How the Academy Awards played out

Oscars - Lena YangIn front of the Lens

The most prestigious and talked about category at the Oscars every single year is Best Picture. This category combines so many different elements of cinema; it takes into consideration the directing, acting, musical composition, writing, editing and other aspects that make up a great movie.

This year’s nominees for Best Picture were perhaps the most diverse we’ve seen in years: American Sniper, Selma, Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, The Imitation Game, Boyhood and Birdman.

It was Mexican director Alejandro Iñárritu’s Birdman that ended up winning. The movie got a lot of attention not only because of the star-studded cast of talented actors but also because of the unconventional film style. The entire two-hour film is essentially one continuous shot.

This may seem strange but in the context of the storyline, it works. The movie has been labelled ground-breaking for its atypical style and heavy focus on the actors’ performance. For those very reasons, Birdman took home the hardware.

In contrast to Best Picture, the awards for Best Actor and Best Actress in leading and supporting roles are also highly debated categories. Similar to Best Picture, the nominees for these categories had no predictable winner.

Often times, the Academy leans towards giving this award to actors and actresses that give stellar portrayals of historical characters rather than fictional individuals.

This was good news for a couple of 2014’s nominees; Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones and Reese Witherspoon all played direct adaptations of historical or biographical figures. Despite what past award winners have shown us, it was only this year’s Best Actor that followed suit, with Eddie Redmayne winning for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Julianne Moore took home the prize for Best Actress in a leading role for her performance in Still Alice; a film about a linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

All in all, the 87th Academy Awards were a total success. From the hosts and performances to the red carpet interviews, everything was on point. But most importantly the winners got their just-due and the nominees will live to fight another day.

 

Behind the lens

On the technical side of the Oscars, The Grand Budapest Hotel garnered the most acclaim, predictably claiming victory in production design (Anna Pinnock and Adam Stockhausen), makeup and hairstyling (Mark Coulier and Frances Hannon) and costume design (Milena Canonero). However it also managed to beat the odds and earn Alexandre Desplat his first Oscar win for Best Original Score.

Tom Cross, like most of the other nominees of the night, managed to trump Boyhood (Sandra Adair) for Achievement in Film Editing from his work on Whiplash. The film also scored an award for Achievement in Sound Mixing (Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley), but with it being a film centered on music it was expected. American Sniper (Bub Asman), another film in a sound-intensive genre — the war film — picked up the trophy for Achievement in Sound Editing, its only win from six nominations. Strangely missing from the nominations in these sound categories was The Grand Budapest Hotel, whose use of sound perfectly accompanies the image in a way that supplements it well.

Big winner Birdman had minimal success in this area, only earning Emmanuel Lubezki his second Achievement in Cinematography Oscar in a row. While Birdman was certainly an impressively-shot film, it was noticeable from the constantly spinning camera and unimaginative composition that he was straining to make a coherent-looking film while being bogged down by Iñárritu’s one-shot gimmick.

More deserving of the award was Robert Yeoman for The Grand Budapest Hotel, who is finally being given the recognition he deserves for 18 years of immaculately shot and visually composed films. Another film deserving of a nomination that did not get one is Boyhood, where Shane Kelly and Lee Daniel’s naturalistic use of tender intimacy gives the film a significant amount of the power that it has been praised for.

With this relatively small number of behind-the-scenes trophies going to the Best Picture winner, the amount of respect the Academy actually has for the technical people who help create a movie is called into question.

While the presenters speak of their achievements with utmost reverence, there was more than one instance of winners nearly being played off by the music. In spite of this, they all stood their ground and earned the respect of viewers everywhere.

In addition to this surface-level admiration masking subtextual disdain, the Academy’s inability to include these hard-working craftspeople in the humourous part of the ceremony also speaks to the apathy of organizer and viewer alike. If Meryl Streep, one of the most admired actresses in the Academy’s history, can be roasted, why can’t the costume designers or the makeup crews?

Even if the average person wouldn’t know specific names, there’s nothing stopping the writers from taking well-meaning pot shots at certain aspects of recognized films as they do with actors and even directors. Regardless of if the jokes fall flat or not, at least the effort to include those who may feel out of place amidst millionaire celebrities has been made. Maybe once that bridge has been built, people will finally stop using the sections devoted to these hard-working men and women as an opportunity to change the channel.

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