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Criticwire Survey: The Moment That Made the Oscars

Criticwire Survey: The Moment That Made the Oscars

Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions. (The “What is the best film in theaters right now?”will return next week.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.

Q: What was the moment, memorable, painful or otherwise, that defined the 2015 Academy Awards?

Richard Brody, New Yorker

The ceremony (and here, the slip of the finger that I corrected — ceremoney — got it right) converged with the film that it exalted, in one painful moment: the presentation by animatronic Eddie Murphy of the award for Best Original Screenplay to “Birdman.” Murphy is one of the comic geniuses of the time, an improviser and impersonator of colossal talent working in an era when such a prodigious performance as the one (or the three) he gave in “Norbit” is derided as a disaster of historic proportions and when the host of the Oscars, as fine an actor as he is, runs the event like a student being graded by Terence Fletcher. The fact that Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with Eddie Murphy, seems to have no use for his outrageous and uproarious art — and seems happiest with him when he’s reading his cue cards to the letter in a bored monotone — is the underlying pathos, and fear, that explains why “Birdman” won. All an actor can do is to get his own production going — and I wish that Murphy would do so.

Danny Bowes, Salt Lake City Weekly, The AV Club

That moment when Eddie Redmayne *completely lost it* in the middle of his speech was adorably relatable. And this coming from someone who haaaaaaated that movie. That’s all I got. No jeremiad about “Birdman,” which I figure others will have plenty of.

Tomris Laffly, Movie Mezzanine, Film Journal International

The defining moment of this year’s Oscars, to me, is a tie between Patricia Arquette calling for equal pay/rights for women during her powerful acceptance speech (to a gloriously enthusiastic response from Meryl Streep & Jennifer Lopez — that image will never be erased from anyone’s memory) andOprah Winfrey wiping off David Oyelowo’s tears after the “Glory” performance. This year’s Oscars Ceremony was terrific in terms of politically-charged acceptance speeches that matter. Wish the same could be said about the production of the show itself, which severely lacked cinematic moments (no film montages/mash-ups, not even in the “In Memoriam” segment) and instead spent an unnecessary amount of time with musical numbers. But hey, for better or worse, it’s over. Congratulations to all winners! Hope everyone enjoyed the show and we can all be at peace for a while, at least until next Fall.

Joanna Langfield, the Movie Minute

No need to wait till the end of the show. Patricia Arquette. I was in awe of her performance; floored, thrilled and eternally grateful for her speech. 

Scott Mendelson, Forbes 

For better or worse, the “defining” moment was the tribute to “The Sound of Music.” It was seemingly arbitrary and without a drop of substance, the equivalent of an anniversary blog post that merely acknowledged that said old movie was really great in the day. It highlighted a media-friendly musical artist whose contribution to film is minimal at best, at the expense of highlighting the very films and filmmakers from 2014 that the show was supposed to honor. It succeeded in stretching out the show right at that point when you thought it might end on time for once. And was amusingly tone-deaf to boot. In a year when the Academy was under fire for its lack of diversity, they chose to trot out a pointless tribute to a the whitest movie they could think of.

Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second

Easy one this year, Paweł Pawlikowski (and others) beating the system and continuing their speeches when prompted to disappear by the incredibly rude musical cue. That time was seemingly not of the essence when it came to the bizarre “Sound of Music” tribute makes the whole insistence of brevity with speeches all the more frustrating.

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo! Movies

Was moved by Common and John Legend, both by their performance of “Glory” and their acceptance speeches for best song. But I can’t shake off the Lady Gaga “Sound of Music” medley. Like the movie itself it was on the line between sincerity and camp.

Monica Castillo, International Business Times

I was very excited to see Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu win best picture for “Birdman” and become the first Latino filmmaker to win 3 Oscars in one night. Then his former “21 Grams” star and presenter Sean Penn let slip a racist joke that deflated the moment for a lot of viewers. Instead of ignoring it, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu turned around the awkward moment and joked about his friend Alfonso Cuarón’s win last year and gave a shout out to his fellow countrymen on both sides of the border: “I pray that we can find and build a government that we deserve. And the ones that live in this country that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect as the ones that came before in this great nation.” I think we all know why we’re going to be discussing #OscarsSoWhite for some time. 

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket

I’m going to cheat a little bit. The defining Oscar moment didn’t happen on the show. It happened online. After the awards, there was a glut of racists, bigots, and wingnuts up in arms over the broadcast. They were furious that the movie about “a great American hero” didn’t win Best Picture. (Of course, they meant “American Sniper,” not “Selma.”) They were furious that John Legend, Common, and dozens of African-Americans took the stage together to sing a song about civil rights that also dared to mention Ferguson. They were furious that Patricia Arquette spoke about equal pay for women, that Graham Moore offered a hopeful message to young gay people who feel out of place, and that Alejandro González Iñárritu commented on immigration. Why was this the defining part? Because their outrage meant that a lot of ignorant people in this country heard some messages that they desperately need to hear. I’m not naïve enough to think any of them will change their minds. However, I do believe that the first step in the fight against intolerance and inequality is speaking out — loudly — so that such individuals will know their close-minded, exclusionary ideas are not okay. Last night’s Oscars were proof that movies and the people who make them matter, that they stand for something important. For whatever else the show lacked, it got that fundamentally right. 

Alonso Duralde, the Wrap

There was something very [drops mic] about NPH’s “Oh sure, now you like him” line after David Oyelowo got a round of applause from the Oscar audience that makes it the moment I’ll probably most remember from the evening.

Ethan Alter, Film Journal International, Yahoo! Movies

The performances of “Glory” and “Everything is Awesome” perfectly encapsulated the (strikingly different) artistry of their respective films. With its playful staging, surprise cameos (including Will Arnett dressed in Val Kilmer’s “Batman Forever” suit) and relentlessly positive vibe, “Awesome” gleefully recreated the playroom fun of “The LEGO Movie” on the Oscar stage. And like “Selma,” “Glory” was somber and serious, but also soared when it counted, connecting the movie’s past with our present by fusing the gospel chorus with Common’s poetically rapped lyrics. The songs spoke to what’s great about both movies — it’s almost a shame there could only be one winner. 

Josh Spiegel, Movie Mezzanine

The best moment last night was actually two, and managed to also reflect something truly awful about this country: the speeches given by Patricia Arquette, Common, and John Legend (OK, three moments). These were eloquent and intelligent, while being wholly off-the-cuff, about issues of gender and racial inequality in America. Kudos to them for shining a necessary light on these subjects on one of the biggest nights of TV all year long. And shame on us for the fact that such issues still need to be debated, let alone mentioned, in 2015. If we are truly becoming a more progressive nation, then it’s embarrassing that these continue to be such dominant problems (though there’s no doubt that such inequality persists to a damning degree).

Tony Dayoub, Cinema Viewfinder

A very demure Lady Gaga dressed like Captain America if he were a gynecologist in “The Fifth Element.”

Gary Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News

Watching the Oscars at my friend Suzanne’s house — a better host than the curiously flat NPH — we decided to head home after “Glory” won Best Song. It was the right moment. We missed the ScarJo/Lady Gaga Tribute to “The Sound of Music,” which I understand was as boring as the rest of the telecast. 

Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit, First Showing

It wasn’t my favorite film, but Graham Moore gave an incredible speech after winning Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Imitation Game.” That’s the moment that will stay with me in the days to come. It was truly touching.

Q.V. Hough, Vague Visages

What a moment for “Ida” and Polish Cinema. Like the film itself, Pawel Pawlikowski didn’t necessarily demand attention during his speech, but his natural expression ensured a poignant and memorable experience.

Piers Marchant, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Philadelphia Magazine

The Oscars always try to over-modulate emotion, from showy dance numbers packing on the tacky wow, to the somberness of the “In Memoriam” segment, but has the broadcast ever had a more bummer ten minutes than the depressing acceptance speech by Dana Perry about her child who committed suicide, and then Tim McGraw singing Glen Campbell’s heartbreaking ode to the wife and children he will no longer remember with his Alzheimer’s (“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” — something about that colloquial making it even more of a bummer)? I suppose it’s good to let the horrors and tragedies of the outside world into that velvet-lined coffin of a theater, but, that sequence was tough to come back from.

John Keefer, 51 Deep

Jack Black summing up everything wrong in song. We acknowledge the troubles, we acknowledge we are aware of the troubles, but we are making money so leave art to the suckers. What are we even celebrating anymore?

Edwin Arnaudin, Asheville Citizen-Times

I know, you’re expecting me to write about Wes Anderson, sitting with his hands clasped and looking like a child about to be given Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory as his “Grand Budapest Hotel” collaborators say nice things about him, aren’t you? Well, I don’t blame you — that was pretty great, especially since it was sadly as close to the stage as he got all evening.

Anne-Katrin Titze, Eye For Film

The elegant Milena Canonero accepting her fourth Best Achievement in Costume Design Oscar for her work with Wes Anderson on “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” (shared with Ulla-Britt Söderlund), Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” and Hugh Hudson’s “Chariots of Fire” are Milena Canonero’s three previous Costume Design Oscar wins.

Sean Burns, Spliced Personality

My favorite part was when Kristen Stewart won the César.

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