The dark comedy Birdman held up a mirror to Hollywood and its struggling actors and in return received the film industry’s highest recognition on Sunday, the Academy Award for best picture.
Director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s story of a washed-up, former superhero actor attempting an improbable comeback on Broadway won four Oscars in its nine nominations, including best director, the second consecutive win in that category for a Mexican filmmaker.
Acclaimed for looking like one continuous shot through a Broadway theatre and mixing reality with fantasy, the movie, Inarritu said, came from learning to be fearless in filmmaking.
“Fear is the condom of life. It doesn’t allow you to enjoy things,” Inarritu said backstage at the 87th Academy Awards.
The reward for the Fox Searchlight satire hews to an Academy tradition of awarding films that honor the entertainment industry, such as Argo and The Artist in recent years.
Britain’s Eddie Redmayne won best actor with his painstaking portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, robbing Birdman lead and former superhero actor, Michael Keaton, of a big comeback moment.
Each of the eight best picture nominees went home with at least one award, but it was a disappointing night for Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s unprecedented 12-year endeavour to depict the simple story of a boy growing up, using the same actors. It won one Oscar out of its six nods.
Wes Anderson’s colourful caper, The Grand Budapest Hotel proved popular among the 6 100 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who vote for the Oscars, winning four awards on its nine nominations.
Whiplash, the independent film about an aspiring jazz drummer and his tough mentor from young director Damien Chazelle, won three Oscars. The only box office blockbuster among the eight, the Iraq war drama American Sniper from director Clint Eastwood, also fell short with one win.
It was a night in which the controversy over the lack of diversity among this year’s nominees was front and center. First-time host Neil Patrick Harris opened the telecast with a quip: “Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry brightest.”
But the race theme resonated in a more serious way too, when Common and John Legend got a standing ovation and made many in the audience cry with their performance of Glory from the 1960s civil rights drama Selma.
It won best song, delivering the sole victory to Selma, the film at the center of the diversity debate sparked by the exclusion of actors of colour from the four acting categories. The nominations prompted a backlash on Twitter with the hashtag “#OscarsSoWhite.
“”Selma” is now, because the struggle for justice is right now,” said Legend in the aftermath of recent racially charged protests in America.
The list of winners in leading categories
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Alejandro G. Inarritu – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Best Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Best Adapted Screenplay
Graham Moore – The Imitation Game
Best Original Screenplay
Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr., Armando Bo – Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Feature Film
Big Hero 6
Best Documentary Feature
Best Original Song
Glory – Selma
Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Costume Design
Milena Canonero – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Frances Hannon, Mark Coulier – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Visual Effects