‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ and ‘Birdman’ Win Big at Oscars

Photo courtesy of Nicolas Genin, Wikimedia Commons

The culmination of another year of film came to a head at the 87th Academy Awards hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, where the biggest winners of the night included “Birdman,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Whiplash.” Harris opened with a number that poked fun at the modern era of films filled with superheroes and novel adaptations that even included a cameo from a bearded Jack Black.

The first award of the night, in traditional Oscar fashion, was for best supporting actor, which went to 60-year-old character actor and first-time nominee J.K. Simmons for his role in “Whiplash.” This came as no surprise, as the race for the award yielded little competition for Simmons’ chilling ferocity as a ruthless music instructor. He dedicated his award speech to his parents and instructed everyone to take the time to call their parents if they were lucky enough to still have them in their lives.

All of the nominated tunes for best original song were performed, including “Glory” by John Legend and Common from the film “Selma,” “Lost Stars” by Adam Levine and Maroon 5 from “Begin Again,” “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” by Tim McGraw from “Glen Campbell,”  “Grateful” by Rita Ora from “Beyond the Lights” and “Everything is Awesome” by Tegan and Sara and the Lonely Island from “The Lego Movie.” The rendition of “Glory” was by far the most powerful of the group and brought many attendees to tears with its message of tolerance; the song went on to win the Oscar. Not to be forgotten in the litany of wonderful Oscar performances was Lada Gaga’s tribute to Julie Andrews and “The Sound of Music.” Gaga stunned the crowd with an immaculate medley of songs from "The Sound of Music."

By and large the creative beauty and artistic direction of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” predictably took home the prizes for costume design (Milena Canonero), makeup and hair styling (Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier) and production design (Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock). The Wes Anderson film is a canvas on screen and the Academy was dazzled. The film was also awarded best original score (Alexandre Desplat) for its whimsically French sound that characterized the oddity of the masterpiece. Every award recipient took the time to thank Anderson’s uncompromised vision for the film and attributed the prize to his imagination.

Harris upheld the illustrious history of the Oscars by cutting down on musical numbers and gag bits that often detract from the show. He did, however, appear in his skivvies, making for an unforgettable and very funny moment in the show that only he could pull off respectably. Throughout the show he made allusion to his locked away Oscar picks which he assigned former Oscar winner Octavia Spencer to guard with her life. Upon opening the picks near the end of the show it was revealed as a list of precise, memorable moments from the evening's show – both humorous and serious.

Best foreign film was awarded to Pawel Pawlikowski for the quiet black and white knockout “Ida,” ending Poland’s winless streak in the category. Best documentary praise went to the controversial “Citizenfour” (Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky), which detailed the whistleblowing of Edward Snowden and his persecution by the United States government. Poitras devoted the award to all the people not afraid to stand up to the administration. In the same vein, best documentary short went to “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” (Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Dana Perry), while live action short was given to “The Phone Call” (Mat Kirby, James Lucas) and animated short to “Feast” (Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed). Best animated feature was controversially given to the Marvel/Disney product “Big Hero 6” over “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and the snubbed (not nominated) “The Lego Movie.”

The “In Memoriam” segment of the show was presented by Meryl Streep and was followed by Jennifer Hudson performing “I Can’t Let Go.” Noted losses were Robin Williams, Mike Nichols, Lauren Bacall and Maya Angelou. The absence of Joan Rivers came as a shock because the personality was chiefly responsible for the popularity of the preshow red carpet event.

Rounding out the technical awards were wins for “American Sniper” (Alan Robert Murry, Bub Asman) in sound editing and “Whiplash” (Ben Wilkins, Thomas Curley) for sound mixing. “Whiplash” was also recognized for film editing (Tom Cross), in one of the few categories that could have justifiably gone to any of the nominees. Each year the contest for best visual effects becomes tighter; this year that trend continued in a win for “Interstellar” (Paul J. Franlkin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, Scott R. Fisher) over other hopefuls “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” The top technical award in a hotly contested race with “The Grand Budapest Hotel” went to “Birdman’s” cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki who took home his second consecutive Oscar in the best cinematography category, winning last year for “Gravity.”

The battle for best actor resulted in a win for a noticeably giddy Eddie Redmayne for his role as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” beating out strong contenders including Michael Keaton and Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch’s “The Imitation Game” did receive the award for adapted screenplay (Graham Moore). The winner of the Oscar for best actress was much more predictable, going to Julianne Moore for her performance as an Alzheimer’s stricken women in “Still Alice."   

Seeming Oscar favorite “Boyhood” was nominated in seven categories, second only to “Birdman” (9), but only managed to reward Patricia Arquette for best supporting actress in an otherwise weak contest. Arquette took the time to praise women, which gained an ovation from Meryl Streep. The 12-year project from the mind of Richard Linklater shockingly lost the race for best director, original screenplay and ultimately best picture, all going to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and “Birdman,” undoubtedly the biggest winner of the evening. Inarritu made back and forth trips to the podium in a whirlwind of victories that surprised and had the film tied for most awards with “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” each having four.