Monday, February 23, 2015
I usually watch the Academy Awards show, and every year I wonder why. It's exactly like a high school assembly where the cool kids give each other prizes and congratulate themselves for being high-minded and really, really cool.
This year I had seen most of the hot movies. I was a little afraid that Boyhood, which I saw and didn't particularly enjoy, might complete a full sweep of all the year's Best Picture awards, but no. Boyhood was stopped at third, and Birdman won.
Together those two movies generated less box office than the late-year release of American Sniper, which also was nominated and whose actors, Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, were said to be pretty darn good. There was some talk that American Sniper might win the biggest prize, Best Picture.
As soon as the presenter of the Best Picture award stepped on the stage to open the envelope, though, I knew the sniper film was toast.
The presenter was Sean Penn.
Penn is even more a man of the left than most people in Hollywood, which is saying something. (He was a great buddy of late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, and he once recommended that any journalist who called Chavez a "dictator" should be put in prison. That's pretty far out there, actually more totalitarian than leftist, but, still, it's an indication of how strongly he takes his political beliefs.)
Maybe Pricewaterhouse Coopers let the cat out of the bag early. I don't know. But I'm pretty sure Penn would have uttered loud curse words and stomped off in a rage rather than give an Oscar to Clint Eastwood for a film about an American serviceman fighting in Iraq.
As for Birdman, which did win, that's a well-made film. The script and cinematography do a great job of creating claustrophobic tension in the backstage areas of a Broadway theater. The acting is excellent.
But the story itself is a little weird. It dips deep into magical realism -- which we're seeing a lot in film and literature these days -- to set up a conclusion that is satisfying mostly in a metaphorical sense.
This is my thinking only; no doubt others will disagree.
Tomorrow: Another big thing that happened yesterday.