87 years into the ceremony, the Oscars are still unabashedly about the movies. Host Neil Patrick Harris along with Anna Kendrick performed a whizzbang ode to “moving pictures” in perfect Broadway musical style. And despite the fresh songwriting that seemed to give a nod to last year’s winners for Frozen and “Let it Go”, it couldn’t help but feel familiar and traditional in the grand scheme of the Oscar ceremony: glad-handing, nostalgia and pageantry.
But for a moment, Jack Black turned this musical montage on its head. Black interrupted NPH’s song to shoot a knowing eye to all of the above, as well as the sequels, superhero movies and reboots that flood the studios year after year. It was a rare moment of the Academy looking outward at the rest of the world when this year’s crop of nominees (which Harris joked was an opportunity to recognize the “best and whitest…I mean brightest”) suggested they were only interested at looking inward.
The ultimate winner for Best Picture, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman, is a movie in advocacy of the same. It’s about the insiders, the actors and producers that make up the Academy, and it lambasts superheroes, the lack of real art for adults, the press, critics, and the Internet. For a movie that has been so polarizing, awarding it in four categories out of the nine for which it was nominated was the Academy’s way of celebrating themselves while still pointing the finger at everyone else.
And yet the 87th Oscars proved to be an evening in which any issue, not just those affecting the Academy, took center stage. This year had no selfies or pizza delivery men, but had winner after winner paying tribute to some cause.
— Jessica Galliart (@JessicaGalliart) February 23, 2015
Everyone had something to say, all in defiance to the orchestra attempting to play people off. It was this year’s orchestra that was silenced by a Polish director who refused to stop talking and a documentarian who pulled out an anecdote of military suicide.
And in doing so, this year produced some remarkably touching moments enhanced by some equally poignant musical numbers. Lady Gaga stunned everyone with the news that she can actually sing. The In Memoriam segment leveled the playing field by giving equal time to Robin Williams as to the marketing professional who passed away in 2014. John Legend and Common earned a justified standing ovation and struck a blow that although the bridge in Selma, Alabama is now a symbol for change, “Selma” is now. Patricia Arquette got the best vote of approval from none other than Meryl Streep.
These recognitions were perhaps not even as surprising as this year’s winners. I personally only picked 14 of the 24 categories correctly. Every Best Picture nominee walked away with at least one Oscar. Boyhood, once thought to be a landslide favorite, walked away with just one for Arquette in Best Supporting Actress. And yet its Sundance 2014 contemporary Whiplash won three Oscars, one for J.K. Simmons and two in technical categories. The Grand Budapest Hotel tied Birdman for four Oscars and the top earner Sunday night. Eddie Redmayne stunned Michael Keaton for a Best Actor upset right when Birdman seemed to be on a roll. The Imitation Game claimed one Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay on behalf of Harvey Weinstein’s “Honor the Man. Honor the Film” campaign. And though a split was thought to be a possibility for Best Director, Inarritu and Birdman won both Best Director and Best Picture.
Boyhood may outlive Birdman in movie lore, and the Internet’s mark may outlive John Travolta and Idina Menzel’s cheeky reconciliation, but this year’s Oscars is one for the history books.
Full List of Winners
Best Picture – Birdman
Best Director – Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman
Best Actor – Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Best Actress – Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Original Screenplay – Birdman
Best Adapted Screenplay – The Imitation Game
Best Animated Feature – Big Hero 6
Best Foreign Language Film – Ida
Best Documentary Feature – CitizenFour
Best Documentary Short Subject – Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Best Cinematography – Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Best Film Editing – Whiplash
Best Production Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Costume Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Original Score – Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Original Song – “Glory”, Selma
Best Visual Effects – Interstellar
Best Makeup & Hairstyling – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Sound Mixing – Whiplash
Best Sound Editing – American Sniper
Best Short Film Animated – Feast
Best Short Film Live Action – The Phone Call