Oscars 2015: Surprises – pleasant and otherwise – as the gongs are handed out

There are always one or two decisions which confound the pundits

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The Independent Online

It was the usual mix of the thoroughly predictable and the mildly surprising at the 87th annual Academy Awards. But while a certain awards fatigue tends to set in thanks to the trial runs at the Golden Globes and the Baftas, when the Oscars themselves finally happen, the tension and excitement somehow rises again.

There are always one or two decisions which confound the pundits. This year, critics’ favourite Boyhood, from director Richard Linklater, was the biggest loser, eclipsed by Birdman for Best Picture and picking up only a Best Supporting Actress award for Patricia Arquette.

If the Academy voters had been in more even-handed mood, they would surely have given Linklater at least a Best Director award. It is unjust that Boyhood, bound to be regarded in future years as one of the towering films of its era, should have been overlooked in all the major categories.

One intriguing aspect of the success of Birdman is that this was a comedy – and generally comedies are overlooked for major prizes. In this case, though, the director Alejandro González Iñárritu had a “serious” pedigree that persuaded voters to treat his film with respect.

 

What seemed thoroughly perverse was that Grand Budapest Hotel won Oscars only in technical categories. Wes Anderson, the director, was ignored although this was a film that reflected his sensibility in its every frame. His costume designer and production designer deserve their plaudits but they were working to his vision.

The Academy at least showed that it isn’t afraid to embrace dissident indie cinema. The best documentary award for Laura Poitras’ Edward Snowden doc Citizenfour won’t, one guesses, have been appreciated by either the National Security Agency or GCHQ. The Best Actress award for Julianne Moore wasn’ the obvious choice either.

It was likewise heartening to see the Foreign Language Oscar (which in the past has sometimes gone to some very bland films) awarded to Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida. This was a beautifully shot black and white film which made some trenchant points about the legacy of wartime anti-semitism in Poland.

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The award for Animated Feature Film went to Big Hero 6 (Disney)

Eddie Redmayne’s award wasn’t unexpected and follows in a long tradition of Brits winning Best Actor Oscars that stretches right back to Charles Laughton in The Private Life Of Henry VIII (1933). Redmayne had already won the Bafta and the momentum was behind him. Nonetheless, Michael Keaton was unlucky to have been overlooked for his bravura comeback in Birdman.

Do the Academy members vote for the best films or are they swayed by the most effective campaigns? It is obviously a mixture of both. Civil rights drama Selma was this year’s most conspicuous underachiever in terms of awards recognition. In spite of claims of a bias against the film, there is the nagging suspicion that its campaign fell short – and that the reason it didn’t make more of an impact was that not enough voters saw it in time.

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