It was a long, weird, occasionally embarrassing night. Birdman and Budapest won all the awards. Patricia Arquette channeled Norma Rae. Shirley MacLaine confirmed what I have long suspected—my pantsuits simply are NOT sparkly enough—and Jennifer Hudson performed a song from Smash. Yes, from Smash.
As for host Neil Patrick Harris? With one “meh” gesture, I think David Oyelowo summed up how all of us felt about his scattershot—sometimes maybe even a little offensive?—hosting performance. (That bulge though!) From spinning on mountaintops with Lady Gaga to weeping with John Legend—and every inspirational speech in between—here are the most memorable moments, complete with videos and highly entertaining commentary, from Sunday night's Oscars telecast.
Neil Patrick Harris Came Out of Sharon Stone’s Vagina
“Today we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest. Sorry…brightest.” And then, A SONG!
The 2015 Oscars began exactly as we expected (this is NPH—there was obviously going to be a song) and hoped (they couldn’t not address that race controversy, right?). Harris’s little ditty started cute, belting and soft-shoeing about how someone should pull a Kanye West—cut to Clint Eastwood—and how movies are magical. There were neat-o effects. There were dancing Stormtroopers. Anna Kendrick and Jack Black joined in. Neil Patrick Harris came out of Sharon Stone’s vagina. Just the typical Oscar fare.
Harris’s opening was a smart, on-brand spin on Billy Crystal’s classic bits, where he would put himself in the year's nominated movies, but sung instead. And like Billy Crystal’s classic bits, it started clever. And then became confusing. And then overly schmaltzy. And then way, way too long. (And downhill from there.)
J.K. Simmons Really Wants You to Call Your Parents
“Dad? Hi. J.K. Simmons told me to call you.” “...Who?”
Inevitable (and totally deserving) Best Supporting Actor winner J.K. Simmons took up the worthy cause of kids calling their parents more for his acceptance speech. Sure! We’re game. But adding extra class to Simmons’s speech was the heartfelt, gracious way he thanked his wife at the very beginning. I love it when actors thank their spouses with genuine, teary messages at the beginning of speeches, instead of as rushed and frenzied afterthoughts as they’re being played off by the orchestra.
It’s just as Meryl Streep instructed during her obviously perfect speech for her Iron Lady win, thanking husband Don Gummer first because he was the most important. Confession: my fantasy Oscar speech that I will never give begins with a joke about this. “My goddess and hero Meryl Streep said you should always thank your loved ones first, so following her example I’d like to thank Don Gummer…” Guys, you’d LOVE my Oscar speech.
LEGOs Give Oprah an Oscar
For one brief, glorious moment, everything was awesome. Neil Patrick Harris wasn't transitioning out of a woman’s emotional speech about her son’s suicide by making mean jokes about her dress. Octavia Spencer wasn’t being held hostage by a faltering bit. Birdman wasn’t stealing Boyhood’s Oscar. Instead, there were actual LEGOs on the Oscar stage!
The inescapable, mildly irritating, and totally joyous theme from one of this year’s most egregious Oscar snubs, The LEGO Movie, united Tegan and Sara, Lonely Island, Questlove, and an array of LEGO-inspired figurines for a seizure-inducing masterpiece performance born straight from a mushroom trip and delivered straight to our hearts. More, it delivered the best moment of the night, and quite possibly the greatest image I’ve seen in my life: an exuberant Oprah Winfrey, clutching an Oscar made out of LEGO—which will now be my computer desktop image forever and ever until the end of time.
Neil Patrick Harris Showed Us His Birdman
Do you think it was in Neil Patrick Harris’s best interest to appear in his underwear? Judging by how ripped Doogie Howser looked in his skivvies, spoofing Birdman but mostly just showing off his bodacious bod, we wouldn’t be surprised if it was. What does it mean for society when the Oscars’ first openly gay male host walks out on the Oscar stage in only his underwear? It means that we should all want more openly gay male Oscar hosts.
Patricia Arquette Gets Meryl and J. Lo VERY EXCITED
Patricia Arquette's speech was hella boring, a rote reading off of names, until she spontaneously channeled her inner Oprah and started bellowing about equal pay for every woman in the United States of America. Meryl Steep and Jennifer Lopez absolutely lost their shit over this. Very quickly, the night’s most tedious speech became my favorite for that very reason. Also, I will pay whatever it costs—and maybe even murder—to know what, exactly, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez discussed with each other during commercial breaks.
Meryl Streep Brings a Touch of Class
In Memoriam segments are a necessary, but sometimes exploitative and crass, part of every Oscar year. And especially in the midst of a ceremony that had seemed as frivolous as this one, they can be especially tonally jarring. But leave it to Queen Streep to center the segment with virtuoso class and gravitas. First, she begins by quoting Joan Didion, which, have all my wildest dreams just been answered? And that introduction she gives is so poignant. So polished. So full of conviction and truth. She picked up another Oscar nomination for that introduction.
The rest of the segment was understated and quite lovely, with tasteful drawings illustrating the montage of entertainers we’ve lost and the audience (mostly) refraining from tacky applause throughout. It still takes my breath away, even during the umpteenth In Memoriam we’ve sat through this awards season, to see Robin Williams on that list. And it is borderline infuriating that Joan Rivers, Patron Saint of the Red Carpet, was left out. But by the time Jennifer Hudson—wisely after the names flashed across the screen, so as not to distract—brought us to church and a steady stream of tears to our eyes, all was…almost…forgiven. Until you realized that you actually recognized that the song she was singing was from Smash, and you hid under a blanket from undue mortification for the rest of the night because you knew it was from Smash.
And John Legend and Common Bring Some Glory
That is how you stage a number. In the ultimate revenge for all of the Selma snubs, Common and John Legend gave a performance of Oscar-winning “Glory.” A nation got goosebumps. David Oyelowo was weeping so hard that Oprah Winfrey had to wipe his river of tears. (Thus rudely living out an item that has been on my bucket list for years now.) Even Chris Pine was sobbing, causing every woman in America's ovaries to simultaneously quiver. Especially mine.
Add in an acceptance speech from Common and Legend that was, like Arquette’s, important, and you have an Oscar moment that reminds, in the midst of a vapid Hollywood pageant, why filmmaking and this whole show actually matters. Glory, indeed.
Lady Gaga Sings “The Sound of Music” for No Reason, and NAILS IT
This sequence was out of its goddamn mind. It’s 11:15 pm, six hours after we first started the red carpet, and the Academy goes and presents a 15-minute tribute to a 50-year-old musical, starring Lady Gaga. What is happening? How much wine have I had? BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? Ms. Gaga dug into the performance with all the force of a dozen Julie Andrews twirling on mountaintops. In the end, I think of all our heads were left spinning, maybe even a little queasy. And, utimately, kind of loving the whole batshit thing?
A Little Boy Tells Us to “Stay Different”
A charming little boy named Graham Moore was given an Oscar (OK, he’s 33 but looks blessedly young). He rightfully used the moment to thank Oprah, because obviously, and then say something meaningful. Moore won Best Adapted Screenplay for his Imitation Game script, talked about his frustration that Alan Turing, who was gay, never got the opportunity to make such an acceptance speech. He, quite rousingly, told a story about overcoming suicidal thoughts and encouraged young people to “stay different, stay weird.” I hated The Imitation Game’s disgusting politicized campaign, and I hate that it won this award. But I’ll take Graham Moore’s frenetic inspiration.
Eddie Redmayne Wins (Our Hearts)
Holy hell. This guy is so cute. And have you seen The Theory of Everything? He is unbelievable. Most deserved win of the night.
And Julianne Finally Wins. Period.
“I read an article that said winning the Oscar leads to living five years longer.” Thank god, because we need Julianne around as long as possible. Julianne Moore revealed herself, in her acceptance speech, to be as graceful and humble and thoughtful and passionate and emotional and strong as you’d thought she’d be. And also a cougar. (Her husband is five years younger! And freaking adorable!) Finally, “Oscar winner Julianne Moore,” a phrase that’s long been programmed into our brain, is something we can actually say.