It’s been a long, crazy ride. That seems to be a sentiment echoed every year as the Oscar season comes to a close, having seen so many contenders become pretenders, front-runners changing with the announcement of every new precursor, and records kept or broken. It’s hard to put into words just what this year truly meant, and only time will tell if the academy’s choices really were the right ones, but for now, here are some of the things that stuck out as highlights:
1. Julianne Moore has an Oscar … at last!
“Far from Heaven.” “Boogie Nights.” “The Hours.” “The End of the Affair.” Those are just the films for which Julianne Moore lost at the Oscars. There’s also “Safe,” “Magnolia,” “Short Cuts,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Children of Men,” and any number of great performances she wasn’t even recognized for. So it was a great pleasure to finally see this leading lady finally clutching a gold statuette.
In “Still Alice” Moore’s performance as a middle-aged lit professor battling early-onset Alzheimer’s helped elevate the material out of the usual disease-of-the-week TV movie dregs to become a major awards contender. So while she should have at least two or three of these already, it’s nice to finally be able to call Moore an Oscar-winner.
2. John Legend and Common bring class to the Best Song category
Of the many musical numbers performed during last night’s ceremony, the one that really brought the house down was John Legend and Common’s rendition of their powerful anthem “Glory” from “Selma.” It was truly a high point in the ceremony, and upon accepting their Oscar, the two elicited further tears and applause by commenting on the struggle for equality – in race, gender, sexuality, religion, and social status – both 50 years ago and today. At a time when issues of prejudice are once again being brought to the forefront, their win was a staggering reminder of how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.
3. Every Best Picture nominee went home with something
Last year, five of the nine Best Picture nominees – “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips,” “Nebraska,” “Philomena,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” – walked away empty-handed. This year, every film took home at least one prize, a sign that voters really wanted to share the wealth. “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” tied for the most with four total wins, followed by “Whiplash” with three. “American Sniper,” “Boyhood,” “The Imitation Game,” “Selma,” and “3The Theory of Everything#” all ended the evening with one trophy apiece, spanning acting, writing, tech, and music categories, thus allowing every contender to proudly wear the moniker of “Academy Award winner.” It’s something that doesn’t happen every year, but when it does, it’s nice to see.
4. Graham Moore’s inspiring acceptance speech
The race for Adapted Screenplay was one of the tightest in years, and when the dust was finally settled, Graham Moore emerged victorious for “The Imitation Game,” his first produced screenplay. Moore took his moment onstage to give an incredibly moving speech relating his own experiences to those of the film’s subject, Alan Turing: “When I was 16-years-old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong, and now I’m standing here. So I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird of she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: yes you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, stay different, and when it’s your turn standing on this stage, please pass this message to the next person that comes along.” It was a message that’s hard to argue with, and one that made his win all the more inspiring.
5. We can finally put that Best Editing stat to rest
In the beginning, “Birdman’s” chances of winning seemed all but squashed by the absence of one significant tech nomination: Best Film Editing. Even with its nine bids, the editing snub really did hurt, considering the last film to take Best Picture without even a mention in that category was “Ordinary People” (1980). Not just that, but before last night, there had only been eight films that won the top prize without that coveted nod:
• 1934: “It Happened One Night”
• 1937: “The Life of Emile Zola”
• 1948: “Hamlet”
• 1955: “Marty”
• 1963: “Tom Jones”
• 1974: “The Godfather, Part II”
• 1977: “Annie Hall”
• 1980: “Ordinary People”
Yet just as “Argo” (2012) proved that missing out on the Best Director lineup doesn’t kill your dreams of victory, “Birdman” finally put the editing statistic out to pasture. Here’s hoping this tradition continues, as several fine films have seen their chances fly away before the season even started due to one miss.