In recent years, the winner of Best Picture at the Academy Awards has all but been decided by Oscar night. “Boyhood” and “Birdman” each took home awards at the various award shows that come before the Oscars and both movies had a legitimate shot in taking home Hollywood’s top award on Sunday night.
Ever since “Slumdog Millionaire” won the Oscar in 2009, the winner for Best Picture has been predicted by the winner at the BAFTAs and the Producer’s Guild of America. Since then, this was the first years in which the organizations were split, with “Boyhood” taking home the top prize at the BAFTAs and “Birdman” doing the same at the Producer’s Guild.
However, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” pulled away from the competition last night when it took home four Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography and Original Screenplay.
“Birdman” is a radical break from recent Best Picture winners as it is the first nonperiod film to win since “The Hurt Locker” in 2011 and the first comedy to win since “Shakespeare in Love” in 1999.
“A script that starts with a middle-aged man, interior-dressing room, crossed-legged, floating — can go anywhere and we’re here. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened,” said Iñárritu, who took home three Academy Awards at the 87th Oscars.
Iñárritu is the second-consecutive Mexican-born filmmaker to win Best Director after last year’s win by Alfonso Cuarón for “Gravity.”
“Birdman” is not a film made to send a political message. It doesn’t tug at your heartstrings and it doesn’t speak on the power of movies (at least, not in a good way). While recent Oscar-bait films seem to open with “based on a true story” and have an ending where the protagonist is triumphant, “Birdman” takes the opposite approach.
Great filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson and David Fincher never won Oscars for making these types of misanthropic films. It was because of this fact that I was sure “Boyhood” would win on Sunday night. “Boyhood” is a film shot over 12 years and was a look at the typical American growing-up experience. It’s a labor of love by director Richard Linklater and it’s a story to which everyone can relate. Essentially, it’s the kind of movie that the Academy likes to award.
“Birdman” is not relatable, nor is it welcoming. It’s a roller-coaster ride in every sense from its one-take style of editing, to the drum-score that rattles in the back, to the emotional, cutting monologues that hit you like a Mack truck. The fact that the Academy gave its highest award to a suicidal magical-realist black comedy proves that the voters are not the milquetoasts we thought they had become and that the Oscars can still push the medium forward.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of this year’s Oscars was the lack of diversity among nominees. When the nominations were announced Jan. 15, many believed the Academy snubbed the Martin Luther King Jr. historical drama “Selma.” While the movie was nominated for Best Picture, the film’s leading actor, David Oyelowo, and director, Ava DuVernay, were not cast on the Oscar ballot.
Perhaps the reason for “Selma’”s lack of nominations in the 87th Academy Awards stems not from the film itself.
Another film about the historical racial divide in America, “12 Years a Slave,” was the overwhelming victor at last year’s awards when it took home Best Picture.
“Selma” did not leave the show entirely Oscar-less however, when it won Best Song for “Glory” by John Legend and Common. The duo delivered a staggering performance of the Academy Award winning-song before taking home the golden statue.
“We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say that ‘Selma’ is now because the struggle for justice is right now,” Legend said in his acceptance speech.
Some awards were up for grabs until the opening of the envelope, like Eddie Redmayne’s win for Best Actor for his portrayal of the physicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” However, a number of Oscars knew their home before the show even began. That could certainly be said for the winner of Best Actress in Julianne Moore. After building a stellar resume over the past 20 years (which includes four prior Oscar nominations), Moore finally got the Oscar for playing a victim of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in “Still Alice.”
J. K. Simmons, who grew up in Columbus and whose father was a faculty member at Ohio State, was awarded Best Supporting Actor for his performance in “Whiplash.”
Simmons encouraged children to call their parents in his victory speech, “call them — don’t text, don’t email. Call them on the phone — tell them you love them.”
However, the speech that received the most cheering on the night came from “Boyhood” actress Patricia Arquette, who urged pay-equality for men and women in America, saying, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and for equal rights, for women in the United States of America.”
Even though Neil Patrick Harris joked and sang his way through a pleasant hosting gig, this telecast was the lowest-rated Oscars since 2011. We’ll see if the Oscars can make a comeback next year, and if Alejandro G. Iñárritu will be back for more gold, as he has another film set to be released in December titled “The Revenant,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.