Friday, April 24, 2015

What We Talk About When We Talk About Great Movies: The 10 Best Films of 2014 - Part II

And here's (finally) part two of my list of the best from last year, along with the full list at the bottom.

5. The Wind Rises - The worst thing I can honestly say about this gorgeous animated feature is that, at 126 minutes, it wasn't long enough. I could get lost in Hayao Miyazaki's final effort for hours and not get bored. The writer-director-animator is a master of whisking us away to new worlds of his own creation, but how fitting that his last masterwork is where we're rooted into the past as Miyazaki tells the story of real-life Jiro Horikoshi as he lives out his dreams of building airplanes, despite them being used for the Imperial Army back in World War II. Every last frame of this film - from Jiro's dreams with fellow designer Giovanni Caproni and his brief romance with Nahoko, to showing the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1932 and his journey to Nazi Germany several years later - is painstakingly beautiful and artfully crafted to within an inch of his life. And yet, Miyazaki never falters on touching on themes of greed, war and how humanity takes something pure, only to turn it into a tool of destruction and profit. Yet, the 74 year-old filmmaker asks us to choose between "a world with pyramids, or a world without?" The question is bittersweet in its choice between having a world where airplanes will inevitably be used as instruments of death, or a world where we never see human being flying at all. Miyazaki's final feature is as bittersweet as the character Jiro's life itself, but in the end we are all better for his time than we are without it.

4. Gone Girl - I've seen some messed up thrillers, dramas, satires and films in general, but leave it to director David Fincher and author-screenwriter Gillan Flynn to make a pitch-black and ice-cold satire on suburbia, marriage and the media circus over the "missing white girl" that echos American Psycho for it's critique of a rotten society hidden underneath it's false, empty surface. The tandem between screenwriter, her source material and director echos Fincher's other masterwork, 2010's The Social Network, where script and filmmaker are fluently in sync, to the point where it becomes a highlight in of itself on repeated viewings. The supporting roles are flawless, from Neil Patrick Harris as an obsessed boyfriend from Amy's past, to (surprise) Tyler Perry as Nick's high powered lawyer, whereas Ben Affleck as Nick Dune and Rosaumnd Pike are simply phenomenal as Nick and Amy Dune, two shallow, superficial individuals who are engaged in a battle of wits against each other. 

3. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - Mexican director/writer Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu has made a name for himself in crafting bleak, engrossing character dramas like 21 Grams, Babel, and Bitiful. Yet, in this black comedy about a washed-up actor trying to stage a comeback to stay relevant, the filmmaker has never been more playful, more wicked in crafting a razor-sharp satire about the entertainment biz, and more daring artistically. Shot as if the whole film was done in one continuous take (captured by the ever-magnificent Emmanuel Lubezki), brilliant performances by Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, and Edward Norton, and a scene in which Riggan Thompson (Keaton)'s alter ego is unleashed, Birdman flies on wings of it's own pure creation. It's not hard to see how this walked away with four Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture at this year's Oscars ceremony, and yet, as much as I love and dug Inarritu's creative and hypnotic film, I wish that there was a split this year between this and my no. 2 pick on my list...

2. Boyhood - I wan to say this, for the record: in any other year, Richard Linklater's ambitious and triumph of filmmaking and storytelling would be my pick for the best film of the year. There are few words I can say to describe my love for the writer/director's sweeping, tender, sometimes harsh and always from the heart salute to the joys and growing pains of youth, except that, many times during the film, I saw myself in Mason (played by the excellent newcomer Ellar Coltrane): the desire to do my own thing, regardless of how others may want me to do something their way; acting like I know everything, only for reality to give me a ruse awakening; the struggle to form an identity and to be accepted; my love for Anime and Dragonballl Z (ok, that last part I haven't grown out of), etc. These moments have been captured exquisitely by Linklater over the course of 12 years; that's right: while he was churning out  School of Rock, Before Sunset, Bernie and Before Midnight, among other movies, he set aside a few weeks each year to make this bold, audacious experiment with the same cast, and they all give, what I consider, some of the best performances I've ever seen in a film, from the Evans siblings (Coltrane and Linklater's own daughter, Lorelei) to Ethan Hawke and Patrica Arquette as the divorced parents trying to make it work with their children. People will say that Boyhood is a gimmick and that nothing really happens. To say that is to miss the miracle that is this film - life happens, sprawled out in front of us. 

1. Selma - Again, in any other year, Boyhood would have the no.1 spot on this list. And I'll be honest: part of the reason this list took me months to write this list has to do with whether to put these two exceptionally unique and masterful works of art as my pick for the best of last year. Perhaps down the line, I'll revisit both films and end up announcing it as a tie, but for now, I'm going to stand by this urgent, brutal and painfully beautiful classic and announce that it is the best of 2014. Someone who'll be reading this list might might say that I've chosen director Ava DuVernay's biopic on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Selma that spurred a nation into passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, due to the events in Ferguson and New York, regarding police brutality. That's a big part of it, though it's not the fault of the film that these tragic and ugly events happened to consider prior to the film's release, and it's not the overriding factor as to why I chose it as the best of the year. The truth is that Selma, like Schindler's List, Philadelphia, and Malcolm X before them, were all films of it's time and place, and all of these films, to their own degrees, spoke to the fierce urgency of what was happening at the time.

Steven Spielberg's harrowing historical drama on Oscar Schindler saving over a thousand Jews from certain death can be taken as a historical document on the darkest chapter in human civilization, but it also acts as a searing commentary on how world leaders (including the Clinton Administration) turned a blind eye to the suffering of the Rwandan people during the wars in the African region. Philadelphia was a film full of subtle anger and sorrow over how we largely ignored the AIDS epidemic (and the plight of gay Americans), believing it to only be contained within the gay community. And Spike Lee's biopic on the controversial civil rights leader of the 1950's and 60's came at the heels of the Rodney King beatings, where the filmmaker used the chilling event, caught on videotape, to furiously declare that African Americans were living in an American nightmare. Selma is a film about the grassroots portion of the Civil Rights movement, but to say it's purely that is being very disingenuous.

DuVernay is grabbing us - forcing us is a more apt description - and making us see that the issues Dr. King, and countless other brave souls fought and died for, aren't just issues of the past: they're the same issues we're facing now; with the Supreme Court striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Republican governors in numerous states disenfranchising minority voters, via Voting I.D. laws, and story after story of police using excessive and deadly force on unarmed African-American youth, the struggle against racial injustice continues. I will admit that I chose Selma because it it's an important and an urgent film, but I also chose it because of the skill of DuVernay's direction, the perfect screenplay of Paul Webb, the soulful performance of David Oywello as King, and the terrific cinematography of Bradford Young, capturing the chaotic nature of the time. It is simply a classic of the first order, a vital historical document, and a passionate, urgent commentary that we need to stand up and fight injustice wherever it festers.

As promised, here is the full list:

1. Selma
2. Boyhood
3. Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
4. Gone Girl
5. The Wind Rises
6. Whiplash
7. Nightcrawler
8. Wild
9. Beyond the Lights
10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is It (the Force) In You?

Sorry for the long absence, but life keeps interfering. There are several things I need to get to (in particular, the end of my 10 best list of last year, reviews of Furious 7, Wild Tales and my guide to what to watch or skip this summer. For now, let's get to the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (due out December 17), which, par the course for J.J. Abrams, hasn't revealed much of anything about the newest installment of the space opera franchise. In fact, the most I know about the story is that it takes place 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. Basically, Abrams is going back to his "mystery box" shtick again. Hopefully, he doesn't pull another Khan. 

What I can infer from the trailer, is that Abrams and the filmmakers have shot this film to within an inch of their life to please the fanboys (like myself), which might be a good thing. The last time we were this excited to see the Star Wars universe  was in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, and we all remember how that movie turned out, along with the rest of the prequel trilogy. But if the idea is to please us fanboys, Abrams winds up risking leaving casual fans and newcomers left to figure out what the hell is going on for themselves, and eventually alienating them. I think J.J. won't make that mistake, mostly because it's the same mistake he made when filming Star Trek Into Darkness

Personally, though? I really couldn't be more pleased. I still like the idea that Abrams is guarding the plot of the film to the chest. I love the style and look of the film, which honors what came before, but still feels very much like an Abrams feature; I love seeing Harrison Ford's Han Solo and Chewbacca paired together, albeit briefly; and I love hearing John Williams scoring the trailer music for the film. So what if we know jack squat about this latest installment? I feel that, eventually, it'll be worth the wait.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Hunger Games: Insurgent

The last time I watched Divergent, I thought it was Summit Entertainment trying to cash-in on the success of big-brother parent company Lions Gate's The Hunger Games series, as well as the film borrowing from other respectable films and young-adult novels such as Harry Potter, Ender's Game and The Giver, without a hint of originality of it's own. But since the film made $288 million worldwide on an $88 million budget, a sequel was green-lit, and so we have the big followup in Insurgent, the second installment in the series. Maybe they'll finally get around to explaining how the existence of "Divergents" threaten the system. Perhaps we'll see star Shaileen Woodley unleash her inner Black Widow and do some serious damage on the bad guys. Or maybe they'll start borrowing from The Matrix films as well as Inception!

You know, I was joking when I commented that the second installment would start borrowing from Lana & Andy Wachowski and Christopher Nolan; I didn't think they were going to actually do it! Anyway, Kate Winslet is back as the main antagonist, and after her plot to kill off the Candor faction goes tits up, she has in her possession an ancient glowing box (and now we're borrowing the "tesseract" MacGuffin from Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers) that can only be opened by another Divergent. Or something that has to with Tris (Woodley). Which begs the question: why did Jeanine try to have Tris killed in the first movie, assuming she and her militant Erudite faction had this object from the start? But hey, let's ignore that plot hole and look at how Tris is being plugged into the Matrix...uh, I mean going under the dream realm that Ariadne made for Cobb to pull off another elaborate heist...actually, I don't know, and we'll figure this all out on Friday, March 20th. I hope.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

We're Pissed That a Villain Did Villain-Like Things! Rabble Rabble Rabble!!!

Allow me to switch gears for a minute and turn my attention to small screen. The 3rd season of Netflix's immensely popular House of Cards is now streaming, and it's wicked fun to see America's favorite amoral scumbag, Frank Underwood, return, along with his wife, Claire, who is just as Machiavellian as he is. However, not everyone feels the same way, which is fine and is their right, but when you see something so astronomically stupid as to why something (in this case a show) is awful, you just have to address it.

Frank Underwood disapproves...severely.

Enter the fine folks at News Busters, a conservative media watchdog exposing "liberal media bias" wherever it exists, or simply just simply gin up fake bullshit/outrage because complaining about Obama and every other media outlet not named Fox News gets repetitive real quick. But in the interest of being fair (and hopefully avoiding being on the site's shit list), let's hear why they're so outraged over Season 3 of the popular political drama.

The local bishop preaches to him as a friend that he’s supposed to love God and love his neighbor. Underwood proclaims that he understands the vengeful God he sees in the Old Testament, but doesn't understand why Jesus would let someone kill him. Underwood asks for a moment alone to pray. Then he sidles up to the crucifix – just a few feet above his head – and mutters most cynically to God the Son. “Love....that’s what you’re selling? Well, I don’t buy it!” Then he spits in the face of Christ. When he gets out a handkerchief to wipe off his offense, the whole thing shatters on the floor. He instructs the Secret Service to clean up his mess, and walks off with a ceramic ear. “Well, I’ve got God’s ear now,” he quips. This, as usual, is an over-the-top swipe designed to shock viewers and loosen lips. The third season begins with him asking his Secret Service detail for a little privacy at his father’s grave so he may pay his respects – and then he urinates on it. President Underwood has a serious disrespect problem. 
First off: You guys do know that Frank Underwood is the villain, right? You know: the person in the story you're not supposed to root for? This is like getting mad at Goodfellas for promotion mobsters and their lifestyle. You're not supposed to root for them as characters! Secondly: How dare show creator Beau Willimon use the television medium to create moments that get people talking about and watching your show? The nerve of the bastard! It's not like ABC would use a dramatic device or moment to elicit a series of reactions or emotions from their viewing audience with Scandal & How To Get Away with Murder; or HBO with The Sopranos & Game of Thrones; or PBS with Downtown Abbey! Oh wait...

Frank Underwood has become the Walter White of politics. The journey to full-blown evil was shorter for Underwood, but this show is revered just as much as Breaking Bad.  Is the crucifix-spitting taking this theme too far? It absolutely is. But this scene is shocking, and then on reflection, it’s not.
So a villain spitting on the face of Jesus is upsetting, but showing their lord and savior being tortured, beaten and mutilated for nearly two hours (in gory, graphic detail from brutal whipping scenes, to driving nail into JC's hands and feet) is somehow not going too far.

Not only are the News Busters upset when a villain does villainous things, the concept of satire does not compute with them as well, as they take the piece completely out of context to fit their agenda....I mean, struggle to comprehend facetious, snarky humor.

8. Treat property and people the same: like trash. Obama seems like the sort of person who treats property with the same respect he shows people. That’s a mistake. Underwood understands that neither is deserving of his deference. When he visits his father’s gravesite, he urinates on it. When a bishop tells him that there are just two rules in life — love Jesus and love each other — he spits on a statue of Jesus. Maybe Obama should at least throw a blanket over a portrait of George W. Bush.
Their response? The liberals elites in the media have all but given up on Dear Leader and are now resorting to wishing that he act like the fictional character that they're currently slamming for doing something you'd expect an antagonist would do. I swear, that whole statement makes more sense in their heads than it does coming out of my mouth.

Apparently, at this late stage of the Obama presidency, that hope-and-change idealism is completely dead, and liberal journalists can only imagine how glorious it would be for Obama to push all the conservatives down the stairs and light them on fire and watch them burn.
I love how the News Busters are using this one opinion piece from the Boston Globe to paint the entire liberal media as having these twisted fantasies of seeing Obama going on a rampage on conservatives everywhere. With making deadlines, doing research for current and future pieces, going over interview questions, sitting through rundown meetings about the stories of the day, chasing aides and staffers for quotes inside the White House or for a Senator's team, etc, I'm pretty sure they're fantasizing less about wishing that the President would inflict bodily harm on an opposing party member and more about what they're going to watch on Netflix when they get home. But by the way Tim Graham pulled that nonsensical gibberish out of his ass, I can say that the conservatives are constantly trying to undermine the President at every turn - be it on the international stage when trying to engage another nation in matters of diplomacy, or by criticizing what music their kids like. And we all know that the conservatives would never do any of that to an acting President; and even if they did, I'm confident the guys at News Busters would dutifully look the other way.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

What We Talk About When We Talk About Great Movies: The 10 Best Films of 2014 - Part I

I've spoken my peace about the worst movies I saw last year, and now it's time to honor the very best that 2014 had to offer in this two-part special. These are the 10 movies I loved, the group that had something to say, and also made it entertaining to watch in some respects. What do pop stars, children, apes and activists have to say about us? A lot, as it turns out.

10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Of all the sequels, reboots and superhero fare that came out in the summer, Matt Reeve's take on the second outing to the Apes series stuck with me the most. Visually, this might just be Weta Digitial's best outing yet, as they continue to push the boundaries on motion capture performances, with the talented Andy Serkis leading the charge once again as Caesar. On an emotional level, Dawn succeeds by not letting the visual wonders tell the story, but by serving to enhance character, story and themes. It's been 10 years since the events of 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and humanity is driven to the brink of extinction due to the release of Simian Flu, and a power turbine in the territory of Caesar's home is all that stands between being stick in the stone age, and rebuilding the life that was nearly wiped out. Also standing in the way of the humans is an irate and vengeful ape by the name of Koba (a terrific Toby Kebbell) who wants nothing but to make his former captors feel his pain. What follows is a bittersweet tragedy between Caesar and Malcolm (Jason Clarke) on how these two want nothing more than peace between the two species, and how their worse angels keep that from happening.

9. Beyond the Lights - I was very skeptical in seeing, what I thought would be, a generic and bland romantic drama about an up-an-coming Brit pop star and an ambitious police officer. What I got was the best romantic film this year, along with an honest and ugly look at how the music industry packages and objectifies female artists to sell records, and that timeless tale of how fame isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood doesn't fall for the tropes and instead crafts a moving and truly satisfying film about a you artists trying to find her own voice in an industry that's trying to market her as something that she isn't. There are great turns by Nate Parker and Mimi Driver, but this movie belongs to Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Noni. Watching her do rendition of Nina Simone's "Blackbird" is heartbreaking and it captures the birth of a major star. If you didn't know who Mbatha-Raw was before watching this film (also: shame on you for not seeing Belle), you will after.

8. Wild - I didn't much care for Jean-Marc Valle's previous effort Dallas Buyers Club because I thought it was Philadelphia without a likable leading character despite transforming from a bigoted, white-trash hillbilly, to a champion of gay men getting proper treatment in the days of the AIDS epidemic in the 80's. In this true account of Cheryl Strayed's journey in hiking the Pacific Northwest trail, I loved this flawed, damaged character in spite of all the things she's done, including heroin abuse and cheating on her husband (Thomas Sadoski of HBO's The Newsroom) constantly. She's flawed, but that doesn't take away from the fact she's just a lost soul trying to find her way out of the wilderness, and it's because of Reese Witherspoon's fearless performance that we are rooting for her every step of the way.

7. Nightcrawler - Jake Gyllenhaal has been in some very good to great roles in his career, from Homer Hickam Jr. in October Sky to Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain. He's never been this good, and this unrecognizable as Louis Bloom in this pitch-black satire of our obsession with murder and tragedy porn on the 6:00 evening news. He plays a creepy up-and-coming "nightcrawler" - a freelance cameraman who drives around looking for juicy stories for local news affiliates, and shows that he's not beneath altering crime scenes or screwing over the competition to get what he wants. And if you hear echos of Travis Bickle in how he rationalizes what he does, then that's basically the point: he's a modern-day sociopath who thinks himself a hero, doing a noble service in giving us what we want. First-time writer-director Tony Gilroy gets under your skin while delivering sharp and tense thrills as Louis goes further and further into the dark underbelly of Los Angles at night.

6. Whiplash - In a word - wow! I've never been this impressed by the skill and confidence of a first-time writer-director has in telling a story than Damien Chazelle. This battle of wills between aspiring drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) and his abusive teacher Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is part deconstructing the inspirational drama by asking us just how far we're willing to to achieve greatness, part Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket in musical form. At the end of the day, it's simply an electrifying, intense, compelling and extremely satisfying film. Teller is simply astonishing as Andrew, as we see him bleed (literally) for his craft. And Simmons crafts an antagonist that I'm certain will go down alongside Christoph Waltz's Hans Landa and Heath Ledger's Joker as one of the best in decades. The last 10 minutes are perhaps the best tandem of acting, music, sound, and film editing I've seen in years, and a thrilling finish that feels like....well, whiplash.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fifty Shades of Snore

To say that Fifty Shades of Grey is a lighting rod of controversy is putting it mildly. There have been articles and counter-articles about E.L. James' best-selling novel about a young woman who begins an explicit sadomasochistic affair with a young and mysterious businessman, with some like Katie Roiphe of Newsweek criticizing the book for it's depictions of BDSM sex, and Amy Bonomi, Nicole Walton and Lauren Altenburger of the Journal of Woman's Health arguing that the author's tale of bondage and kinky sex has little to nothing to do with the sexual lifestyle and everything to do with highlighting and glorifying an abusive relationship; while others, like Sonya Sorich of the Ledger-Enquirer calling it guilty fun and escapism and Laura Barnett of The Telegraph praising James' exploration of sexual politics and her boldness to show and talk about frank sequences of sex between two consenting adults. I haven't read the book, so I'm judging the film on its own merits. Having said that? Neither the detractors of the book or it's supporters' views really ever appear in the film version, which is simply a tedious and dull affair to sit through. Like Twilight before, I understand I'm not the target demographic for this kind of thing, but would it kill the film to at least be interesting?

Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia Steele, the girl about to graduate from Washington State. She's doing an interview of successful billionaire businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for the school paper, and the sparks fly between the two (allegedly). A series of chance encounters only add fuel to the fire of their desires for one another desire (allegedly), until  Christian shows her his version of love and lust, in the form of his "playroom", complete with flogs, whips, switches, rope, nipple clamps and anal plugs galore! Basically, that's the whole movie - they meet, they fall in love, they fuck. He takes her paragliding and helicopter rides across the Pacific Northwest, she indulges him in his kinkier fetishes. She tries to get him to open up more, he pushes her away....well, you get the idea. I should note that the film hints from the very start that Dornan's Grey has a darker nature hiding beneath the surface, and with a better actor in the part, this would have made for a more complex and compelling character. In the end, Grey's dark and sexual nature comes off as a mere plot point for the film's climax (no pun intended).

I've watched Amber Rayne strapped on all fours, getting pounded in her asshole by a machine with a dildo attached to it, whilst sucking off some guy in a gas mask. I've seen Bonnie Rotten take two huge dicks in her mouth (at the same time), get chocked out, and then have both her holes plugged. Those scenes were more erotic and hot to watch than any of the sex scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey. Hell, I'd rather watch the porno spoof featuring Rayne as Anastasia and James Deen as Christian, because I'm positive there would be more chemistry between the two adult film stars than whatever passed for "chemistry between Johnson and Dornan. And that's basically the problem: the pair don't have any chemistry together, making the film's 40 minutes of build up tedious and boring to watch. Johnson's performance is mostly bland and one-note, while Dornan is miscast as this attractive billionaire with a fetish streak a mile long and skeletons in his closet, and very good character actresses Jennifer Ehle and Marcia Gay Harden as Anastasia's mother and Christian's adopted mom respectively, simply aren't given enough to do.

The script is just as dull as the acting itself, which is a shame because Kelly Marcel did a wonderful job penning 2013's excellent Saving Mr. Banks, capturing the struggle between P.L. Travers' reluctance to hand over her rights to the book to Walt Disney. Worst of all are the sex scenes themselves. Because there's no spark between Johnson and Dornan, when they do finally get down and dirty, the scenes just fall flat instead of titillating the audience. When you silently say to yourself that you've seen hotter sex scenes on porn sites like Brazzers and Naughty America, something has gone seriously wrong. The one good thing I can say about this dull film is that the cinematography by Seamus McGarvey is really good, and it deserves better than the film it's attached to. Also, Sam-Taylor Johnson knows how to set up a scene and capture the mood and atmosphere required. She, also, deserved better than what she and McGarvey were saddled with, but those two elements can't hide dull performances, a bland script and non-existent chemistry.

* star our of ****

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thoughts on Oscars 2015

With Awards Season now in our rear view mirror, I'm spending today and tomorrow putting a capper on 2014 with my thoughts on this year's Oscar telecast, and (finally) releasing my picks for the best of the year. Sunday night was the 87th annual Academy Awards telecast, and if I could sum it up in a word it would be the following: tedious. The Oscar telecast has always been a chore to sit through as the viewer has to endure the most boring aspects of the program - the awards for the technicals (Cinematography, Visual Effects, Sound Editing & Mixing, Makeup, etc.), the films no one has bothered to watch (Documentary Feature & Short Subject, Live Action & Animated Short), the "In Memorial" segment, but the dull & yawn-inducing aspects of said broadcast can be tolerable as long as there's a host with solid material. As someone who enjoys the less-than compelling aspects of the yearly telecast, as stated earlier, was a bloody chore for me to sit through even for me.

I could pin this on Neil Patrick Harris just not ready for prime time, but that wouldn't be true as he's done great work hosting the Tony Awards in 2009, and from 2011-2013, and doing hosting duties for the Primetime Emmy Awards, also in '09 and in '13. You could see him clearly trying to make the skits and the jokes work, but the abysmal writing failed him at every turn. Plus, the opening segment he did with Anna Kendrick was funny and showed off his strongest talents as a charming and talented song-and-dance man.

I could say that the the artists performing the songs nominated for the Best Original Song category only made the ceremonies longer, but there were some great performances by those artists, with Teagan & Sara featuring the Lonely Island, and John Legend & Common being the standouts for the bright, upbeat and infections "Everything Is Awesome!" from The Lego Movie and the rousing and inspiring hip hop/soul ballad "Glory" from the film Selma, respectively.

Hell, I could point to Lady Gaga paying tribute to the great Julie Andrews by performing her most iconic and beloved songs as an example of excess that should have been scrapped from the show, but first: Lady Gaga was phenomenal in paying homage to an inspirational figure and did Andrews justice, and two: I'd come off sounding like a prick for saying it.

What a white bright room they're all in!
I guess the easiest route would be to chastise how predictable the winners were. Birdman ended up the night's big winner by taking home four Oscars including Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Picture; the acting trophies went to exactly who you'd think they'd go to - Eddie Redmayne winning Lead Actor for The Theory of Everything; Julianne Moore finally winning an award for Lead Actress in Still Alice; and J.K. Simmons & Patricia Arquette taking home Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress for their roles in Whiplash and Boyhood, respectively, but if you've been following guys like Sasha Stone, Kris Tapley, Mark Harris, Scott Feinberg, Anne Thompson and that one guy I won't mention, who read the tea leaves and predict where Oscar is heading, then there really isn't a whole lot that should have surprised you going into Oscar night. And even if you don't? There were still the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild and those wins pretty much were in line with what we saw on Sunday evening.

No, truth be was all of those things. It was the bad writing, the forced and unfunny skits NPH was trying to make work, the musical performances, the bloated Julia Andrews tribute by Gaga, and the predictability of the winners that you could set a stopwatch to, which made this year's Oscar telecast the most boring and downright dull 3 1/2 + hours I've sat through in years. For the first time in fours years, I can say the following about an Academy Awards broadcast and the awards race in general...good riddance it's done and gone for another year.