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‘Birdman’ takes flight at an Oscars ceremony punctuated by politics

Lady Gaga, left, and Julie Andrews at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Lady Gaga, left, and Julie Andrews at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. John Shearer, Invision (AP)
Host Neil Patrick Harris performs at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Host Neil Patrick Harris performs at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. John Shearer, Invision (AP)

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Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a European caper released in March, when many awards contenders were still shooting, tied for the most Oscars with “Birdman.” The academy awarded Anderson’s latest confection with awards for production design, score, costume design and makeup and styling.

“Wes, you genius,” said score winner Alexandre Desplat. “This is good.”

The night’s first Oscar went to Simmons, a career character actor widely acclaimed for one of his biggest parts: a drill sergeant of a jazz instructor in the indie “Whiplash.” Simmons fittingly accepted his supporting acting Oscar with some straightforward advice, urging: “Call your mom. Call your dad.”

Most of Sunday’s early awards went as expected, though Disney’s “Big Hero 6” pulled off something of an upset in the best animated feature category, besting DreamWorks’ favored “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”

The Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki became the first to win best cinematography twice in a row. After last year winning for the lengthy shots of the space adventure “Gravity,” he won for the stretched out takes of “Birdman.”

“It sounds like a nightmare,” Lubezki said backstage, recalling on his first impression of Inarritu’s plans to shoot it as if in one shot. “There was no book on it. It was like an experiment.”

The black-and-white Polish film “Ida” took best foreign language film, marking the first such win for Poland despite a rich cinema history. Director Pawel Pawlikowski charmed the audience with a bemused acceptance speech that ran drastically over his allotted time.

Pawlikowski remarked on having made a quiet film of contemplation about withdrawing from the world, “and here we are at the epicenter of noise and attention. It’s fantastic. Life is full of surprises.”

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.

The Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour,” in which Laura Poitras captured Snowden in the midst of leaking National Security Agency documents, won best documentary.

“The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself,” said Poitras, accepting the Oscar. “When the most important decisions being made affecting all of us are made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control.”

Harris’ opening quickly segued into a song-and-dance routine that celebrated a love for movies, complete with a villain to his sunny outlook in Jack Black. The comedian jumped on stage to counter that Hollywood movies weren’t so fabulous: “Opening with lots of zeroes, all we get is superheroes.”

“After ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,'” Black added, referring to the weekend’s top box office draw, “they’ll all have leather whips.”

Harris struck a chipper tone, while slyly mocking the Oscars or parodying Michael Keaton’s half-naked scene in “Birdman.”

The $160,000 gift bags for attendees, Harris said, came with “an armored car ride to safety when the revolution comes.” The performance by Andy Samberg’s Lonely Island of the Oscar-nominated song “Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie,” let some live out their Oscar dreams, handing out golden Lego statuettes to Oprah Winfrey and Steve Carell.

Hard showers fell on the red carpet as guests arrived at the ceremony, as workers dispensed pink towels for soggy celebrities. One former Oscar nominee, Viola Davis, said on her way into the ceremony that Hollywood’s diversity problems run deeper than the Oscars.

“You have to greenlight more stories that include people of color,” said Davis, asked about how to improve diversity in Hollywood. “You can’t get nominated for anything you’re not in.”

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