In the season-long trek from movie screens to center stage, all of the surprises, snubs and shenanigans of the 2015 awards season arrived at the pinnacle of the Hollywood trophy hunt — the Academy Awards. The most prestigious (and longest) ceremony in Hollywood, hosted this year by Neil Patrick Harris, had no shortage of the aforementioned traits — and then some.
Kicking the show off with typical Harris flair, the former Tony Awards host put his musical talent to good use with a glitzy, glamour-filled affair filled with incredible graphics and guest appearances by Anna Kendrick, Jack Black and a number of dancing Stormtroopers. Just your normal, average opening number, right?
Harris was quite punny throughout the evening, bringing sass and several “bah-dum-tiss” moments throughout the verging four-hour-long ordeal. However, the running gag of his awards-show-predictions box (watched over by the seemingly randomly selected Octavia Spencer) fell flat as its overuse wore thin throughout the evening. His opening monologue, however, noted the sound engineers, the make-up “masters” and the audience itself, expanding the elite ceremony to more than just the actors and directors in the limelight.
Many of the evening’s big winners were no surprises, including “Whiplash” and “Boyhood” stars J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette winning Best Supporting Actor and Actress, respectively. What was a pleasant surprise was Arquette’s impassioned acceptance speech advocating wage equality for women, which prompted Meryl Streep to shout out her support.
Several performances stood out throughout the night, including two from the Best Original Song category. On the sillier side, The Lonely Island and Tegan and Sara brought out a barrage of fun with “Everything Is Awesome” from (the snubbed) “The Lego Movie.” Dancers even distributed Lego Oscars to audience members, including Channing Tatum, Emma Stone and Oprah Winfrey. And the look on Winfrey’s face when she received her “award” was totally GIF-worthy.
“Glory,” performed by Common and John Legend from the movie “Selma,” brought the crowd to their feet, and many (including the film’s star David Oyelowo) were brought to tears. The performance, covered in a set resembling the Edmund Pettus Bridge that Martin Luther King Jr. led a historic march to, was truly chill-inducing.
But the most outstanding number of the night went to Lady Gaga’s tribute to “The Sound of Music,” celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The medley of tunes from the musical showcased a more classic side to her already impressive vocal range. (Note: I was in awe of this performance. Talk about a showstopper!) Add in an appearance by the film’s star, Julie Andrews, and you’ve got an Oscar moment for the books.
In awkward Oscar moments, surprise guest Idina Menzel (aka Adele Dazeem) exacted her revenge on name-flub master John Travolta by giving him his own new moniker: Glom Gazingo. Travolta/Gazingo then proceeded to creepily caress Menzel/Dazeem’s face in the night’s easily most uncomfortable scenario.
Other notable winners included “Big Hero 6” for Best Animated Feature Film, “Birdman”’sAlejandro González Iñárritu for Best Director, and “The Imitation Game” scribe Graham Moore for Best Adapted Screenplay. Moore’s acceptance speech was easily the most moving of the night, with the writer urging those who feel they don’t belong to “Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it's your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message along."
The night’s three biggest awards went to three of the year’s biggest frontrunners. A sweetly grateful Eddie Redmayne humbly accepted his Best Actor Oscar for “The Theory of Everything,” and a poised Julianne Moore collected her first Best Actress statue for her role in “Still Alice.” Besting the likes of “Boyhood” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Birdman” took home the night’s biggest honor of Best Picture. I thought “Boyhood” and its 12-years-of-filming platform had the last one in the bag. It’s a nice surprise to see Iñárritu, Michael Keaton and company take home the trophy.
Since I am a graduating senior, this is my last Trophy Hunting for the Alligator. I have loved writing these recaps for the past three years, and I look forward to sharing more of them in the future of Trophy Hunting. Thanks to all of the editors, readers and fellow pop culture lovers for sharing their thoughts and opinions! Here’s to the next awards season.
[A version of this story ran on page 10 on 2/26/2015 under the headline “Trophy hunting: Academy Awards showcase year’s best movies”]
Host Neil Patrick Harris speaks at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.