Tuesday, February 24, 2015


“Dear Lady Gaga, thank you for that wonderful tribute.” These are not words I ever expected to hear Julie Andrews saying.

But they seemed heartfelt, and they were deserved: Lady Gaga’s broadly-played imitation of Andrews, in a Sound of Music medley, was one of the few high points of a generally slow, unappealing Oscar show. Other high points included some good acceptance speeches, especially by Pawel Pawlikowski, the Polish director of Ida, who managed to be funny and even, in an unpretentious way, a bit reflective.

The low point, for me, was Neil Patrick Harris making a joke at the expense of the dress worn by one of the two ladies who had just won a Best Short Subject Documentary Oscar for Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press One. As a friend of mine pointed out, it’s one thing to mock a train wreck worn by some actress who’s a red carpet veteran, quite another to pick on the questionable fashion choice of a “civilian.” Besides, the lady in question had just been talking, seconds before, about losing her son to suicide. Harris may not have been listening, but the effect was ugly in any case.

As for the winners and losers, the big disappointment for me was Michael Keaton not winning. I didn’t much care for Birdman, but I love Keaton’s work, including in that film, so much that I really wanted him to win anyway, as I wonder if he’ll have ever this juicy a lead role again. My wife, by comparison to me the expert Oscar handicapper in our house, was also rooting for Keaton but predicted that Eddie Redmayne would win for The Theory of Everything, as his role as the young Stephen Hawking ticked off too many Oscar-bait boxes: Physical challenge, real-life figure, Brit. One theory floated on some of the talk shows is that Keaton may have been perceived as “just playing himself” in Birdman, as opposed to Redmayne’s transformation.

When people say this about an actor, what they really mean (though they may not know it) is that he or she always or usually plays the same basic character. That’s certainly true of Keaton, but it was also true of Henry Fonda, John Wayne, James Stewart, Sidney Poitier and Paul Newman—it didn’t stop any of them from winning Oscars.

One last note: I was also sorry that the Glen Campbell song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me, didn’t win for Best Song—it lost to the admittedly beautiful “Glory” from the ridiculously under-nominated Selma. But at least it was treated to a fine, simple performance on the show by Tim McGraw, and hopefully it will call more attention to this powerful documentary about the Alzheimer’s-afflicted country great. Please don’t skip this movie on the (understandable) fear that it will be a depressing bummer. It’s sad, of course, but also uplifting.

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