Tuesday, May 22, 2018

2015 Academy Awards honor the year’s best filmmakers



The Academy Awards are often cited as the biggest night in Hollywood—the people who win the Oscar are remembered forever in film history. Last Sunday saw the 87th annual awards ceremony, and while most recipients could be predicted months in advance, there were a few who surprised, a few who disappointed, and a few who exceeded everyone’s expectations.

The show opened with a predictable, charming song and dance routine from Host Neil Patrick Harris, and segued into the award for best supporting actor: J.K. Simmons was the predicted winner for his seething performance in “Whiplash”, and he took the Oscar with a short speech about the importance of family and friends.  Costume design went to “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, and so did makeup and hairstyling, which came as a surprise to those who expected to see the statuette go to “Foxcatcher”, for creating Steve Carell’s beaklike nose and sallow skin. Best foreign film, best live-action short film, and best short subject documentary went to the polish-identity film “Ida”, “The Phone Call”, and “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” respectively. The high definition drumbeats and jazz sounds of “Whiplash” earned it the Oscar for best sound mixing, and “American Sniper” won the following category for sound editing. As usual, the first part of the show was populated with heartfelt speeches, many if not most of which were interrupted by the Academy Orchestra for being too long. The nominees for best original song were performed throughout the evening at spaced intervals, though none of these performances held a candle to the song that later won the category.  Selma’s “Glory”, performed by John Legend and Common had many of the celebrities in the aisles weeping conspicuously. Patricia Arquette won best supporting actor for “Boyhood”, beating out Emma Stone and Meryll Streep for the Oscar. Next came a win for “Interstellar”, neck in neck in the category of visual effects with its rivals “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, and “Guardians of the Galaxy”.

The second half of the show featured more puns and gags from Neil Patrick Harris, and a relatively toned down performance from Lady GaGa of many of the songs from the legendary best picture winner “The Sound of Music”, which is celebrating its fiftieth year. Next, “Feast” the best animated short film and “Big Hero 6” the best animated feature film edged out competitors (notably “The Boxtrolls” for best animated feature film), bringing us to the awards for production design and cinematography. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won for its colorful and singular production design, and the innovative one-shot cinematography of “Birdman” earned it the Oscar for that category.

Next, “Whiplash” earned the Oscar for film editing—a slight surprise taking into consideration the 12 year editing process of “Boyhood”, but a wise choice considering the powerful and kinetic editing work done on “Whiplash”. Best Documentary feature went unsurprisingly to the Edward Snowden film “Citizen Four”. The next categories were the best original and adapted screenplays, which went to “Birdman” and “The Imitation Game,” respectively.  For best picture category, there was a toss-up between “Birdman” and “Boyhood”.  “Boyhood” director Richard Linklater and “Birdman” director Alejandro G. Innaritu were the two major contenders in this category, but in the end the Oscar went to Innaritu.

Then arrived the final three and weightiest awards of the evening—best actor and actress, and the highest honor awarded, best picture. In the best actress category, there was little doubt that Julianne Moore would win her Oscar over her counterparts, even acknowledging the career changing work from Reese Witherspoon in “Wild” and the chilling brilliance of Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”. But Moore’s performance as a woman with Alzheimers in the drama “Still Alice” garnered almost universal critical acclaim, and as predicted, Moore won the Oscar. The best actor category held a real surprise: instead of Birdman’s Michael Keaton, who played a washed up actor trying to cope with his wasted potential which was the very likely choice for the award, the Oscar went to a stunned but grateful Eddie Redmayne, who played Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”, his performance filled with dignity and compassion. Redmayne seemed taken aback at his own victory during his acceptance speech and stumbled over words in his excitement.

Finally, the award for best picture arrived. Between the eight nominated films, The graceful and powerful “Imitation Game”, the righteous and inspiring “Selma”, the subtle and heartwarming “Boyhood”, the daring and electric “Whiplash”, the magical and thoughtful “Theory of Everything” , the hilarious and bombastic “Grand Budapest Hotel”, the tense and heart-stopping “American Sniper”, and the mind-bending and dreamlike “Birdman”, only one could take home the Oscar. It was truthfully always going to be either “Boyhood”, the critical darling and feel good movie of the year, or the appropriately self-important “Birdman”, full of towering performances and heated dramatic brilliance. The final Oscar went to “Birdman”, giving the evening’s show a finale, and seeing it through to the end. It was a close race, but the films have been chosen, and now the film year begins anew.


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