Birdman won the grand prize of Best Picture at the 87th annual Academy Awards, which aired Sunday on ABC. The dark comedy took home three other awards for Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. Wes Anderson’s eighth major motion picture The Grand Budapest Hotel also took home four awards, all for production aspects of the film. Whiplash won three awards.
Interestingly, Vox pointed out that every film nominated for Best Picture won at least one award.
Many were excited for this year’s ceremony because veteran award show host Neil Patrick Harris was at the reins. He is the king — or, at least, he was. Very surprisingly and extremely unfortunately, Harris flopped as hard as one could in the job. It isn’t his fault entirely because there is a whole team of writers who put together the show and his jokes, yet it’s hard to see how Harris thought any of the jokes would take off. He started off strong with his first joke: “Tonight, we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest” to combat the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. But he never managed to top that joke, which was made in the first few seconds of the telecast. It was unbearable to see such a beloved figure fall so hard and for so long. The show ran over by 40 minutes, bringing the total to just under four hours.
The only bit that worked was the spoof of Birdman and Whiplash where Harris stripped to his Michael Keaton-best undies and yelled at Miles Teller for not being on his tempo. It was absolutely fantastic. The night needed more of those kinds of moments. It’s simply unbelievable to think Harris was at the helm of all of it.
However, Harris of course was able to pull off the opening musical number that, unsurprisingly, spoke of the magic of the movies. Though, this time they’re called “moving pictures.” It was a splendid use of projection and graphics. Shout out to Anna Kendrick for stealing the scene and throwing her Cinderella slipper at Jack Black.
In comparison to Harris’ gigs at the Tony Awards and the Emmys, this was pitiful and a major disappointment.
Moving on from the disappointing, personal favorites Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel had a very successful night. For the entire duration of the show, I went back and forth with these two films because I love them both immensely and they were often up for the same award. It’s like trying to pick your favorite child or your favorite snack. There isn’t a definitive answer.
Alejandro González Iñárritu created a two-year winning streak for Mexican directors after Alfonso Cuarón was the first to win for Best Director at last year’s ceremony. More importantly, it was a personal victory when The Grand Budapest Hotel won an award because the plinking harpsichord of Alexandre Desplat’s score played every time. It was heaven — a Technicolor, Bill Murray-filled, indie heaven. Every frame of Anderson’s films is a visual dream, thus it’s very fitting for it to win more behind-the-scenes awards.
All of the winners for the acting categories were predictable, even if we are just using the Golden Globes as a basis. I was honestly hoping for an upset and a dark horse to pull through, but the four who were predicted to continue their winning streak did. But we all won with those great acceptance speeches. J.K. Simmons told us to call our parents. Eddie Redmayne proved how adorable he is when he was overcome with excitement during his acceptance speech. And most importantly, Patricia Arquette argued for equal pay between the sexes, which inspired Meryl Streep to fist pump and scream “yaaaassss” — a moment that reminds us all why we need the Internet.
From Idina Menzel to the several orchestral versions of musical songs (“Falling Slowly” from Once; “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” from Footloose and more), this year’s Oscars seemed very much like a tribute to musical theater. The musical numbers truly were the highlight of the evening, aside from the lackluster performance of “Lost Stars” from Begin Again. Why was that film even nominated?
Side note, who told John Travolta he could touch Idina Menzel’s face? That’s not OK unless it’s John Travolta circa Grease.
Most notably of all, Jennifer Hudson sang “I Can’t Let Go” from NBC’s failed musical drama Smash. I very literally jumped and flailed in my seat when I realized JHud was singing this song. Not only was it incredibly random to sing it in any capacity, but also she sang it after the In Memoriam segment, of which Meryl Streep gave such a beautiful introduction. Obviously, the underlying message was that Smash will never actually die. It was jarring, but it made my night. I’m actually still shocked. I’m so fortunate to have lived to see the day where JHud sang a song from Smash on the Academy Awards. Who could have ever guessed that? Bless that mess.
Though it’s hard to say anything could top the random appearance of Smash at the Oscars, Lady Gaga’s medley of songs from The Sound Of Music was mesmerizing. She came out looking like the queen that she is and slayed the entire universe for the next three minutes. She was the definition of elegance. It was absolutely stunning. It’s a Gaga no one is used to, however it is a Gaga that is continuing her trend of moving away from those outlandish costumes that helped earn her name and into being a classy, stylish and sophisticated artist. Most are also used to Gaga’s pop vocals, but with this medley, she showed off her the true extent of her talent, and it was breathtaking.
To top it all off, the queen herself Julie Andrews came on stage to hug and praise Lady Gaga for her performance. If that Smash moment had not happened, this would be the highlight of the entire evening.
Another highlight came from another musical performance that was simply “awesome.” Tegan and Sara performed “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie, whose snub will never be forgiven. What could have been an utterly silly and worthless performance became the moment that pumped everyone up as The Lonely Island, Will Arnett dressed as Batman, Questlove drumming as Robin, Devo and more filled the stage for an incredibly energetic and visual performance. Seriously, where can we get those Lego Oscars? We want to be as happy as Oprah.
Set on a replica of the pivotal Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, John Legend and Common performed “Glory” from Selma and actually brought everyone, particularly David Oyelowo and Chris Pine, to tears. Their performance was so moving and well staged at the Grammys that it was hard to believe they could top it, but they did. Common once again gestured the “Hands up, don’t shoot” reference to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, further showing the poignancy of the message of this beautiful song. It’s a shame this was the only win for Selma. It’s hard to reason how Steve Carell could deserve the Best Actor nomination over Oyelowo, or how Ava DuVernay didn’t garner a Best Director nomination. Her camera techniques aren’t as obvious but they are equally as stunning and visually appealing as the work done by Iñárritu or Anderson.
Last but not least, The Imitation Game pulled a surprise win tonight in the Adapted Screenplay category. It is an excellent film that looks at the life of Alan Turing, who helped solve the Enigma code in World War II and was later arrested for homosexuality. Graham Moore expertly penned the adaptation of this emotional film. His acceptance speech was no less impactful. Moore 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. And so I would like this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like he’s weird or he’s different or he 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 message to the next person.” Snaps for you, Graham Moore. These are the kinds of speeches that need to be made on the stages of award shows. These are platforms that easily reach millions of people at one time. Make statements about equal pay and about self-worth. Take this time to quickly thank the ones you love and the ones who helped you on the project, but then do something more with your time at the microphone. What other time and place are you going to have so many people — from all walks of life — listening to you? I’m thoroughly excited to see what this talented writer will do next.
And that’s the show, folks! It was the first year in which I had seen all of the Best Picture nominees, thus making me particularly eager for this year’s ceremony. I’m beyond thrilled for Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash. Of the eight nominees, those were actually my top three favorites. I was thoroughly petrified that Boyhood would sweep the awards. Just because this film was made over 12 years, doesn’t mean it is award-worthy. It’s a regular, boring coming-of-age story about a young white boy who comes from a middle-class struggling family. The length of time it took to make this film doesn’t warrant it receiving any awards for its otherwise unoriginality.
It was a good night for the films, and just a bad night for NPH. Who knew? But, in the end, we all know Meryl Streep always wins, and we win because she did this:
Full List of Winners:
Best Picture: Birdman
Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Cinematography: Birdman
Best Original Screenplay: Birdman
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game
Best Film Editing: Whiplash
Best Visual Effects: Interstellar
Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Sound Editing: American Sniper
Best Sound Mixing: Whiplash
Best Original Song: “Glory” from Selma
Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Animated Feature: Big Hero 6
Best Animated Short Film: Feast
Best Documentary Feature: CitizenFour
Best Documentary Short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Best Live Action Short Film: The Phone Call
Best Foreign Language Film: Ida