5 Takeaways From the 2015 Oscars
What Was Right and Wrong with The Academy Awards
The 87th Academy Awards aired live from Hollywood, CA last night, and some 43 million Americans tuned in to watch host Neil Patrick Harris quarterback a meandering evening of song, dance and celebration of the cinematic arts. If the show’s epic length — more than three-and-a-half hours — or lack of any discernible humor did not put you off, the cavalcade of politically-charged acceptance speeches probably did.
As a fan of film, and willing viewer of every Oscars broadcast since I was in junior high (circa 1994), here are five things that, for me, stood out at this year’s Academy Awards:
1) Neil Patrick Harris is Extremely Talented (and I Really Don’t Care).
For the longest time, we have been instructed to enjoy and appreciate Neil Patrick Harris’ many talents. Those talents — singing, dancing and general merry-making — are undeniable. He has a strong command of the stage and spotlight. He has good timing and decent comedic chops.
And I really don’t care.
Putting aside the unfortunate fact that he walked onto stage in his underwear, Mr. Harris was underwhelming as host. This may have more to do with a tightly-scripted production, but by mid-point I nearly forgot that Harris was emceeing.
This may sound superficial, but he is not famous enough to host the biggest non-Super Bowl television event of the year. He is not funny enough. He is not interesting enough. You need a bigger name at the helm of such a bloated, celebrity-filled freighter.
Neil Patrick Harris was not so much bad as simply milquetoast. And his reputation of being “the most entertaining guy in entertainment” seems unwarranted.
2) Everything is Political.
From Patricia Arquette’s wage gap plea, to Sean Penn’s immigration jab, the 87th Oscars were jam-packed with political undertones. And some overtones, for good measure.
There was the planned protest outside of the ceremony that was only called off when the director of the film Selma said she did not give it her blessing. There was Neil Patrick Harris’ monologue clip about this year’s Academy Awards show being little more than a tribute to “the best and whitest — I mean brightest.” There was Birdman director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s backhanded compliment to the Academy for giving Mexican-American directors back-to-back top honors (after Alfonso Cuaron won last year for Gravity).
And who can forget the aforementioned Patricia Arquette clamoring for “equal pay” laws that were put into effect back in 1963?
Do these people really think that viewers want to listen to self-important political proclamations from a gathering of some of the wealthiest, most influential and most self-absorbed people in our society? The political opinions of the Hollywood glitterati are not inspiring or prophetic. They’re just irritating, especially since they carry absolutely no risk. We hear about immigration and equal pay but nothing of, say, Islamic extremism and the life of the unborn. That would be brave.
The Oscars are supposedly a celebration of cinema. We are tuning in because we like movies. The artists in that room are paid because we like movies. So talk about movies. Save the misguided socio-political pronouncements for the Key Grips or Personal Assistants who nod along on set as you hold court at the Kraft Services food truck about how dumb you think George W. Bush and Red State voters are.
3) Lady GaGa Can Sing (and I Really Do Care).
By far the most impressive feature of the evening was Lady GaGa’s inner-arm tattoos. (Was that a trumpet and sheet music?) But a close second was Lady GaGa’s delightful medley of songs from The Sound of Music.
The Lady can sing! And to cap the whole thing off with an appearance from Dame Julie Andrews was pitch-perfect. I say this as someone who can barely tolerate musicals, who doesn’t love The Sound of Music. More of this sort of thing next year, please!
4) Call Your Parents (Do Not Text).
Best Supporting Actor winner J.K. Simmons delivered a kind-hearted acceptance speech in which he thanked his wife and kids for being the most important things in his life. He then added this little nugget of wisdom to close out his time on stage.
Well said, Simmons! I imagine many parents around the nation will be receiving phone calls this week.
5) Way. Too. Long.
At about the same two-hour mark each year, I look around the Oscars party I am attending and ask anyone in ear shot the same question: Was it this long and boring last year?
Everyone in the world knows that the Oscars are way too long, so why is nothing done about it? We want to see the most interesting seven or eight categories announced, hear a few jokes at Hollywood’s expense and a song-and-dance number for good measure. As sports like baseball announce changes to speed-up the run time of their games, The Academy Awards would instantly become the best 120 pop-culture minutes on television each year if they cut roughly 45% of its mind-numbing content.
This seems to me to be a winning political issue for any candidate brave enough to embrace it!