LOS ANGELES (AP) — The long take of “Birdman” has stretched all the way to the Academy Awards, where the jazzy, surreal comedy about an actor fleeing his superhero past took Hollywood’s top honor in a ceremony punctuated by passionate pleas for equality.
On a stormy night in Hollywood, the 87th annual Academy Awards — which came in humbled by backlash to its all-white acting nominees — bristled with politics and heartfelt speeches about women’s rights, immigration, suicide prevention, governmental surveillance and race.
In a battle of B-movies for best picture, the Oscars awarded “Birdman” best picture, opting for a movie that epitomizes Hollywood — showy, ego-mad, desperate for artistic credibility — over one (“Boyhood”) that prized naturalism and patience. “Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” also won best director for Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, best original screenplay and best cinematography.
The ceremony at the Dolby Theatre, hosted by Tony Award veteran Neil Patrick Harris, was heavy on song-and-dance to near-Grammy levels. Lady Gaga lavishly performed “The Hills Are Alive” from “The Sound of Music” with a rapt Julie Andrews looking on.
The awards overwhelmingly went to less-seen independent films and were widely spread around. All eight of the best-picture nominees won awards, including Eddie Redmayne for best actor for his technically nuanced performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.”
All of Sunday’s big winners were first-timers, including best actress winner Julianne Moore, who won for her performance as an academic with early onset Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice.”
Harris gave the Academy Awards a cheery tone that sought to celebrate Hollywood, while also slyly parodying it. “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest — I mean brightest,” he began the night, alluding to this year’s all-white acting nominees.
Though Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-making “Boyhood” was the critical favorite for much of awards season, it won only best supporting actress for Arquette.
Several of this year’s biggest box-office hit nominees — Clint Eastwood’s Iraq war drama “American Sniper” and Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic “Interstellar” — had to settle for single wins in technical categories. “Interstellar” won for visual effects, while “American Sniper” — far and away the most widely seen of the best-picture nominee — took the best sound editing award.
“Birdman” was thus a fitting winner: a meta-movie about an actor (Michael Keaton) reconciling himself to his superhero fame. Backstage, co-writer Nicholas Giacobone warned: “Birdman 4” will open next summer.