Written by Bill Bodkin & Daniel Cohen
Pop-Break’s Oscar Watch 2015 Wrap-Up Part 2: But, Was It a Good Show? – Introduction by Bill Bodkin
The Academy Awards, as a show, has lacked the past few years. It’s been missing something, that pizzazz, that magical quality to it. Maybe we can blame the predictability of the winners. Look at last year, everything was pretty locked up before the show even started. Maybe we can blame the hosts – remember when Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin’s great disappearing act for the majority of their hosting gig a few years ago? For whatever reason, the Oscars haven’t been all that memorable.
Well, let’s amend that statement actually. If you think about it, what have we remembered from the last few Oscars? The answer is…everything that went wrong.
Sure, last year we had “the world’s most famous selfie” but we remember John Travolta flubbing Idina Menzel’s name more than anything. How about the year before when all we could talk about was whether Seth MacFarlane was offensive or not and Jennifer Lawrence’s fall up the stairs. Or even the year before that when all we could talk about was how James Franco and Anne Hathaway just absolutely tanked as Oscar hosts.
This year, however, was different. There was magic, there was grandeur, there were genuine laughs, there tear-inducing moments, and yes John Travolta made us cringe again. But, when it came down to it, this what the Oscars are supposed to be — entertainment.
Daniel Cohen’s Quick Hits on the Ceremony:
The Host: Neil Patrick Harris came out of the gate strong with a fantastic musical number, but as the show went on, he got worse. That predictions bit at the end was a mess. I appreciated the underwear gag, but that was only funny if you saw Birdman and Whiplash. Overall, not bad, but not great. He was fine.
The Academy President Speech: This was a good speech, and kind of funny she kept mentioning “freedom of expression,” but never actually referenced The Interview. It was a good way to get the message across, but anytime we don’t have to mention a Seth Rogen/James Franco movie is a good day. Sorry, everyone.
Terrence Howard: There weren’t a lot of water cooler “uh-oh” moments this year, but seriously, Terrence Howard? What the hell was that?
John Travolta/Idina Menzel: ENOUGH ALREADY! Can we please retire this joke? We get it. John Travolta mispronounced a name. For crying out, Matza! Travolta made it even more awkward with the face grabbing non-sense. I never want to hear about this incident again. STOP!
The Sound of Music Tribute: That was nice, and I’m sure it made my mom very happy.
Breaking Down the Ceremony by Bill Bodkin:
Neil Patrick Harris: When Neil Patrick Harris was announced as the host I was expecting a mildly entertaining but ultimately forgettable performance. I mean I actually forgot Ellen hosted last year that’s how innocuous her hosting performance was. However, NPH showed something special tonight. He sang, he danced, he was self-deprecating, he was quick on his feet, he took plenty of jabs at Hollywood, he was playful and he was reverential and respectful to the ceremony and the institution of film. Simply put – if the Oscars were looking to get their modern day Billy Crystal, they found it. NPH could be the host for the next decade and he’d be brilliant at it. He was able to bridge the gap between old and new Hollywood and that’s exactly what the Oscars need. His opening song and dance number perfectly exemplified this – it was a loving, tongue-in-cheek, sincere and funny ode to the grandeur of Hollywood and fanboy geekery To be honest his “predictions” bit fell flat and some people probably hated his “treason” quip about Edward Snowden (I found it quite witty), but overall he knocked it out of the park. Right now, NPH is what’s best for Oscar Business.
A Shameful Moment: Forgetting Joan Rivers and Elaine Stritch in the memoriam segment was a very, very bad move by The Oscars. They probably won’t be taken to task as much as they should, but this was a foul move on their behalf.
The Uncertainty This Year Made for Some Good Drama: Our film editor had one driving theme in his predictions this year — this Oscars was going to keep you guessing and it did. Who expected The Grand Budapest Hotel to take all those Oscars? When it won Best Score and the Cinematography, was anyone else wondering if it had a shot at Best Original Screenplay or even Best Picture? I sure did. Who was shocked Richard Linklater didn’t take Best Director? He seemed like a massive lock. Despite winning almost every major award, how did we think Eddie Redmayne even had a shot at losing to Michael Keaton? Was “Glory” actually going to lose to “Everything is Awesome?” Outside of Patricia Arquette and J.K. Simmons wins (and possibly Julianne Moore), every other category had a dark cloud of doubt and uncertainty hanging over it. And made for an awesome Oscars. Last year we knew everyone who was going to win, so to be on the edge of our seat in anticipation was much needed this year.
The Speeches Meant Something: No one feared the walk-off music this year, and it’s a good thing. There were a lot, and I mean a lot, of strong, message-oriented acceptance speeches. Winners talked about parental relationships, ALS, Alzheimer’s, suicide, race relations, women’s rights – not your typical “I’d like to thank The Academy” speeches. The one that stood out the most was Graham Moore’s speech for The Imitation Game. His message of accepting and embracing your weirdness wasn’t a big, sweeping let’s change the world sentiment. No, it was more of a personal one, aimed at the youth of today who don’t feel like they fit in and think ending it all is the only option, much like Graham said he did earlier in his life. His speech was a speech of hope and it really was a genuine, heartfelt moment that’ll resonate more than the other speeches.
Those Musical Performances: Hands down the best musical performances as whole in the last decade. Rita Ora, Maroon 5 and Jennifer Hudson were the weakest performances of the night…and they were all really good. It’s sad we only see Hudson perform during “in memoriam” sequences now. Ora, still a newcomer in many respects, was impressive belting a song from a movie few people know. Maroon 5 showed off some serious live skills, they definitely won people over last night who dismiss them as fluffy radio pop.
However, two performances stole the show. The first – “Everything is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie. If there was one moment that exemplified the fun, whimsical side of The Oscars, it was this. Teagan & Sara, who liked scared as hell, delivered their parts nicely, but when Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island crew came on stage, this performance took a dramatic turn for the, wait for it…awesome. Then to have Will Arnett reprise his Batman role with both Questlove (as Robin) and Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh in tow, was just the icing on this delicious cake.
The second showstopper was Common and John Legend. They showed the other side of the Oscar coin — the serious, message-oriented side of film. The two were straight fire and they brought tears to everyone’s eyes with their live rendition of “Glory.” Everything from the performance to that beautiful set, to the massive, swelling chorus. My God if you didn’t get chills up your spine you might need to check your damn pulse. This performance solidified the fact “Glory” deserved the Best Song win.
Then There Was Gaga: When they announced that Lady Gaga was signing songs from The Sound of Music to honor the 50th Anniversary of the film I rolled my eyes. This was going to be a huge time kill I thought. Boy, was I wrong. Gaga tore the house down with some of the most beautiful renditions of the Sound of Music catalog I’ve ever heard. She was absolutely resplendent in her performance and showed us once again that she can reinvent herself. This time however it wasn’t some outlandish outfit or some weird performance piece, it was her voice, singing beautifully. Then to bring Julie Andrews out to validate the entire performance, wow, just wow.
In closing: The 2015 Academy Awards was probably one of the best overall Oscar telecasts in quite some time. There was drama, laughs, suspense, emotion, heart, courage and fun. It’s what you want in an awards show and it delivered in spades.