Oscars 2015: Neil Patrick Harris and the Sound of Boredom

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The one Oscar prediction I would never have put odds on was how flat Neil Patrick Harris turned out to be as the punishingly long night’s impish but ineffectual host. Even taking the stage in his Birdman-inspired tighty whities didn’t add much spice to an Oscar show that only found its true voice in a number of impassioned acceptance speeches and several rousing musical performances.

Those would include Harris’s charming “Moving Pictures” opening production number, a technical tour de force that yet lacked the wow (and, admittedly, camp) factor of his signature Tony Awards gigs. The true highlights arrived much later in the broadcast: Common and John Legend teaming for the Oscar-winning “Glory” (from Selma), earning a deserved standing O:

More unexpectedly, Lady Gaga wowing the cavernous theater with a soaring 50th anniversary tribute to The Sound of Music with a pure, belting soprano.

Julie Andrews’ embrace of her “Dear Lady Gaga” afterward was pure Hollywood magic, an element otherwise in sadly short supply. (Even the In Memoriam segment was marred by bad choices: no film clips to accompany the slideshow portraits, and no mention of Joan Rivers, causing a Twitter frenzy.)

Harris seemed overwhelmed by the proceedings, his natural showmanship subsumed by a sly snarkiness that bombed most noticeably when he went into the starry audience, a stark contrast to last year’s less forced, more assured star turn by Ellen DeGeneres (with her memorable group selfie and disarming pizza orders). His running gag-let about his Oscar predictions locked in a briefcase couldn’t have been less welcome, especially when the not-worth-it payoff of recapping the show’s highlights came after midnight. Robert Duvall was hardly the only one unamused.

But give Oscar props where it’s due: to Boyhood winner Patricia Arquette for getting Meryl Streep out of her seat to cheer on her plea for wage equality for women; to Polish foreign-film winner Ida‘s Pawel Pawlikowski for defiantly outlasting the orchestra play-off; to Idina Menzel and John “Glom Gazingo” Travolta for their playful banter, putting to rest last year’s debacle; to The Imitation Game screenwriter Graham Moore for coining the new mantra “Stay weird” to any gay kids who might, as he did at 16, be contemplating suicide because they feel “different;” to Eddie Redmayne’s adorable euphoria upon winning a Best Actor trophy for The Theory of Everything.

But honestly, my only real takeaway for the night: I want one of those yellow LEGO Oscars. Now that was awesome!