category. Apparently the first option was the correct one. The first sign came as the writing team was honored with the original screenplay award, starting an unstoppable trend for the rest of the major awards. I would have personally voted for Foxcatcher or Nightcrawler by having a more riveting premise and sense of darkness, but those films had much less acclaim.

Best Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu
It really is strange that the man who directed Amores perros, 21 Grams, and Babel is picking up his first Academy award for direction this year. With all the love the voters had for Babel in 2006, it could have easily happened then as well. Inarritu is known for being an eccentric director who changes styles at will to keep from getting bored and it payed off this time around. It would have made more sense to honor the 12 year achievement that is Boyhood here or even the incredible work from Wes Anderson, but at least the Academy still has the power to shock us every once in awhile.

Best Picture: Birdman
I’m not sure anyone really expected Birdman to take the major loot until after the directorial award was announced. Birdman seemed to be getting limited press compared to the rest of the category and it stuck out like sore thumb in the sense that it was the strangest film of the group. That charm may be the reason that voters went with it, but the win go down as one of the most debated results of the year. Especially in a year where no film really stuck itself out to become a heavy favorite.

Biggest Disappointments(or head scratching moments of shock and awe):
Best Visual Effects: Interstellar
Interstellar will go down as the most disappointing film of 2014 for my money. Not only did the plot feel like a mash-up of classic science fiction films, but the sound mixing and visual effects were too hit-and-miss to really pull me into the movie despite an amazing cast. I would have been happy with any other film in the category taking this award home, but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was the best visual blockbuster of the year in my opinion. Just looking at those apes and how they moved so cleanly is an astounding site.

Best Original Song: “Glory” by John Legend and Common, Selma
This seemed like the easiest pick to appease all the people who were angry that Selma was robbed of nominations in Best Actor and Best Director. Not only is “Glory” not that great of a track in my opinion, but none of these songs were all that enjoyable as a whole. “Everything Is Awesome” should have won by simply being the only song in the category that fit the film it was a part of on a narrative level.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game
Saying anything negative about this win does hurt a bit because Graham Moore gave an incredible speech about being different while accepting the trophy, but this just seemed like too much Oscar bait. The film’s setting, premise, true story format, and cast just screamed for this movie to at least win one award. It clearly worked for screenplay at least. We can take solace that American Sniper took no major award though.

Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Nothing is quite as saddening as seeing someone take home a prestigious award for playing a person who is not only alive but has hours upon hours of interviews to study. Not to take anything away from Redmayne who is a great actor, but his role seemed more like an honor for Stephen Hawking as opposed to his performance. Even the way that the crowd reacted was more of the award was cute than truly interesting. Michael Keaton took on a much more difficult role with Birdman and one could argue Steve Carell managed to break free of his comfort zone to play someone much darker and mysterious.

All in all, the 87th Academy Awards were a bit disappointing and lets just be honest, it was flat out boring. Excluding a few entertaining performances (“Everything is Awesome” and “Glory”) the overall production was a snoozefest. Even the charming and charismatic Neil Patrick Harris was unable to keep in the audience engaged. NPH started the night off with an entertaining musical number, but everything after that was mostly down hill for the well known showman. Despite being funny (atleast in my opinion), most of his jokes fell flat and the lack of audience response was clearly taking its tole on the Host. Even the briefcase stunt he introduced in the beginning and kept referring to throughout the night, turned out to be a rushed lackluster reveal, that even Harris had seemed to have given up on. The fact of the matter is, no matter how much they jazz it up, the Academy Awards just aren’t that entertaining.


About the Author

Kurt Hall



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