Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), the story of a washed-up movie star trying to revive his career by directing a Broadway play, was the big winner at the 87th Academy Awards, taking home four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Birdman, which was tied with The Grand Budapest Hotel heading into the ceremony with nine nominations each, became one of the most unusual winners in Oscar history, its acerbic sense of humor and unusual, prickly style sharply dividing audiences.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu became the second Mexican filmmaker in a row to win the Best Director category, following Alfonso Cuarón, who won last year for Gravity. “This is crazy, talking about that little prick called ego. Ego loves competition, because for someone to win, someone has to lose. But the paradox is that true arts, true individual expressions .... can’t be compared, can’t be labeled, can’t be defeated, because they exist. Our work will only be judged, as always, by time. I am very thankful, grateful, humbly honored by the Academy for this incredible recognition.”
Iñárritu dedicated the Best Picture Oscar to his fellow Mexicans, “the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve.”
Birdman also won Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki, who also ruled the category last year for Gravity. This marks the second time in Academy Award history the same cinematographer has won consecutive Oscars (the first was John Toll, who won for Legends of the Fall and Braveheart).
Budapest had to settle for four technical prizes: Production Design, Score, Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling.
The night’s other big winner was the low-budget indie Whiplash, the story of an aspiring drummer and his unforgiving professor. The second film by writer-director Damien Chazelle became the night’s little movie that could, winning three Oscars.
The acting awards went as expected.
First-time nominee J.K. Simmons won the Best Supporting Actor prize for his portrayal of the ruthless music instructor in Whiplash. Simmons skipped the usual industry thank-yous and concentrated on honoring his family, encouraging the public to do the same.
“Call your mom, call your dad,” Simmons said. “If you’re lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call them. Don’t text, don’t email. Call them on the phone, and tell them you love them and thank them and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.”
Whiplash also won Best Editing and Best Sound Mixing, beating out higher-profile rivals such as American Sniper, The Imitation Game and Interstellar.
Julianne Moore, who had been nominated four times before, finally won her first Best Actress for her uncanny portrayal of a linguistics professor stricken by early onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice.
“I read an article that said winning an Oscar could lead to living five years longer,” an overjoyed Moore said. “If that’s true, I’d really like to thank the Academy because my husband is younger than me.”
Patricia Arquette, who had racked up numerous awards leading up to the Oscars for her turn as a single mom with bad luck in men in Boyhood, completed her journey by winning Best Supporting Actress. She gave a heartfelt, unabashedly political speech, dedicating her prize to “every woman who gave birth” and “every taxpayer and citizen of this nation.”
“We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” Arquette said. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Arquette’s victory was the only win for the critically beloved Boyhood, which director Richard Linklater shot over the span of 12 years. The movie was in the running for a total of six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for his exceptional portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.
“I don’t think I’m able of fully articulating how I feel right now. I’m fully aware that I’m a lucky, lucky man,” an overjoyed Redmayne said before breaking out into a quick cry of joy. “This Oscar belongs to all of those people around the world battling ALS. It belongs to one exceptional family, Stephen Jane Jonathan and the Hawking children. I will be its custodian, and I promise I will take care of him.”
The Imitation Game, the story of British genius Alan Turing, whose work helped defeat the Nazi army during World War II and later committed suicide over his homosexuality, won only one of the eight categories in which it was nominated: Best Adapted Screenplay for Graham Moore, who earned a standing ovation for his emotional acceptance speech.
“Alan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this ... and I do,” an emotional Moore said. “And that’s the most unfair thing I think I’ve ever heard.
“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself, because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I didn’t belong,” he said. “And now I’m standing here. So I would like this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird, and she’s different, and she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do.”
The civil rights drama Selma , which many critics felt had been overlooked by the Academy, won Best Original Song, one of the only two nominations it managed to score.
“Recently John and I got to go to Selma and perform Glory on the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the civil rights movement marched on 50 years ago,” said Common, who accepted the award with John Legend, his co-writer and co-singer. “This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation. But now it’s a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects a kid from the south side of Chicago 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. This bridge was built on hope, welded by compassion and elevated by love for all human beings.”
CitizenFour, director Laura Poitras’ celebrated you-are-there account of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as he exposed top-secret documents to a journalist in a Hong Kong hotel room, won Best Documentary.
“The disclosures that Edward Snowden revealed don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself,” said Poitras, who had previously shared a Pulitzer Prize for her film with The Washington Post and The Guardian. “When the most important decisions being made affecting all of us are made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control.” The success of the documentary has already spawned a feature film, Snowden, directed by Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Timothy Olyphant and Shailene Woodley, to be released on Dec. 25.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s shimmering black-and-white Ida, the story of a young nun who learns a shocking secret from her past, won the Foreign Language Film prize, becoming the first movie from Poland to win in that category. The Walt Disney Co. added another statuette to its vaults by winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar for the smash hit Big Hero 6.
Neil Patrick Harris, who has become Hollywood’s go-to guy for emceeing award shows, kicked off the telecast with a lively song and dance number celebrating the art of motion pictures. Harris kept the telecast moving briskly, peppering the night with amiable jokes, wandering into the audience to chat up seat fillers and making a big deal out of his own Oscar predictions, which were locked in a glass box sitting on the edge of the stage. The game actor also became the first Oscar host to appear onstage wearing only his tighty-whities after getting locked out of his dressing room in a gag that payed homage to a similar scene in Birdman.
Best Picture: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).
Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything.
Best Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice.
Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash.
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood.
Best Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman.
Best Original Screenplay: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game.
Best Animated Feature: Big Hero 6.
Best Foreign Language Film: Ida.
Best Documentary Feature: CitizenFour.
Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Best Original Song: “Glory” from Selma.
Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).
Best Editing: Whiplash.
Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Best Visual Effects: Interstellar.
Best Sound Mixing: Whiplash.
Best Sound Editing: American Sniper.
Best Animated Short: The Feast.
Best Live Action Short: The Phone Call.
Best Documentary Short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.