Oscars 2015: Reaction and final thoughts.

Oscars pic 2.

Awards season is finally over, and it ended on a night that won’t have provided many shocks for those who’ve been following the build-up to this year’s Academy Awards. Let’s be honest though; viewers and industry professionals don’t exactly tune in to the Oscars for their unpredictability factor. I’ve already covered my broad feelings toward the ceremony in my preview and have no intention of commenting on little details like ‘what the stars were wearing’. I’ll leave that sort of thing for people who care. Instead, let’s focus on the actual films – I’ll quickly go through the main categories I looked at and made predictions for beforehand, while giving my thoughts on the results.

Production Design. I predicted: Grand Budapest Hotel. Winner: Grand Budapest Hotel.

The first of four wins on the night (joint most), The Grand Budapest Hotel deservedly took home the Oscar for one of the categories it was expected to do well in. Mr Turner deserved more of a look-in than it got here, but I didn’t really expect it to.

Costume Design. I predicted: Grand Budapest Hotel. Winner: Grand Budapest Hotel.

Again there was no surprise here, though the selection wasn’t great in this category (when your main competition is Into the Woods, you must know you’ve got a decent chance). I considered Inherent Vice a distant dark horse for some unique costume design of its own, but it was always going to be a shock if The Grand Budapest hadn’t won in this category.

Make up and Hairstyling. I predicted: Guardians of the Galaxy. Winner: Grand Budapest Hotel.

While I can understand the logic of giving this to Wes Anderson’s film (knowing it would likely miss out in the ‘major’ categories), I really didn’t consider ‘make up and hairstyling’ to be one of its standout strengths. On the other hand, this was one of the signature qualities of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and the fact it didn’t win this one smacks of a slight snobbery in the voting process. That would be a shocker…

Visually one can't deny The Grand Budapest Hotel was stunning, and always the favourite to pick up awards related to its production.
Visually one can’t deny The Grand Budapest Hotel was stunning, and always the favourite to pick up awards related to its production.

Sound editing. I predicted: Interstellar. Winner: American Sniper.

Well, although I didn’t foresee it being in this category, I did say American Sniper would inevitably pick up an award from somewhere during the night. After all, they couldn’t not reward this film in some way for its overly one-sided patriotic qualities – despite how inherently dishonest some critics may consider that portrayal to be. But let’s not get into that right now. Fair play to Clint Eastwood for another successful hit; he’s still one of my favourite professionals working in the industry.

Sound mixing. I predicted: Whiplash. Winner: Whiplash.

I had a slight suspicion that Interstellar might have stolen this one from Whiplash, and it wouldn’t have been such an undeserving travesty if that had been the case… actually, yes, it would have been. Thankfully, the award went to my film of preference; a film that mixes its sounds so immaculately that I could barely stop myself from moving along with it for the duration of the experience. Sound played a large part in making Whiplash simply extraordinary, and I’d go so far as to say if it hadn’t won in this category, it would have been the greatest injustice of the night.

Visual Effects. I predicted: Interstellar. Winner: Interstellar.

Nice to see Interstellar get recognition from somewhere (the other categories in which I predicted its success didn’t quite go its way), and one can hardly argue with its award for visual effects. Well, I could: my personal preference was for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but whatever. Couldn’t help feeling this was little more than a consolation prize for Nolan’s space opera, though, whose team may have been discreetly hoping for more on the night.

There would have been some who felt Interstellar deserved more on the night; I wouldn't really count myself as one of them.
There would have been some who felt Interstellar deserved more on the night; I wouldn’t really count myself as one of them.

Best editing. I predicted: Boyhood/ Whiplash. Winner: Whiplash.

Said it, didn’t I? “If you’re a betting person, place them on Whiplash as an outside chance” – should you have done so, you’re now counting your winnings. You’re welcome.

Cinematography. I predicted: Grand Budapest Hotel. Winner: Birdman.

A category in which Birdman set the tone for the rest of the evening with its first win; I had thought Grand Budapest Hotel would take this one home, with Mr Turner expectedly overlooked in favour of the big names. I’ll give Birdman its dues here though – it was a beautifully shot film. In fact that may have been my favourite thing about it, and of all the film’s four wins on the night, this was arguably its most deserving.

Best Score. I predicted: Interstellar. Winner: Grand Budapest Hotel.

Another category in which I thought Interstellar would find success for Hans Zimmer’s score, though in all honesty I did prefer Grand Budapest Hotel, which had an excellent soundtrack of its own. Not the year’s best; as I said in my Oscars preview, 2014’s best score actually belonged to Nightcrawler in my opinion. Though perhaps it was too understated (not to mention somewhat niche) to have expected success on the big stage.

Animated film. I predicted: Big Hero 6. Winner: Big Hero 6.

Anyone who read my review last week will know the high regard in which I hold Big Hero 6, so I’m happy it won here. Having said that, I haven’t yet seen every other film in the category and it wouldn’t surprise me if this was more a case of ‘voting for what’s familiar’ rather than what’s technically best; I can’t shake the feeling, for example, that Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya might just be better than it has gotten credit for. Alas, I don’t yet have the adequate perspective to judge.

Best Foreign Film. I predicted: Ida/ Leviathan. Winner: Ida.

Always looked a straight fight between Ida and Leviathan for the Oscar here, with Ida having the slight edge after its victory in the BAFTAs earlier this month (though Leviathan did win at the Golden Globes prior to that, so the playing field was somewhat level). Unfortunately I haven’t seen the Polish film; I have seen Leviathan. It set a pretty high standard, so if Ida can beat it not once but twice, I’d assume it’s worth checking out also.

Best adapted screenplay. I predicted: Whiplash/ American Sniper/ Theory of Everything. Winner: The Imitation Game.

Graham Moore's emotional acceptance speech for his adapted screenplay was one of the highlights of the evening.
Graham Moore’s emotional acceptance speech for his adapted screenplay was one of the highlights of the evening.

Little awkward; the three possible winners I suggested in this category all missed out. To be fair I think The Imitation Game is more than deserving, though I wonder whether it won here simply because it was inevitably set to be overlooked in certain other categories. Was this ultimately more of a sympathy vote?

Best original screenplay. I predicted: Birdman. Winner: Birdman.

No surprise here. I was personally rooting for Nightcrawler, against all logic that it could actually win in a category that also included Boyhood and Grand Budapest Hotel. Birdman a deserving winner, though this was ultimately part of an uncomfortable trend during an evening that almost became exclusively ‘Birdman appreciation night’ – which, I’m afraid, left a slightly bitter taste in one’s mouth.

Supporting actress. I predicted: Patricia Arquette. Winner: Patricia Arquette.

So we get into the acting categories, and there’s no real credit to be given for anyone correctly predicting who was going to be the winners here. The four winners to take home these awards, Arquette here and the three to follow, were the worst kept secrets of this year’s awards. At least they all thoroughly deserved the recognition. Patricia Arquette’s performance in Boyhood may just have been my favourite of the lot.

Growing old gracefully... Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke were as much a part of Boyhood as its central star Ellar Coltrane.
Growing old gracefully… Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke were as much a part of Boyhood as its central star Ellar Coltrane.

Supporting actor. I predicted: J.K. Simmons. Winner: J.K. Simmons.

See above. The only slight nagging problem I have with J.K. Simmons’ headline-stealing performance in Whiplash is that I feel it slightly diverted voting attention from the movie as a whole – one which was more than deserving of being a strong contender for Best Picture. In the end certain voters were probably duped into thinking it was all about Simmons. For me it wasn’t; while he was great, the extraordinary whole he was a part of was even better.

Best Actress. I predicted: Julianne Moore. Winner: Julianne Moore.

See above. I haven’t yet seen Still Alice but have heard enough about Moore’s performance to trust that voters made the right call on this one.

Best Actor. I predicted: Michael Keaton. Winner: Eddie Redmayne.

The one acting category that I think was a closer contest behind the scenes than the rest, to the point where I was initially convinced Michael Keaton would take it. Ultimately it still went to the overall favourite, and there’s no argument from me as Redmayne’s timeless portrayal of Stephen Hawking was arguably more deserving than Keaton’s Birdman or fellow dark horse Bradley Cooper for American Sniper. The latter looked a real possibility as the Oscars approached, and I’m guessing it was ultimately a lot closer than one would have expected.

Best Director. I predicted: Richard Linklater. Winner: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

Well, this was no real surprise as Inarritu also picked up the top prize at the Director’s Guild awards just two weeks prior. Yet… the jury’s still out for me, as to whether he was more deserving than Richard Linklater for Boyhood. While I had been sure that Birdman was going to walk away with Best Picture, I would have been satisfied had Linklater picked up Best Director as somewhat of a consolation prize. That Birdman took both, in the end, slightly unbalanced the night for me. Boyhood was at least equal, if not greater in its respective achievement as an outstanding piece of filmmaking.

Best Picture. I predicted: Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Winner: Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

"Wait... we won what now?"
“Wait… we won what now?”

The main event had been painted as a two horse race between Birdman and Boyhood, and the latter was certainly the closest challenger (at least until American Sniper reportedly became a surprising dark horse in the final few days before the ceremony). In reality, the writing had been on the wall for two weeks, since Inarritu won the top DGA award as mentioned above. This was a clear indication of in which direction the industry voters were heading; straight to Birdman, the romantic love letter to theatre aficionados and critics everywhere. I find myself slightly torn, as I enjoyed the film as much as anyone, but when I stop to ask if it was truly the best in this group, let alone of the past year (I’ve been trying not to mention The Babadook), I’m forced to answer: probably not. At least not when it’s in the company of the beyond exhilarating Whiplash. Simmons should have a word with those voters… Oh wait, he did. And they voted for him rather than his film.

One other honourable mention has to go to a short film that I haven’t yet talked about here or in my preview, and it would be remiss of me not to do so as it was made by a local production team from my home city, Belfast. That is Boogaloo and Graham; winner of the ‘BAFTA Award for Best Short Film’ and one of the nominees in the ‘Best Live Action Short Film’ category at the Oscars. This touching 15 minute story, about two young boys who bond with a couple of pet chickens, is set in 1970s Belfast during the troubles; such a setting provides a fascinating backdrop for the relationship between the two brothers and their chickens, which is both heartfelt and humorous.

It’s a refreshing scenario considering the overload of negative images most people have of that time period, though the film doesn’t shy away from the reality of it. One scene in particular highlights the potential dangers that lurked if you ventured out on your own at night in Belfast in 1978. I don’t want to give away all its secrets here though. If you have some spare time you can watch the film now on BBC iPlayer.

While I haven’t always sounded particularly positive about the Oscars in general, Boogaloo and Graham and its production team, the sole representatives from Northern Ireland, helped show what it can mean for those who aren’t among the big names and don’t often get the chance to be a part of such a spectacle. For them it becomes an unforgettable evening, whether they take home the prize or not (to do so is, I imagine, only a bonus on top of the recognition for just receiving a nomination).

Spectacle is ultimately what it’s all about, and that’s what most of us enjoy the Oscars for. Though our personal favourites may not always be recognised or generally considered suitable for the night itself, it is still a celebration of film and its cultural importance to our society. That we can occasionally have such differing individual opinions about them is one of the great things they offer us as a whole; the ability to appeal to almost any taste. Long may it continue, and long may I reserve the right to disagree with ‘the Academy’.


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