The 87th annual Academy Awards telecast is now history, and it may be remembered for a few things: a writer thanked his dog, Lady Gaga showed old people than she has a great set of pipes, and tightie-whities got lots of mention and exposure.
What it will not be remembered for is a good show. Everyone had high hopes for Neil Patrick Harris, who had hosted just about everything and now was after the brass ring of the Oscars. He bombed almost completely. He’s a great song and dance man, and full of charm, but he was given some very bad jokes and had some exquisitely bad timing. After a woman dedicated an award to her son, who had committed suicide, he made a crass joke about her dress. Bah-dum-bum.
When a man has to resort to coming on stage in his underwear to get laughs, we know things are desperate. He did this in tribute to a scene in Birdman in which Michael Keaton did the same thing, but it’s funnier for a man out of shape to have to jog through Times Square in his underwear than a buff guy backstage at the Dolby Theater. This wasn’t the only joke made about that Birdman scene–Alejandro G. Innaritu, during one of his three Oscar acceptance speeches, made a joke about wearing Keaton’s underwear. Those Jockeys may end up in some movie costume museum.
It was a Birdman night. It won only four awards, but three of them were big: Picture, Director, and Screenplay. It did not win Best Actor for Keaton, my major disappointment of the night, instead honoring the puppyish Eddie Redmayne, another actor playing a disability to win. The other acting winners–Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, and J.K. Simmons, were all overwhelming favorites.
There were some surprises. That Boyhood, which was the favorite for Best Picture a month ago, walked away with only win (Arquette’s) seems kind of stunning. I knew it was doomed when it didn’t win Best Editing. I mean, taking twelve years of footage and putting it together in a film seemed a natural, but instead it went to Whiplash, which won three awards. The Grand Budapest Hotel also won four awards, and Wes Anderson got many thanks, but he didn’t win anything personally.
In an amazing bit of fair play, each one of the eight nominated Best Pictures won at least one award. The Imitation Game got Adapted Screenplay, allowing Graham Moore to give my favorite speech (“Stay weird”), Selma got Best Song, Common and John Legend were favorites if only because the Academy were desperate for some black people to win. And American Sniper got a Sound Editing Award, prompting the usual indignation from Sean Hannity.
As for the speeches, they were a mixed bag. There were some politics–Patricia Arquette came out for equal pay for women, which seems a safe platform, even if it isn’t in effect, and Common and John Legend gave a fiery speech about black incarceration. J.K. Simmons was more sedate–“Call your mother” he said. I do think that the screenwriter for Birdman–I’m sorry for not knowing which one–thanked his dog Larry. This has to be the first canine that was thanked at an Academy Awards, at least since Lassie.
But the evening overall seemed sour and ugly. Sean Penn made an inside joke about Innaritu’s immigration status that was certainly okay between them–Penn made 21 Grams for him–but sounded like a xenophobic rant. Idina Menzel and John Travolta made up, but did he have to fondle her like a bubbe fondles her grandson? And what was Terrence Howard on?
Some of the musical performances made the evening for me. I loved Tegan and Sara and Lonely Island doing “Everything Is Awesome,” including cameos by Questlove and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, and the performance of “Glory” was epic. It was almost outdone by Tim McGraw’s simple and heartfelt rendering of Glen Campbell’s song.
But I think I will most remember Lady Gaga paying musical tribute to The Sound of Music. On paper this sounds horrible. The Sound of Music is one of those phony classics, a movie that nobody under 50 likes except when they mock it at live sing-alongs. And Lady Gaga, a woman known most to some for wearing a dress made of meat (and appeared on the red carpet in red gloves that looked ready to perform a prostate exam) cleaned up, wearing a stunning white dress, flowing blonde hair, and a fabulous voice. Then, when Julie Andrews strode out and the two hugged, well, somebody must have been cutting onions.
I think NPH will be one and done, as ratings took a nose dive. Of course, this is always based on the movies nominated, but he will take the fall. They should probably go back to a comic, because its the approaching-vicious monologues that people remember the next day, not Jack Black singing about tentpoles (but Anna Kendrick can do anything in my book). I would lobby for one of the Jimmys–Fallon or Kimmel–or maybe Stephen Colbert will be ready by then. Let’s keep trying until they figure it out.