Now that the 87th annual Academy Awards are history, Neil Patrick Harris has another trophy in his awards show hosting career with a successful Oscar telecast. The veteran of the Tonys and the Emmys brought everything he had to the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles Sunday night and he didn’t disappoint the star-studded crowd.
Starting with his appearance on the red carpet with husband David Burtka, and his banter with “Foxcatcher” star Steve Carell, Harris brought the laughs and showmanship through the night. For those who missed the show, or simply want to relive his jokes, here's a compilation of some of the host’s best moments, funniest bits and coolest tricks.
Oscars So White
When the nominees for the 2015 awards were announced, many were upset that most by far of the nominees were white. While “Selma” made the Best Picture nominee list, this year’s crop was noticeably monochromatic. To defuse the tension, the host opened the show with a clever jab at the controversy.
“Welcome to the 87th Oscars! Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest. Sorry, ‘brightest,'" Harris said.
As usual, the broadcast began with a musical number. If you hire Leonardo da Vinci, you have him paint; if you hire Shakespeare, you have him write, and if you hire Neil Patrick Harris, you have him sing and dance. After his opening jab, he kicked the show into high gear with a number, “Moving Pictures,” about the history of film. He danced along with a spotlight silhouette of himself as Gene Kelly in "Singing in the Rain" as well as some moving images like Marty McFly’s DeLorean. The number used some clever video editing to bring the “How I Met Your Mother” star into such films as “Star Wars” and “Into the Woods” before he was joined on stage by Anna Kendrick and Jack Black.
Snubs Can Be Funny
Harris did a lot of crowd work during the show, which admittedly, fell a little flat at times. While doing a bit about this year’s “British Invasion” from actors like Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne, the host incorporated Oxford-born David Oyelowo into the mix. The crowd instantly cheered for the man who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma.” Harris took the opportunity to remind them that Oyelowo was snubbed for a Best Actor nomination.
“Oh sure, now you like him,” he said when the audience applauded. It takes a skillful host to shame the crowd for their applause and still not lose them.
Many may remember the scene from the Best Picture winner “Birdman” in which Michael Keaton’s character was forced to walk through Times Square in his underwear. So Harris did a bit following a commercial break in which he pretended to be locked out of his dressing room and made a similar walk of shame to the stage in his tighty whities. And then the stunt made another movie reference when he walked by "Whiplash" star Miles Teller playing drums and slapped him, repeating the line from the film – “Not my tempo.”
It was a brave move as few would agree to be seen in just their underwear with all Hollywood and much of the world watching. Still, Harris pulled it off, later returning in a dapper new suit.
When Ellen Goosenberg Ken and Dana Perry won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short for “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” the night took a suddenly serious and poignant turn. During her acceptance speech, Perry told of losing her son to suicide. The moment even prompted the person running the cutoff music to give her extra time to speak. When it was over, the crowd was somber. This forced Harris to try to lighten things up, which he did by way of a clever pun.
The host noticed that Perry’s black dress had a bunch of puffy dangling pom-pom balls.
“Wow, I like that dress,” he said after the women walked off stage. “It takes a lot of balls to wear a dress like that.”
— Charles Manning (@CharlesEManning) February 23, 2015
The Predictions Payoff
Being a magician, Harris couldn’t pass up the opportunity to wow the crowd with a trick. Near the top of the show, he set up the premise that he’d made his own predictions for the show prior to the event. Like the actual winners list, he had it brought in with a secure courier and forced Octavia Spencer to keep an eye on it all night (no bathroom breaks). He played a long game and, although the telecast was going way over time, he let the trick come to fruition before the reading of the final award.
Harris’ Oscar predictions turned out not to be a list of winners, but a specific list of things that happened during the show, including J.K. Simmons' speech and Terrence Howard's emotional introduction. It’s possible that the trick wasn’t quite as magical as it seemed given that the audience (and viewers) were not able to keep an eye on the box the whole time, but if you’re willing to believe in Harris’ magical powers, it was a pretty cool moment.