Nick’s 2015 Oscar Reactions: NPH shines in debut

By: Nick Salacki, Contributing Writer

As the award season has officially come to an end, so comes the talk about who actually won an Oscar and who should have won. This and a lot more was brought up at the Towson University annual EMF Oscar Party in the Media Center Sunday, Feb. 22.

The big winners for this year came down to three of the best films from 2014: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” with four wins, “Birdman” with four wins, and “Whiplash” with three wins.

Neil Patrick Harris (NPH) was this year’s host and although audiences everywhere expected a big and powerful opening number, the NPH-led opening act ended up becoming just so-so from my perspective. From far way, the opener may have seemed such a spectacle just because it was paired with one of the nation’s top award show hosts, but actually, there actually seemed to be some substance to the performance. Where spectacle fell flat, clever, comedic and stirring jokes made up for the act.

NPH gave an astounding look into the wonder of motion pictures. He showed us what could be possible when your average audience member can look at a certain motion picture and be inspired to take a stand or create something from it. This is where NPH succeeded, by encompassing the wonder of film. But sadly this is something we’ve seen before. Overall, I am very happy to have finally seen NPH officially host an Academy Award ceremony.

The first award was given to J.K. Simmons for his supporting role in “Whiplash.” Yes, I finally saw the film last Thursday, Feb. 19 at Cinemark Towson. No one on the list of supporting actors even reaches the brilliance Simmons reached with his performance. His win is well deserved for a veteran actor such as himself. After his acceptance speech, NPH gave a snarky little comment at Simmons’ win, referencing the Farmers Insurance commercials Simmons has been a regular star of. “He won an Oscar, bum bum bum bum bum bum bum!”

NPH’s next big comedic act of the night came in the form of a sealed briefcase, which held NPH’s official Oscar predictions. The position of protector of the briefcase was comically handed to Oscar winner Octavia Spencer. NPH jokingly banned the “The Help” alum from leaving her seat for anything, from a snack break to a bathroom break. This skit made me laugh as it was able to last the entire ceremony to when the predictions were revealed.

Throughout the ceremony, the singers, bands and musicians whom were a part of the five nominated songs gave their performances. The night started off with Adam Levine, backed by his band Maroon 5, singing the beautiful “Lost Stars” from the summer 2014 indie film “Begin Again.”

While this beginning performance made for slow ballad-y start, the energy of the night went from 0 to 100 when Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island made the stage their wonderland when they performed the hit “Everything is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie.”

John Legend and Common’s ballad/rap epic “Glory” from “Selma” was the last of all nominated songs to be performed that night. After their enchanting and haunting performance, my Oscar night dates and I agreed that it was the song to win, without a doubt. This was so. John Legend and Common are now Oscar winners.

At a more “random” but still wonderful point in the ceremony, the 50-year-old film “The Sound of Music” was mentioned, leading to the awaited performance of a mash-up of the more well-known songs from the musical, sung by Lady Gaga. With a mash-up of some of the better-known songs from the musical, Gaga gave a surprising performance, topping her voice range more than her fans have ever witnessed. She really pushed herself, and just when I thought she wouldn’t have been able to reach the ending high note, she nailed it.

Cinematography ultimately was awarded to Emmanual Lubezki for his work in “Birdman.” last year, Lubezki won for his work in “Gravity.”

When it came down to Film Editing, all my bets were on “Boyhood.” Not only because the win seemed reasonable on paper, but also because the editing was superbly perfected to match the year-by-year footage that beautifully crafted the film’s overall story. Such a let down with another win for “Whiplash.”

Moving along to the two screenplay categories, I was very pleased to hear that the screenplay for “Birdman” had won for Original Screenplay. After the film’s obvious win for Cinematography, this is where I once thought it would end as far as wins went. But alas I was wrong.

I was surprised to hear that Graham Moore had won for his adapted screenplay of “The Imitation Game.” This led to a beautiful acceptance speech based around Moore’s advice to “stay weird,” meaning to embrace whatever makes you so special and so different from anyone else, all based around the name and legacy of the film’s front man, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Alan Turing.

“When I was 16-years-old I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong,” Moore said. “And now, I’m standing here. And so I would like this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different and she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. Stay weird and stay different.”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” was definitely the ringleader for all the “art” related awards. These awards were for Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, and also the film’s musical score by Alexandre Desplat. Desplat holds a special place in my heart. His score for the 2008 David Fincher film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is my favorite film musical composition to date. This year’s nomination, along with his work in “The Imitation Game” was his eighth and it ended up being his first ever well-deserved win.

When it came down to the acting categories, it came as no surprise when the previously stated J.K. Simmons, along with “Boyhood’s” Patricia Arquette and “Still Alice’s” Julianne Moore all went on to win awards.

But what was such a nail biter was the race between Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) and Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) for the Lead Actor award. I rooted for Keaton while my neighbor rooted for Redmayne. Ultimately it came down to Redmayne for the win. In a way, I am pleased. Keaton is already an established actor, no doubt. But now Keaton can feel that he has allowed Redmayne some of his shared spotlight, paving a way for him to take on bigger and bolder roles. This is somewhat true as Redmayne is currently filming a new film, “The Danish Girl,” which is already receiving buzz for next year’s Oscars. Maybe Redmayne will pull a Tom Hanks and win two Oscars, two years in a row – who knows.

Now we come to the final two coveted awards: Picture and Director. In past years, it has been a tradition for one film to win for both categories, but that has halted for the past two years allowing two different films the opportunity to take home awards. Well the previously stated tradition has come back with Alejandro González Iñárritu winning for his directing of the 2015 Best Picture winner “Birdman.” Yes “Birdman” is the big winner. Are you surprised? So the hell am I.

For the life of me I cannot understand how the Academy believes “Birdman” is so worthy of this award, for me it just does not fit well when compared to “Boyhood.” But nevertheless, the name and legacy behind such a beautifully crafted film as “Boyhood” will live on forever through the growing fans of the film as well as through the only Oscar recipient that resulted from the film, Patricia Arquette.

Overall, Oscar night 2015 seemed to have been such a huge success, with beautiful and substantial performances and acceptances speeches. Neil Patrick Harris did not let his fans down. But let’s just hope to God that (Kevin) #HartforHost doesn’t become a real thing.

Picks for Oscars 2015 Best Dressed:

1. Marion Cotillard

2. Gwyneth Paltrow

3. Jared Leto

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