Another year, another Oscars night, and this one was as mixed a bag as all the rest. The planned stuff? Not so good. The unplanned stuff? Pretty good! The speeches hit the best notes, Neil Patrick Harris was an unfortunate low, and Chris Pine had the most emotional night of all. Below, ladies and gentlemen, your highs and lows.
Highest: "Everything Is Awesome" Performance
YOU get a Lego Oscar, and YOU get a Lego Oscar, and YOU get a Lego Oscar. Every single part of this performance was the best part of the Oscars.
Low: Adele Nazeem Callback
Saying that "Benedict Cumberbatch" is how John Travolta pronounces "Ben Affleck" was a fine callback, if they'd left it at that. But what followed was four minutes of that one joke repeated. You know things aren't going well if your best bit is just a reference to last year's ceremony. Not to mention: Travolta's generally creepiness.
Wouldn’t it be great if Oprah hosted the Oscars next year? The producers of this year’s Oscars seem to think so. They couldn’t stop cutting to her – whether she was reacting to a win, a loss, or a joke about her extreme wealth. (Good one, NPH!) It felt like Oprah’s night and, per usual, she handled everything with humor and grace.
Low: The Jokes
NPH started off strong with "Tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest — sorry — brightest," and then something happened. “This next presenter is so lovely you could eat her up with her spoon: Reese Witherspoon” is such a bad joke that for a second we thought he was doing some Tim & Eric–level anti-comedy, but, sadly, no. If that wasn’t bad enough, he forced David Oyelowo to tell a terrible joke, too.
High: Jack Black Steals NPH's Thunder
What Neil Patrick Harris does best is song and dance, that we all know. But to have Jack Black jump in to the opening number with his own bit and easily steal the spotlight? Oof. (Should it be Jack Black who hosts next year? Maybe! Producers should be taking notes.)
Low: The Opening Monologue
Each year, the Oscars promise to do the impossible, and this year, they finally did it — congrats, guys, you made Neil Patrick unlikeable! Apart from a few early zingers, NPH’s musical monologue (penned by the Frozen team) got the night off on a flat-footed feeling it would never fully recover from. The choreography landed, but sadly, we couldn’t say the same for the punch lines, which felt dated (really, a gay joke about Matt and Ben?) and strangely muted.
High: Patricia Arquette’s Feminist Oscars Speech
Was there ever any doubt that Patricia Arquette’s Oscars speech would be amazing? She got onstage, accepted her first Oscar like a pro, list in hand and glasses ready, and then ended it with the most feminist moment of the night by demanding equal pay and rights for women in America — in a room full of male Hollywood execs, no less. It not only brought the house down, but also gave us the most GIFable Meryl Streep Oscars moment probably ever.
Low: Neil Patrick Harris’s Birdman Bit
Fred Armisen did it better 24 hours ago.
High: Someone Finally Shuts Up the Orchestra
The Oscars orchestra is usually so vigilantly rude, we imagine their standing orders are to keep playing during a winner's acceptance speech, no matter what. So when Ida's Pawel Pawlikowski's voice crescendoed until the orchestra grinded to a halt, it was music to our ears.
Low: Rita Ora
“Who?” asked all of the in-house audience and at-home viewers in unison when Rita Ora appeared onscreen. She was there to sing Diane Warren’s Best Song nominee, “Grateful,” from Beyond the Lights. It’s a good song! Too bad Rita Ora is the opposite of great. In fact, she couldn’t have looked any less thrilled to be there.
High: “Glory,” and All of the Tears That Followed
Common and John Legend took home the award for Best Original Song, but before they accepted the Oscar, their moving performance had everyone losing themselves in tears. And not just wet eyes, actual tears rolled down the faces of Chris Pine, David Oyelowo, and likely the rest of the crowd (whose faces the producers didn’t happen to catch onscreen.) Whether or not the rush of emotion was caused by the song itself or it was a mass realization that this beloved film's only recognition would be for Best Song? That’s still up in the air.
Low: ABC’s Live Stream Cutting to the The Social Network
If you were watching the official Oscars live stream on your computer, you likely got an odd shock a few hours in: The show cutting to commercial, and then coming back with the opening scene of The Social Network. At first, it seemed like an oddly specific bit, one where Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara would make hilarious topical jokes about the year in film … but no. It was just The Social Network, straight-up — almost as if the Academy were begging you to watch a pirated stream instead.
High: Graham Moore’s Touching Speech
Earlier in the night, Crisis Hotline director Ellen Goosenberg Kent and producer Dana Perry said "we should talk about suicide out loud" in their Oscars speech. Graham Moore, winner of Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game, answered their call, speaking candidly of his own suicide attempt at age 16. He encouraged kids to "stay weird, stay different" and pass that motto forward, making for one of the best moments of the night — and also one of the biggest tearjerkers.
Low: Joan Rivers Was Left Off the "In Memoriam" Segment
Did they think no one would notice?
High: Lady Gaga’s Sound of Music Tribute
You might think The Sound of Music is dated — and, mostly, it is — but it’s also undeniably timeless and deserving of a five-star Oscars tribute for its 50th anniversary. Cue Lady Gaga. She belted the hell out of a medley of all the film’s classic songs, in faux–Julie Andrews accent, with the legendary actress waiting in the wings. And judging from that great prolonged hug from Andrews, it got her full seal of approval. As it should.
Lowest low: NPH’s Clairvoyant Predictions
For something that was ballyhooed throughout the entire show, this ranks as the biggest letdown of the evening. NPH reciting the night's best moments only reminded us that the most interesting parts of the night happened despite the Oscars insistence on dumb gags.