‘Birdman’ soars on Oscar night; Vern Schillinger wins best supporting actor

February 23rd, 2015 by Staff

Character actor J.K. Simmons took home the Oscar for his performance as a music teacher in the film 'Whiplash.'


(Forbes) HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood. Although it takes place in a Broadway theater, Birdman is really the story of an aging movie actor trying to mount a serious comeback after a career defined by his decades-old work as a superhero.

That story took home the accolades over Boyhood‘s (extraordinarily told) tale of an ordinary family. Birdman won for Best Picture and Best Director at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony while Boyhood made due with one award — Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette.

The night’s other big winner was Wes Anderson’s  The Grand Budapest Hotel. Although it didn’t win in any of the biggest categories, it did end the night with four awards, including for Costume Design, Makeup and Production Design, tying it with Birdman for the most wins of the night.

Fox Searchlight was the big studio winner this year. The indie imprint from News Corp.’s Fox Pictures distributed Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Wild. This is the second year in a row the studio has taken the top award. Searchlight also released last year’s 12 Years A Slave. Searchlight seems to be taking over the Oscar-winning mantle long held by Harvey Weinstein at The Weinstein Company. While that production company earned nine Oscar nods this year, its only big win was Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game.

Neil Patrick Harris proved that there really isn’t any award show he can’t host. His magic trick involving a briefcase locked in a glass case all night may have fallen flat with viewers ready to revolt after almost four hours of the award ceremony but his opening song, quick-witted jokes and brief stint in his skivvies brought a nice balance of edginess and comfortable humor to the Oscars.

The show is better without songs like “We Saw Your Boobs” but it definitely benefited from a modern, young host like Harris . While some hosts tend to disappear after the first half hour, Harris kept things moving as best he could in a show that included not only the usual awards and In Memoriam but a lengthy tribute to The Sound of Music by Lady Gaga.

If the ratings are good, expect him to be asked back for more Oscar hosting gigs.

Hollywood’s most self-congratulatory night was punctuated by several moving speeches shining light on the fact that women are still paid less than men, that the battle for civil rights is not over and calling on artists to support gay youth who feel weird or out of place. Arquette gave one of the most rousing speeches of the evening demanding wage equality for women in the U.S.  Meryl Streepspawned a timeless Gif when she cheered on Arquette.

One of the most moving moments of the night was John Legend and Common performing their song “Glory” from the movie Selma. The Academy had come under fire for snubbing Selma director Ana Duvernay and actor David Olelowo who playing Martin Luther King, Jr. So the performance, set on a replica of the Edmund Pettus Bridge (which played a central role in the Selma civil rights march), felt that much more powerful as a choral group of black singers stood behind Common and Legend. When they won for Best Song right after the performance, the crowd offered one of the few standing ovations of the evening.

Graham Moore, who wrote the script for The Imitation Game, offered a moving speech of his own. The author told the audience how he tried to kill himself when he was 16 because he felt weird and different from other kids. He encouraged kid who feel like they don’t fit in to “stay weird” and pass that message on to future generations when they’re standing up accepting their own awards.

The show was not without its little hiccups. While Tegan and Sara and Lonely Island injected some much-needed energy into the show with their Lego-fantasy performance of “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie, most of the musical numbers dragged. A tribute to the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music felt completely superfluous as Lady Gaga sang a medley of songs from that famous movie. It was moving when star Julie Andrews came out and embraced Gaga but by that time, most people were ready to hear the big awards and get to bed.

One interesting fact from the night, each of the Best Picture nominees walked away with at least one award. At the very least that shows that the Academy did a good job picking the nominees for the biggest award of the night. As I said in a post last week, it was a low-stakes Oscars and we saw few surprises tonight. Now let’s see what 2015 brings.


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