TIME movies

Making the ‘In Memoriam’ Montage at the Oscars Is More Complicated Than It Seems

78th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Frazer Harrison—Getty Images Television host Joan Rivers arrives to the 78th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre on March 5, 2006 in Hollywood.

Did Joan Rivers get snubbed?

Even as the Oscars hangover subsides, some film fans are still worked up about one particular snub — and this time it’s not a nominee. Rather, it’s the fact that the annual ‘In Memoriam’ montage reel failed to include Joan Rivers. The late legend’s exclusion from the reel led to angry reactions, full of the indignation that Rivers herself so often used to comedic effect.

An Academy spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter that yes, Rivers was one of the many people who must be left out in any given year, but that she was included in a remembrance gallery on the Oscars website. However, Rivers (like Elaine Stritch, another comedian who was missed by many viewers) is also absent from the official Academy list of members who died in 2014. Though Rivers, who was better known for her TV work than for film roles, had plenty of big-screen credits, from Space Balls to The Smurfs, Academy membership is not automatic, so it’s entirely possible that she was not part of the group; there is no official, public list of members.

Still, an in-depth 2013 investigation by the New York Times into what goes into the making of the Oscars memorial reel — which has been a feature of the telecast since 1994 — revealed that inclusion or exclusion from the montage is not so simple as “members in, non-members out.”

For one thing, non-members are eligible for inclusion, though positive involvement with the organization always helps. (Some conspiracy theorists guessed that Rivers’ acid tongue on the red carpet might have tipped the scales against her.) For another, it’s clear that, though the committee that makes the calls is anonymous, even death isn’t the end of the Hollywood publicity race. Attempting to get a client onto that list can be the last act of PR goodwill for many a publicist.

In fact, that publicity race suggests one possible reason for the exclusion of a major name like Rivers or Stritch. The family and friends of a lesser-known Academy member may push hard to get their loved one on the memorial list, but those who speak for the most famous of the dead are less likely to think a campaign is necessary. It’s only on Oscars night that they learn the extra push might have helped.

Read next: Joan Rivers’ Daughter Writes a Book About Her Life

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MONEY Workplace

Wage Equality Takes Center Stage at the Oscars

Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards put the gender wage gap at the forefront of discussion.

TIME movies

Birdman Soared, But Selma Stole the Show at the Oscars

In an elephantine spectacle with few awards surprises, the Martin Luther King, Jr. movie provided a song and two acceptance speeches for the ages

Neil Patrick Harris looks better in tighty whities than Michael Keaton does. Lady Gaga has a secure enough soprano voice to sing four numbers from The Sound of Music, as Julie Andrews awaits offstage. One of the Birdman screenwriters has a dog named Larry, to whom he dedicated his award. If you want acceptance-speech rhetoric to soar into political eloquence, call on two of the most soulful men in music. And the institution of the Academy Awards can keep that mythical audience of “one billion viewers” tuned in, through interest or inertia, for prizes given to movies seen by perhaps only four million cinematic zealots.

In a show that clocked in at 3 hours and 40 minutes — the running time of Gone With the Wind, and about an hour longer than it took Ellar Coltrane to get through a dozen years of Boyhood — Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s inside-showbiz Birdman copped the major awards for Picture, Director and Original Screenplay, leaving its prime competitor, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, with only the sure-thing: a Supporting Actress prize for Patricia Arquette.

Your local prognosticator went six for seven in the major awards (missing out on the Birdman Screenplay win), in a year of heavy or prohibitive favorites. Julianne Moore earned Best Actress for Still Alice, J.K. Simmons won Supporting Actor for Whiplash and Eddie Redmayne took Best Actor for The Theory of Everything. That meant no Oscar for Keaton, who during the climactic onstage Best Picture revelry affected a Beetlejuice shrug and said, “Look, it’s just great to be here, who am I kiddin’?” This was in keeping with his fatalist modesty this Saturday at the Independent Spirit Awards. When Keaton was asked where he’d put his Oscar statuette, he drily replied, “Next to my Nobel.”

For the first time in a year with more than five Best Picture nominees, each of the eight finalists went home with a little or a lot of Oscar love: Birdman with a big four, including Cinematography; The Grand Budapest Hotel with four on the craft side (Costume, Makeup and Hair, Production Design and Original Score); Whiplash with a surprising three (Sound Mixing and Film Editing in addition to Simmons’ lock); and one each for American Sniper (Sound Editing), Boyhood (Supporting Actress), The Imitation Game (Adapted Screenplay), Selma (Original Song) and The Theory of Everything (Actor).

On a TV evening whose commercials — for Samsung (home movies), Cadillac (“Dare greatly” to an Edith Piaf theme), xfinity (a blind child imagines her own Wizard of Oz movie) and iPad (illustrating a Martin Scorsese speech) — often showed more heart and craft than the onstage shenanigans, the Oscars show worked best, as TIME’s James Poniewozik suggested in his review of the show, when it was the Grammys.

Highlights: Harris’s clever opening song (written by Frozen composers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez), The Lonely Island’s droll take on The LEGO Movie’s “Everything Is Awesome,” Tim McGraw’s plangent rendition of Glen Campbell’s Alzheimer’s song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” Gaga’s Maria von Trappezoid and, most powerfully, a choral performance of “Glory,” from Selma, that packed more emotion that the movie it represented. A few minutes later, Common and John Legend (who won the “Glory” Oscar under their real names, Lonnie Lynn and John Stephens) truly elevated the discourse with their acceptance speeches.

Common spoke of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where Martin Luther King Jr. assembled his nonviolent protestors against the violent Alabama police 50 years ago next week. “The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South side of Chicago [himself], dreaming of a better life, to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy,” Common said. “This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated by love for all human beings.” Legend, pointedly applying the lessons of last year’s Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave to 2015, noted that “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 that we are with you, we see you, we love you — and march on.” David Oyelowo, who played King, was in tears in the audience. Chris Pine too.

The other political messages, much commented on by bloggers, were in the service of moderate causes that only Fox News could take exception to. The Imitation Game screenwriter Graham Moore, who revealed he had attempted suicide at 16, advised insecure teens to be proud and “Stay weird.” Simmons: Call your parents, and don’t hang up till they’re done talking. Arquette plumped for equal wages for women. Redmayne: Be nice to people with ALS. Moore: Be nice to people with Alzheimer’s and ALS.

Recognizing sufferers of these diseases not only helps mend the social fabric — it wins Oscars for worthy stars. Moore became the fifth consecutive Best Actress — after Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook and Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine — to play a woman with Alzheimer’s or some other severe emotional disturbance. And Redmayne took the My Left Foot award for contorting himself into a genius with extraordinary physical limitations.

Yet these two winners seemed genuinely ecstatic when they won their predicted awards. Moore managed to remain poised through her giddiness, but Redmayne interrupted himself mid-speech with a whooping “Wow!” and nearly ripped off his tuxedo tie. Congratulations to both of them. Coming during the titanic maelstrom of an overlong awards show, that’s Acting.

Watch the full clip below:

Read next: Lady Gaga’s Oscar Performance: Love It or Hate It?

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TIME Music

Lady Gaga’s Oscar Performance: Love It or Hate It?

Julie Andrews loved Lady Gaga's performance at the Oscars, but did you?

Fans were skeptical when they learned Lady Gaga would be honoring The Sound of Music at the Oscars with a medley of songs from the musical that’s set to celebrate its 50th anniversary next month.

Reactions on social media were mixed, though Julie Andrews, the film’s original star, seemed pleased with the variety of songs that included “The Sound of Music,” “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss,” and “Climb Every Mountain.”

Check out the performance below and cast your vote.

Read next: Lady Gaga’s Performance at the Oscars Could Redefine Her Career

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TIME viral

Watch Jimmy Kimmel Prove No One Knows Anything About Oscar Movies

But they'll pretend they do

How could Benedict Cumberbatch not take home an Oscar after all of those hilarious celebrity impression in the Immitation Game? And how could the Academy overlook Angelina Jolie’s heartbreaking performance as Rosa Parks in Selma?

No idea what we’re talking about?

In Sunday’s Oscar edition of Jimmy Kimmel Live, the comedian sent a camera crew to the streets to ask people on Hollywood Boulevard what they thought about made-up moments from nominated films. This proves that just because people didn’t see the Academy Award-nominated films doesn’t mean that they won’t pretend to have very strong opinions about them.

Watch the full segment below:

TIME movies

Review: An Oscars Telecast Saved by the Music

87th Annual Academy Awards - Show
Kevin Winter—Getty Images Lady Gaga performs onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

Stellar performances from John Legend, Lady Gaga and others injected excitement into an often moribund show

It’s not as if the Oscars didn’t have material to work with. In many ways, 2014 was an interesting and vital year in movies — not just artistically, but in terms of engaging viewers and giving them things to talk about. The end of the year in particular saw movies like American Sniper, Selma — even The Interview — that spurred conversations and controversies and reminded us that movies can have effects beyond their running times. (The same was true of the nominations and omissions.)

The 2015 Oscars broadcast, though, had a hard time capturing that excitement — or anything else. It certainly had a big enough net: the show was 3 hours and 40 minutes long. But as a TV broadcast, it struggled not just with length but tone, trying alternately to be light entertainment and a meaningful statement. Sometimes it was delightfully one, sometimes it was affectingly the other. But often the two collided painfully.

There were high hopes from the beginning, because of host Neil Patrick Harris, generally a delightful stage performer who’s done a reliably terrific job hosting the Tony Awards. And he started off in fine form. His first joke immediately addressed the white elephant in the room: the dearth of minority nominees for this year’s awards: “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest — sorry, brightest.” Then he ditched a traditional monologue to do his thing: musical comedy, a rapid-fire, playful celebration of “moving pictures” that was both sweet and funny: “Check out the glamor and glitter/ People tweeting on the Twitter / And no one’s drunk and bitter yet ’cause no one’s lost.”

Sometimes, though, the organism that is the Oscars is bigger than the host, and Harris seemed to lose his grip on it, thanks largely to some badly written material. Several jokes razzing celebs in the audience fell flat, including one that involved getting Selma star David Oyelowo to trash the remake of Annie, which Oyelowo reacted to with a memorable “meh” gesture.

Harris is nothing if not game, but he often seemed disconnected from the limp material. He followed up one winner’s story of her son’s suicide with a dissonant joke about the puffy orbs on her gown: “Takes a lot of balls to wear a dress like that!” (though it’s not clear if he caught the suicide reference before making the joke). But when he had the chance, he rallied, romping through the wings onto the stage in his tighty-whities in a bit that recalled Oscar winner Birdman, and reviving when he had the right material. (“Benedict Cumberbatch,” he said, was “the sound you get when you ask John Travolta to introduce Ben Affleck.”) But then there was the running gag, about Harris’ Oscar predictions having been locked in a box onstage, that ran so long and with so little payoff it could have been redeemed only if the box contained a $10 million check made out in my name.

When the scripted material falters, you hope for the unscripted moments to deliver, and the acceptance speeches often did. It was a year of earnestness, inspiration and exhortation. Patricia Arquette of Boyhood urged pay equality for women. Best Song winner John Legend insisted that “Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now.” Best Adapted Screenplay winner Graham Moore — for The Imitation Game, about British cryptography genius Alan Turing who was persecuted for being gay — recalled considering suicide at age 16, and offered hope to young people feeling the same way. “Stay weird,” he said. “Stay different.”

Fittingly for an Oscars that began with a song, it was often the music that salvaged this one. Tegan and Sara with The Lonely Island delivered a joyous, hallucinatory “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie (the performers handing out Lego statuettes that several guests clutched through the ceremony). Lady Gaga performed an incendiary medley from The Sound of Music — seemed like a strange idea, but totally worked — ending with a salute from Julie Andrews, who pronounced “Lady Gaga” as though it were a royal title. And Legend’s performance of “Glory” with Common was the rare Oscar musical number that — with a recreation of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge — managed to reproduce the emotion of the movie onstage.

MORE Watch Common and John Legend Perform ‘Glory’ at the Oscars

But Selma was largely outside of the major Oscar running, as was the much-talked-about American Sniper. Much of the night involved jockeying between boutique films like Birdman, Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel — which is no fault of the broadcast but may not have helped with mass viewer engagement. There was also a general lack of momentum to the night — exemplified by staid choices, like having the Best Animated Film nominees represented by still drawings, as opposed to something, well, animated.

In the end, this Oscars was neither brilliant or a disaster; like many Hollywood productions, it was just a long thing that felt put together by committee. There were moving moments and tedious moments — but there were also just tons and tons of moments (and yet, somehow, there wasn’t room in the In Memoriam reel for comedian, actress, writer-director and red-carpet fixture Joan Rivers).

That said, I’d be glad to see the very musical Harris get another shot at hosting the Academy Awards. And there’s nothing wrong with a telecast that plays up all the incredible music that gets written for the movies. But the music was never the problem. This year, it was the orchestration that left something to be desired.

Read next: The Oscars Were a Night of Mild Surprises, Including Neil Patrick Harris

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TIME celebrities

Watch John Travolta Finally Get Idina Menzel’s Name Right at the Oscars

Travolta redeemed himself after "Adele Dazeem" — sort of

After taking a seriously creepy picture with Scarlett Johansson on the red carpet, John Travolta went on to make things even more awkward at the Academy Awards.

To his credit, John Travolta co-presented the award for Best Original Song with Idina Menzel, whose name he memorably botched at last year’s Oscars, and actually managed to get her name right this time. But he held his face in her hands while saying that name, and it was, frankly, a little uncomfortable.

Still, props to the guy for having a sense of humor about it. Watch up top.

TIME celebrities

Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez Took an Amazing Selfie at the Oscars

The pair bonded over Patricia Arquette's call-to-arms over wage equality

MERYL STREEP #oscars #oscarlegend #needsomeofthatoscarjuju lol

A photo posted by Jennifer Lopez (@jlo) on

A budding friendship emerged from this year’s Academy Awards. Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez were (for some reason) seated next to one another during Patricia Arquette’s Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech and bonded over their mutual enthusiasm for Arquette’s feminist bid for equal pay.

Their cheering has already created an Internet-breaking meme — but then the two stopped to take a selfie. As Lopez herself wrote on her Instagram: “MERYL STREEP #oscars #oscarlegend #needsomeofthatoscarjuju lol”

Let’s be honest, Streep was probably asking Lopez for some acting tips after seeing The Boy Next Door.

TIME movies

Watch Neil Patrick Harris Re-Enact Birdman’s Underwear Scene

With help from Miles Teller on the drums

Neil Patrick Harris really stripped down for the Oscars this year. The host re-enacted the now infamous scene from Birdman in which Michael Keaton gets locked outside a theater in Times Square wearing only his underwear.

Harris walked from his dressing room to the stage in briefs with Miles Teller, who starred as a drummer in Whiplash this year, imitating the Birdman drummer in the background. Harris even had a few choice words for the young musician — who just can’t ever seem to keep tempo.


TIME movies

Here’s the Greatest Year in Oscar History

The 12th Annual Academy Awards
NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images Actor Spencer Tracy and Vivien Leigh, winner of Best Actress for "Gone With the Wind," during the 12th Annual Academy Awards held at the Cocoanut Grove in The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, Calidfornia on Feb. 29, 1940

This year marks the 75th anniversary of 'the most memorable twelve months in the history of the American cinema'

No offense to Neil Patrick Harris or to this year’s best-picture nominees, but this year’s Oscars ceremony is also notable for something that proves it has no chance of being the best: this is the 75th anniversary of the Academy Awards ceremony that honored what is widely thought to be the best year in Hollywood history.

There’s not much of a public record of what happened at the 1940 ceremony between the giving-out of statuettes. It was the first such evenings hosted by Oscars-hosting champ Bob Hope, so presumably there were jokes, but it took place before the days of a national radio broadcast (much less a television broadcast) of the ceremony, though local radio stations may have broadcast a portion of the evening.

But we don’t have to know what Hope said to the audience there to know that it was epic. Here’s how TIME recounted the evening’s events, in the pages of the Mar. 11, 1940, issue:

Hollywood’s swank Cocoanut Grove was aflutter with ermine wraps and shimmering gowns as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made its twelfth annual awards. To Robert Donat for his role in Goodbye, Mr. Chips and to Vivien Leigh for her Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind went Oscars signifying the year’s best performances by an actor and actress. Nobody was surprised. Academy selections of the best supporting actor and actress met with general approval: 1) Thomas Mitchell, for his whiskey-soaked doctor in Stagecoach; 2) Hattie McDaniel, for her sentimental performance as the hard-boiled mammy in Gone With the Wind. Cinemactress McDaniel was the first Negro to receive the prize. Posthumous were two awards: 1) to the late Douglas Fairbanks Sr. for international services to motion pictures; 2) to the late Playwright Sidney Howard for his Gone With the Wind script. Of the 17 major Oscars handed out, ten were copped by G.W.T.W. Producer David O. Selznick, pretty proud and getting richer by the minute, said he would send an extra check to Author Margaret Mitchell.

Winners from Gone With the Wind, however, aren’t the evidence that 1940’s Oscars were the best. For that, look to the losers.

The best picture nominees who weren’t good enough to take home an Oscar included some of the best movies ever: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Stagecoach;, The Wizard of Oz; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; and Dark Victory, and that’s only a partial list, not to mention the famous movies (like Young Mr. Lincoln and Babes in Arms) that weren’t even nominated. Any year can have one instant classic; it’s a rare year that has dozens. That year had been a period that Gerald Clarke described in TIME, on its 50th anniversary in 1989, as “the most memorable twelve months in the history of the American cinema.” But, as Clarke explained, it took a while to realize what was going on: the theater was still seen as superior to the cinema, and the business-centric studio system was still in effect. Movies were low-culture fluff, and nobody was looking for history to be made. And yet, it was.

“There is no formula for magic, and what happened then is something of a mystery even today. Part of the explanation may be that the studio system, which had been born 20 years or so earlier, had come of age; it had reached its maturity but was still full of zest,” Clarke wrote. “The bosses may have been crude and often tyrannical, but they loved their business, they knew what they were doing, and they had created huge organizations whose only purpose was to send new pictures to thousands of theaters, most of which, in the U.S., were owned by the studios themselves. At the same time, moviemaking had reached a level of technical perfection that would have seemed miraculous even five years before.”

The night of the Academy Awards of 75 years ago was a celebration of that magic — but there is one way in which the 1940 Oscars flopped: as recounted by the Academy, the practice of tipping off newspapers in advance, to get the winners into the morning paper, backfired that year. The Los Angeles Times published the results in the evening edition rather than the morning edition, which meant the attendees already knew who had won.

Read the full 1939 cover story about Gone With the Wind, here in the TIME Vault: G With the W

Read Gerald Clarke’s examination of the best year in Hollywood history, here in the TIME Vault: Twelve Months of Magic

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