Thursday, February 26, 2015

Oscar Postmortem Pt. 4: Telecast Highlights

I always record the Oscars so I can go back and rewatch it later the same week.
It's practically a necessity since I'm often so distracted with my prediction lists and my agony and ecstasy over the winners and losers and whatnot, that I miss some of the little moments that make this whole meat parade worthwhile!

There are still glimmers of fun left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as awards season. So allow me to parse through the 3+hour telecast and highlight the diamonds in the rough. And believe me, it was rough.

Things didn't start off so bad, though. Rather than force host Neil Patrick Harris to struggle through an opening monologue, they fed him one solid joke and then he was off to the races with his song-and-dance routine, "Moving Pictures".
This show got 99 problems, but graphic design ain't one!
Lovely sets and animated title cards.

Reactions to the start of NPH's number include:
1) A game Benedict Cumberbatch, taking a swig from his cumberflask before mouthing, "go away" to the camera,
2) A confused Clint Eastwood, who may not get the Kanye reference Neil just directed at him,
3) An awed Oprah
4) A dumbfounded J-Hud, and (just over her shoulder)...
5) Jennifer Aniston. She looks... not happy.
I wonder about what?

Neil was later joined by Anna Kendrick in full Cinderella garb. Kendrick can only improve any musical moment she's a part of (she was certainly the best thing about Into the Woods). Jack Black, on the other hand, is hit-and-miss, but I'd say his interlude -- decrying the commercialism of Hollywood -- largely worked (with an assist from Stephen Sondheim). But how great would it have been to see Meryl sing that bit in full Witch get-up!?

Stormtroopers, gladiators, and GIs share the stage;
A metaphor for the bloodbath that is the Oscars?

While the final chorus leaned a little too far into Rob-Lowe-circa-1989 territory for my comfort (lest we forget), overall I'd say the song itself was great; Sharp lyrics and a catchy melody that became the whole program's musical theme. Credit Frozen tune smiths Robert Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Could they win an Emmy?

J.K. Simmons won the night's first award. Hugely satisfying to see him get his due. NPH followed it up by chanting, “He won an Oscar. Bum ba-da-dum-bum bum bum bum!” to the tune of the Farmers Insurance jingle (tehee!).

But it was mostly down hill from there, as he spent the next several minutes setting up the tedious lockbox gag.
Matt Damon lookalike Brian Cullenan doesn't mind being roped into Neil's bit.
Octavia wonders what she's gotten herself into.

Adam Levine sang the first Oscar nominated song "Lost Stars". I understand why the producers want to get the star recording artists, but wouldn't it have been wonderful to have Keira Knightley sing this one? Maybe due a duet with Levine?

The awards for costumes and makeup went to The Grand Budapest Hotel.
First awesome shout-out of the night: Best Makeup winner Mark Coulier to the late, great Dick Smith.

Best Foreign Film winner Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida) delighted the crowd with this witty observation:How did I get here? We made a film about... well, as you saw, in black and white, and about the need for silence and withdrawal from the world and contemplation, and here we are at this epicentre of noise and world attention. Fantastic. Y'know life is full of surprises.” But then he really won the room over by rebelliously talking over the orchestra for 25 seconds until they brass section had no more breath left in them the music stopped! Winners: 1, Orchestra: 0.

Then Marion Cotillard came out to introduce Best Original Song nominee "Everything Is Awesome". You know what I need: An MP3 of Marion Cotillard introducing "Everything Is Awesome".
LEGO Oscars are awesome. Batman's "Darkness, No Parents" is awesome. Everything is awesome. I would love to have been a fly on the wall at some Oscar party where no one had actually seen The LEGO Movie or heard the song.
They would have NO IDEA what was happening!

Channing Tatum's LEGO Oscar photobombs Steve Carell. Glad Tatum got something. He's the unsung hero of Foxcatcher. When presenting Best Documentary Short, you could distinctly hear Jason Bateman and Kerry Washington talking about how good they thought Crisis Hotline was. I'm going to them for all my short doc predictions from now on.



Tim McGraw took the stage next to croon the pretty country ballad "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" by Glen Campbell. Had people seen the movie, this song might have won.

After the commercial break, we get the only NPH gag of the night that worked (for me, anyway). Movie parodies are definitely my tempo.

Flash forward to Best Supporting Actress. Jared Leto described them thusly: “They are four women, plus in accordance with California state law, Meryl Streep.” HA!
I don't know who was picking the acting clips, but apart from Emma Stone's "you're not important" rant, they weren't the best. You can see what Meryl thought of hers (right). Of course Patty Arquette won, passionately calling for gender equality in her much-debated speech. But my favourite moment came one minute earlier when her name was called:

Ellar Coltrane, way in the back, bolts up the aisle to try and hug Patty in time...
... but he gets there just as she's turning to the stage,
only getting a hand on her shoulder :(
But look who's there to wrap Ellar up in a huge bear hug. Ethan Hawke has seriously been one of my favourite things about this whole awards season.

Second awesome shout-out of the night:
Best Visual Effects winner Paul Franklin to brilliant physicist Kip Thorne.

Rita Ora's performance of "Grateful" from Beyond the Lights was okay, but the light show was better.

Then came Best Animated Feature... yeah, not thrilled about how that turned out. But we did get a cute moment when director Don Hall thanked the cast, and T.J. Miller (way up in the nosebleeds) made sure his holler-back was heard throughout the entire theatre.

Felicity Jones helped present Best Production Design to The Grand Budapest Hotel. "They've won so many tonight!" you could her exclaim. Clearly Felicity isn't an Oscar obsessive, or this would have come as no surprise to her.

Third awesome shout-out of the night:
Best Production Design winner Adam Stockhausen to the criminally never nominated production designer Mark Friedberg.

I also need to get me an MP3 of Jessica Chastain announcing the winner of Best Cinematography: "Chiiiivvvvvooooo!"

Jennifer Hudson came out after the In Memoeriam segment to sing "Can't Let Go" from the TV series Smash... which was produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron... and got cancelled. Guess we know who it really is that can't let go.

Terrence Howard was oddly emotional when presenting the final group of Best Picture nominees. "Out next nominee is amazing," he said, on the verge of tears. Surely he's taking about Selma, I thought. No; The Imitation Game. Uh.... okay.

Now here's a moment worth getting legitimately emotional over. John Legend manned the piano while Common recited his spoken words from a recreation of the iconic Petus Bridge, as the choir chanted "Glory". It doesn't get more hair-raising than this, and the performers earned a lengthy, tear-eyed ovation.
The final chorus (sung a capella) = the best kind of goosebumps
This is the uncontested highlight of the night for many. I have to agree.

The dramatic momentum was momentarily interrupted by some Idina Menzel / John Travolta banter that was simultaneously droll and unsettling, but the crowd was brought to its feet again when Common and John Legend got up to accept their well deserved Oscars. Amazing speeches.

The Lady Gaga Sound of Music tribute ensued, which is terrific on its own, but stopped the show -- already running long with seven more categories left -- dead in its tracks.

Fourth awesome shout-out of the night:
The world is a far richer place for having heard Julie Andrews say, "Dear Lady Gaga, thank you for that wonderful tribute!"

Graham Moore's was one of the more personal and touching speeches of the evening, speaking about his own history of depression and encouraging people to "stay weird, stay different". Lovely.

It was a regular old love-in all night long amongst the "competing" nominees, but some real heart-warmers included Hans Zimmer being so genuinely thrilled for Alexandre Desplat, and the group hug between Inarritu, Linklater, and Miller
(the three Best Director nominees I would have nominated myself).
Love Hans' emerald and gold scarf.

Top acting prizes came next, and as monumentally bummed as I am about Keaton losing, it would a shame to be denied Eddie Redmayne's adorably giddy reaction to winning his Oscar. Oops, I just called it Redmayne's Oscar, didn't I?
My mistake. We all know it is (and always will be) Keaton's Oscar. It just has Eddie's name on it. As for Julianne Moore, I don't think I can take seriously any movie lover who claims not to be ecstatic about seeing her clutching her own goldenboy at long last.

And finally, after a butt-numbing wait, Birdman was declared the Best Picture of 2014. Inarritu laughed off Sean Penn's salty "green card" comment and quipped, "Maybe next year they will institute some new immigration rules to the Academy. Two Mexicans in a row, that's suspicious I guess."

Fifth awesome shout-out of the night: Inarritu thanks his friends Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro. Now we need to get Guillermo an Oscar to complete the trifecta, but since he's more of a genre genius and the Academy already passed on his career masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth, it'll probably never happen (sob). Inarritu also called Chivo "the artist of our generation" when he was accepting Best Director; You could definitely make that case.

It's only right that Michael Keaton should be on Oscar's stage for the Academy's highest honour. And when Inarritu offered him the mic, he shrugged it off with a relaxed yet classy, "Who am I kiddin'? It's just great to be here!"
Keaton keepin' it real. Win or lose, it's been an amazing year for him.

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