87th Oscars recap: ‘Birdman’ wins big, Gaga sings ‘Sound of Music’ and the power of ‘Moving Pictures’

Chris Bower

Last night’s Oscars reminded us all why we watch movies in the first place. Hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, the ceremony honored the best and brightest (or, as NPH pointed out, whitest) of cinema. Harris easily made everyone feel comfortable, keeping his open monologue funny but not awkward before jumping into a musical number exemplifying the theme of the night.

Called “Moving Pictures” and written by the power duo behind the 2014 anthem for little girls (“Let it Go”), the number showed the power of cinema and tried to explain why we are so enamored with these, well, moving pictures. Whether it’s the characters, story or something more aesthetic like cinematography, there is something for everyone in these movies and all were honored Sunday.

The big winner of the night was Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Birdman,” which follows Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson, a washed up comic book star who is trying to revive his career by starring and directing in his rendition of an acclaimed Broadway play. The quirky and eccentric but intriguing piece won a total of four awards- Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and the coveted Best Picture Award, beating out other contenders such as “The Imitation Game” and “The Theory of Everything.”

It wasn’t all bad for the other seven Best Picture nominees though. All of them had won awards earlier in the night, with “The Grand Budapest Hotel” also taking home four statuettes for Best Production Design, Best Hair and Makeup, Best Costume Design and Best Original Score, one of two nominations for Alexandre Desplat that night (the other was for his score of “The Imitation Game”).

“Whiplash” nabbed the Best Supporting Actor Oscar courtesy of J.K. Simmons’ intense performance as Fletcher, the loud, in your face band instructor who mentors Miles Teller’s protagonist. It also took home awards for Sound Mixing and Film Editing, a nod to the film’s quick, kinetic jump cuts and use of implementing Teller’s drumming into the film.

The other sound award of the night, Sound Editing, went to “American Sniper”, the poignant tale of US Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and his battles both in a combat zone and at home.

“The Imitation Game,” the story of British genius Alan Turing, the man who helped cracked the German Enigma code before being condemned for his sexuality, won for Best Adapted Screenplay, while another Brit, Eddie Redmayne, took home the Best Leading Actor award for his powerful and emotional portrayal as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” which shows Hawking’s descent into and battle with Lou Gerhig’s Disease, also known as ALS.

On the musical side of the house, the highlight (besides “Moving Pictures”) was Lady Gaga’s medley of songs from “The Sound of Music,” surprising everyone if only by virtue of the fact that Gaga was dressed in normal attire for the performance, which received as standing ovation from the audience, as well as a personal stamp of approval from the original Maria, Julie Andrews.

And despite tremendous fan support and the most exciting performance of the night, “The Lego Movie” signature song “Everything is Awesome!!” did not win Best Original Song, losing to John Legend and Common’s “Glory” from “Selma”, which followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on his march for civil rights for all African Americans.

At the end of the night, those watching at home and in the audience at the Dolby had realized why we all are so enticed by the Oscars in the first place: because the movies honored that night all tell wonderful stories that resonate with all of us, from the feeling Navy sniper to the socially awkward genius that was Alan Turing, to the enduring and endearing love story that was Stephen and Jane Hawking, we love the Oscars because we love to hear stories. And, of all the people there that night, Harris probably said it best in his opening number:

“Moving pictures… though they’re not real life, they show us what life really means.
Moving pictures… show us who we really are.”