2015 Oscar Winner Analysis

Deserving winners, robbed losers, and some semi-expert opinion inside.

2015 Oscar Winner Analysis
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This year's awards season finally came to a close Sunday night as the Academy bestowed its highest honors upon the year's most worthy films. At least, that's how it's supposed to work. But in reality, the day after the Oscars is when we complain about how the Academy got it wrong. So let's hash it out. Join us as we break down who won, who lost, and who actually deserved to take home some hardware.

Best Picture

2015 Oscar Winner Analysis
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Winner: Birdman
Chief Rival: Boyhood
Controversy: What was up with Sean Penn's "Green Card" joke?
Verdict: Boyhood should have won

For a fairly predictable category, this year's Best Picture race stayed interesting all the way up to the end. Boyhood jumped ahead as the early favorite, but Birdman emerged victorious after taking home top honors from both the Director's Guild and the Producer's Guild.

The Boyhood vs Birdman race was repeated at other shows and in other categories and was the defining rivalry of this year's entire awards season. It became a head-versus-heart question with the intellectual Birdman doing battle with the sentimental Boyhood. I personally wish Boyhood had won, but if I'm really honest I probably would have liked to see The Grand Budapest Hotel beat them both.

Sean Penn added some weirdness to the big win with an off-the-cuff joke. After opening the envelope, he ribbed the Mexican director, Inarritu, quipping, "Who gave this sonofabitch a green card?" Inarritu, who worked with Penn on 21 Grams gave him a pass, calling the joke "hilarious," but for many it served to underscore the #OscarSoWhite hashtag.

Best Director 

2015 Oscar Winner Analysis
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Winner: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman
Chief Rival: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Controversy: Ava DuVernay was snubbed
Verdict: Richard Linklater should have won

The Best Director Race mirrored the Best Picture Race, with Birdman surging late to overtake Boyhood, and just like with the Best Picture race, we actually wish Wes Anderson had won.

It's still strange that Selma wasn't nominated in this category. It's not like the dust settled on that debacle and everyone agreed Selma was an inferior movie. Ava DuVernay's exclusion from this race feels as egregious now as ever.

Best Actress

2015 Oscar Winner Analysis
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Winner: Julianne Moore for Still Alice
Chief Rival: Reese Witherspoon for Wild
Controversy: It was a thin field
Verdict: It was awesome to see Julianne finally win

Julianne Moore beamed from ear-to-ear upon winning her first Oscar after being nominated four times. It was hard not to be charmed by Moore's enthusiasm, even if you were rooting for Reese Witherspoon, whose work in WIld was hailed as a return to form for the previous Oscar winner.

Some pundits complained both the actress fields were thin this year with Felicity Jones singled out in the Best Actress field and Meryl Streep in the Supporting Actress field. The dominant thinking is that there just aren't enough good roles being created for women. But Tilda Swinton fans who saw her in either Snowpiercer or Only Lovers Left Alive know it's really because Academy voters are boring and have terrible taste.

Best Actor

2015 Oscar Winner Analysis
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Winner: Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything
Chief Rival: Michael Keaton in Birdman
Controversy: David Oyelowo snubbed for Selma
Verdict: Eddie Redmayne is endearingly dorky

Eddie Redmayne nearly lost his mind upon winning his first Oscar, and who can blame him? He came from behind to win after Michael Keaton was dubbed an early favorite here. The race was, however, marked by some controversy since this was one of the two places where Selma was very noticeably snubbed. David Oyelowo really deserved to be competing for this award.

Also, we're kind of sad Michael Keaton didn't win this one. It would have been very exciting to see "Beetlejuice" take it home.

Best Supporting Actress

2015 Oscar Winner Analysis
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Winner: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
Chief Rival: Emma Stone for Birdman
Controversy: Thin field
Verdict: The most memorable speech of the evening

Like the Best Actress category, the Best Supporting Actress race was criticized for having a thin field, with many scoffing at Meryl Streep's inclusion for her hammy performance in Into the Woods.

Regardless of controversy, the right person won this award. Patricia Arquette gave a sincere and deeply honest performance as the mother in Boyhood, and her acceptance speech was one of the most memorable of the evening. Upon winning, Arquette used her time onstage to call for wage equality for women, and as you can see in this GIF, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez loved it.

2015 Oscar Winner Analysis

Emma Stone was the consistent also-ran in this category all season. She was great in Birdman, but it just wasn't her year. It's unfortunate the Academy didn't take Tilda Swinton's performance in Snowpiercer seriously. It deserves so much more attention than it got.

Best Supporting Actor

2015 Oscar Winner Analysis
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Winner: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash
Chief Rival: Edward Norton for Birdman
Controversy: J.K. Simmons' well-documented taste for infant flesh. (Just kidding, this category was super boring and Simmons deserved all his wins this season.)
Verdict: J.K.'s right, we should all be nice to our parents.

The Best Supporting Actor race was defined by its lack of controversy or even competition. This is the rare race where a front runner emerged all the way back in January, when the movie premiered at Sundance. Simmons rode that train all the way to Oscar station for more than a year, picking up every other Supporting Actor award along the way. And you know what? He deserved them all. He's phenomenal. Go see Whiplash. Here's an excerpt of his acceptance speech, where he urges us all to call our moms.

"If I may, call your mom. If you're lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, don't text, don't email, call them on the phone tell them you love them. Talk to them for as long as they want to hear from you. Thank you, mom and dad."

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: Birdman
Chief Rival: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Controversy: Whiplash should have been nominated for Original, not adapted, screenplay
Verdict: Wes Anderson should have won

The screenplay categories were strange this year. Wes Anderson himself admitted The Grand Budapest Hotel probably should have been in the Adapted Screenplay category for the amount it borrowed from the writings of Stefan Zweig. It was a talking point in this race because Grand Budapest was seen by many as the front runner, and because key contender Whiplash had been placed (arguably mistakenly) in the Adapted category. For those who don't know, Whiplash writer and director Damien Chazelle made Whiplash into a short before rewriting it as a full movie. So even though the story is original and all his, the Academy decided to call it an adaptation.

Meanwhile Wes Anderson's meticulously crafted screenplay for The Grand Budapest Hotel lost to Birdman, which doesn't exactly sit right.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: The Imitation Game
Chief Rival: Whiplash
Controversy: Whiplash isn't really an adaptation
Verdict: Graham Moore's Oscar speech was a beautiful moment

Graham Moore gave the night's most talked-about non-celebrity acceptance speech after winning the Best Adapted Screenplay award. Here's what he said:

"When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And, now I'm standing here. So, I would like this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she's weird, or she's different, or she feels like she doesn't fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird. Stay different. And, then when it's your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along."

It was a touching and sincere moment, and immediately went viral.


Check out our Oscar 2015 mega-graphic here for a fast and full breakdown of the night's proceedings.

I write about movies for Zimbio.com, which means I spend way too much time thinking about the geekiest possible ways to approach the cineplex. I'm also hopelessly addicted to audio books. Follow me: Google