“Birdman,” the quirky tale of a Hollywood action hero’s attempt to make a comeback via the Broadway stage, was declared the best picture of 2014 at Sunday’s Academy Awards, taking four prizes in all and eking out a victory over “Boyhood.”
Eddie Redmayne, the British actor who took on the role of ALS-afflicted physicist Stephen Hawking, won the best-actor Oscar for “The Theory of Everything.” Industry veteran Julianne Moore, a five-time nominee, won her first Oscar for playing a patient struck with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in the film “Still Alice.”
“Birdman” director Alejandro Inarritu won the Oscar for best director, as well as best screenplay and best cinematography.
“Birdman” tied for the most nominations this year — nine in all — with “Grand Budapest Hotel,” which also took home four Oscars, winning for best original music score and three technical honors.
Both “Birdman” and “Budapest” were products of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.’s FOX, +1.26% Fox Searchlight Pictures. (Until 2013, Fox was part of News Corp. NWS, +0.73% , the parent company of MarketWatch.) “Budapest” also won for best costume design, makeup and production design.
“Birdman” — released in October — cost $22 million to produce and has made roughly $36 million to date. “Budapest” was released in March, and its theatrical run is already over. Its budget is unknown, but it made $174.6 million globally.
“Boyhood,” a production that took 12 years to make as it chronicled life of a young boy from childhood to adulthood and used the same cast throughout, ended up winning only for supporting actress Patricia Arquette. “Boyhood” had received six nominations in all and was distributed by IFC Films.
“Birdman” also beat out “American Sniper,” the somewhat controversial true-life story of Chris Kyle, a special-forces assassin who protected U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Sniper,” which was directed by Clint Eastwood, won one Oscar — for sound editing — out of six nominations in all. The film was a product of Time Warner Inc.’s TWX, +0.73% Warner Bros. Pictures.
Another film that scored more prizes than either “Boyhood” or “Sniper” was “Whiplash,” from Sony Corp’s SNE, -0.92% Sony Pictures Classics unit. Veteran character actor J.K. Simmons took the first prize of the night, winning the best supporting actor Oscar for his role as a demanding teacher in the film. Then “Whiplash” went on to surprise many by taking two more statuettes, one for sound mixing and one for editing.
Simmons himself told an interviewer he expected a sweep of all the awards for which “Whiplash” was nominated. His prediction started to come true as it won in its first three categories, but it later succumbed to “The Imitation Game,” which won for best adapted screenplay, and “Birdman” for best picture.
Still, “Whiplash” did better than “Imitation Game,” which was another film that was almost snubbed entirely even though it was nominated eight times. “Imitation Game” was from privately held Weinstein Co.
The ceremonies had the usual mix of song, dance and caustic humor. Host Neil Patrick Harris managed to provide all three, including the obligatory one-line zingers meant for the crowd as well as himself. When Simmons won his Oscar, Harris was humming the jingo from the Farmers’ Insurance commercials that feature Simmons.
The star of several films, as well as the television series “How I Met Your Mother,” Harris took dead aim at recent controversies over whether there were enough non-whites represented in this year’s awards show.
Alluding to the fact all 20 of the nominees in the four acting categories for leading and supporting roles were white, Harris opened the show by saying: “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest, I mean, brightest.”
Prior to Sunday’s awards, the academy had taken some criticism for not bestowing more nominations to “Selma,” the historical drama from Viacom Inc.’s VIA, +0.68% VIAB, +0.58% Paramount Pictures unit about how Martin Luther King organized the seminal Alabama civil-rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. Among those seen as snubbed was David Oyelowo, who received acclaim for his performance as King.
“Selma,” however, did win for best original song, “Glory,” moments after the song was performed, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.
Perhaps the most oddly touching moment of the evening was when pop icon Lady Gaga, in relatively tame attire, paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of one of Hollywood’s more wholesome products, “The Sound of Music,” which itself won best picture and four other Academy Awards in its day.
Dressed in a chiffon gown that even the film’s star Julie Andrews would be proud of, the usually risqué Gaga sang the title song, “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and “Climb Every Mountain,” earning a standing ovation from the crowd.
Gaga was then greeted by Andrews herself, who strode on the stage, hugged and thanked Gaga and went on to present the award for original score.
In other awards, “Big Hero 6,” the tale of an inflatable robot, won for best animated feature. The production from Walt Disney Co. DIS, +0.64% was a surprise winner, as many had expected “How To Train Your Dragon 2” from DreamWorks Animation DWA, -0.15% to take top honors.
And “Citizenfour,” from Time Warner’s HBO Documentary Films, won for best documentary. The picture chronicles the national secrets exposed by Edward Snowden. More»