“A night to celebrate Hollywood’s best and whitest …”
For my sins, I love crappy American TV shows, I love glamourous award ceremonies, and I love films, so the Neil Patrick Harris hosted-Oscar ceremony was like crack to me. It turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable occasion which threw up very few surprises. The one result I was surprised at was, in fact, the biggest award of the night, Best Film, with Birdman claiming the most esteemed statuette. Not that it didn’t deserve to win – in fact, I think it is the best film of the eight nominations. However, the pre-Oscars commentary and analysis had Boyhood down as a clear favourite, and given the unique way in which it was constructed, I thought the Academy had no choice but to give the accolade to this once in a lifetime film. Boyhood is wonderful and heart-warming, and I feel particularly aggrieved for Richard Linklater, who after 12 years of hard work really did deserve the award for Best Director. Birdman gives the impression that it was made for the sole purpose of winning awards; it’s a director’s ode to filmmaking, and we see this in its stylistic choices which give over to intellectual complexity. In the battle between heart and mind, mind came out on top.
The other acting categories were a foregone conclusion weeks before Oscar night. America would have been gripped with riots and the Hollywood sign would have been ripped off that famous hill if Julianne Moore hadn’t received Best Actress for her performance in Still Alice (yet to come out in England, but by all accounts her portrayal of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s is spectacular). Perhaps the same can be said for Patricia Arquette, whose depiction of a struggling mother of two is beautiful, uniform across the 12 years of shooting and tackles many sensitive issues, such as divorce, domestic abuse and providing for her children while studying. Eddie Redmayne’s gleeful squeals upon winning his Oscar for Best Actor were a personal highlight of the evening and, despite the quality of Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher and Edward Norton in Birdman, for the Best Supporting Actor to go to anybody but JK Simmons would be a tragic injustice.
Many critics have claimed that this year has not been a great year for film, but this is certainly not a sentiment I share. All of the Best Film nominees are very deserving of the accolades they have received, and the fact that great films such as Nightcrawler, Interstellar and Gone Girl were overlooked indicates that this has indeed been a strong year. I have very few gripes with the nominations – however, David Oyelowo’s exclusion has rightly caused shock and outrage; he should be recognised for an incredible turn as Martin Luther King. Another complaint I would raise is the lack of critical acclaim for Gone Girl. Sometimes I wonder whether I actually watched the same film as everyone else, because I was gripped from first second to last and loved it. A solitary nomination is very harsh.
In terms of British film-making, we can only take heart. The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game are fantastic tributes to iconic British figures that form part of our national identity, so their success is hugely cheering, and while Mr Turner and Pride were snubbed for any major awards at the Oscars, their success at the Baftas is illustrative of the strong crop of British films that 2014 has produced.
Best speech of the night goes to Graham Moore, whose emotional address after winning Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game detailed his troubled youth of striving to be accepted and excel despite being the victim of bullying. On a lighter note, the best musical performance goes to the live rendition of ‘Everything is Awesome’ from The Lego Movie, which was wonderfully absurd and came complete with Will Arnett in a Bat-suit.
Though there can be few complaints of 2015’s Oscars, with a new James Bond, a new Tarantino and another delve into a galaxy far far away on the horizon, the next awards season shapes up to be more exciting and far more divisive.