Going into Sunday night’s Academy Awards, the best picture and director races were pretty much a dead heat between Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Birdman” — two films that approached the human condition from two very different perspectives.
Filmed over 12 years, “Boyhood” followed one family’s journey over time. Meanwhile “Birdman,” which gave the illusion of a one-take wonder, was set at a Broadway theater to tell a tale of showbiz egos and the yearning to make art.
Remember, Oscar voters love movies about actors. So in the end it was “Birdman” that triumphed, taking the awards for both director and picture, as well as cinematography and original screenplay.
And “Boyhood” ended up with just one trophy, for supporting actress Patricia Arquette.
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Meanwhile, Eddie Redmayne was named best actor for his portrayal of cosmologist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” The young Brit’s closest competition was “Birdman’s” Michael Keaton, a sentimental favorite for making a comeback. (It’s doubtful Keaton will ever get a role equal to this one).
In his acceptance speech after winning director, Inarritu claimed to be wearing the same tighty-whities Keaton sported during his strut through Times Square in the film.
It was a year when the academy was criticized for a lack of diversity — “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest … I mean brightest,” host Neil Patrick Harris said in his opening remarks. Yet Inarritu, the only non-white nominated in the top categories, is the second Mexican in a row to win best director. Alfonso Cuaron won last year for “Gravity.”
Mostly, Oscar spread the honors around. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” also won four statuettes, but all for technical categories: makeup, costumes, production design and musical score.
“Whiplash” won for supporting actor — J.K. Simmons, as expected — as well as for editing and sound mixing.
“Imitation Game,” the story of computer grandfather Alan Turing, picked up an Oscar for its adapted screenplay.
Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” had to settle for just one Academy Award, for sound editing. (Not to mention more than $300 million at the box office.)
But for most of its running time, the Oscar show was a snooze.
The performers who were predicted to win — actress Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”) and supporting nominees Simmons and Arquette — did just that.
Meanwhile the world waited (and waited, and waited, and waited) for the three races that weren’t already a done deal back in January when nominations were announced. Best actor. Best director. Best picture.
To read more movie news from Robert W. Butler, go to butlerscinemascene.com.