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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Reflections: Thoughts on the 2015 Academy Awards

**awards season can be a painful, drawn-out, exhausting experience.  So to start off, a picture of a yawning cat** 

            And with that, another painfully long and dreadfully predictable awards season comes to a close.   This year the Oscars were actually well over a week earlier than they were last year, and yet, they always seem to drag on even longer one year after another, don’t they?  It never bodes well when an Oscar ceremony starts with an ad by the host ending with the line, “anything can happen.”  Sure, Niel Patrick Harris.  You can go on saying that.  No one on Earth who follows these things will ever believe you.   

            I gave up hope for adequate sleep when I glanced at my watch a half-hour into things and realized that, up to that point, we had gotten through a mere 2 awards.  Out of 24.  And the pace never picked up from there.  The sad reality is that, even when the Oscars are well-written and expertly produced (something that gets rarer each year, and this year refused to buck that trend), they have become little more than a marathon endurance test for the body and soul, determinedly finding every single possible way that things can be drawn out an extra few minutes.  Not that Harris was bad this year.  I found the ceremony to have rather more life than last year, although a great deal of wasted time was devoted to Harris pausing to collect himself after every.  Single.  Joke. 

            Seriously, did someone threaten to kill Harris if he made too many white jokes?  Every so often he seemed to want to really push the envelope and give the room a good roasting- his off-hand “Oh, NOW you like him!”  when people applauded David Oyelowo’s name was a good moment- but after every you could very nearly see the terror in his eyes someone wouldn’t laugh, and he would pull back. 

            That said, the show itself did have its moments.  More than the past few years, at least.  The opening number got everything off to a good start, Lady Gaga’s straight-up classical rendition of a Sound of Music montage was one of the best performances of hers I’ve yet seen, and no other performance of the nominated songs from recent years has come close to either the frenetic joy of “Everything Is Awesome” or the emotional swing of John Legend and Common going all out with “Glory.”  When balanced out, it was a decent show.  Not a great one.  Not an evenly enjoyable one.  But decent. 

            Perhaps my favorite part of the shows was how political and, in many cases, personal the speeches got.  We had a lot more “For The Cause” moments than we usually get, all of them much needed, as well as a few strikingly emotional ones touching on lost loved ones and mental illness.  Maybe the veil of silence really is being lifted for those struggling with issues unseen.  Maybe. 

            Oh, and before it slips my mind- poor John Travolta.  That poor, poor man.  He made an earnest attempt to right a silly wrong from last year, and almost immediately blew it right out his ass again, because, apparently, he literally can’t help but be impossibly awkward every day, all the time.  I am so sorry John.  We appreciate the effort.  Well….at least some of us do. 

            I actually didn’t realize it during the ceremony itself, but one of the commentaries I read later remarked that this year marks the first time since the expanded Best Picture category that every single nominee got at least one statue.  The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman tied for the most with 4, Whiplash pleasantly surprised with 3, and the remaining 5 all took home one apiece.  Granted, that included one for American Sniper, but hey, the world survived Silver Linings Playbook winning one, so it’s no real harm done.  Of course, I had hoped for more love for Boyhood, but in all fairness, even though Birdman continues the trend of Academy naval-gazing of the past few years, it is at least an actual, great movie, far superior to Argo and The Artist, each of which won out over vastly superior competition.  Boyhood’s staying power will be remembered regardless. 

            As with all years, only a few of my hopes were realized as far as who won what.  Citizenfour rightfully took home Best Documentary Feature, Interstellar got a statue, and Wes Anderson might finally become more of a household name after a film of his finally won a few.  There were some disappointments too.  I wish Birdman and Boyhood had at least split Best Picture/Director.  The worst one for me was, of course, Big Hero 6, as unoriginal a film as any that came out this year, beating out the fiercely creative, beautiful, and emotional Princess Kaguya for Best Animated Feature, which was also prefaced by The Rock’s now infamous statement that animation is a genre unto itself. 

            I would have gotten angrier about this in past years, but the collective ignorance regarding animation inherent in both the Academy (many voters admitted to voting for Big Hero 6 simply because their kids liked it) and society at large has become so thoroughly well-documented that it isn’t even worth it anymore.  It just makes me sad.  Like with Best Picture, it is this year’s losers that will be remembered far more than the winning film.  Which is a comfort in and of itself. 

            So all in all, a fairly standard awards season.  Some good moments, some bad.  Some well-earned statues given, many less-so.  Some anger, but mostly just resignation that gaggles of old, white men will be old, white men regardless of whether or not the world has passed them by.  Now we can go back to living in the real world.  Until the next awards season in a year’s time, at which point we get to do the entire dance again. 

-Noah Franc 

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