The red carpet’s rolled out on Hollywood Boulevard, where fans have been camping out for prized bleacher locations. The gold statue “Oscar,” as Bette Davis [according to legend] nicknamed him, will reign supreme as the 87th Annual Academy Awards get underway Sunday, telecast live from downtown Hollywood on ABC at 7:30 p.m. CST. Have you voted? Have you seen all nine nominated films?
Have you preordered your pizzas and cheese platters; stocked the frig with beverages of choice?
Neil Patrick Harris, who segued from childhood fame on TV’s Doogie Howser, M.D. to adulthood fame on How I Met Your Mother, will be front and center as host. In addition to roles on stage and screen, Harris, with bawdy, dry wit, has become a host pro. But this is three hours of entertainment extravaganza [including an hour are commercials – none as much fun as the Super Bowl’s] before the industry’s AAA-List. It’s stay on your toes time. Harris’ boyish charm and demeanor will allow him to hilariously burst humongous egos without bruising them. Good at going for laughs instead of the jugular – at zinging without stinging, he knows when to sidestep certain issues that could get him stuck in quicksand.
Harris has big shoes to fill – following last year’s Ellen DeGeneres (and her selfies, tweets, and pizza treats for audience members), who kept over 43 million viewers tuned in for the majority of the show. It was Oscar’s best rating in a decade. Harris informs that he’s been back doing his yoga all week to hone his mindset.
Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neal Meron (winners for Chicago; live TV specials Peter Pan and The Sound of Music) predict Harris will blow audiences away. He’s opening the show with a celebratory multimedia production number, “Moving Pictures,” written by last year’s Oscar winners for Best Song “Let It Go,” the phenomenal hit from Frozen, Robert Lopez (The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
The Awards have a worldwide audience in over 225 countries. It officially, and not a moment too soon, ends the exhaustive 2014 movie awards season. However, not before the glittering red carpet bejeweled fashion show with plunging necklines and arrivals begin at 6C. Among the pre-show hosts are Mississippi native Robin Roberts, Lara Spencer, and Michael Strahan.
The Best Picture nominees are American Sniper, Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash.
In the lead actor categories, the nominees are Marion Lorillard – Two Days, One Night, Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything, Julianne Moore – Still Alice, Rosemont Pike – Gone Girl, Reese Witherspoon – Wild; Steve Carrel –Foxcatcher, Bradley Cooper – American Sniper, Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game, Michael Keaton – Birdman, and Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything.
Who’ll win? The vault is sealed. Only the Price-Waterhouse accountants know. If you were a betting person, until a few weeks ago, all bets for Best Picture would have been on Birdman. Now, there’s buzz buzz on American Sniper and Boyhood. Thankfully, at least the very deserving Grand Budapest Hotel, which opened over a year ago, wasn’t forgotten. As for the actors, the money was on Keaton, and then came astounding performances from Redmayne and, at year’s end, Cooper. Could there be a tie?
Every year there’s plenty of fodder for gossip at office water coolers. This year’s big issue is why there are no African-American nominees when there is at least one film with a worthy candidate: David Oyelowo, who gives a towering performance as Dr. King in Selma. Even a fan of Steve Carrel’s might argue if his stiff, make-up driven persona in Foxcatcher is more deserving of nomination than Oyelowo – or, for that matter, Channing Tatum, the real star of Foxcatcher and Alabama native who spent some formative years in Mississippi “growing up along the bayous near the Mississippi River.” He proved in addition to being the hunk du jour, he can act, even carry a film.
The race for the gold will be anti-climatic after the fatigue of the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and various critic association awards. Expect tears and thanks to the wife/hubby, kids, agents, nanny, and pets, but don’t expect edge-of-the-seat suspense.
Presenters include Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Evans, Kevin Hart, Terrence Howard, Dakota Johnson, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Sienna Miller, Chloë Grace Moretz, Eddie Murphy, Gwyneth Paltrow, Channing Tatum, John Travolta, Kerry Washington, and Naomi Watts.
Last year’s winners Cate Blanchet, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, and Lupita Nyong’o will also be intoning “and the Oscar goes to.”
Even if they can’t make the Oscars a good-time party as the Golden Globes do, with an open bar at each table, Meron said he and Zadan’s goal is to make the show entertaining. Among those set to perform are Jack Black, Lady Gaga, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, and Into the Wood’s Anna Kendrick.
Nominated songs will be performed by Adam Levine, Rita Sahatçiu Ora [U.K. singer/songwriter/actress], Tim McGraw, Canadian duo/songwriters Tegan and Sara with group Lonely Island, and John Legend with Common [co-composer, with Legend, who plays activist James Bevel in Selma and was asked by director Ava DuVernay to contribute a song. Guess who’s a friend: Legend].
Earlier, an Academy Governors Award special Oscar for Lifetime Achievement was presented to feisty Irish-American redhead Maureen O’Hara, 94, one of the last stars of Hollywood’s so-called Golden Age, by Clint Eastwood and Liam Neesom. Miss O’Hara knew how to handle her men, including tough guy John Wayne. She was a favorite of legendary director John Ford. In spite of numerous acclaimed performances (Over six decades of acclaimed performances (The Hunchback of Notre Dame – opposite no less than Charles Laughton, How Green Was My Valley?, Miracle on 34th Street, The Quiet Man, The Parent Trap, McClintock!), she’d never been nominated.
Eastwood [a lowly extra in Miss O’Hara’s Lady Godiva of Coventry] and Liam Nelson recalled her beauty. “I shivered at the thought of standing near her!” said Eastwood. Neesom said, “I fell in love with her at 12, and from the moment I laid eyes on her, I’d never seen beauty like that…Oh, God, those gorgeous green eyes.”
The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award went to singer, actor, human rights activist Harry Belafonte.
Also honored were French novelist, screenwriter, actor Jean-Claude Carrière, a frequent collaborator with legendary director Luis Buñuel and comic actor Jacques Tati; and director and animation wiz Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese “Walt Disney.”
For a complete list of 2014 Academy Award nominations, visit Oscars.com, where you will also find My Picks – a printable ballot so you can vote, Oscar buzz, trailers, costume sketches, photos galore, behind-the-scenes at rehearsals, a lode of information on Oscar history, as well as a fashion gallery of Jennifer Lopez in memorable Oscar gowns.
Ellis Nassour is an Ole Miss alum and noted arts journalist and author who recently donated an ever-growing exhibition of performing arts history to the University of Mississippi. He is the author of the best-selling Patsy Cline biography, Honky Tonk Angel, as well as the hit musical revue, Always, Patsy Cline.