Monday, February 23, 2015

The Oscar Narrative: Another Year Down...

Well another Oscar year has come and gone, and like all of them this season was filled with highs and lows, and in the end, a group of incredibly deserving winners. But before we dive into the winners, and the season as a whole, let's talk about the ceremony. After sitting through what felt like a particularly long ceremony, a thought popped into my mind: fire these producers. The reason the show, overall, worked as well as it did was because you had talented people involved, five great original song performances, and some spirited and passionate winners that delivered memorable speeches (Simmons, Arquette, Common/John Legend, and all of Inarritu's just to name a few). All of these things succeeded despite the producers. They and their writers even managed to dull Neil Patrick Harris, who had a few good moments, but also had a lot of jokes and bits fall flat (boy Octavia Spencer deserves an Oscar for playing along with that locked box bit). The fact that they chose their song for Jennifer Hudson to sing after the in memoriam (from Smash of all things), and the fact that they slipped yet another musical tribute (Okay so the Lady Gaga and Julie Andrews combo turned into one of the shows best moments, but the original thought was my issue) just proved that this duo is a self-absorbed group of guys that don't seem to think about anything other than obvious self-promotion. Ratings will probably drop this year because of the indie choices, but I hope it is also the catalyst that keeps them from returning.

Now onto the winners. There were a lot of films that inspired passionate supporters, and each of the eight Best Picture nominees walked away with at least one Oscar. So everybody's favorite got some love, and for those of us who loved multiple nominees this year, that was nice to see, especially after so many nominees went home empty handed last year. For those in the Boyhood camp though, last night was a heart-breaker. The Arquette win was great, but for a film that some people predicted would win up to four awards, walking away with only one has definitely left some folks feeling burned. Boyhood was a remarkable achievement, but so was Birdman. So was The Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, and Whiplash for that matter. Those in the Boyhood camp have already labeled the Birdman win as a narcissistic, and conventional choice on the part of Oscar voters, as compared to the once-in-a-lifetime experience that Boyhood was. For me, I was thrilled to see that the top four films this year for the Academy were Boyhood, Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Whiplash. We shouldn't be dividing into camps, trashing each other, nor labeling any win as appalling or the wrong choice, especially among these four films. We should all be celebrating the fact that such bold and un-Academy films had such impact on the industry this year. Starting with Ang Lee's win for Life of Pi, continuing with Cuaron and 12 Years a slave last year, and now with the choices almost across the board this year (as always there were a few conventional choices), the Academy is moving in a direction that I think I really like. Would I have liked to have seen the love spread to Linklater and Anderson as well as Inarritu? Yes. Would I have preferred that the Birdman love would have spread to Michael Keaton? Of Course. But when the Academy gets a heck of a lot more right than it does wrong, that is reason enough to celebrate. So my favorite wins of the night: Simmons and Moore, Whiplash for Editing, Birdman for Picture and Director, and Glory for Original Song.

This was a season that became embroiled in controversy, and became politically charged. Every major biopic took a hit this season. Selma and American Sniper became a battle of race and politics, of conservative versus liberal. It is not worth going into exorbitant detail, as we have all just lived through it and there is no need to rehash. But the politics spilled over to the ceremony itself as puns about Citizenfour, as well as women's rights, civil rights, and gay rights came to the forefront. So it is no surprise that in the midst of all the controversy, that voters looked inward. Birdman does fit the model of a movie about the business equals Oscar glory. But it would be a huge mistake to categorize it with the like of Argo and The Artist, both fine films, but neither anywhere near the artistry of Birdman. That is a surface level way to dismiss its win, but it doesn't complete the whole picutre. These members of this industry saw something in Birdman that enticed and scared the hell of them. This was their way of rewarding something that spoke to them in a way it will never do to mainstream American audiences. By doing so, the Academy dodged those highly political topics, and maybe in their own way they pushed past the controversies. And who can blame them? Who wants to tackle these issues? There is not much the Academy can do. It has tried to diversify its membership, which I think is actually working. Clearly we are starting to see the results as these bolder films start to stake their claim as a younger and more diverse voting body sets in.. So while some may claim that the Academy is racist, ignores great art, etc. (for the record it is the industry that lacks diversity and the Academy is a byproduct of that), and some may say that they copped out of rewarding something that might have caused controversy, the real reason behind Birdman's win is that they simply liked it better, avoiding charged controversy was just a nice way addition. They cannot immediately fix their problems (although I;m sure they will try), and in the meantime they can continue to honor great film, which is exactly what they did last night.

So this is my sixth year of Oscar coverage, and I could not be happier than to announce that soon enough we will start year number seven. The void we are all feeling right now is inevitable, but there are plenty of awards, plenty of movies and television shows to be seen, and plenty of predictions to be made. The world keeps on spinning. Congratulations to this year's winners, you all worked hard and survived a long battle that is not easy. And finally, thank you all for continuing to read and comment here at The Awards Psychic. Without the support of the readers like you, none of this would be possible. So keep watching, keep reading, keep rooting for the movies you love. Stay passionate and engaged, and continue to tune into The Awards Psychic. I just hope I make the destination worth the journey. Goodbye Oscar season 2014-2015, and hello to new beginnings.

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