The Oscars (2015) - Plot Summary Poster

(2015 TV Special)


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  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrates the year's achievements in film.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The 87th Academy Awards will not be accused of being irreverent or even edgy (unless host Neil Patrick Harris in his tighty whities counts, and it doesn't). Instead the night designed to celebrate movies actually, uh, celebrated movies. Politely.

    These Oscars were light on controversy, flubs and zingers and heavy on warm fuzzies. Even last year's big goat -- famed mispronouncer John Travolta -- was given a merciful shot at redemption. From NPH's mostly cynicism-free opening number about the magic of movies, and decision to almost entirely forgo skewering the industry or his peers, the Oscars got right down to business, in businesslike fashion.

    Actors' scripted intros, which can usually be counted on for a few awkward laughs, instead veered toward the earnest (without screenwriters, there can be no stories; without editors, movies are just a jumble; without make-up artists, actors can't transform -- you know the drill).

    Taking nothing from his "A Million Ways to Die in the West" costar and former Oscar host Seth MacFarlane, NPH's jokes treaded lightly and at no point did his musical number reference boobs. Instead, his big running gag of the night relied on the patience of poor Octavia Spencer and magic.

    The winners provided the few moments of genuine...anything. Early winner J.K. Simmons (Best Supporting Actor) gave a heartfelt speech focused almost entirely on his family, and Patricia Arquette (Supporting Actress) nearly rescued her mind-numbing recitation of names from a script by making a (still scripted) plea for wage equality. Best Original Song winners John Legend and Common moved many in the audience to tears with their performance of "Glory" and powerful, empowering and topical speeches following their win.

    Things picked up at the end of the night (for those still awake/watching), when the few surprises of the evening were revealed.

    For a full recap, read on:

    Your host, Neil Patrick Harris: "Welcome to the 87th Oscars. Tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest -- sorry, brightest."

    And cue the first musical number: "Check out the glamour and the glitter, people tweeting on the Twitter/And no one's drunk and bitter yet 'cause no one has lost." (Cut to Benedict Cumberbatch taking a pull from a flask.)

    NPH sings that he secretly hopes someone pulls a Kanye West (and storms the stage), then points to a (totally oblivious to the joke) Clint Eastwood.

    And we're not even two minutes in and NPH has his first magic trick/reference, as he dances in front of a screen that shows his shadow with a top hat and cane, then suddenly his shadow is Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain" and twirling around that lamp post. Onward to references to "Basic Instinct", "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "all that tension between Ben (Affleck) and Matt (Damon)." NPH fans himself dramatically as the two appear in a scene behind him.

    He name checks movies that inspired him to perform, including "Clue" and "Godfather II" -- probably the first time those movies have ever been referenced in the same breath.

    Then he's not on stage anymore, but digitally appearing in The Wizard of Oz's Munchkinland, Field of Dreams' cornfields, Goonies' secret lagoon, and is Anna Kendrick racing down the stairs from Into the Woods.

    Then he's back on stage and Anna is there, in costume, harmonizing.

    NPH: "The joy of pretending..."

    Anna: "...with such happy endings/Except for in 'Gone Girl' when that lady slit your throat..."

    NPH: "Spoiler alert."

    As they pick back up again, Jack Black groans loudly in the audience then takes the stage in song, railing against Hollywood bigwigs "pitching tents for tent poles."

    "All we get is super heroes: Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Jedi Man, Sequel Man, Prequel Man formulate scripts/And after 50 Shades of Grey, they'll all have leather whips!

    "In a world where our brains are becoming machines, the only screens we're watching are the screens in our jeans! (Pulls a cell phone out of his pocket.)"

    He starts to crescendo in a yell when NPH interrupts and the audience cheers Black's bravura performance. Anna throws her shoe at him and she and NPH pick back up singing, after acknowledging that "scripts may hit a wall" and "stars may pass..." "...or fire your ass."

    Behind them, Storm troopers begin to dance with commandos, Roman guards, '40s-era gangsters, etc. as NPH references all the top contenders and wraps up the contents of the 87th Oscars.

    "That whole thing, completely improvised," he says, then segues into box office receipts, noting American Sniper has made $300 million of the more than $800 million made by best picture nominees.

    "To put that in perspective, everyone on this side of the theater is the seven other nominees and 'American Sniper' is Oprah." He points to Oprah, who has no idea what he's talking about. "'Cause you're rich," he clarifies.

    NPH eschews the jokes and says tonight is for all the nominees and also the people who love movies and are inspired by them, "OK, maybe not 'Smurfs 2' -- the script read funny."

    On to the first award of the night, presented by last year's Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong'o.

    She references former winner Robin Williams, who said: "You're only given a little spark of madness, you mustn't lose it." Then introduces the Actor in a Supporting Role category.

    She says "and the Actor goes to" then has to correct herself -- "Oscar!" -- before presenting it to J.K. Simmons for "Whiplash." More than a few people stand up for him.

    He thanks the Academy then gets right to saying how grateful he is to his wife for her "kindness, wisdom and patience. Which brings me to the above average children (he also referenced them thusly at the Globes)... Joe and Olivia you are smart, loving, kind people and that's because you are a reflection of your mother." He then urges everyone watching to take the time to call their parents. "If you're lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call them. Don't text, don't e-mail - call them. Listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you."

    NPH returns with the "Farmers Insurance" jingle. "He won an Oscar! Bum-ba-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum."

    NPH explains how much he loves a mystery, so he made Oscar predictions at Price Waterhouse Coopers on Thursday and they are now in a locked plastic box on stage. He designates Octavia Spencer to ensure no one tampers with the box throughout the ceremony, forbidding her from bathroom breaks, chit-chats and snacks. There's also a live stream of the on stage case on ABC's website.

    Then he of the "very specific set of skills," Liam Neeson, is out to introduce Best Picture Nominees "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "American Sniper."

    NPH returns with a "Sniper" joke: the movie is about a man with over 160 confirmed kills, "or as Harvey Weinstein calls it: a slow morning."

    Dakota Johnson ("the reason you had to explain to your grandmother what a spanking bench is") is out to introduce the song from "Begin Again" as performed by Maroon 5.

    NPH returns with a fun fact. "This year the nominated actors will receive gift bags containing $160,000 worth of merchandise including two vacations, make-up, clothes, shoes and an armored car ride to safety when the revolution comes."

    Jennifer Lopez and Chris Pine are next to present Achievement in Costume Design. The Oscar goes to Milena Canonero for "The Grand Budapest Hotel." She acknowledges director Wes Anderson as her inspiration.

    (Chris Pine steps on J-Lo's flowing dress as he's escorting her off stage.)

    Next, Reese Witherspoon introduces Achievement in Make-up and Hairstyling. The Oscar goes to Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier for "The Grand Budapest Hotel".

    Frances thanks her "dear friend Bill Murray," who introduced her to Wes after Rushmore years ago. Mark thanks Wes Anderson and his crew and also legendary make-up artist Dick Smith, who passed away last year.

    NPH introduces Channing Tatum. "And now an actor who is as appealing playing a male stripper as he is playing a wrestler in a onesie. He's the real deal, pants down. Hands down. Did I say pants? I meant pants."

    Channing introduces the winners of the Team Oscar Search.

    Up next, Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor introduce Best Foreign Language Film, which goes to "Ida" from Poland. Director Pawel Pawlikowski takes the stage. "How did I get here? We made a film about the need to withdrawn from the world, and silence and contemplation. And here we are, at the epicenter of noise and world attention. Fantastic. Life is full of surprises." Pawel also acknowledges his crew back in Poland, "who are totally drunk right now" for carrying him through the film. The music starts to play him off and then reaches a crescendo as he's referencing his late wife and parents. Then the music stops and he's still shouting, with no signs of slowing. He references his children, "who are still among the living" and praises them and finally the music kicks back in again at deafening levels and he wraps up.

    Shirley MacLaine is next to introduce Best Picture nominees: "Boyhood," "The Theory of Everything" and "Birdman."

    NPH returns. Now he's in the audience and says hi to a random woman, busting her for being a seat filler. Then he greets another seat filler, then says hellow Steve Carell, playing him like he's a seat filler. Steve goes along with it. When asked who the most famous person he's looking forward to meeting is, Steve says: "Ed Norton -- he's right over there."

    Marion Cotillard is up next to present "Everything is Awesome" from the "Lego Movie" as performed by Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg and the dudes from SNL). The frenetic number features the rappers and moving sets with Lego-looking props and, Questlove on the drums, because why not? It ends with a hail of confetti streamers and it's hard to find someone in the audience who isn't smiling in spite of themselves.

    Kerry Washington and Jason Bateman are out next to present Best Live Action Short Film, which goes to Brits Mat Kirkby and James Lucas for "The Phone Call." Mat is pleased with the win because now he can get a free donut. Then he takes out his notes and thanks the crew and Sally Hawkins and volunteers in crisis centers around the world who give their time for nothing. (They also get played off -- the foreigners don't seem to fear the music.)

    On to Documentary Short Subject, which goes to Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry for "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1."

    They dedicate to the award to the veterans who are brave enough to ask for help. Dana Perry references a son she lost to suicide and says we should talk about suicide out loud.

    NPH has a line prepared about Perry's dress, which is covered in balls of fur strung together, that he doesn't let a suicide reference stop him from using. "I love that dress. It takes a lot of balls to wear a dress like that."

    Viola Davis is up next to recap the Governor's Awards, which honored actress Maureen O'Hara, animator Hayao Myazaki, screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere and Jean Hersholt Award-winner Harry Belafonte, who urged everyone in the room to use their power to influence the world.

    NPH is back in the audience, surmising that everything sounds better with an accent. He grabs David Oyelowo to read a punch line to prove his point. (When Oyelowo, who wasn't nominated for "Selma", gets applause, NPH says: "Oh sure, now you like him.)

    Gwyneth Paltrow (and her gigantic ruby and diamond earrings) introduces Tim McGraw singing "I'm Not Going to Miss You," the last song Glen Campbell wrote as he suffered from Alzheimer's. McGraw sits on a stool in the center of the stage and sings the heartbreaking song without frills.

    After the break, the camera pans for NPH but doesn't find him. A frantic director's voice follows the camera back stage, where NPH is dressed only in a robe that's caught in his dressing room door. With no time, NPH gives up and strides into the hall in his tighty whities, passing Whiplash's Miles Teller pounding dramatically on drums ("Not my tempo," NPH tells him) as he takes the stage almost naked.

    "Acting is a noble profession," he begins, then introduces Margot Robbie and Miles Teller, with no reference to his wardrobe.

    They hosted the Scientific and Technical Awards two weeks ago and introduce highlights, honoring 59 people.

    Sienna Miller and Chris Evans are next to present Sound Mixing, which goes to Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley for Whiplash. Perhaps appropriately, their thanks are filled with lots of awkward pauses.

    Sound Editing goes to Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman for American Sniper, who thank director Clint Eastwood.

    Jared Leto is out next to introduce Best Actress in a Supporting Role, a category which includes "four women, plus, in accordance with California state law, Meryl Streep." (When it gets laughs, he says thanks and admits he was a little nervous about that joke.)

    The Oscar goes to Patricia Arquette, who starts with a bleeped swear and segues into a scripted list of names. (In thanking her family we learn we've all been saying her sister's name wrong, it's Rose- ahna, not Rose- anna.) She thanks "my heroes, volunteers and experts who've helped me bring ecological sanitation to the developing world with givelove.org."

    Then she acknowledges women and says: "We have fought for everybody else's equal rights, it's our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America."

    Meryl nearly gets up out of her seat whooping, and J-Lo joins her.

    Josh Hutcherson is out next to introduce Rita Ora singing "Grateful" from "Beyond the Lights."

    Next, Ansel Elgort and Chloe Grace Moretz present Visual Effects, which goes to the team from Interstellar, who thank a Cal-Tech professor then leave to test the theory that an Oscar is good for a free drink backstage.

    Anna Kendrick and Kevin Hart are up next to present Best Animated Short (after a joke about being animated and short). The winners are Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed for Feast, who thank John Lasseter and Disney and their respective families.

    Zoe Saldana and Dwayne Johnson are up to present Best Animated Feature Film. The Oscar goes to Big Hero 6.

    The president of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, is out to say a few words about the power of film to unite and connect the world, then says they all have a responsibility to protect freedom of expression.

    NPH comes out to check with Octavia Spencer on the sanctity of his boxed Oscar predictions, and we realize he's not going to give up on this gag. Then he introduces Chris Pratt and Felicity Jones to introduce Production Design, which goes to The Grand Budapest Hotel.

    Idris Elba and Jessica Chastain are out next to present Achievement in Cinematography, which goes to Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman.

    Next Meryl Streep slows things down with the In Memoriam segment. The screen shows water colors of famous faces: Mickey Rooney, James Garner, Elizabeth Pena, Edward Herrmann, Maya Angelou, James Rebhorn, Richard Attenborough, Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, Eli Wallach, Mike Nichols and many others.

    Jennifer Hudson comes out after the faces roll to sing "I Can't Let Go."

    After the break, Benedict Cumberbatch and Naomi Watts present Achievement in Editing, which goes to Tom Cross for Whiplash. He thanks the cast and crew and writer and director Damien Chazelle.

    Then Terrence Howard is out to introduce Best Picture nominees Whiplash, (with a really long, acting pause, saying "I'm blown away right now myself") The Imitation Game and Selma. He nearly brings himself to tears just introducing clips.

    NPH introduces Jennifer Aniston and David Oyelowo saying they "absolutely deserve to be here tonight" (both were "snubbed"). They present Best Documentary Feature, which goes to Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky for Citizenfour. Poitras acknowledges the disclosures that Edward Snowden made, "when the most important decision being made, affecting all of us, are made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control. Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage and all the other whistle blowers."

    NPH recaps, noting that Edward Snowden "couldn't be here tonight, for some treason." (Get it?)

    Next, John Legend and Common perform "Glory" from "Selma" on a stage dressed to look like the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. (When it ends, both the movie's star David Oyelowo as well as Chris Pine have tears streaming down their faces.) NPH returns, noting Benedict Cumberbatch is not only the most awesome name is movies, "It's the sound you get when you ask John Travolta to pronounce Ben Affleck." (Two out of three of those men referenced laugh at the joke -- Travolta is in the wings.)

    Idina Menzel comes out to introduce "my very dear friend Glom Gazinga," John Travolta. He invades her personal space, petting her face, as finally says her name right.

    "It's OK, it's not like it's going to follow me around for the rest of my life," she says.

    "Yeah, tell me about it," he says.

    They're presenting Best Original Song. "You want me to do it?" she asks. The Oscar goes to John Stephens and Lonnie Lim for "Glory," also known as John Legend and Common, who take the stage.

    Common sucks all the vapidity out of the room with his impromptu eloquence (much like he did at the Globes). "Recently, John and I got to go to Selma and perform "Glory" on the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the Civil Rights movement marched on 50 years ago. This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now it's a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects the kid on the south side of Chicago dreaming of a better life, to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression, to the people of Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated by love for all human beings."

    John Legend: "Nina Simone said it's an artist's duty to reflect the times in which we live. We wrote this song for a film that was based 50 years ago, but we say that Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now. The voting rights act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now (this is true, go look it up). We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real, we live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song we want to tell you we are with you, we see you, we love you and march on. God bless you."

    They get a standing ovation.

    Scarlet Johansson is out next to present a reflection on "Sound of Music." After clips from the movie roll, Lady Gaga perform a medley. She begins with "The Hills are Alive" in a faux forest and accompanied by a seated strings section, then onto "A Few of My Favorite Things" and "Climb Every Mountain". She does Julie Andrews proud.

    Which we know because Julie Andrews comes out smiling and clapping to present the next award and gives her a big hug. "Dear Lady Gaga, thank you for that wonderful tribute. Oh my god, it really warmed my heart, it really did," Andrews says.

    She goes on to talk about the impact of musical scores on films then introduces the nominees for Best Original Score. The Oscar goes to Alexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel (he was also nominated for The Imitation Game in the same category).

    He thanks director Wes Anderson for the beautiful view he gave him from the Hotel.

    After the break, NPH introduces the next presenter as one of "the greatest stand up comedians of all time, he's also one of the top five highest grossing actors in history. In other words: He doesn't need this."

    Eddie Murphy is out (in serious form) to introduce Best Original Screenplay. The Oscar goes to the writers of Birdman, including Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who also directed. Inarritu acknowledges his cast and his "crazy" cowriters, who each name check their families (and one acknowledges his dog Larry).

    Oprah Winfrey takes the stage next to present Best Adapted Screenplay, which goes to Graham Moore for The Imitation Game.

    "Thank you so much to the Academy, and to Oprah," he begins. The thanks the cast and crew by name, then stops to talk about the film's subject. "Alan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this and look out on all these disconcertingly attractive faces and I do, and that's the most unfair thing I think I've ever heard. When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird, and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And I now I'm standing here. So I would like this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she's weird or she's different or she doesn't fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, stay different. Then when it's your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass this message to the next person who comes along."

    The audience gets on its feet and cheers him as he leaves.

    After the break, NPH introduce his Gone Girl costar Ben Affleck (noting the movie's original title was "Bitches Be Tripping, Yo"). Affleck is out to present Achievement in Directing, which goes to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman.

    He says his good luck charm worked, he's wearing the real Michael Keaton tighty whities. "They are tight, smell like balls but they work, I'm here. Thank you, Michael. This is crazy, being here, talking about that little prick called 'Ego.' Ego loves competition, because for someone to win, someone has to lose. But the paradox is all the work of these incredible fellow film makers can't be compared, can't be labeled, can't be defeated because they exist and our work only will be judged, as always, by time."

    Cate Blanchett is up next to present Best Actor, which goes to Eddie Redmayne for "The Theory of Everything."

    "I don't think I am capable of articulating quite how I feel right now, but please know that I am fully aware that I am a lucky, lucky man," he says, then pauses for a shaking "wow." He acknowledges people battling ALS and says the award is for the Hawking family, although he will be the award's custodian. He wraps up by thanking his family and wife.

    Matthew McConaughey is next to present Best Actress, which goes to Julianne Moore for "Still Alice." She gets a standing ovation.

    "I read an article that said that winning an Oscar could lead to living five years longer. If that's true than I'd really like to thank the Academy because my husband is younger than me. ...I am grateful for this and grateful for the opportunity to thank people that I love," she says.

    She hopes that their film can shine a light on Alzheimer's disease and help people suffering feel less alone.

    NPH comes back out to announce it's all we've been waiting for -- time to reveal his Oscar predictions. Yep, this again. Inside it says: After JK's speech, we will all call our parents. Not text.

    I will intentionally mispronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor's name to bring public awareness to the proper pronunciation of Chiwetel Ejiofor's name, NPH reads.

    The Foreign Film winner from Poland will get play off, then back on.

    During Patricia Arquette's "Norma Rae" moment, Meryl Streep will suddenly realize she's underpaid.

    The Birdman Cinematographer will win again this year, going dos for dos.

    Terrence Howard will be surprisingly emotional.

    Common and John Legend will get three well-deserved standing ovations and will win "The Oscar MVPs."

    Travolta will be back again next year to apologize to Idina for all the face touching.

    The Birdman screenwriter will thank his dog, Larry.

    The winning Screenwriter for The Imitation Game will thank Oprah and inspire us all to "stay weird."

    Inarritu will take flight.

    Backstage, Eddie and Julianne will each have the biggest O of their lives."


    And now to present the award for Best Picture, Sean Penn. He pauses as he reads the envelope and decides to ad lib (because he's known for his comedy?). "Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?" he cracks, before announcing that Birdman has won.

    Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu jokes about his bad English but then quickly shows no one should be fooled by it. "Maybe next year the government will inflict some immigration rules to the Academy. Two Mexicans in a row, I guess that's suspicious," he says.

    He thanks everyone behind the movie, including Raymond Carver's widow for letting them use the story. Inarritu turns the mike over to Michael Keaton, who handles his loss with grace, saying "it's just great to be here, who am I kidding?"

    Inarritu dedicates the award to all the Mexicans still living in Mexico, saying he hopes they can build the government they deserve. And to those living in this country, "I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation."

    NPH signs off with a buenos noches, everyone.

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