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General rule of thumb for the Academy Awards. If your ceremony begins on Sunday, it needs to end before Monday. Audience members on the East Coast who stayed up to watch Birdman soar to a Best Picture win are likely dragging this morning, and it’s going to take more than a few cups of coffee to get the internal motors running.
But as long as the Oscars ceremony was on Sunday evening, I don’t think you could say that it ever dragged. (No, that is not a "rushing or dragging" joke, Whiplash fans.) As the ceremony stretched on into the night, there were more than a few standout moments that kept us engaged and entertained. Not Neil Patrick Harris’ interminable suitcase bit. That joke needed a better payoff. Instead, these are the five highlights from the Oscars telecast, the moments that we will be talking about and sharing for weeks. What were yours?
Neil Patrick Harris’ Tribute to Moving PicturesIt’s so important to set the right tone, and I thought the evening’s host, Neil Patrick Harris, struck that perfect balance between honoring Oscar’s past while celebrating the groundbreaking contemporary nominees. As the host sings, it was a magic trick done in plain sight, placing the talented NPH into famous scenes alongside everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Darth Vader. Anna Kendrick was a sweet addition. Jack Black was a distraction. ("Screens in our jeans?") In general, though, this was a tremendous kick off to what would end up being a largely enjoyable ceremony.
Graham Moore’s SpeechThis year, more than in year’s past, the Oscar speeches tended to be more memorable, as winners used their time in the spotlight to champion a cause. J.K. Simmons encouraged us to call our parents. The Ida director totally ignored the ever-present musical cue to get off the stage. Patricia Arquette made an impassioned plea for wage equality. And Graham Moore warmed all of our hearts when he collected the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game and made a candid confession. "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," he told the audience before turning it around and telling all of us that we DO belong, and we need to stay different, and creative, and weird. It was a beautiful speech, delivered from the heart, that wasn’t one of those, "Thank a long list of people no one knows." These types of speeches, soaked in honesty and actually about something, are always appreciated, and Moore’s was the best from Sunday evening.
John Travolta’s Continued BuffooneryThere was a time when John Travolta’s name was synonymous with cool. Early in his career, he was a TV star, a heartthrob, and a silver-screen sensation in movies like Grease. When he disappeared, Travolta always found a way to reinvent himself. Lately, though, these Oscar shenanigans are doing more harm than good to the all star’s career. Last night, he tried to redeem himself for the "Adele Dahzeem" debacle, but he somehow made the whole situation worse by uncomfortably Joe Biden-ing Idina Menzel’s beautiful face. Between that, and Travolta creeping on both Scarlett Johansson and Benedict Cumberbatch, the Pulp Fiction star gets points for keeping us guessing all Oscar telecast.
John Legend and Common Perform ‘Glory’Traditionally, the musical segments at the Oscars disappoint. It’s a good time to run to the bathroom, grab a snack, and just stretch the legs. But if you walked away from the TV during Sunday night’s musical odes, you likely missed some of the most stirring televised moments during the entire Oscar telecast. The LEGO Movie exploded across the stage with colorful insanity. Adam Levine stirred hearts with his Begin Again song. And brilliant artists John Legend and Common brought the audience to ACTUAL tears with this heartfelt rendition of Glory from the movie Selma. Fittingly, they won the Oscar shortly after performing this song, meaning Selma (thankfully) didn’t go home empty handed.
Lady Gaga’s Sound of Music TributeBecause it happened so late in the show, I – like most of you – had zero patience for a lengthy tribute to The Sound of Music. As an East Coaster, I was looking at the clock, realizing how many more categories we needed to get to, and was dreaming about my pillow. Did the Academy really need to choose this moment to honor the classic movie musical with a tribute by Lady Gaga, of all people? Then, the pop royalty started singing. And within seconds, I was all in. Gaga destroyed at the Oscars, running effortlessly through a musical montage of the Sound of Music staples. By the time she brought true Hollywood royalty Julie Andrews to the stage, the hills were alive with the sounds of clapping, and the 2015 Oscars telecast finally had its showstopping moment.