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May 10, 2017

‘Birdman’ brings home the gold at the 2015 Oscars

(John Shearer/Invision/AP)

(John Shearer/Invision/AP)

The 87th annual Academy Awards took place at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California, Sunday night, with “Birdman” coming away as the big winner with four Oscars, including one for Best Picture, on a night that, despite some major nomination snubs, the Academy largely got right.

The biggest category of the night – Best Picture – always carries the most controversy. This year was in as much contention with so many story lines. Of the nominees, the race truly came down to three films: “Birdman,” “Boyhood” and “Selma.” “Birdman’s” strange excellence, “Boyhood’s” technical accomplishments and “Selma’s” cultural importance made this race difficult to predict.

“Birdman” also took home gold with Alejandro González Iñárritu winning the Oscar for Best Director. Of those nominated it is hard to argue with the Academy’s decision here. As impressive as the process of “Boyhood’s” creation was, Iñárritu was far and above the greater talent.

Eddie Redmayne won the Oscar for Actor in a Leading Role. Many believe Michael Keaton was more deserving for his excellent turn as Riggan in “Birdman.” The most controversial part of this category, however, was the shameful snub of David Oyelowo for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma,” rendering this category essentially meaningless.

Julianne Moore seemed a natural choice for the Actress in a Leading Role category for her role in “Still Alice.” A veteran actress playing a character with a mental disability and in such an excellent way hits nearly every note the Academy historically looks for.

With Neil Patrick Harris hosting it undoubtedly surprised no one that the show opened with an over the top musical number. With that and a self-deprecating joke about his involvement in “The Smurfs 2,” the show was on under way. Overall the host did a decent job, even if many of his puns and jokes fell a little short.

Sketches such as a parody of “Birdman” also added to the night’s festivities, tying in with “Whiplash” as Miles Teller drummed along to the scene.

One of the highpoints of the show was the “Everything is Awesome” performance, which included everything from child’s drawings for backgrounds, Batman, Questlove and The Lonely Island.

It doesn’t get much better than a live, on-stage Batman belting out, “Darkness. No parents.” Jennifer Hudson added to the night with a heartened performance following the tribute to those that passed away over the past year, excellently capping off an emotional segment of the show. Also excellent were Common and John Legend in their performance of “Glory,” for which they later received an Oscar.

The awards themselves were kicked off with the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting role. The category was essentially decided well before the Awards began.

With so much momentum coming in for J.K. Simmons, not only as a veteran actor but also for such a stunning performance as the villainous music teacher, Fletcher, it was really no surprise he took home the Oscar. Edward Norton’s supporting role in “Birdman” provided the only true competition in the category. This is one of those cases in which a deserving actor received the award at a later stage for a good reason, not just as a “career Oscar.”

In his announcement of the nominees for Best Actress in a supporting role, Jared Leto joked, “And by California State law, Meryl Streep.” Leto’s joke was entirely on point, as at this stage in her career all she has to do is walk on screen to be nominated.

Patricia Arquette, not Streep thankfully, won the award for her emotional turn as mother in “Boyhood.” Emma Stone was the only real competition in the category, as her role as Keaton’s devastatingly honest daughter, Sam Riggan.

As Harris alluded to when he recommended that anyone involved in “The Lego Movie” look away, the lack of the Legos on the Best Animated Feature list is truly bizarre. The actual nominees included “Big Hero 6,” “The Boxtrolls,” “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” and “Song of the Sea.” The award went to Disney’s “Big Hero 6,” but the biggest story out of this category will of course be the epic snub of “The Lego Movie,” no matter the quality of “Big Hero 6.”

Whiplash took the often-underrated category of Achievement in Film Editing and deservedly so. Making a film about such a seemingly non-fascinating subject as a music teacher and his student and imbuing it with so much tension is no small feat.

Cory J. Willey can be reached at cjwilley@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @cojwilley.

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