LOS ANGELES, Feb 22 – Two veteran actors walked away with their first Oscars for supporting roles at the 87th Academy Awards on Sunday, while Poland won its first award in 10 nominations for best foreign-language film.
In a few brave bits, first-time host Neil Patrick Harris opened the night with a quip about the lack of diversity among the nominees for the film industry's highest honors and later came out in his underwear in a spoof of best picture favorite "Birdman."
But early awards were proving more predictable than the host as heavy favorites ended up hoisting the golden statuettes.
Patricia Arquette won best supporting actress for her role as a struggling single mother in "Boyhood," the coming-of-age tale she made with director Richard Linklater over 12 years with the same cast.
"It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and for equal rights for the women in the United States of America," Arquette said in her acceptance speech.
J.K. Simmons, a long-time character actor in Hollywood, won the best supporting actor Oscar as a monstrous music teacher in the independent film "Whiplash."
The Poland's "Ida" clinched best foreign-language film and director Pawel Pawlikowski pushed the 45-second acceptance speech boundary to thank "my Polish friends who are in front of the TV, the crew who were in the trenches with us and who are totally drunk now, and you were fantastic."
The night's top award - best picture - is a contest between two small movies, show business satire "Birdman" and "Boyhood." But in one of the least predictable years in recent memory, the race was too close to call and there was room for upsets.
"American Sniper," "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Imitation Game" could also find favor from the 6,100 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who vote for the Oscars.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel," the colorful caper from Wes Anderson, picked up Oscars in both costume design and make-up and hairstyling.
'Best and whitest'
Harris opened the three-hour ABC telecast with a jab at the Academy's failure to nominate any actors of ethnic minority groups in the acting races, which prompted the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
"Tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest, I mean brightest," Harris said.
For the biggest televised event outside the sports world, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is aiming to attract young viewers who may not care much about the films but who could tune in for the musical acts.
In a nod toward the youth and kid audience, the pop duo Tegan and Sara teamed up with trio The Lonely Island to perform best song nominee "Everything is Awesome" from "The Lego Movie."
The famous red carpet – the preamble to Hollywood's biggest night – brought shimmering silvers and bright reds on an unusually dreary, rainy evening. Best actress nominees Julianne Moore, Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike donned dresses with sparkle.
But the red carpet was also a place for actresses, such as nominee Reese Witherspoon, to make a case for talking about more than what they were wearing by joining the "Ask Her More" campaign. The hashtag #AskHerMore was trending on Twitter.
"The dresses are beautiful. We love the artists who make all these clothes, but this is a group of women...we are so happy to be here to talk about the work that we've done," Witherspoon said. "It's hard being a woman in Hollywood or any industry."
Eight films are vying for best picture, but for the months-long awards season, most of the speculation around the top honor has focused on Alejandro G. Inarritu's "Birdman," which has nine nominations overall, and "Boyhood," with six nods.
"It's a real tribute for two films that aren't traditional stories, crazy stories," said Linklater about his film and "Birdman."
In another too-close-to-call race, Michael Keaton, who plays a washed-up former superhero actor attempting a comeback in "Birdman," could steal the best actor Oscar from Eddie Redmayne, the front-runner for his portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything."