“Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest,” kidded host Neil Patrick Harris in the telecast’s opening seconds. And whom did producers choose to show a split-second later? Best Actor nominee Benedict Cumberbatch, who recently drew fire for a misguided magazine-interview comment in which he referred to black actors as “colored.”
BEST GAY JOKE
NPH’s earnest opening number was chock full of fun, cinemaphile-y winks, including this LOL-inducing lyric: “I gasp when Indy goes back for his hat/ Or when I think of all the tension between Ben and Matt.” Good Will Hunting fans, don’t act like you weren’t nodding your heads in the affirmative.
Lupita Nyong’o got the evening’s “Adele Dazeem” moment out of the way right off the bat when she announced, “And the Actor goes to” — accidentally referencing the Screen Actors Guild trophy — before correcting herself and handing the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Whiplash‘s J.K. Simmons.
BEST REAL-LIFE ADVICE IN AN ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
It was hard not to be elated for TV veteran J.K. Simmons (The Closer, Oz, Law & Order) as he picked up the Best Supporting Actor statuette for Whiplash. But things got even more feel-good when he eschewed the standard list of “thank yous” and instead focused on smaller, simpler advice: “Call your mom, call your dad. If you’re lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call ’em. Don’t text, don’t email, call them on the phone. Tell them you love them. Thank them and listen to them for as long as they wanna talk to you.” Amen, Dr. Skoda!
What an unexpected treat to see 2012 Oscar winner Octavia Spencer sitting alongside (and presumably bringing as her date) Charlie Rowe, her co-star on Fox’s shoulda-scored-a-second-season Red Band Society.
MOST AWESOME STUNT WE DON’T WANT TO SEE REPEATED
Mad props to Best Foreign Language Film winner Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland’s Ida) for acknowledging the Oscar orchestra’s play-off music, then promptly ignoring it to give shout-outs to his Polish pals, his film crew, his late wife, his deceased parents and his children (“who are hopefully watching, who are still alive!”) to thunderous applause from the audience. Sure, if everybody followed Pawlikowski’s lead, the telecast would last 11 hours, but we loved seeing a dude seize his big moment — media conglomerates’ schedules be damned.
EVERYTHING IS AWESOME
Many attendees clutched Lego Oscars — props that accompanied a high-energy performance of The Lego Movie anthem “Everything Is Awesome” — as though they were more precious than the real thing.
NEIL PATRICK “HEY NOW!”
The fearless host stripped down to his undies for an extended Birdman sight gag — with a dash of Whiplash, thanks to Miles Teller — and then took the stage wearing nothing but his skivvies and his confidence. Dayum, Doogie.
INSULT BY ADJECTIVE OMISSION AWARD
Remember Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance introduction at the Grammys a couple weeks ago — “my beautiful friend, Beyoncé”? (Ugh.) Cut to the Academy Awards, and all her Country Strong co-star rates is, “Please welcome my friend Tim McGraw.” Rated S… for Shady!
BEST BULLY PULPIT
Can we get a slow clap for Boyhood‘s Best Supporting Actress winner, Patricia Arquette? The deliciously down-to-earth Emmy winner for Medium (and star of the upcoming CSI: Cyber) made the political feel spine-tinglingly personal when she addressed “every taxpayer and citizen of this nation” at the end of her acceptance speech: “We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It is our time to have wage equality once and for all — and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
ODDEST ODD COUPLE
Sure, it was seating-chart nirvana to see Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez side-by-side hooting and hollering for Best Supporting Actress winner Arquette as she demanded equal pay for women. But let’s acknowledge the greenbacked elephant in the room: J.Lo’s $17-20 million-per-year salary on American Idol eclipses pretty much anybody in the reality-competition judging space ever. Jenny From the Block may not need any help, but it was fun to see her heed the advice of Scandal‘s Mellie and “Show some solidarity, sister!”
BEST ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF AN EGREGIOUS SNUB
“If you are at an Oscar party with the guys who made The Lego Movie, now would be an excellent time to start distracting them,” joked our intrepid host, introducing the Outstanding Animated Feature Film category (while also bringing up to speed non-Oscarphiles wondering why in the bloody hell the critical and commercial smash wasn’t even in the race).
REMEMBER WHEN IDRIS ELBA WASN’T PEOPLE’S SEXIEST MAN ALIVE THE LAST FIVE YEARS?
Yeah, so do we.
“LIFE IMITATING ART?” AWARD
We’re obsessed with Fox’s Empire — and Terrence Howard’s performance as Lucious Lyon along with it. But the actor’s borderline emotional break while introducing highlight reels of Best Picture nominees Whiplash, The Imitation Game and Selma left us thinking he might want to reserve the melodramatics for moments where he’s not simply reading off a teleprompter.
BEST ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF AN EGREGIOUS SNUB (TV STAR SOLIDARITY DIVISION)
“And now,” said host Neil Patrick Harris (a man whose major success have come on the small screen), “it’s my pleasure to welcome two people who absolutely deserve to be here: Jennifer Aniston and David Oyelowo.” The fact that the presenter pairing consisted of snubbed critical darlings who shot to stardom via Friends and MI-5 wasn’t lost on Team TVLine.
Many in the audience, including Selma star David Oyelowo, were moved to tears by Common and John Legend’s beautifully staged performance of the film’s nominated song — which went on to win Best Original Song.
THE ‘LET IT GO’/WELL-PLAYED AWARD GOES TO…
After announcing her co-presenter “Glom Gazingo,” Idina Menzel was joined by John Travolta, who finally pronounced her name correctly after mangling it at least year’s ceremony. “Not like it’s going to follow me around forever or anything,” she joked. “Tell me about it,” he quipped back.
BEST MUSICAL MOMENT
On a night where several ditties — sorry, Adam Levine, Rita Ora and J.Hud — failed to raise our pulses, Lady Gaga’s reverent, note-perfect medley from The Sound of Music (capped off by a genuine embrace from Julie Andrews) will get our DVR rewind at least 10 times come Monday.
WINNER OF THE ENTIRE NIGHT
Imitation Game‘s delightful screenwriter Graham Moore confessed it was “the most unfair thing I think I’ve ever heard” that he got to spend a night being honored by Hollywood’s glitterati while the subject of his film — WWII code-breaker Alan Turing, who was persecuted for his homosexuality — never did. Then, after frankly revealing he’d attempted suicide at the age of 16, Moore spoke directly to alienated teenagers who might be struggling with their paths. “Stay weird, stay different,” he pleaded, “and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”
A BRIEF ASIDE
When Best Director winner Alejandro González Iñárritu mentioned that, to court good luck, he was wearing the white underwear Michael Keaton so famously sported in Birdman, he was kidding… right?