Music and independence: If there are any overall bywords for this year’s Oscars, those would seem to be the ones.
Having presided over the Tony Awards four times and the Emmys twice, Neil Patrick Harris — a winner of both those honors — becomes the first-time host of the movie industry’s biggest night as ABC televises the 87th Annual Academy Awards from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Sunday (Feb. 22). He’ll perform an original song by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, composers of “Frozen’s” Oscar-winning “Let It Go.”
That’s just one of the musical highlights planned by returning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron for their third consecutive Oscar show. They’ve also enlisted Adam Levine, Common and John Legend (in a duet from “Selma”), Rita Ora, Tim McGraw (in a tribute to Glen Campbell), and Tegan and Sarah with The Lonely Island to perform the nominees for Best Song. Lady Gaga and Anna Kendrick also are set for musical performances.
As for independence, the vast majority of nominated films and performances are from the independent-film world … from “Birdman” and “Boyhood” to “The Imitation Game” and “The Theory of Everything.” Among the major contenders, only a handful of the related movies hail from major studios (including “American Sniper,” “Gone Girl,” “Into the Woods” and “The Judge”).
If it’s a surprise Ellen DeGeneres isn’t hosting again this year — especially after the huge popularity and frequent imitation of her celebrity-packed 2014 Oscar-night selfie — she tells Zap2it, “I didn’t think I was ever going to come back again after the first time I did it eight years ago, so when I decided to do it last year, it was a surprise to everybody.
“I just decided it was time to challenge myself and do something that I thought would be fun and interesting and creative, so I just chose to do it last year. And that, for sure, was going to be ‘it.’ I knew that I wasn’t going to come back again this year … or ever, but I’ve said that before. I will say that I most likely won’t do it again.”
Among the likeliest bets to receive 2015 Oscar gold is Best Supporting Actress nominee Patricia Arquette, who’s been on a run of film-award wins for the Richard Linklater-directed “Boyhood.”
Also starring in the CBS series “CSI: Cyber” starting Wednesday, March 4, Arquette reflects, “I like to entertain people. We made this little art movie. It’s having incredible reception. I’m very grateful for that, so I just feel like I’m having a beautiful moment in my life. I’m grateful for everything.”
Rory Kennedy, the producer-director daughter of Robert F. and Ethel Kennedy, also is a current Oscar nominee for the U.S.-evacuation documentary “Last Days in Vietnam” — set to make its television debut on PBS’ “American Experience” Monday, April 28.
Kennedy says she considers her filmmaking “a gift my parents and family gave me as the idea of giving back. That is not an obligation, but a gift … and the greatest gift, so I try to instill that in my children as much as possible, and some of that takes place through my work.”