‘Birdman’, ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’, Among Oscar’s Top Winners

‘Birdman’, ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’, Among Oscar’s Top Winners

Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s strange little meta-drama, took home Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography (the one award I was positive it would win), and Best Picture.

For all of the talk about how politically driven the Oscars are, Sunday night actually managed to honor some of the year’s best performances and directing jobs in what was one of the best Academy Awards I’ve seen in a while, thanks in no small part to the excellent and veteran hosting skills of Neil Patrick Harris. With Harris starting it all off by saying “Tonight’s the night we gather to honor Hollywood’s best and whitest — sorry, brightest stars,” let me know this wasn’t going to be a Billy Crystal year.

Where the Golden Globes enjoys having folks like Ricky Gervais tear Hollywood apart when he hosts, the Academy usually plays it safe and vanilla.

Before I talk about the winners, I have to talk about some of the musical numbers from the night. NPH’s opening tribute to cinema included Star Wars and Back To The Future, took apart the sequel-and-superhero-driven formula of Hollywood’s recent years, and included an awesome to Hollywood’s best feminist characters, and did a more effective job of reminding us why we watch these award shows year in and year out than any host has done before. Lady Gaga put on a stellar medley from the Sound Of Music that even had Julie Andrews wowed. The performance of the night, though, goes to Tegan & Sara and The Lonely Island’s live rendition of Everything Is Awesome from The Lego Movie, which was snubbed from nomination this year.

The big winners of the night pleasantly surprised me. There’s almost no question as to their standing as two of the best films of the year, but considering Boyhood’s sweeping of the smaller awards show, I assumed it would take most of the big categories. Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s strange little meta-drama, took home Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography (the one award I was positive it would win), and Best Picture. Not to be outdone, Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson’s latest avant-garde offering, took home four statues of it’s own in Costume Design, Production Design, Best Original Score, and Best Makeup & Hairstyling.

Despite The Lego Movie’s snub, Best Animated Feature went to the very-deserving Big Hero 6, making that Marvel Comic’s first Academy Award winner. As Disney’s most diverse movie, and quite possibly one of the most diverse movies, attached to a heart-warming story with stellar animation; it was deserving of accolades. The short that preceded it in theaters and on DVD, Feast, also won for Best Animated Short, so it was a good night for the production team of Big Hero 6.

Many of the winners took their moment on the stage to talk about something other than the typical slew of thank-yous, though those remained at the beginning. Patricia Arquette, who won Best Supporting Actress for Boyhood, dedicated her award to all women of the world and said it was time for wage equality and equal treatment across the board, to thunderous applause from the audience and an excellent reaction from Meryl Streep. Alejandro González Iñárritu, following his Best Picture win and a really cringe-inducing green card joke from Sean Penn, dedicated his wins to Mexican immigrants, and asked them to be treated with respect and dignity. Eddie Redmayne, who won Best Actor for The Theory Of Everything, admittedly, had other things on his mind, as he took his chance to tell the world he’s expecting a child. Julianne Moore, who won Best Actress for Still Alice, spoke about Alzheimer’s Disease, a major part of the movie. Even J.K. Simmons took a moment during his Supporting Actor win forWhiplash to remind us all to call our mothers. It seemed like something was on everyone’s mind Sunday night, and they all took the time to use their platform the right way.

Perhaps the most talked about acceptance speeches of the evening, though, came courtesy of Graham Moore, who won Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game, and Common & John Legend, who won Best Original Song for “Glory” from Selma.After thanking the people who needed to be thanked, Graham Moore shared his own attempt at suicide, saying he tried to kill himself a long time ago because of various things; he didn’t fit in, didn’t have any friends, didn’t belong; but that now he gets to stand on the stage at the Oscars and accept an award. He ended his speech by talking to the people who might have been watching, saying there is somewhere you belong, and you won’t feel that way forever.

Common and John Legend, who I intentionally left out of my earlier musical-roundup, had brought nearly the entire room to tears earlier singing ‘Glory’ on the Oscar’s stage. There wasn’t much more to be said about the song after that, so they used their time to remind us all that the civil rights movement is still being fought today, and the staggering rates of incarceration for young black men in the United States.

Sunday night’s Oscars were more politically driven than I think I’ve ever seen, and though this self-awareness shown by Hollywood isn’t a substitute for actual change, this is one year where I think the most deserving nominees won for their respective categories, and it was nice to see so many artists use their platform to speak about these issues. Maybe it’s a sign that change is actively taking place in the Hollywood hierarchy. I, for one, like to see it that way.

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