The Oscars have come and gone and for the most part, I had a pretty good sense of who the winners would be, whether they were who I thought would win (this ballot) or who I wanted to win (this ballot). The streak of correct Best Picture guesses continues with Birdman. Big Hero 6 helping Disney get the animation double was a pleasant surprise, considering The Lego Movie was left off the ballot completely when it should have won.
But my bigger issue is with the Academy itself. The Hollywood Reporter and Cinema Blend ran stories in the days leading up to the Oscars that Academy members had not seen many of the Best Picture nominees. For example, nearly 10% did not see Selma, a terrific movie I saw at my local multiplex. Some didn't see the films for political reasons (American Sniper, Selma), but Academy members have no excuse. It detracts from the artists that helped create that picture, whether you agree with it or not.
Academy membership is an exclusive privilege and yet, these industry professionals didn't see the films their group nominated for Best Picture. Meanwhile, YouTube reviewers like Chris Stuckmann, Jeremy Jahns and the Schmoes managed to see every movie nominated. I saw five of the eight myself and had some difficulty getting to screenings of Boyhood and Whiplash. I can't speak for the YouTubers, but I'm sure they'd be doing somersaults if they got Academy membership. And they saw these movies the old-fashioned way, seeing them in a theater. They didn't get the DVD screeners that are sent out to most guild and Academy members, which means voters have even less excuse.
While I didn't like Birdman as much as the Academy, it deservedly won for director and cinematography. It did try to push the envelope and had something to say about art and commercial viability in an era of superhero blockbusters (though I could have done without the award ceremony speeches bashing those flicks, considering many Oscar-caliber actors have been involved in that genre, just ask Hugh Jackman, Amy Adams, Christian Bale and Anthony Hopkins, among others.) Also, Birdman had the best ensemble cast of any film this year.