The 2015 Oscars

I didn’t do a traditional recap this year because I was at a friend’s party. It was a fantastic time.

Anyway, The Oscars and me have a very bizarre history. It’s the one day of the year where I become downright evil. I suppose it can be compared to what Super Bowl Sunday does to some people. I watch for the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

But this year I was not enthusiastic about the ceremony as I’ve been in years past. There were some great films nominated, but they were overshadowed by the number of snubs and poor choices.

I recognize that “snub” is a bit of a malapropism. No one is really snubbed because no one has a right to or “deserves” an Oscar. It’s based on a vote by AMPAS members and is entirely at their discretion.

But if AMPAS is supposed to celebrate excellence in film, then they failed on so many levels even before the ceremony began. And they continued to fail as the evening dragged on.

Jake Gylenhall was the best actor of 2014. Life Itself was the best documentary of 2014. The Lego Movie was the best animated movie of the year. Gone Girl had one of the best screenplays. Mark Mothersbaugh wrote the best score of 2014.

And none of them had any chance of walking away with a statue.

And that’s not even getting into the winners. We saw The Imitation Game win for Best Screenplay, even though the screenplay was confused and tried to do too much. Eddie Redmayne beat Michael Keaton, even though Redmayne just gave one of the worst performances I’ve seen in a while (in Jupiter Ascending). Somehow, “Glory” beat “Everything is Awesome” for best original song.

How on earth can AMPAS accomplish its mission if it’s making such mistakes? The only winners I were excited to see were Patricia Arquette…and actually that’s it. I did not feel like I was really seeing excellent work being rewarded.

I was surprised to see Birdman win the top prize. Actually, I was sort of pleased. Birdman is great, but it’s also very experimental. That usually makes the conservative Oscar voters shudder.

But that’s another problem – there’s been a rallying cry that AMPAS is so out of touch with the public that they are not in a position to judge the best films. I don’t agree with this, mostly because I don’t agree that the “best of” anything is a popularity contest.

But I’m starting to think that maybe they have a point. I keep hoping that winning an Oscar will cause people to seek a film out. That’s happened before (The Shawshank Redemption bombed in theaters but did great business after picking up a ton of nominations) but it now seems to be the exception. People are not going to see these films.

I’m not sure what the balance is or if anything can be done. But considering the ratings were down compared to years past, AMPAS may be getting scared. And that is not a good place for the future of the Oscars.

THE SHOW

I did like Neil Patrick Harris as a host, but at times he seemed a little too subdued. The opening number was fabulous, as was his recreation of Birdman’s famous scene. I also liked the bit about the seat fillers.

But other jokes were just odd. What was the point of that magic trick with the briefcase? That was just a bizarre gag that went on to long at the expense of Octavia Spencer. And that Edward Snowden joke was tasteless. There have been worse Oscar hosts, but Harris won’t go down as one of the greats.

The stand out was Lady Gaga and that Sound of Music tribute. I’ve made my feelings about that movie perfectly clear and don’t understand why it’s still being praised 50 years later.

But Gaga’s medley was sublime. I keep forgetting how great a singer she really is. It made me almost…almost…change my mind about the songs in The Sound of Music.

And then she got to that dumb lyric about bright copper kettles and I snapped back into reality.

Another great stand out was the performance of “Everything is Awesome,” which didn’t end up winning. Most songs that are nominated are dreary affairs. Not this. Everyone was just so pleased for this opportunity to perform that they threw caution to the wind. It’s the most fun I think I’ve ever seen an Oscar performer have. I also want one of those Lego Oscars.

But, those few bright spots didn’t feel like enough for me. Although a three hour show consisting of a few bright spots brought down by dumb choices is pretty much what the nominees meant to me.

Oh well. There’s always next year.

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