The Best and Worst of the 2015 Oscars
Here’s a look at the best and worst moments from last night’s 2015 Oscar telecast:
OSCAR’S BEST MOMENTS
The Musical Performance of “Glory” — I’m no fan of the movie “Selma,” for its unnecessary distortions of the historical record. That said, the performance of Best Song Oscar winner “Glory,” by John Legend and Common joined by a gospel choir will be remembered as the undisputed highlight of the evening. Many audience members were in tears after the performance, a testament to both the power and message of the music and its relevance, not just to the civil rights movement and the events of 1965, but modern times, as well.
Graham Moore’s Emotionally Moving Victory Speech — Graham Moore won Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Imitation Game,” and then delivered the best speech of the night, bar none. The young screenwriter who gave us a wonderful, but tragic story of a repressed gay man who was instrumental in saving thousands of lives as a code breaker during World War II, revealed his own struggles with being “different.” During his speech, he told the audience he once considered suicide, and then came to realize his own merits and strengths. “I tried to commit suicide at 16 and now I’m standing here. I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along.” Please give this man another Oscar just for writing and saying that, which is destined to help someone, somewhere.
Eddie Redmayne’s Surprise Win for Best Actor — Apparently, most viewers thought “Birdman’s” Michael Keaton had the Best Actor Oscar all but locked up. Out of everyone watching, Redmayne seemed the most surprised by his win, and then delivered what was obviously an unrehearsed and heartfelt speech that was memorable because his words were so genuine, and emotionally so endearing. Redmayne rightly deserved the Oscar for playing Stephen Hawking in what was undoubtedly the most competitive category of any of this year’s major categories.
Musical Performance by Lady Gaga, and Surprise Appearance by Julie Andrews — Has it really been fifty years since “The Sound of Music” won Best Picture? Fittingly, the classic musical was given a prime spot in the Oscar telecast, made even more glamorous by one of the world’s most famous pop stars, Lady Gaga, going against her wildly eccentric reputation by classing it up big time with a powerful tribute to the movie’s most memorable songs. Legendary star Julie Andrews, who is about to turn 80 (and looks fabulous!), came onstage after the music and embraced Gaga. The image of these two cross-generation mega-talents from markedly different eras standing together honoring and remembering one of the world’s most beloved musicals was a much needed touch of class for a show which lacked glamour.
John Travolta’s Mea Culpa — Actor John Travolta blew it big time at last year’s Oscar presentation, butchering the pronunciation of Oscar winner Idina Menzel’s name. So, when Menzel came out to give an award this year, many viewers were shocked to see her announce Travolta as her co-presenter. This was a nice touch by show’s organizers and could have been much funnier, except for Travolta again doing the unpredictable, which this time amounted to pawing Ms. Menzel’s face in a way that was sorta’ creepy. It’s highly unusual to see the Oscars and a major Hollywood star make fun of themselves, even going so far as to acknowledge one of last year’s mistakes. We could use a bit more folly and self-deprication in the broadcast.
Melanie Griffith-Dakota Johnson Spat on Red Carpet — The Red Carpet opening to the Oscars is customarily a non-event, virtually unwatchable except by those obsessed with fashion and jewelry. However, when mother Melanie Griffith was asked if she had seen, or plans to see her daughter Dakota Johnson get gagged and paddled in the atrociously awful “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, Griffith exhibited rare honesty on live television by revealing her disapproval. It’s refreshing to see some standards upheld in Hollywood, where fame and money are usually all that matters.
Host Neil Patrick Harris Onstage in His Underwear — I didn’t care much for the latest Oscar host, who was off-key and unfunny most of the night. But he sure did something ballsy in front of pretty much the whole universe, going nearly naked onstage, stripped all the way down to a pair of skimpy white briefs. The gag was a play on a scene from “Birdman.” Everyone got the joke and laughed. Clever and gutsy.
OSCAR’S WORST MOMENTS
Sound Problems / Technical Problems — I realize some things are unpredictable on live television. Perhaps the heavy rain in LA messed up the wires or something. Whatever it was should never have happened on a spectacle of this scale, with a hundred million people watching worldwide. Seriously, how does the main microphone onstage used by all presenters start crackling during the middle of speeches? The glitches were utterly baffling given all that goes into the annual production.
Neil Patrick Harris as a Weak Host — The latest Oscar emcee lacks the stage presence, the pedigree, the professionalism, and the power to be the host of entertainment’s biggest night of the year. Some of this wasn’t necessarily Harris’ fault. The writing was pretty lame and many jokes fell flat. But Harris just doesn’t have the stage charisma of some of his predecessors, and his inability to ad lib anything all night made for a dull show. Moreover, Harris’ sense of timing was awful. He cracked jokes on two occasions right after Oscar winners had spoken tearfully about suicide and ALS. After each song, he murmured, “that was great.” Dull. About the only thing positive to say was, he was better than last year’s disaster, Ellen DeGeneres. Can we please start a movement to draft Martin Short for 2016?
Too Much Political Grandstanding — I’m normally in favor of movie messaging and public advocacy. I even like controversy. But last night’s show simply had too much self-serving grandstanding by too many privileged stars. The beneficiaries included women, Blacks, gays, ALS patients, Alzheimers patients, Mexicans, immigrants, prison inmates and even mom and dad. Sure, we need greater awareness on society’s multitude of problems, and we liberals are usually leading the way in facing these issues. But the image of Oprah Winfrey, one of the world’s richest women, gleefully jumping to her feet and clapping like a trained seal at the mention of inequality of pay for women in the workplace comes across as pretty contrived, and even hypocritical. Limousine liberalism is certainly alive and well in Hollywood.
A Really Bad “In Memoriam” Segment — The three-minute remembrance of all those who work in film who passed away over the last year is normally one of the night’s most endearing moments. Inexplicably, the show decided to use drawings of the deceased instead of real photos or movie scenes. C’mon. We lost Lauren Bacall, Eli Wallach, Robin Williams, Bob Hoskins, Mike Nichols, Ruby Dee, and so many others. And we can’t even enjoy one glimpse of these legends as they truly were on celluloid? That’s cheap. That’s bad judgment. Please bring back the great Yo Yo Ma playing a cello onstage solo while the black and white images roll over the screen as tears fall. Please. And, why wasn’t Joan Rivers given a spot in the memoriam? She was a big part of the Oscars and appeared in several movies. Shameful.
Some Really Bad Speeches — Predictably, many winners were unprepared. Every Oscar night has bad speeches, but this one delivered some real bombs. Consider the Best Live Action Short Film winner who spent the first half of his minute or so in front of the microphone beaming to the whole world that he made a friendly wager with his pals and is now entitled to free donuts at a local bakery, and then as the music cued up, only then finally did he acknowledge the hardworking volunteers who staff crisis hotlines and do amazing work in saving people’s lives (the subject of his film). Sadly, Alejandro G. Inarritu looked just as lost onstage, despite being the night’s biggest winner for both Best Director and Best Picture. A victory in at least one of these categories shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. Why then wasn’t he better prepared to express his gratitude? In the climactic final award of the night, Inarrito himself even went so far as to turn to his colleagues gathered onstage and say he didn’t want to say anything. What a downer.
Too Much Forced Humor / Gimmicks that Bombed — Stop with the gimmicks, please! No more selfies. No more ordering pizza. No more magic tricks that no one in the viewing audience can possibly follow over a four hour span of the show. And why does every interlude have to include a joke? Why not take the Oscars a little more seriously? How about giving some more context as to what some of these categories mean and more about each nominee, instead of a two-second flash? The Best Foreign Language film was a disgrace in the way it was handled. I didn’t learn a single thing about the subject matter of any of the nominees. There’s way too much pizzazz and showmanship, and way too little substance.
Shafting the Writers — I’m sick of writers getting the shaft. Yes, I’m biased. Everything starts with the writing and a script. A mediocre director and a group of unknown actors can make a great film if the writing is solid. But even the best director and ensemble cast can’t rescue a bad film script. Why aren’t writers given more of a presence at the Oscars? Musicians are granted top billing. Television stars get lots of publicity. Actors give out acting awards. Directors give out directing awards. Why not give our most famous writers — many of whom have had their books made into movies — a chance to shine? Please let writers hand out the two writing awards. Isn’t that appropriate?
Sean Penn’s Disgraceful Closing Remarks — I’m a fan of Sean Penn’s work and know his heart’s probably in the right place. But how in the hell can he go onstage in the most plum presentation of the entire year, given the honor of handing out the Best Picture award, and then insult not just the winner, but millions of hard-working immigrants and disadvantaged workers in this country with a flippant remark? In case you missed it, Penn was trying to be funny in referencing winner Alejandro G. Inarrito’s Mexican heritage. An offhand remark at a party among friends would be one thing, but to in anyway detract from the film director’s crowning achievement was both crass and insensitive. It also reinforced some ugly stereotypes about Latinos in this country (they’re mostly illegals, which simply isn’t true). On a night where politics was a big part of the messaging and memory, it’s unfortunate that this poorly-contrived and ill-advised attempt at humor by one of Hollywood’s leading men will be among the most regrettable moments.