Alexandra Lowery | Monday, February 23, 2015
Sunday night marked the end of 2015’s award show season with the 87th Annual Academy Awards, an evening that left America surprised, inspired and a little uncomfortable.
Neil Patrick Harris, four-time host of the Tonys and two-time Emmy master of ceremonies, found himself on primetime yet again, taking on the Oscars for the first time in his career. Opening with a politically charged pun — “tonight we honor today’s best and whitest — sorry, brightest” — Harris set the tone for what would be a socially conscious awards ceremony — very 2015. The host quickly followed with a glossy, Broadway-esque musical number about the magic of the movies — if you were expecting anything else from Neil then shame on you, honestly.
The first two winners in the supporting actor categories came as no surprise to anyone — J.K. Simmons won for his ferocious performance in “Whiplash” and Patricia Arquette for her twelve years of hard work on “Boyhood.” Their speeches, similarly, did not disappoint — Simmons practically read a love letter to his wife and reminded everyone to call their parents, while Arquette delivered an empowered call for the reconciliation of the wage gap amongst men and women in the United States. The demand was met by raucous applause from most of the women in the audience and even elicited what looked a lot like fist bumping from nineteen-time nominee Meryl Streep.
The evening’s musical performances were, for the most part, emotionally driven — apart from the enthusiastic rendition of “The Lego Movie’s” original song “Everything Is Awesome” in which Oprah was presented with a glorious Lego Oscar. Lady Gaga stunned everyone with an amazing tribute for the 50th anniversary of “The Sound of Music.” The showstopper of the ceremony, however, was “Glory,” the protest anthem composed by Lonnie Lynn (Common) and John Stephens (John Legend) for “Selma” which brought the crowd to its feet and tears to the eyes of several of its audience members. The record shortly thereafter won the Oscar for Best Original Song, prompting the songwriting duo to deliver another noteworthy speech, Legend pronouncing, “Selma is now.”
Unable to neglect the arguably most gif-ed moment from last year’s Academy Awards, NPH joked, “Benedict Cumberbatch: It’s not only the most awesome name in show business; it’s also the sound you get when you ask John Travolta to pronounce ‘Ben Affleck’” in reference to Travolta’s embarrassingly unascertainable attempt to say Idina Menzel’s name at the Oscars in 2014. Travolta and Menzel both appeared on stage, the two musical stars trying and failing to shed a funny light on last year’s mishap when Travolta made Menzel and the 34.6 million other people watching extremely uncomfortable by touching her face repeatedly, effectively giving the Internet enough Travolta ammo to last them until next year’s Oscars.
Graham Moore, screenwriter for “The Imitation Game,” accepted his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay with the final moving speech of the night about his struggle with suicide when he was sixteen, telling all the young kids watching that feel like they don’t fit in anywhere to “stay weird” and “stay different.”
The last of the acting categories were wrapped up with two predicted yet well-deserved wins as Eddie Redmayne adorably accepted his Best Actor Oscar for playing genius Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” and Julianne Moore classily won Best Actress for her painful portrayal of a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in “Still Alice,” her third big win for the role this awards season.
For the show’s finale, the winner of Best Picture was announced to a somewhat surprised audience as “Birdman” took home the golden statue, despite “Boyhood” being the obvious favorite for the award.
Sean Penn, however, caused most of the buzz on social media as the presenter of the final award decided it was a good idea to wonder aloud “who gave this sonofab**** a green card?” before awarding Mexican-born director of the winning film and winner of Best Director ealier in the night, Alejandro González Iñárritu, with the Oscar. Penn was met with backlash on Twitter, many taking the comment as confirmation of the previously trending #OscarsSoWhite in reference to the lack of diversity and absence of “Selma” recognitions amongst the Oscar nominees.