Birdman soared, Boyhood didn’t age well, Eddie Redmayne stole Michael Keaton’s Oscar from right under his nose and Neil Patrick Harris made us wait for it… and never quite made the night legendary.
In brief, it was a predictable night with all the widely predicted upsets. And the only thing we didn’t see coming was the usually awesome Neil Patrick Harris showing up nervous and tame like a well-behaved boy who got pulled up by the powers-that-be for singing “We Saw Your Boobs” the last time he was given the stage.
The Academy always does this – picks up profanity-loving, wildly irreverent, Twitter-savvy youth icons and then cramps their style by asking them to tone it down to PG -13 for higher ratings on TV. It’s a move that’s backfired every single time. Franco, McFarlane and now NPH.
These are guys who love to be foul-mouthed and politically incorrect. They are cool because you can’t take them home to Mommy without them hitting on your mother. Watching Neil Patrick Harris try to be family-friendly, like watching Franco or McFarlane, was the single most disappointing thing about the Oscars this year.
There were a couple of bright moments – like the Birdman-Whiplash gag and the sprightly opening number and at least a couple of good jokes at Travolta’s expense and one about Gone Girl – but most of the night was ruined by unfunny jokes that fell flat with even more shoddy timing. We surely didn’t wake up so early for this!
There were absolutely no surprises among the winners.
Boyhood beating Birdman would have been the upset of the night but the Academy was in no mood to throw Linklater a bone. Probably, the 60-plus members are still too old-fashioned to get swayed by what seems like a gimmick-movie that took twelve years to make.
But to be fair to Boyhood, it’s a lot more than that – it’s a unique portrait of character, the most intimate coming of age film ever made, one that uses the premise to subtly explore the small little changes that go into the loss of innocence. It’s a heartbreaking film that has actually attained a stronger cult status because of this snub and someday, will officially be connected to the Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight universe as the story of a boy who becomes his father.
We shouldn’t be surprised if the Academy decides to give Richard Linklater an Oscar for The School of Rock 2 movie just to make amends for this snub.
The Oscars this year were crowd-pleasers following the cue of all the other big awards by acknowledging Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore, J.K.Simmons and Patricia Arquette as the unanimous winners in their categories this year – across the board. It would have been nice to see the Academy not toe the line and hand it over to Michael Keaton and Emma Stone instead but that’s just the Birdman fan talking.
Birdman is a phenomenal film and its wins (for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay) is an even more significant triumph for comedy and return to basics of filmmaking – seamless storytelling, powerhouse performances, great writing and terrific use of background score. A vision so powerfully realised that it was virtually editor-proof (Hence, no nomination for Best Editing). But it’s not just the form or structure (Inarritu, the master of non-linear storytelling keeps it simply linear this time) but also the relevance of its content – a critical look at art, commerce, the need for validation and what it takes today to get acknowledged for your pursuit of greatness. You need to have nothing short of a near-death experience and give the voyeurs the violence that they desperately seek in cinema to make them sit up and take notice.
Birdman makes us question the very purpose of art. Why do we care so much for those who celebrate high art when their only concern is where to go for “cake and coffee once it’s over”? The number of nominations Birdman fetched is industry acknowledgment of the artist’s angst.
While it’s true that films like Boyhood happen only once in a lifetime, we can say the same for the Harry Potter franchise or any character from Santa Barbara or Friends – we watched them grow over a decade. Time-capsule storytelling continues to be explored through the TV format. Ask Angus T Jones, the kid from Two and a Half Men, which is in the 12th season now. And the geeks from The Big Bang Theory are in their eighth year now.
Let’s face it. A low-stakes indie experiment strictly done on a part-time basis went on to emerge as an Oscar challenger against an extremely well-crafted critique of art that pushed the boundaries of storytelling and performance. That’s a win by itself, not a loss.
It’s not every year we see two arthouse films fight for the top spot and the film that resonated with more people won. The sixty-something Academy voters relate more to a man looking back at his life than a boy looking forward to it.
So what’s there to be so surprised?
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