“Birdman” will go into the history books as 2014’s best picture winner, but the 87th Academy Awards will also be remembered for a handful of stirring moments — and a few awkward ones:
“Glory” gets the glory
Common and John Legend’s song “Glory,” written for the film “Selma,” had the Oscar crowd visibly moved with its rousing message, accompanied by a full gospel chorus. David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King Jr. in the film, had tears running down his face.
After winning the Oscar, both Common and Legend used their speeches for some eloquent points.
“This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now is a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and social status. … This bridge was built on hope,” said Common.
But Legend added a note of warning.
“We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now,” he said, invoking threats to the Voting Rights Act and the level of correctional control of African-American men.
Patricia Arquette and equality
Patricia Arquette won best supporting actress for playing an independent-minded mother in “Boyhood.” She stood up for her character — and all women — in her acceptance speech.
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights, it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America,” she said.
Meryl Streep was so struck she stood up, pointing in solidarity.
The power of Gaga
Lady Gaga often hides her musical talent behind attention-getting outfits, including a meat dress and — at tonight’s Oscars — some dishwashing-like red gloves. But the Grammys have shown she’s a heck of a pianist, and at the Oscars she let her voice roar on a medley from “The Sound of Music.”
Julie Andrews herself was awed by Gaga’s performance, applauding and thanking her.
Suicide in the spotlight
An excited Graham Moore, who won best adapted screenplay for “The Imitation Game,” started his speech almost beside himself with joy. But after a breath, he turned somber.
“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself,” he said. “Because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here and I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or doesn’t fit anywhere. Yes, you do.”
Early in the evening, the Oscar for best documentary short went to “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” a film about the struggles of returning veterans. As part of her acceptance speech, Dana Perry, one of the producers, dedicated her Oscar to her son. He suffered from bipolar disorder and committed suicide in 2005.
“We should talk about suicide out loud,” she said.
A little awkwardness
Neil Patrick Harris mostly acquitted himself — jokes about “the best and the whitest” and a skit based on “Birdman” went over well — but he had a couple awkward moments.
The most notable came after the win for “Citizenfour,” a documentary about NSA contractor Edward Snowden. After director Laura Poitras gave a speech warning about invasion of privacy, Harris tried to lighten the mood.
Snowden couldn’t be here tonight “for some treason,” Harris said. That got him in trouble online.
He wasn’t the only one. Terrence Howard took a while to get through his introduction of three best picture nominees, prompting some wags to wonder if he was practicing for a future episode of “Empire.” Sean Penn received complaints for a crack about “Birdman” director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, a Mexican: “Who gave this son-of-a-bitch his green card?”
And then there was the luckless John Travolta, who shared a microphone with Idina Menzel. Last year Travolta was immortalized for calling Menzel “Adele Dazeem.” This year he got her name right, but also got a little handsy with the singer.
Social media had a field day.
Your move, Galom Gazingo.
By Todd Leopold