Musical performances dominated much of the night, as each of the nominees for Best Original Song were performed. John Legend and Common's performance of "Glory" from the Best Picture-nominated Selma was poignant and powerful (highlighted by Common's energetic hand-wavivng), while Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island delivered a delightful performance of "Everything is Awesome" from the snubbed LEGO Movie. Rita Ora, Adam Levine and Tim McGraw also performed. Later in the night, Lady Gaga sang a rendition of several songs from The Sound of Music, which was actually pretty good.
Despite all of that fun, the movies dominated the night and everybody got in on the action. Big Hero 6 won Best Animated Film, while Citizenfour and Ida took Best Documentary and Foreign Language film, respectively. Julianne Moore unsurprisingly won the Best Actress award for Still Alice. Each of the eight Best Picture nominees won an award and several took home multiple awards. American Sniper won Best Sound Editing, Selma won Best Original Song and The Imitation Game won Best Adapted Screenplay (great speech by Graham Moore). The Theory of Everything's Eddie Redmayne also took home the film's lone award for Best Actor for his terrific performance as acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking. Patricia Arquette won Boyhood's only award (Best Supporting Actress) for her nuanced and subtle performance.
Whiplash won three awards, including Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing and Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons' terrifying portrayal of jazz instructor Terence Fletcher. The Grand Budapest Hotel won big for Fox Searchlight, winning the awards for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Original Score. Finally, Fox Searchlight's Birdman was the big winner of the night, with victories in Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Picture.
All in all, the biggest surprise of the night was the total dominance of Birdman. Granted, the film's star, Michael Keaton, went home empty-handed. But the film still took four of the major categories, with many only expecting it to win Best Picture and Cinematography. The win in the Best Original Screenplay category came as a slight surprise and many were anticipating another Picture-Director split. In reality, that was not the case. Voter love shifted to Birdman late in the game and the film walked away with the victory.
For Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash, this should undoubtedly be looked at as a successful awards season. The Theory of Everything also went home with a big award, so I would count this season as a success for the Focus Features release. And American Sniper wins no matter what simply because it arrived late in the game, made a ton of money and walked away with a statue.
The unquestioned losers of the season are definitely The Imitation Game, Selma and Boyhood. The Imitation Game won a big award for Graham Moore's witty screenplay, but the film couldn't match up to Harvey Weinstein's previous successes. Selma was a total misfire by Paramount and the producers. What should have been a very big awards player ended up being a disappointing also-ran. And finally, Boyhood was destroyed after months of victories at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice. The ambitious project lost all momentum towards the end of the season, and that's just unfortunate. It's a fantastic film and I really wish that Richard Linklater would have gotten more attention.
This was a long awards season and I was relieved to see it end. However, I know that it will begin again very soon. But for now, let's look back at a great year of films and be happy that the Academy recognized some fantastic films and performances.