- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2015

Host Neil Patrick Harris kicked off the 87th Academy Awards ceremony with a rousing start, uttering a few short words before engaging in a Broadway-esque salute to the awards, with lyrics such as hoping someone “pulls a Kanye West.” He was soon joined in the medley by Anna Kendrick, who has sung in such films as “Pitch Perfect” and “The Last Five Years,” and Jack Black, who sprung from his seat to join the two on-stage.

“That whole thing — completely improvised,” Mr. Harris said at the end of the number.

The first award, for best supporting actor, was presented by last year’s best supporting actress winner Lupita Nyong’o, who opened her speech with a quote from the late Oscar winner Robin Williams. She handed the statue to J.K. Simmons for the film “Whiplash.”

“If you’re lucky enough to have a [parent] still living, call them. Don’t text, call them,” Mr. Simmons said in his acceptance speech, thanking his family.

Jennifer Lopez and Chris Pine presented the Oscar for costume design to “The Grand Budapest Hotel“‘s Milena Canonero, who won her fourth Academy Award for the quirky comedy.

The very next award was for the same film, as Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon handed the award for best makeup to Francis Hannon and Mark Coulier.  

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman presented the foreign language Oscar to “Ida” from Poland. Director Pawel Pawlikowski gave a rather lengthy acceptance speech despite being cued multiple times by the music to wrap up.

Kerry Washington and Jason Batemen were tapped to announce the best live action short film for “The Phone Call.” The duo then handed the award for best documentary short film to “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” a film that deals with intervening in the scourge of veteran suicides. Producer Dana Perry dedicated the award to her son, who committed suicide.

Mr. Harris came back from a commercial in a gag that saw him emerge on the stage in his underwear, yet continuing on as if nothing were amiss.

Sienna Miller and Chris Evans introduced the sound mixing Oscar nominees, opening up the envelope to reveal the names of Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley for “Whiplash.” The pair then presented the award for sound editing to “American Sniper” to industry veterans Bob Inman and Robert Alan Murray, who have previously worked with director Clint Eastwood on “Letters From Iwo Jima.”

Last year’s best supporting actor winner, Jared Leto, in a blue tuxedo, said that “in accordance with California state law, Meryl Streep” has been nominated for an Oscar. The actor then read the nominees for best supporting actress — including Miss Streep, a three-time winner. The 2015 award went to Patricia Arquette for “Boyhood,” a film shot over 12 years and documenting a fictional boy’s growth as the actor himself aged. 

“It’s our time to have wage equality and … equal rights for women once and for all,” Miss Arquette said from the dais. 

“Interstellar,” a film that did well at the box office despite somewhat mediocre reviews, won for best special effects.

“Big Hero 6” won for best animated film, while “Feast” won for best animated short film. 

Continuing its sweep “The Grand Budapest Hotel” picked up the Oscar for production design.

Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki won back-to-back Oscars for “Birdman,” following on the heels of his win last year for the space drama “Gravity.”

Miss Streep, the most nominated actor in history, introduced the montage of those in the film industry who have died since last year’s ceremonies, including Mickey Rooney, James Garner, Elizabeth Pena, Maya Angelou, James Rebhorn, Anita Eckberg, Richard Attenborough, Ruby Dee, Lauren Bacall, Eli Wallach, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Bob Hoskins and Mike Nichols. Of considerable note was Robin Williams, who committed suicide last year. Singer Jennifer Hudson then came out to sing a tribute to the deceased.

Englishman Benedict Cumberbatch and Australian Naomi Watts presented the Oscar for best film editing to first-time nominee and winner Tom Cross, the editor of “Whiplash,” who thanked Oscar winner J.K. Simmons for delivering “gold to the cutting room.”

Jennifer Anniston and David Oyelowo — who was passed over for a nomination for “Selma,” leading to many decrying the Oscars as “too white” — gave the best documentary Oscar to Laura Poitras for her film “Citizenfour,” which follows controversial whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“We [might] lose our ability to check the powers that control,” Ms. Poitras said, sharing her Oscar with other journalists “exposing truth.” 

“[Edward] Snowden could not be here tonight for some reason,” Mr. Harris then said, adding levity. 

Oscar winner Octavia Spencer came out and spoke about how the Oscars were once postponed after Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. She then introduced John Legend and Common, who performed the song “Glory” from “Selma,” which follows King’s march through Selma a half-century ago. The performance, backed by a choir, received a standing ovation from the crowd, including producer Oprah Winfrey. 

Singer Idinia Menzel and John Travolta made light of Mr. Travolta’s flubbing her name at last year’s ceremony, with the pair joking together before announcing the nominees for best original song. The Oscar went to John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn, the writers of “Glory” from “Selma” (performed only minutes prior, bringing tears to many in the house). The winners told of recently performing the song on a bridge in Selma, Alabama, that was once a “divider” between the city’s occupants. 

“Nina Simone said, ‘It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times they live in,’” Mr. Lynn said. “Selma is now. … There are more black men incarcerated now than there were in 1850” during slavery, he added, saying the call for social change is ongoing, not relegated to the past.

Scarlett Johansson introduced a segment recognizing the 50th anniversary of the classic musical “The Sound of Music,” starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Miss Johansson then introduced Lady Gaga, who sang the film’s theme song in a stunning rendition of the tune that opened the film half a century ago. Lady Gaga segued that song into a medley of other songs from the film, including “My Favorite Things.” 

Her performance received a standing ovation, which turned thunderous when Miss Andrews entered from the wings to hug her.

“How lucky can a girl get?” Miss Andrews said, both of “The Sound of Music” and her extensive career, while praising Lady Gaga’s performance.

Miss Andrews then segued into the category for best musical score. Double nominee Alexandre Desplat won his first Oscar on eight nominations — including two for the same category Sunday — for his work on “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” His other nomination in the same category was for “The Imitation Game.”

Comedian Eddie Murphy, who rarely appears at awards shows, was tapped to announce the winners for best original screenplay. Mr. Murphy announced that “Birdman” won for best original screenplay. Writers Alejandro G. Inarritu — who also directed — took the stage with co-writers Nicholas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo to accept the award. It was the first time of the night that “The Grand Budapest Hotel” did not win in its nominated category.

Miss Winfrey announced the nominees for best adapted screenplay. The Oscar went to Graham Moore for “The Imitation Game.” His screenplay was noteworthy as Mr. Moore is an American who wrote a uniquely British script.

“When I was 16, I tried to kill myself,” Mr. Moore said of feeling like he didn’t belong as a young man and of his kinship with Alan Turing, the subject of “The Imitation Game” who broke the Nazis’ Enigma code but was chemically castrated by the British government for homosexuality and ultimately committed suicide. “I would like this [award to be for that person] who doesn’t feel like you belong. When it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass this message along.” 

Mr. Moore received a standing ovation for his message. 

Ben Affleck, whose “Argo” won best picture despite his not being nominated as best director, presented the best director Oscar to Mr. Inarritu, a native of Mexico, for “Birdman.” 

“Our work can only be judged by time,” Mr. Inarritu said.

Mr. Inarritu follows last year’s winner Alfonso Cuaron, who won best director for directing “Gravity,” making them the first back-to-back Mexican directing Oscar winners in history.

Last year’s best actress winner, Cate Blanchett, read off the names of the best actor nominees. Favorite Eddie Redmayne took home the statue for his performance as physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.”

Mr. Redmayne thanked his co-star Felicity Jones, director James Marsh and his wife.

Matthew McConaughey handed the golden statuette to Julianne Moore, who won for her portrayal as a woman coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice.” 

“People with Alzheimer’s deserve to be visible,” Miss Moore, who was previously nominated three times, said of those who suffer from the debilitating disease. 

Two-time best actor winner Sean Penn came out to announce best picture.

“In the end, it’s about the movies themselves,” Mr. Penn said, “it’s about the power of their stories and the power of their ideas.”

Mr. Penn opened the sealed envelope and, to a drumroll, spoke a single word: “Birdman.”

Mr. Inarritu said “thank you for believing in this crazy idea.” He then invited star Michael Keaton, who was passed over for best actor, to speak. Mr. Keaton thanks Mr. Inarritu and the cast and crew of the film. 

Mr. Inarittu, in acknowledging current headlines, asked that the latest wave of Mexican immigrants to America be treated with the same respect as those who previously came to this “incredible immigrant nation.”

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