By ALISON THOET
This year’s Oscars brought glitz, Brits and a bit of the expected with some surprising winners and, most importantly, a strong trend in using the spotlight for the good of others.
As in every award season, rumors and predictions fluttered about the media, with final forecasts projected after the Golden Globes and SAG Awards named their winners.
In a deviation from the predicted winners this year, the best director and best picture awards both went to “Birdman,” directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, rather than “Boyhood.”
Viewers were also perhaps surprised by Lady Gaga both looking and sounding rather normal with her performance of a compilation of songs from “The Sound of Music” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film, afterward joined onstage by Julie Andrews herself.
Quite unsurprisingly, J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) and Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”) picked up the awards for best supporting actor and actress. These two were front-runners in almost every Oscar prediction, even the preview by The Blue & Gray Press last month.
Arquette’s speech was perfected after the practice gained from winning many other awards for her performance this year, but with the added tidbit calling for wage equality for women.
“It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America,” said Arquette.
“Selma” may have been shirked for most of the categories, but John Legend and Common brought a wonderful performance to the stage for their collaboration “Glory.” The two forced the world to listen to the inequalities in the world, particularly race in the U.S., during their acceptance speech for best original song. They also pointed out current problems with the Voting Rights Act, which is focused on in “Selma.”
In fact, the Oscars became more political than ever this year. Iñárritu dedicated his speech time and award to his “fellow Mexicans” and discussed immigration, stating, “I pray that they are treated with the same dignity and respect as the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.”
“Citizenfour” took home best documentary feature, a film centered around former N.S.A. contractor and infamous whistle-blower Edward Snowden. The filmmaker Laura Poitras thanked Snowden in her speech for his courage and that of “other whistle-blowers.”
Eddie Redmayne won best actor for his performance as Steven Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” and used his acceptance speech to bestow his win on Hawking, his family and point to those suffering from ALS.
“This Oscar belongs to all those people around the world battling ALS,” said Redmayne.
Similarly, Julianne Moore used her moment as best actress in “Still Alice” to recognize the necessity of furthering research on Alzheimer’s.
Moore also spoke on the subject on the Red Carpet, falling into a new trend this year of opening up the conversation focus on dress designers to issues that deserve help, in line with the #askhermore campaign for women.
There was quite a move for winners to shed the spotlight on social, health and international problems, such as Graham Moore, winner of best writer for “The Imitation Game.” He stated the unfairness of Alan Turing’s fate, as well as his personal history, and urged the world to “Stay weird and different, and when you’re up here, pass it along.”
In introducing the nominees for best picture, two-time Academy Award winner Sean Penn said, “It’s the power of their storytelling and the power of their ideas.” This statement holds entirely true, particularly for this year’s films and stars, who worked together in creating stories of the everyday, the beautiful and highlighting the people that need help.