The More or Less Live Oscar Coverage: UPDATED with Snarky Post-Mortem Remarks

As promised, here is the place I will comment on the Oscars as they happen. Feel free to chime in throughout the evening…or not.

UPDATED:

 

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Well, I said I wasn’t going to do a post-mortem on the Oscars, and I’m really not all that interested in doing one. OK, in my perfect world, The Grand Budapest Hotel would have gotten Best Picture, Wes Anderson would have gotten Best Director and Best Screenplay, but that didn’t happen. The thing is I’m not in the least unhappy with what did win. I think Birdman is a brilliant film on every level — and about as far as you can get from the “safe” choices the Academy usually goes with. I’m actually surprised they didn’t go for Boyhood, which is a “safe” movie disguised as a bold experiment — a having and eating your cake moment for Oscar if ever there was one. Yet they passed it by. And despite the fact that I have friends who are still complaining that Boyhood was robbed, I’m glad they passed it by. Those same friends should take heart that at least American Sniper lost. (I’d add The Theory of Everything and Whiplash to the list of “at least they didn’t win” consolations, but some of them wouldn’t.)

 

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I could certainly name things I thought were idiotic — like giving Feast an Oscar for Best Animated Short, or singling out Whiplash for Best Editing (sure, if we’re talking the last 15 minutes, but otherwise…). On the other hand, I do not get the idea that Boyhood should have been given the editing nod. The idea that there were “billions of feet” of film to sift through is absurd. Plus, there’s nothing all that complex about the way any individual segment was put together. If you had to go for a gimmick, why not the sleight of hand that made Birdman offer the illusion of being one long take? Or the changing aspect ratios of The Grand Budapest Hotel?

 

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Truthfully, I’m more intrigued by the post-Oscar reactions than anything else at this point. Maybe it’s always this bizarre wild west show and I’m just forgetting previous years — and that’s not impossible, since I had to look up last year’s Best Picture winner. Nothing is as forgettable as the Oscars. Always remember what Josef von Sternberg said when he resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1932 — that it “has nothing to do with art and even less to do with science.” (OK, so he was probably pissed off over losing for Shanghai Express at the time — hard to blame him — and after his outburst, he was assured of never being nominated again.) I honestly don’t know what they have to do with — or why, except habit, we pay attention to them. I had, in fact, pretty much stopped watching or paying more than cursory attention after Ann-Margret in Tommy lost to Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next at the 1976 awards. Then I started being a regular critic and realized — somewhat to my horror — that they kind of went with the job. (I have one friend who won’t even read my columns during Oscar season, because he just doesn’t want to hear about them.)

 

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Some of the reactions this year I expected. I expected the Boyhood Oscar backlash. It was inevitable. I certainly expected the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the right-wingers over American Sniper going home all but empty-handed. (Winning for the Best Sound Editing hardly counts.) I was fully braced for all the “liberal elite” remarks and the how Hollywood “hates America” and the how “an American hero has been snubbed” guff. I was more surprised by some non-right-wingers opining that voters remembered Clint Eastwood’s rambling “empty chair” speech at the Republican convention. It seems to occur to no one — perhaps because it’s made a lot of money (so did Transformers: Age of Extinction) — that it might have something to do with the fact that it’s a truly mediocre movie and historically as blatant a whitewash job as Aunt Polly’s fence. That it was nominated at all certainly suggests that a chunk of the Academy has not gone off Eastwood. At least no one seems to have issues with the Production Design and Make-up Oscars that went to Grand Budapest Hotel.

 

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Perhaps the most fascinating thing is the way the award show itself has been scrutinized. Was it bad? By definition, all Oscar shows are bad. Some just have more notable grace moments than others. This was no exception. Was Neil Patrick Harris a bad host? Think back to Anne Hathaway and James Franco and seriously ask that question again. And was there anything as shameless as the Samsung commercial disguised as Ellen Degeneres taking a “selfie” with lots of famous people? Not really, no. Harris was probably fine, which is to say he didn’t annoy me. But the writing was bad and the direction (what direction?) was even worse.

However, the ratings were down, so it must be Harris’ fault, right? It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that seven out of the eight nominated films were art/indie titles. The only mainstream title up there was…well, American Sniper. I suppose a case could be made that the Oscars finally did have something to do with art, but that strikes me as a stretch. I would never seriously call Whiplash or The Theory of Everything art. Would it not have made more sense to nominate Guardians of the Galaxy and Gone Girl? Both strike me as nearer art and both were popular. They’d have given the general public a shouting interest in the awards. Yes, I’m fully aware that this goes against the idea of the ballot. I’m even more aware that it’s apt to give us a set of nothing but hoi polloi titles next year. Of course, it’s worth remembering that 2014 was a particularly strong year for art/indie titles — and Oscar didn’t even appear to notice a lot of them. The prospect for 2015 duplicating that seems slim, especially since most of the filmmakers responsible will be between pictures.

 

And by the way, lighten up a little, you folks who are all bent out of shape over Sean Penn’s quip, “Who gave this sonuvabitch a Green Card?” concerning Alejandro González Iñárritu’s seemingly endless string of wins. Come on, it was a joke — made by a friend to a friend.

 

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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249 thoughts on “The More or Less Live Oscar Coverage: UPDATED with Snarky Post-Mortem Remarks

  1. Ken Hanke

    Just remember, no matter how unnecessary and trite the opening musical number is, it is bound to be better than the vapid red carpet interviews.

    • John Barrett

      After the fifth nominated song was performed, I phoned my older sister, whose opinions I always respect, to ask her one simple question:`When did Hollywood outlaw music?’ After the insipid hour of musical depreciation, they staged the surprising highlight of the evening, Lady Gaga’s tribute to Julie Andrews and `Sound of Music’. The fact that last night’s producers had to dig back fifty years for some good music merely makes my point. Incidentally I just tried to send you a different comment, but it bounced. I’ll try again.

      “I just bumped into your negative review of `Singin In The Rain’, the only pan on the Rotten Tomatoes page. Everyone else gushed at the `greatest musical ever filmed’. I have always found this a difficult film to get through. The plot and acting are juvenile. Kelly’s staging of the title song is one of Hollywood’s greatest sequences ever, and Donald O’Connor’s `Make ‘Em Laugh” are the two shining moments. Debbie Reynolds is just wrong as the romantic lead. She’s a so-so comedian, on a par with Martha Raye but just a bit better-looking, but back then the zeitgeist thought Doris Day and Rock Hudson constituted a romantic couple.

      And as an aside I never agreed with the critics’ lock-step hallowing of `Rebel Without A Cause’, filmed exactly contemporaneously with my high school years. And don’t ask me about James Dean’.

      My quite accidental discovery of your writing has inspired me to check out my local library for more of your contributions. Thank you

  2. Ken Hanke

    An award, huh?

    Best Supporting Actor…J.K. Simmons. Well, the evening starts off with no surprise. Gotta admit he swears like a champ.

  3. Xanadon't

    Went to 1 of 3 is be fine with, Norton and Ruffalo being the others.

  4. Edwin Arnaudin

    Screechy as this performance is, “Lost Stars” would actually be my preference for Original Song, but it won’t happen.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      “Thanks, Wes…oh yeah, the rest of you are OK, too.”

  5. Ken Hanke

    Make-up…GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. This is too good to keep happening.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      I know…might be a dry spell until Original Screenplay, but I still think Production Design is likely.

      • Ken Hanke

        I’m still hoping for BEST PICTURE and DIRECTOR, but it ain’t likely.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            A lady friend? Dunno. I didn’t watch the red carpet hoopla so I missed out on all that insider info.

  6. Andrew Leal

    My PC went comatose for half an hour, plus I didn’t realize the thingummy began on the half hour.

    So far I saw someone thanking the late Dick Smith. And then I got online and read people’s gripes (in other places as well) about the song I missed.

    So maybe I timed it just right.

    • Ken Hanke

      I don’t know if it was “thingummy” or “Dick” that tripped the damned profanity filter, but I just spotted this was in moderation. The least likely person I can think of to set off the profanity filter. Well done, Andrew!

      • I thought maybe it was just because I hadn’t logged in. I will take pride in having unintentionally fulfilled your SS prediction, though!

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      The Cinematography nomination pretty much sealed it.

      Having just seen WILD TALES, I’d rather have had it win than IDA.

  7. My mother is mostly baffled by what she’s seen of the Oscars so far (including Neil Patrick Harris talking to Steve Carell).

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      It’s consistent with the last few years in terms of being a bit of a train wreck at this point.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Best Live Action Short…THE PHONE CALL. I am slightly surprised, but not sorry.

  9. I usually wind up recording and just going back to what I feel like sitting through (plus the TV which is actually connected is in another room).

    I was rooting for BOOGALOO & GRAHAM, but PHONE CALL was superb (if a little intense for me right now). Dad’s favorite was actually “the Chinese photography one,” as he put it.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      Will crisis centers factor in to the Best Animated Short winner as well?

        • More of the animated shorts felt rather pointless (or like they took too long to get to the point they had). Although the screening we went to included “Highly Commended” (i.e. non-nominated submissions) shorts, so that added to the feel.

          The only live-action short my Dad didn’t understand was AYA. He stayed awake for all of them, but the animated DAM KEEPER had him dozing.

  10. Edwin Arnaudin

    *phew* Needed that BIRDMAN/WHIPLASH mashup. Things were getting pretty stale.

  11. Ken Hanke

    Sound Mixing/Editing…WHIPLASH. Does anyone who isn’t a sound editor get excited about this category?

  12. Ken Hanke

    Oh, that was just mixing. Sound Editing…AMERICAN SNIPER. (Let it end here, please.)

  13. When are they going to do away with these gender-Balkanized categories and promote a gender-neutral “Actron” award for best performance by a human?

  14. Ken Hanke

    Visual Effects…INTERSTELLAR. Reasonable enough…even with no talking raccoon.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      Glad to see spectacle rewarded, but would have been fine with any of those nominees winning.

  15. At least they stopped the gimmick of having animated characters “present” the animated feature awards (or react to them).

  16. Xanadon't

    Still here. Attention divided between bar patrons Oscars and my hockey game on the far corner TV.

    • Ken Hanke

      Let me know when the badminton finals are on. Now, there’s a sport!

  17. Ken Hanke

    Animated Feature…BIG HERO 6. I’d’ve gone with BOXTROLLS, but this’ll make Lisi Russell happy because Baymax reminds her of Ken. (And she’s not wrong.)

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      I guess voters thought if they voted for FEAST, they had to also pick the feature film it played before.

  18. Mr.Orpheus

    I’m kind of disappointed Ghibli was denied again, especially after THE WIND RISES lost last year.

  19. Edwin Arnaudin

    “I’d like to apologize to Dick Pope” – Cheryl Boone Isaacs

  20. Xanadon't

    The consensus at the bar is that N.P.H. has been a note. Haven’t been able to pay terribly close attention myself. Thoughts?

  21. Edwin Arnaudin

    OK, so we’ve figured out which word sets off the filter.

    • Even my mother can see why that won!

      …And the MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST joke just lay there. (But it beats actually having Seth MacFarlane host.)

  22. So, wherever the in memoriam people went, it’s snowing?

    Although a friend will be thrilled that Lorenzo Semple Jr. was included.

  23. I missed that animator Jimmy Murakami died (directed THE SNOWMAN and the bleak WHEN THE WIND BLOWS, in which a sweet old British couple slowly dies of radiation poisoning after surviving a nuclear war).

  24. Ken Hanke

    Film editing…WHIPLASH? Well, if we’re talking the last 15 minutes, sure.

  25. Edwin Arnaudin

    Who knew Terrence Howard was such a huge fan of THE IMITATION GAME?

  26. Xanadon't

    That performance was the most inspired moment of the night so far as I’ve seen. Uh-oh Lady Gaga threats are back.

  27. Mr.Orpheus

    I was getting ready to say how I would probably prefer Lady Gaga to clips from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, but this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

  28. Ken Hanke

    Best Musical Score…Alexandre Desplat, GRAND BUDAPEST. Am I surprised.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Original Screenplay…BIRDMAN…well, I’m okay with it, but…

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      Graham Moore looks younger than me, but he’s actually three years my senior.

  30. Edwin Arnaudin

    A lot of hate being thrown around on Twitter for those screenplay wins.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        Folks of the “BIRDMAN is egotistical garbage” and “the dialogue in IMITATION GAME is crap” persuasion.

  31. Ken Hanke

    Best Director…I was hoping for Anderson, but I’m not pissy about Inarritu for BIRDMAN.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      If this many major awards are going BIRDMAN’s way, Keaton may stand a real chance after all.

  32. Xanadon't

    Boyhood’s chances for Best Picture appear to be dwindling. This is a good thing.

  33. Edwin Arnaudin

    I hope Moore gives her acceptance speech in her MAPS TO THE STARS voice.

  34. Ken Hanke

    Best Actress…Julianne Moore. Well, 50% of my theory holds true.

  35. Ken Hanke

    And here it is…Best Picture…BIRDMAN. I’m okay with that, too, since I knew it wasn’t gonna be GRAND BUDAPEST.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      BIRDMAN: such a weird, wonderful film. Nice to see the Academy embrace something so odd.

    • Ken Hanke

      BUDAPEST and Michael Keaton were the notable disappointments.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        I’m surprised that Wes Anderson and Linklater went home empty-handed.

          • Ken Hanke

            However, I’m not entirely sorry to see that Best Picture and Best Director matched.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            Me too. I figured Linklater would get something, but Iñárritu took them all from him!

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            “Me too” for Anderson getting Screenplay…and for Picture and Director lining up. It’s weird when they don’t.

  36. Ken Hanke

    Okay, I’m about to wrap this up. I have one more review to deal with before morning. Any last thoughts?

  37. They actually credited all the dancers, choir people, etc…. without shifting to tiny “credits shoved in a corner while a news promo airs”. And a local sportscaster just mentioned “Everything Is Awesome.” Ummm.

  38. Ken Hanke

    Okay. It’s not only been fun, it’s been time consuming. And I have to leave.

  39. Xanadon't

    I need to catch up on Foreign Language Nominations. That’s all. G’night gang.

  40. Edwin Arnaudin

    I’m even more aware that it’s apt to give us a set of nothing but hoi polloi titles next year. Of course, it’s worth remembering that 2014 was a particularly strong year for art/indie titles — and Oscar didn’t even appear to notice a lot of them.

    I thought it was an especially strong year for blockbusters as well, though the Special Effects category was pretty much the only area where that was acknowledged. There are some decent candidates on the 2015 slate, but I doubt it will be as good a batch.

        • Ken Hanke

          Those blockbusters that were so good. I could concede Interstellar and Guardians and, of course, Gone Girl if it qualifies, but it’s not of the big tentpole variety. But I’m coming up blank on the others. Granted, I didn’t see Captain America or whatever Planet of the Apes this year offered, but I simply don’t like Captain America as a character, and have had enough cartoonish CGI apes for a lifetime.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            In addition to those you mentioned (and I far prefer Apes to Cap’n), the main one is X-Men: Days of Future Past. Though hardly anyone else agrees, I’d also throw in the last Hobbit, and though you don’t agree, Godzilla. And does Noah count? I figure The Raid 2 doesn’t, but it nonetheless outdoes many of its blockbuster older siblings on numerous levels.

            Then there’s an entire second tier of respectable action/CGI-heavy titles: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Robocop, Need for Speed, 300: Rise of an Empire, Edge of Tomorrow and John Wick. Still, I don’t know if any of this group fit “blockbuster” criteria.

          • Ken Hanke

            The only one I’d concede is the X-Men movie, which was certainly good, but there’s, I’m sorry, a certain ho-hummery factor to another X-Men movie. That factor in spades keeps me from even wanting to see that last Hobbity thing — to a point where I just wish Peter Jackson would stop altogether. The further away I get from Godzilla the more I actively dislike it. I guess Noah counts, even though it hasn’t made its money back, which raises the question of whether it’s a blockbuster or just a blockbuster wanna-be. The Raid 2 I liked a good bit. Too bad nobody went to see it.

            Your second tier of respectability is perhaps kinder than mine.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            And Edge of Tomorrow, which some people love to what feels like excess, just barely made the cut.

          • Ken Hanke

            That a sequel to 300 exists at all horrifies me.

            By the way, this thread now officially has more comments than Atlas Smug — without the aid anyone “proving” things by posting links to right-wing conspiracy sites.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            That a sequel to 300 exists at all horrifies me.

            I don’t like the first one, but a wild Eva Green makes the second one more fun than not.

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