In a night filled with lukewarm jokes and failed magic tricks who would have thought that Lady Gaga would come in and save the day.
When Neil Patrick Harris was announced as the host of the Oscars I was cautiously optimistic. Having done a phenomenal job as host of the Tony’s I anticipated the high-energy dance numbers and sharp commentary that had come to be a staple of his hosting duties. The night began with an introduction from Harris where (in one of his better jokes) he welcomed the gathered for a night of honoring “Hollywood’s best and whitest”. A sly nod to this years white washed list of nominees. Harris then transitioned into professing his love for film through a high stepping musical number with cameos from Anna Kendrick and Jack Black.
From there the night took a turn for the strange. With his job of having to entertain the world’s most beautiful and powerful Harris seemed to falter at times and his jokes often did not land causing tentative laughter to ripple through the room on more than one occasion. Harris’s first big misstep of the night came in the first minutes as he revealed that he had set up an elaborate mystery that would play out for the duration of the show. As he explained to the audience about his predictions for the show having been sealed in a briefcase that was stationed on the wings of the stage, I found myself internally groaning at the prospect of watching this play out all night. A gag like this that is equal parts mystery and humor had the potential to be quite funny but Harris seemed to rely too much on the bit that he forget he was supposed to be hosting.
Every spare opportunity in the show was spent on checking in with the watcher of the briefcase, Octavia Spencer, who acted like a good sport through this extended bit. The usual witty introductions for the presenters fell flat and his interactions with the crowd felt forced and unnatural. It should have been a winning combination, a seasoned host who has proven his credentials having hosted the Tony’s multiple times but when it came down to it there was just something off. Sure, it could have been the writing or the producers but there was some combination happening that night that did not create the gold that some hosts are able to strike.
With the variable of Harris’s hosting duties at large, it seemed the only sure signs of the night were who would be taking home the awards. The acting races had been locked up weeks before and it was no surprise when Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, Eddie Redmayne, and J.K. Simmons took home statues that night. Similarly, Innaritu’s sweep of both best director and best film had been a long time coming as the film and the director himself had been steadily raking up awards all though awards season. A heartfelt speech from best-adapted screenplay winner Graham Moore was a highlight from the speeches as was the weirdly political speech from Patricia Arquette that urged those watching to fight for equality for women. Arquette’s speech coupled with the impassioned speech by best song winners Common and John Legend sent a political undercurrent through the show that was completely unexpected.
Now, let’s get to Lady Gaga, I admit when I heard that she was going to be performing at the Oscars in a special tribute, I wasn’t thrilled. I never disliked Lady Gaga I just didn’t worship at her alter and find her to be the best fit for the job. Her aesthetic didn’t seem to fit with that of the Oscars and I feared her performance would be too much of a performance to be a proper tribute to the movie in question. However, as soon as she sang her first note I knew that this was not the meat wearing, 13-inch heel Gaga, but the supremely talented performer Gaga. In a nearly note perfect performance of some of the most famous songs from The Sound of Music, Lady Gaga proved that she is more than her outfits or her onstage persona. She is bona fide talent who did a great service to the songs and to the audience assembled. The cherry on top of the sundae came when Julie Andrews herself came to present the next award and after an embrace from Gaga was met with thunderous applause.
From Harris’s flat turn as host and the political current that ran through the whole night Lady Gaga’s stellar performance was the light in a ceremony that couldn’t seem to find its footing.
View Lady Gaga’s performance here: