Polishing The Old Oscar: A Monday Morning Wrap-Up Of The Academy Awards

A Monday Morning Wrap-Up Of This Year’s Academy Awards

Devin D. O'Leary
6 min read
Polishing the Old Oscar
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So the 87th Annual Academy Awards—officially rebranded a couple years ago as simply “The Oscars”—are a thing that happened. Those who care watched. Those who don’t watched “The Walking Dead.” Gold statues were handed out. Designer dresses were worn. Wives, husbands and spouses were thanked profusely. What worked, what didn’t and what confused the heck out of us? Let’s pontificate.

The Good

The awards themselves were nicely spread out, with Oscars going to many deserving films.
Birdman took the top awards (Best Picture and Best Director), but it tied overall with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Both films went home with four awards each. (Whiplash got three.) Although it was only nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song, Selma did claim the Best Original Song statue. After witnessing Common and John Legend’s bring-down-the-house duet, it would have been a crime to deny it the gold.

Sparked by Golden Globes co-host (and all-around awesome lady) Amy Poehler, the hashtag of the night was #AskHerMore. The goal was to goad entertainment reporters into asking actresses something more than the sexist (not to mention boring) question, “Who are you wearing?” To their credit, folks from E!, “Entertainment Tonight” and the like did their level best to up the game. They still talked mostly about fashion, but there were follow-ups about talent, competition, ambition and other worthwhile topics. Keep it up!

While on stage picking up awards, many actors used the opportunity to deliver politically aware speeches. FOX News hosts had conniptions about each and every one. But they were concise, pointed calls to action and not rambling political rants. Patricia Arquette called for wage equality for women. Alejandro González Iñárritu spoke about the need for Mexicans to push for political reforms in their own country. Common and John Legend talked about how the fight for civil rights (for all races, genders, religions and sexual orientations) continues. Julianne Moore shined a light on Alzheimer’s research, while Eddie Redmayne dedicated his win to people with ALS. Graham Moore, who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for
The Imitation Game, mentioned trying to kill himself as a teenager, urging young people to hang in there and “stay weird.” J.K. Simmons told everyone to call their mom and dad. It may have been the night’s most apolitical stand—but it struck a nerve nonetheless.

People can argue for the next 12 months how well or poorly Neil Patrick Harris did as a first-time Oscar host. (A few silly puns, an indefatigable smile and an introduction in his underwear? That’s a solid C+ in my estimation.) But his opening song-and-dance number was great Hollywood fun—a fine callback to the glory days of Billy Crystal.

The Bad

Sean Penn’s last-second ad-lib of “Who gave this son-of-a-bitch his green card?” before announcing Iñarritu’s
Birdman as the winner of Best Picture was at worst racist and at best a terrible idea. It’s doubtful the notoriously liberal Penn has joined Senate Republicans in their efforts to block President Obama’s immigration reforms. He just made a bad joke about a guy from out of town winning all the big awards. But nobody made that joke about all the Brits who took home statues. So is it racist? Afraid so, Sean. Also, not funny. Stick to the script next time, Spicoli.

The “In Memoriam” segment always leaves somebody off. This year it was comedienne and fashion critic Joan Rivers and Broadway baby Elaine Stritch. Both had lengthy careers in Hollywood and deserved a couple of seconds’ worth of screen time next to all those behind-the-scenes executives you’ve never heard of.

No doubt about it: Lady Gaga’s
The Sound of Music medley was a stunner. The gal can sing, and she proved it to a lot of her critics that night. But on a show that ended up running 40 minutes long, why exactly did we need a lengthy tribute to a film that came out 50 years ago?

Of course NPH wanted to do a magic trick. But that “Oscar predictions” bit was one long, confusing build-up to an anticlimactic punch line.

The Weird

Disney Channel singer/actress Zendaya showed up on the red carpet with dreadlocks. E! fashion guru (or whatever) Giuliana Rancic made a joke about her smelling like patchouli—which might have worked if Zendaya were a skinny white theater student at Oberlin. But Zendaya’s father is black. It’s up for debate whether she grew those luxurious dreads or purchased them. But either way, she’s genetically entitled to them. Is it racist? Yup. Much like asking Rashida Jones at the Screen Actors Guild Awards how she got so tan (um, her dad’s DNA), unintentional racism still counts. Do your research, people!

John Travolta does have the ability to make fun of himself. It looks like he was trying to do that the entire night of the Oscar telecast. That didn’t stop him from being weird and creepy, however. His aborted and awkward attempt to kiss Scarlett Johansson while she stood on the red carpet was captured for all to see. His onstage reunion with Idina Menzel (née “Adele Dazeem”) was supposed to be a funny callback to last year. Instead, Travolta took the opportunity to get weird again, repeatedly holding Menzel’s face in his hands. And so we’re left to ponder. John Travolta: Socially awkward, trying too hard or on some kind of “those persistent gay rumors are totally not true—look how much I love harassing the dames” kick?

While introducing a clip segment for some of this year’s Best Picture nominees, actor Terrence Howard got strangely emotional. He took several long pauses, teared up and declared himself “blown away right now.” Did he really love
Whiplash that much? Perhaps. He then wandered into an even more rambling, teary tribute to The Imitation Game. They’re both great movies, but Howard’s emotions seemed somehow misplaced. If I had to guess, I’d say his teleprompter cut out. I believe, rightly or wrongly, he was trying to get all misty-eyed about the film Selma—but he got the timing wrong and kept having to introduce other films. By the time Selma actually showed up on the screen behind him, he was a blubbering, incoherent mess. Either that or he was super high.
Polishing the Old Oscar

Polishing the Old Oscar

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