HOLLYWOOD: “Birdman”—a showbiz satire about the dark side of fame—soared to Oscars glory on Sunday, taking four Academy Awards including the coveted best picture prize on Hollywood’s biggest night.
Emotions ran high at the Dolby Theater on an evening marked by political statements about women’s rights, racial equality and the lives of Mexican migrants.
And there was disappointment for the team behind coming-of-age drama “Boyhood,” a longtime best picture favorite that lost steam as Tinseltown’s awards season came to a close, with just one prize for best supporting actress Patricia Arquette out of six nominations.
“Birdman,” the fanciful yet dark story of a washed-up superhero film actor battling to revive his career on Broadway, was a grand triumph for Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who personally won three of the film’s four golden statuettes.
“Fear is the condom of life. It doesn’t allow you to enjoy things,” Inarritu said of the creative process behind his film, which won plaudits for its long, complex, unbroken shots—looking like one continuous take.
“So I took the condom off and it felt real.”
Stylist crime caper “The Grand Budapest Hotel” also won four Oscars, but several of them came in technical categories, while jazz drumming drama “Whiplash” scored three, including best supporting actor for veteran actor J.K. Simmons.
Best actor went to Britain’s Eddie Redmayne as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” while veteran Julianne Moore took best actress as a professor suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease in “Still Alice.”
Inarritu, the second Mexican in a row to take the best director Oscar after Alfonso Cuaron won last year for “Gravity,” dedicated his award to his fellow countrymen.
Disney’s “Big Hero 6” was named best animated feature, while Poland’s “Ida” took the best foreign language film prize.
Host Neil Patrick Harris launched the three-and-a-half hour show with a song and dance routine about the movie industry itself —including a joke about the lack of any non-white actors in the four acting categories.
“Tonight, we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest . . . sorry, brightest,” he said, earning laughs from the star-studded audience.
Arquette hit a political note in accepting her prize, giving a shoutout to “every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation.
“We have fought for everybody’s equal rights. It is our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America,” she said.
The biggest standing ovation of the night honored “Selma,” about civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.
The film, while nominated for best picture, controversially failed to secure nods for British actor David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay.
In the end, it won for best original song for the rousing “Glory”—and the A-list audience rose to their feet after John Legend and Common performed the song.
Oyelowo was seen with tears pouring down his face, “We live in the most incarcerated country in the world,” Legend said as he accepted his Oscar.
“There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850.”
There was also a political edge to the best documentary Oscar winner: “Citizenfour,” about the leaking of classified US government documents by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Among the funniest moments of the night was when Harris appeared on stage naked except for his underwear, at the end of a backstage skit mimicking a scene from “Birdman.”
John Travolta also got his come-uppance for flubbing singer Idina Menzel’s name at last year’s show as he introduced her to sing “Let It Go,” the Oscar-winning song from “Frozen.”
Harris took a dig at Travolta, joking that Benedict Cumberbatch is how the “Pulp Fiction” star would pronounce Ben Affleck. Menzel then introduced him as “Glom Gazingo.”
“I deserve that,” Travolta said.
Lady Gaga brought the house down with a soaring medley of songs from the classic “The Sound of Music” to mark its 50th anniversary—before welcoming actress Julie Andrews onto the stage.
Harris faced a tough act to follow after talk show hostess Ellen DeGeneres’ turn last year, which included the celebrity selfie retweeted millions of times.
But initial reactions of his performance were positive.
“First impressions suggest Harris is the right guy for what can admittedly be a rather thankless job,” said Variety television critic Brian Lowry.
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List of Winners
Best Picture: “Birdman”
Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu,”Birdman”
Best Actress: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Best Supporting Actor: JK Simmons, “Whiplash”
Best Adapted Screenplay: Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”
Best Original Screenplay: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, “Birdman”
Best Foreign-Language Film: “Ida,” Paweł Pawlikowski