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2015 Oscars: Results, Recap & Opinions

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Oscar Fallout and Recap 2015

(Hold on to your butts!)

Welcome one and all to Oscar Night 2015 when the Academy Awards will be doled out by Doogie Howser M.D. in an attempt to surpass Ellen’s “internet breaking” effort of last year.  As with every Oscar award season, perception, conjecture, and theories abound when it comes to who will actually win.  There are a few foregone conclusions, there are some tight races, but I can posit with some certainty that we will have at least one major surprise and plenty of controversy (I’m looking at you John Travolta!).

The Red Carpet Observations

1) Does it matter who Kevin Hart brings with him anywhere?  All women tower over him.

2) Boyhood’s director Richard Linklater and supporting actor Ethan Hawke get early featured love by interviewers, and Hawke shows much more excitement and charisma than his director.  Perhaps Linklater is bracing for disappointment?

3) Dakota Johnson and mommy dearest, Melanie Griffith, are shown video footage of her years ago as a little girl at the Oscars in what I’m sure was #50shadesofawkward.  Thanks for the reminder of young innocence turn softcore porn, Mr. red carpet coverage man.  Lara Spencer’s follow up to push Melanie into watching 50 Shades of Grey made it even worse.  Is there some kind of bounty on Johnson and Griffith tonight?

4) Andy Samberg got invited to the Oscars?  I guess he can thank Adam Sandler for the invite?

5) Did everyone remember how Steve Carell was nominated for best leading actor for Foxcatcher?

6) Marion Cotillard is a beautiful woman, but she wasn’t wearing a beautiful dress.  #plainjane

7) Michael Keaton and Birdman director Alejandro Iñárritu seem to have a bit more positive energy about being present.  Too bad Keaton is dwarfed by Lara Spencer.

8) Rosamund Pike looks killer in that hot red dress of hers! 

9) Nice guy Eddie Redmayne admits to bringing the wretched British weather over to LA.  I appreciate the honesty.

10) I really like Anna Kendrick’s dress, but really, her look overall because despite her youth, she tends to give off a much more seasoned class to public appearances like this.

11) Lady Gaga fake holding an Oscar – yeah right.  Well, maybe I shouldn’t mock her seeing how they gave Cher an Oscar.  #anythingispossible  BTW, does she plan on doing some dishes tonight with those rubber gloves?

12) Jimmy Kimmel is dressing down for the Oscars.  #mailingitin

13) Wow!  What kind of future-alternative dress is Naomi Watts wearing?  I guess I like it, but wouldn’t figure her to rock that kind of look.

14) Chris Pratt’s a cool dude, but there’s no way anyone should be rebooting Indiana Jones for any reason.

15) Reese Witherspoon wants more questions asked to her on the red carpet other than the designer she’s wearing.  I respect that.  But, that goes away if Legally Blonde 3 is ever announced.  

16) Jennifer Lopez wearing a remix of the only kind of dress she knows how to wear: plunging v-neck down to her belly button.  #pass

17) What did Scarlett Johansson do to her hair???

18) Adam Levine still needs a shave.  You know, I heard Gillette is the best a man can get.

19) Taya Kyle is present at the Oscars representing Chris and American Sniper.  She’s still not sharing any proceeds of her husband’s book with the families of fallen service men and women like Chris had reportedly requested prior to his death.  #anymorelawsuitsagainstthekyleestate?

20) Faith Hill and Tim McGraw don’t look like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.

21) Kerry Washington looks really cute tonight.  We need to see her in some more movies so hopefully Scandal won’t Black Snake Moan her from the rest of Hollywood.

22) Robin Roberts making an embarrassing moment with Captain America himself Chris Evans regarding his date wasn’t horrible, but never presume anything regarding the relationship between stars and their +1’s at these events.

23) Patricia Arquette seems a frumpy hot mess.  Didn’t she learn anything from Jack?  You gotta wear sunglasses if you do a line before sitting through the Oscars.

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And Now, the Show …

Oooo, Neil Patrick Harris starting off right away referencing the “white-washing” of this year’s nominations before launching into his introductory song and dance.  His impromptu duet with Anna Kendrick as Cinderella was a nice little surprise, but Jack Black’s interruption representing the cynicism of Hollywood wasn’t as satisfying.  I get that they were going for the magic vs. mud, but as far as opening musical numbers go, Hugh Jackman’s remains the gold standard.  Also, Anna Kendrick is a much stronger singer than Neil, so it was good, but not great.

Best Supporting ActorJ.K. Simmons for Whiplash – First award of the night is not a surprise by any means.  He was the hot choice for this category and I really liked his acceptance speech even if he kind of threw his own kids under the bus a bit.  Also, I liked Neil Patrick Harris’ State Farm Commercial reference to this victory.

Liam Neeson’s aside regarding the nominated films this evening and their separation from the blockbusters like comic book films irked me a tad.  I understand that he didn’t necessarily write the lines, but he did agree to read them, and it was somewhat hypocritical seeing how American Sniper was one of this past year’s big studio blockbusters.  Excellence achieved in blockbusters is no less prolific than those “worthy” of recognition by the Academy because people don’t just go to see those cinematic adventures because they’re fanboys and girls.  They go because those films are great fun, well, at least the good blockbusters are.

Chris Pine and J-Lo present best costume design.  You must hand it to this show for always being able to pair some of the most random duos. 

Best Costume DesignMilena Canonero for The Grand Budapest Hotel – Another disciple of Wes Anderson’s reaping the rewards of art house film proximity.  This was the year for indie films and Wes Anderson is a marquee champion of the little guys.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling– Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier for The Grand Budapest Hotel – The only thing that you could bank on in this category was that it wasn’t going to Guardians of the Galaxy for every reason I mentioned above.

Best Foreign Language FilmPoland’s Ida – This victory was obviously a surprise for the winner, but he sure didn’t run out of people to thank as he went well over his wrap up time and kept going, and going, and going, and going …

Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island perform Everything is Awesome.  This might have been a highlight of the show for some viewers out there, but I would have preferred the song exactly how it was performed from the movie, minus The Lonely Island.

Best Live Action Short Film– Mat Kirkby and James Lucas for The Phone Call – Foreigners will have their moment on Oscar night!  Orchestra be damned!

Best Documentary Short Film– Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry for Crisis Hotline – An interesting black, pom pom dress selection for one of these ladies.  It DOES take a lot of balls to wear it!  I respect them for being aware of very brief time to speak their acceptance.

Neil Patrick Harris may be in need of a little life preserver with his joke tie-in with David Oyelowo.  David’s reaction may have salvaged it, but a tidal wave of meh seems to be rising at this point in the show … and to get the energy back up, he shows back up on stage in tightywhiteys with what I presume is a well placed sock.  Yes, acting IS a noble profession.  Thank you, Neil.  

Best Sound Mixing– Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley for Whiplash – Even more indie love for perhaps the most indie film amongst all of this year’s nominees.  This may go down as the most awkward acceptance 

Best Sound Editing– Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman for American Sniper – This is certainly my first surprise of the evening because the indies were really putting the petal to the metal.  Winning a category like this might be an indicator for bigger victories for American Sniper because having “Academy Award winner for best Sound Editing” as the only label on the cover of this movie when it releases on retail would be awkward.

Best Supporting Actress– Patricia Arquette for Boyhood – Not a surprise here as she was getting the love for this win well before NPH (Neil Patrick Harris) started rehearsing for the Oscar show.  Patricia had some important things to say about wage equality for women.  I’m pretty sure what the world, not just this country, needs is wage elevation for the poor. 

Best Visual Effects– Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher for Interstellar – I honestly thought this was going to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes just for the Andy Serkis factor, but Chris Nolan’s overlooked space adventure comes away with a little hardware.

Anna Kendrick and Kevin Hart actually made a very cool pairing to present an award.  And yes, Anna IS bigger than Kevin.

Best Animated Short– Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed for Feast – This animated short really was a neat, entertaining tale of a pet’s perspective of its master’s relationship gone wrong.  Thank you Dipson theatres for letting me see it before learning about it for the first time during the Oscars.

Best Animated Feature– Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli for Big Hero Six – Was anyone surprised at Fall Out Boy’s big comeback platform taking this category?  The country of Japan sure wasn’t as this film enjoyed a 6 week reign as #1 at the box office.  There was plenty of love for the Mickey Mouse corporation in this acceptance speech.

Best Production Design– Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock for The Grand Budapest Hotel – Yet another slam dunk for the art house, Wes Anderson and style over substance. 

Best Cinematography– Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman – Finally, one of the so-called considered favorites of the evening actually wins an award.  When you have practically zero cuts in your film, all you have is framing and camera work and that’s all cinematography baby!

“In Memoriam” sequence presented by Meryl Streep.  This is always a difficult moment during the show which is important for its recognition, but I’ve never understood why anyone in the live audience would applaud for some of the bigger or more popular names as if their passing was more tragic than any other.  They are dead.  They have not won an award.  So please, take this moment to be somber and respectful and keep your inner fan boy or girl in its seatbelt.

Best Film Editing– Tom Cross for Whiplash – The little film that could keeps racking up the victories.  If there wasn’t full on confirmation of indie love tonight by now, we are officially there now.

Terrence Howard’s presentation of Whiplash, The Imitation Game and Selma is the first live train wreck of the evening.  Travolta may be in the clear.  Could it have been drugs, alcohol, overacting, or perhaps he actually was THAT emotionally moved by the films he was talking about?  Terrence is a good actor, but he’s not that good.  Maybe he’s still pissed about being replaced by Don Cheadle as Rhodie’s War Machine?

Best Documentary Feature– Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky for Citizenfour – A documentary about shadow government and praise for Edward Snowden in Hollywood?  Good thing I discovered it existed in the first place tonight.  #wherearethedocumentaryscreenings

NPH may have completely redeemed himself with the “Benedict Cumberbatch is what you get when you ask Travolta to pronounce Ben Affleck.”  And THEN Idina Menzel presents best song WITH John Travolta and the two have awkward fun at each other’s expense.  I wouldn’t exactly call it one of Tosh’s “web redemptions,” but it comes really close.

Best Song– “Glory” John Stephens (John Legend) and Lonnie Lynn for Selma – First of all, who knew Common’s real name was Lonnie Lynn?  Common and Legend make a great acceptance speech regarding social justice.  We ARE an over-incarcerated country, so whenever I hear stories about American money (private or government) being exported for ANY charity reason, I ask why can’t that money stay to help people HERE in THIS country: the homeless, the poor, the disenfranchised, the uneducated, the hungry. 

Lady Gaga performing My Favorite Things and other songs from The Sound of Music does the legacy of Julie Andrews proud.  She produced a clean operatic voice for every ballad and kept it classy the whole way.  I must say this was a big surprise, but an even BIGGER surprise was Julie Andrews herself coming on stage to congratulate her.  As powerful as the performance of “Glory” was, this moment was easily the warmest and most emotional of the evening.

Best Original ScoreAlexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson acolytes know how to suckle from the power teet as this fine little hotel continues to rack up the gold left and right.  I personally would have liked to see this award go to Hans Zimmer for Interstellar because even if the audience got confused by the plot or the theoretical science, there’s no denying the emotion of his score.  The Academy sees it otherwise.

Best Original Screenplay– Alejandro Iñárritu and company for Birdman – I’d like to note how the director thanked his cast entirely by first name, except for “Mr. Norton.”  Hollywood likes a shiny mirror put up in front of itself; even if it isn’t pretty; even if it isn’t nice.

Best Adapted Screenplay– Graham Moore for The Imitation Game – This is a HUGE shocker!  And historians are rolling up their sleeves right now as this script was maligned for its historical inaccuracies.  I feel bad that Graham wanted to kill himself when he was younger, but if he wanted to make Alan Turing’s story about his sexuality, then he should have done exactly that from the first frame of the film and NOT slide it in at the very end as a footnote.

Best Director– Alejandro Iñárritu for Birdman – Major score #2 for Iñárritu.  With two major victories in the bag, is Birdman set up for a clean sweep the rest of the way?  This kind of film needs a director on cue and on his cast at all times because quite frankly, they were on, at all times.

Best Actor– Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything – Eddie is gleefully enjoyed to accept this award and regardless of whatever politics were at work, or whoever’s “time it was,” no one could deny the power of his performance in this film.  It was transformative.  It was undeniable.  I almost thought Birdman’s momentum was going to carry Michael Keaton through to the other side, but Redmayne was both the unstoppable force and the immoveable object. 

Best Actress– Julianne Moore for Still Alice – One classy lady gives an equally graceful and humble acceptance speech.  She’s had an amazing career and gave an amazing performance in this film.  People had been talking up her victory for weeks

Best PictureBirdman – And that’s all she wrote!  Check out my review right here if you possibly needed any additional reason to check this movie out.  It was fun, artsy, had social commentary and Michael Keaton maybe having real life super powers?  No one can be told.  You have to see it for yourself.

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Conclusion

Another successful evening of Hollywood showing the world how awesome it is all wrapped up and I must say that I was more surprised than not at the results.  I was surprised that The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash won as many awards as they did, but I am absolutely stunned that pre-Oscar night darlings Boyhood and American Sniper took home only 1 award each!  Equally snubbed was Selma, but apparently the real reason for that was untimely logistics during the submission and campaigning process for the production.  Birdman deserved ultimate victory as it took a number of major categories, and it was just plain great in every aspect of filmmaking.  As for the Oscar show itself, yes it’s a LONG show, but Neil Patrick Harris did an adequate job as host with several moments of peaks and valleys throughout.  I wouldn’t say he surpassed Ellen in any regard, but I also wouldn’t say he is undeserving of a second opportunity next year or any other in the future.  I don’t disagree with any of the victors save for the firestorm that may culminate over The Theory of Everything’s victory for best adapted screenplay. 

As I’ve said in my reviews leading up to this night, this past year was an “indie” year and with that, “indie love” was certainly represented at the Academy Awards.  Despite this year being a down year in terms of tickets sold and money made, I felt this year’s nominees were superior to last year’s overall.  This coming year will be a big time comeback for Hollywood as The Avengers and Star Wars will almost exclusively make all the difference.  

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Review: Boyhood (2014)

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Growing Up Is Hard To Do

A Film Review of Boyhood

 

Greetings readers!  Hopefully you all had a good holiday season, but this is a new year and that means the Hollywood Award circuit is in full effect.  The Academy released its Oscar nominees few days ago to what seems like an absolute love fest for Indie films.  The bigger films starring bigger stars are low on this past year’s totem which can mean whatever you want it to mean, but when you look at the dollars and cents, it means 2014 was an off year for Hollywood.  According to boxofficemojo.com 2014’s domestic take saw 5.2% less gross than 2013 and about the same percentage was down from the number of tickets sold.  To be honest it’s not all about the money either.  There was no “absolute must-see for everyone;” no true juggernaut that people should be aware of.  So why not make it a year for the Indies to regain some prominence?  8 Films are nominated for Best Picture, and I will be reviewing them all for you right here at Cosmic Book News.  I’ve already done one for American Sniper, up next is Richard Linklater’s experimental drama Boyhood.

Right away, if you note some sort of a stomach turning sensation with the term “experimental” being connected to a movie then rest easy; it’s a natural response.  Thankfully this isn’t a film where the experiment at work isn’t self indulgence, hyper abstract imagery, elusive content or a mind-numbing thematic onslaught.  Linklater directs the same cast over the course of 12 years in blocks of real time to capture his characters’ evolution, but also the physical growth of his cast to further enhance the realism.  The narrative features a (surprise, surprise) coming of age tale of a young boy and his family amidst a bevy real life problems such as divorce, geographic displacement, alcoholism, bullying, peer pressure and parents trying their best to stay connected to their kids despite it all.  Although this film is billed as charting new territory in the depiction of childhood, it also happens to be a calculated examination that pays much credence to the perspective of parents.  Having also been written by Linklater, a personal touch of constant self reflection is apparent for most characters in every scene.  The pacing is deliberate to present some of the most sincere vignettes of family life caught on camera despite the film being a fictional narrative.  Like real life, this film isn’t always beautiful.  In fact, it’s mostly ugly and awkward, but at least it doesn’t look bad on the screen.  Worry not about home video style, handheld camera juggling.  The cinematography is smooth, classic and dramatic.  It prevents the dialogue from stealing the entire story, thus turning Boyhood into a really elaborate audio book. 

12 years is a long time to keep a film in production for, even at a part time rate.  Linklater and co. probably amassed a healthy amount of footage over that time period and this brings us to the first hurdle for the audience.  This film has a runtime of 165 minutes and you will feel that time pass all too well.  There are several moments in the plot where it felt like the drama would turn to heighten the danger as well as the tempo, but it never happens.  Perhaps this was done to mimic mundane life too closely.  There’s no question that a multitude of traps exist in life that can easily get small kids into big trouble, but to paraphrase Star Lord, if the kid really isn’t a complete dick (thank you parents), chances are they will veer from that kind of trouble.  The lack of any defined or constant threat to any protagonist will defang any plot and the reality of Boyhood as a cinematic journey is that it reaches a certain level of intimacy and intrigue early on and then plateaus. 

The various family crisis that are depicted in Boyhood never shows the audience any full and raw emotional outburst from anyone in the cast which further adds to the film’s overall monotone pacing handicap.  The reason for this is that the story is actually being narrated to the audience through passive observations by the main character: Mason Jr. played by Ellar Coltrane.  Right now, young master Coltrane is receiving much Hollywood love as his contributions are being hailed as “a breakthrough performance” and that would be correct if that description simply meant having a feature role in a film nobody saw coming.  His performance exists, but is exceptional in no way other than having one of those “different” Hollywood looks that is neither overly pretty nor unattractive to justify him being there in the first place. 

One of two explanations can account for this.  First, Linklater specifically directed Coltrane to just pretend his scenes and remember his lines (which is fine for him as a young child, but doesn’t fly at all when he gets older) or two, Coltrane doesn’t really have it; i.e. the screen presence, the charisma, the “it” factor.  Either way, Mason Jr. is our main character and he literally grows up for the audience onscreen from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood and the only thing he delivers is … the air of indifference.  Unless a child is being fed mescaline, there is no way any realistic coming of age tale can feature the absolute absence of anger, bliss or any other possible emotion between the two.  There is far too much neutered “whatever” attitude from Coltrane at every age that I simply stopped believing him as an actual participant in his own journey.  There are far too many opportunities for Coltrane to unleash some very real angst as his character is put through more than enough trials to justify a clear path to becoming a sociopath.  All things being equal, Mason is a pretty damn decent kid despite the circumstances and it actually feels weird.  The only rationalization the audience has for Mason Jr.’s relative sainthood is the imperfect, yet sincere and constant parenting at work during his life.

Anyone can notice the effect of a veteran actor that’s engaged with his or her character in just about any kind of film.  Such an effect is even more noticeable when veterans are matched up with complete novices as is the case between the adult and child cast members of Boyhood.  Not enough credit can be given to both Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke for their work as the mother and father in this production for it is every scene they share with their children (Mason and Samantha) that completely blows away every other.  These scenes make this film worth watching, period.  Any actor will tell you that a performance is based on a give and take relationship with fellow cast members.  Neither Arquette nor Hawke get much of anything from either Coltrane or Lorelei Linklater (Samantha) which requires them to “be the parent” for the film’s content as well as its context, but at least they take full advantage of their heavy lifting in each scene.  Arquette as the mom is the disciplinarian so there is a certain stern responsibility that goes into her character, but she accomplishes this without becoming a dictator which is thanks to her tempered balance with maternal concern.  This sincere balance is capable of masking both kids’ “deer in the headlights” demeanor as genuine moments of learning their lessons.  Hawke as the every other weekend father is the cool jokester who wants to befriend his kids as much as he wants to dish out legitimate street smarts.  His tact lulls the kids into pleasant comfort while still finding several moments to deliver important messages that transcend his own cavalier attitude and lifestyle. 

Boyhood is an exceptional family film despite being rated R for language and adult situations, but even those never get graphic (no nudity) or violent (no onscreen striking).  The content of the scenarios and the parenting dialogue take great pains to reproduce realistic situations that today’s families have to deal with.  Watching this can be as rewarding to children with the appropriate adult supervision as it obviously will be for adults.  The real trick is keeping everyone in the family in front of the screen before the credits roll because it is a slow moving picture.  If you are up to the challenge, you will be rewarded with an education into the modern family featuring a unique, real life development of its cast that is seamless in its transition between ages.  Perhaps this unique experiment regarding its production will be enough to win Oscar gold as the Best Picture, but limitations regarding its pacing and performances couldn’t make its chances better than any other for the win.  

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