Oscars 2015 — Bah, Humbug

OscarsI saw more movies-in-theatres this year than I have in ages, but still managed to miss a number of important nominees in various categories – which of course, doesn’t stop me from having opinions about the Oscars in general, and this year’s telecast in particular. So here are some observations…

  • 90 minutes of pre-Oscar drivel is too much even for me, though I thought Robin Roberts comported herself with characteristic dignity and grace (not that those are necessarily the qualities you want in a pre-Oscar interviewer). Lara Spencer, on the other hand, seems like an imbecile.

    Lara Spencer -- setting the tone for Oscars 2015

    Lara Spencer — setting the tone for Oscars 2015

  • Yet, it was Roberts at the helm for the most awful moment of the evening, though it probably wasn’t her fault. Roberts asked the widow of Chris Kyle (on whose life American Sniper was based) how he would have felt about this evening. “He would have been blown away,” she replied. Really. (As Anna Russell would say, “I’m not making this up, you know.”)

    Tayla Kyle -- "blown away"

    Tayla Kyle — “blown away”

  • The opening number – an Into the Woods / general Sondheim riff – was pretty good, especially Jack Black doing a send-up of the Witches’ Rap. It seemed a promising start. (The promise was broken almost immediately after. It was downhill from there.)

    Jack Black at the Oscars -- one brief, shining moment

    Jack Black at the Oscars — one brief, shining moment

  • Adam Levine – why?

    Adam Levine, looking tortured at the Oscars. (I know the feeling.)

    Adam Levine, looking tortured at the Oscars. (I know the feeling.)

  • I was happy with both supporting actor Oscars – J. K. Simmons for Whiplash, and Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. First of all, I’m always glad for those rare occasions when veteran middle-aged actors who have many fine performances behind them finally get some recognition. That’s certainly the case for Simmons, who’s been great on stage (Guys and Dolls) and television (especially Oz, but Law and Order, too). I guess Arquette, too, now falls into the middle-aged category, and certainly, she was marvelous in Boyhood. Both of them gave heartfelt, touching speeches.

    J.K Simmons and Patricia Arquette -- Bravi!

    J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette — Bravi!

  • Embarrassment surrounding the lack of nominations for Selma seems to have motived Oscar producers to make a special effort to recruit many African-American actors as presenters, etc. A good idea in theory, but often it backfired. Poor Octavia Spencer was assigned some silly shtick where she was supposedly guarding a briefcase, a repeated, demeaning gag – essentially, she was cast as a security guard or a maid – that, had this been 1940, might have been assigned to Hattie McDaniel. And why should the Oscars throw a coveted spot to Terrence Howard, whose domestic violence charges (yes, plural, with several of them undisputed) are well known. (Adding further to the cringe-factor, as a presenter, Howard was a weepy, incoherent mess.)

    Terrence Howard -- next time, get someone else

    Terrence Howard — next time, get someone else

  • The fake baby in American Sniper may be plastic, but it is nonetheless more lifelike, and with a more realistic skin tone, than Nicole Kidman.

    Fake baby (left); Nicole Kidman (right)

    Fake baby (left); Nicole Kidman (right)

  • Lady Gaga’s 11 o’clock number (in this case, literally at 11 o’clock) was both welcome and surreal. It was a nice opportunity to hear that she has a broad range of vocal styles, as well as a significant instrument. But I couldn’t quite figure out what she was doing – was it camp? Genuine appreciation for Sound of Music, with all its kitsch? A little of both? Also, I wish that a music director or vocal coach had worked with her to get more sense of line. I have no doubt that LG could do this superbly, but as it was, she often seemed at sea rhythmically, and frequently broke up words to sneak in an extra breath.

    The Hills are Alive

    The Hills are Alive! (The first tattooed Maria Von Trapp?)

  • Julie Andrews fakes sincerity better than anybody else in the business.

    Untattooed Maria

    Untattooed Maria

  • Eddie Redmayne was a surprise to me as as Best Actor – I assumed it would be Michael Keaton, which (though I’m a major non-fan of Birdman – see below), I would have respected. On the other hand, much as I like Keaton, I don’t think what he does in Birdman is anything special, and the sense that he’s this great actor coming out of a slump has been overplayed (since 2012, he has eight credits in IMDB). I didn’t see The Theory of Everything, but Redmayne is certainly a terrific actor – when I saw him at the Almeida in Albee’s The Goat, he was a revelation, and almost (almost) made me think that tawdry play had merit.

    Eddie Redmayne -- apparently as surprised as I was

    Eddie Redmayne — apparently as surprised as I was.

  • I’ve opined before about Julianne Moore’s over-reliance on tears (see here), but she’s a very fine actress, who certainly deserves an Oscar – whether for Still Alice or not, I can’t say, since I haven’t seen it.

    Julianne Moore -- not crying!

    Julianne Moore — not crying!

  • It’s a travesty that Boyhood – a profound, genuinely great, and truly unique film – lost out to the jittery, hipster mess of Birdman, a movie ostensibly about theatre but with even less authenticity than you would find on the silliest episode of Smash. If you care to read more of my thoughts on Birdman, you’ll find them here.)

    Still the best movie of 2015

    Still the best movie of 2015

  • I’m sure this will be my most unpopular opinion, but – Neil Patrick Harris is a dinner-theatre caliber talent, promoted far beyond his gifts. Once famous as Doogie Howser – the boy with an adult brain – Harris now has the opposite problem: he dispenses a smirking, self-satisfied boyishness that’s unbecoming for a man over 40.

    NPH -- not as cute as he thinks he is

    NPH — Oscars reveal there’s less than meets the eye

So… what did you think of the Oscars?

2 replies »

  1. I agree that Neil Patrick Harris, though fine on the Tony’s, was very tepid here and most of his jokes fell flat. I can’t say I agree that Lady Gaga has much to offer either, even post Tony Bennett. However, Julie Andrews’ response to her certainly deserved an Oscar. Clearly they gave it to Birdman for two reasons: 1) It was about “showbiz” and 2) it was rather innovative, though I found it hard to sit through. I have to correct you on Redmayne, – he was always the front runner having received every possible award there is for the trole. However, one thing the actors fail to recognize is that it is not the performance as much as the role that they win for, especially portrayals of real people. Turing is very sympathetic, but my god, who can beat Steven Hawking. Funny, genius, tragic. A baboon would win playing that man. And Redmayne probably should have acknowledged that.

    What I think is interesting is that it often appears to me that although the ballots are secret, etc., it seems as if it is all planned. Each major film gets some nods. Wonderful to see both Whiplash and Budapest Hotel get so many minor nods, this way more people will see their excellent films. Imitation Game should be seen, the story is very significant. Giving it the writing award works so that the writer could tell his own story, and without him, it is likely Turing’s story would have remained obscure.

    The biggest problem with the Oscars is that the show is just a bore. I understand that the producers and Harris looked at decades of old shows for inspiration. They should look at the Tony’s instead (which are wildly uneven, but at least some of it is great.) And that is because the Academy Awards is a filmed stage show, not a movie, not a TV show. Create a great stage show, and the TV casting will be great. Not such a hard concept really. Oh, yes I totally agree that way too much before AND after “red carpet.” I don’t know how anyone can watch this without a DVR! Stop using tepid young hosts and get an old timer who knows what they are doing!

  2. Overall I thought the Oscars were boring. Am I aging so rapidly that I don’t recognize half the people in the front rows? Where were the Hollywood Royalty?
    The writing for NPH ( also initials for a medical condition- normal pressure hydrocephalus) was awful. I agree that the boyishness is becoming incongruous.

    Some of the actors were truly outstanding in their roles. I did not see Birdman nor do I want to. There seems to be all together too much shouting in the movie. However I was shocked by Sean Penn’s bigoted remark about immigrants when announcin the award.

    The Theory of Everything was disappointing but Eddie Redmayne was fantastic.

    My idea of torture is to be locked in a room with Adam Levine singing in that intense falsetto.

    I recorded the red carpet intro which was thrilling only because most of it was such drivel that I could condense 90 minutes into about 15 minutes. That was bliss!

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