The pressure was off. The streak was snapped last year. I had seen the movie that had won Best Picture five years in a row, and each time, hours before the Academy Awards. It didn't happen last year, so Sunday, just to get into the Oscar spirit, I thought I'd go see Birdman.
I was pretty sure American Sniper was going to win the top award last night, but I was really in no mood to see it. Whiplash and Imitation Game were both showing at a hole-in-the-wall theater in Sacramento, but I heard Michael Keaton was great, and the cast was good, so I figured why not? I hadn't been following the hype. I didn't know it was coming, but I was happy when it was named Best Picture at the 87th Academy Awards, otherwise known as, “The Oscars.”
Did you notice that ABC never referred to them as the Academy Awards? Some kind of branding, I guess, but the show was the same, and it lived up to expectations. Host Neil Patrick Harris delivered what was to be expected. His opening salvo missed a little bit when he welcomed people to the show that featured “the best and whitest'. The crowd, not realizing perhaps that the show had started, was a little late laughing at that one.
If I hadn't seen Birdman, I probably wouldn't have understood Harris walking through the theater in his underwear. I also wasn't confident that his show-long bit of having his Oscar predictions sealed in a briefcase would come through, but it did. Just before Best Picture, when he opened the envelopes, there was a list of weird things that happened during the show. By the way, there were a lot of them, and to illustrate that, Shirley MacLaine was a presenter and she didn't even make the list.
As far as Birdman goes, the movie is a little long, somewhat sad and depressing, weird, and really none of the characters are all that lovable. You feel sorry for Keaton, but you also love the movie. I can't say it deserved Best Picture because I had nothing to compare it to. I'm just happy I saw it, and I'm happy it won.
Highlights from this year's “Oscars”...
Best Harris line: It came early. After J.K. Simmons, who is still much more known for his State Farm Insurance commercials than his dramatic acting, won Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash, Harris, to the tune of the insurance jingle, sang “He won an Oscar. Bum bum bum bum bum bum bum.”
Most contrived situation: John Travolta and Idina Menzel presenting together. Travolta messed up the pronunciation of her name before, so to make light of it, they presented together. It was just weird, though.
Best line by a presenter: Jared Leto, when introducing the Best Supporting Actress nominees, called them “four women, and in accordance with California state law, Meryl Streep,”
Best speeches (Part 1): There were several, but for the sheer joy of winning, you have to give it to Eddie Redmayne, winner of Best Actor for The Theory of Everything. He called himself “a lucky man” and you could tell there was no part of his emotion that was canned or rehearsed...Graham Moore, winner of Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game, first thanked Oprah (Winfrey, who presented the award), then went on to say that he tried to kill himself when he was 16 because he didn't belong, and told everyone to “stay weird” and that you do belong—maybe the greatest sentiment ever on the Oscar stage.
More best speeches: Simmons, telling everyone to “call their mother”, the guy on the Birdman crew who thanked his dog Larry, and one of the winners for Best Live Action Short The Phone Call, who said the Oscar scored him a free donut at his local bakery, and even named the bakery.
Best best speech: Pawel Pawlikowski, co-writer and director of Ida, which won Best Foreign Language Film (Poland). “We made a film, in black and white, about the need for silence and withdrawal from the world, and contemplation. And here we are, at this epicenter of noise and world attention”. He went on to thank everyone, and kept talking over the music—lasting longer than the musicians did.
Awesomest moment: You had to admit that cute, silly, dumb, and funny theme song to The Lego Movie is still in your head today. I'm sure the child stars and other singers are well-known, but I did recognize Saturday Night Live alum Andy Samberg and Jimmy Fallon bandleader Quest Love. The lego Oscars to Oprah, Steve Carrell, and other audience members were a nice touch, too.
Highlight of the Night: People got to find out (or remember) what a great singer Lady Gaga is when she did the tribute to The Sound of Music, which took home Best Picture 50 years ago. Gaga's medley and tribute to Julie Andrews was topped only by Andrews herself, taking the stage after Lady Gaga's performance.
Negative numbers: I'm sure there will be some sort of over-reaction next year, but overnight ratings show this year's telecast to have the lowest ratings since 2009. Deadline.com reports viewership was down 17 percent from last year.
Wardrobe Achievement Award: A special creative Oscar should go to the people who figure out how to make Jennifer Lopez' dress stay on. It's worth watching every year.