Despite flat moments, 2015 Oscars celebrates the year in film

The 87th annual Academy Awards took place this past Sunday, and it was a mixed night full of surprises and disappointments. Hollywood’s biggest night is known in the film and television industry as the closer of the film awards season, acting as a showcase to honor all the best films of the previous year.

The night began with a flurry of questions in everyone’s minds: Will emcee Neil Patrick Harris be the next Billy Crystal? Will “Boyhood” prevail over “Birdman”? And why has John Travolta been invited back this year? All of these questions and more were answered in an entertaining fashion as 36.6 million viewers came together to watch Hollywood’s biggest night.

Neil Patrick Harris seemed like a no-brainer choice at first. He’s a genuine showman who has hosted the Emmys and Tonys. Many were confident that he would easily win over the crowd. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Harris started off on a high note, paying tribute not only to the films of this year but to films throughout history. He did so by singing a song written by last year’s song winners, Robert and Kristen-Anderson Lopez, about how moving pictures inspire and change us in the best of ways.

Anna Kendrick and Jack Black later joined in and added some extra flavor with their musical backgrounds.

The “Moving Pictures” song and dance, which used a screen to place Harris within classic films, was the highlight of his hosting because it put the magic back in “movie magic,” but when it came time for the jokes, most of them fell flat.

Beyond the opening, the only bit that actually worked was one involving “Birdman” in which Harris walked out on stage in his underwear (mirroring Michael’s Keaton’s similar scene in the film).

A good host should be consistent throughout a show, not just at the start. Harris burned out fairly quickly and even seemed to rush through his last bit in which he locked away his “Oscar predictions” in a glass box and opened it at the end to see how many he got right.

Most of his predictions matched up, but it didn’t have the payoff I assume the writers thought it would.

The awards themselves were rather pleasing. “Birdman” took home the top honors of the night, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu winning Best Director marks the second year in a row this award has gone to a director of Mexican descent.

Many felt this was an upset, as this award was thought to go to Richard Linklater for his 12-year long project, “Boyhood.” While it was marked as the favorite of the night in industry circles, it only walked away with one of its six possible awards going to Patricia Arquette for Best Supporting Actress.

Arquette took her speech as an opportunity to declare the importance of women’s rights stating, “It’s about time we have equal pay and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Another acting award went to J.K. Simmons for “Whiplash,”after which he gave a very touching speech about parenthood and family, urging everyone watching at home to call their moms and dads.

Julianne Moore, who has been long overdue for an award, won for her drama “Still Alice,” and Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for portraying Stephen Hawking in the biopic “The Theory of Everything.”

In both big and small ways, every film walked away a winner. This was the first year since 2008 in which all films nominated in the Best Picture category won at least one award, a handful of which went to “Whiplash” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Other highlights of the night came from the musical performances. Maroon Five’s Adam Levine performed the song “Lost Stars” from his hit indie film, “Begin Again,” while Common and John Legend brought everyone in the crowd to their feet in amazement as they sang their hit song “Glory” from the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic, “Selma.”

Later in the night, they won Best Original Song. Perhaps the most memorable performance of the night came as a shock to many. Lady Gaga graced the stage with her presence to pay tribute to the anniversary of “The Sound of Music,” later bringing Julie Andrews out to present the next award.

While aspects of this year’s show were disappointing and should have been fueled with more energy, the 87th Oscars did a manageable job at celebrating the art of film and taking us back through the year that brought audiences so many memorable films.