Detroit native Simmons is among list of Oscar winners

Tom Long
The Detroit News
J.K. Simmons accepts the award for best actor in a supporting role for “Whiplash” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

For the third time in four years a movie at least partially about movies was named best picture at the Academy Awards Sunday night, proving Hollywood really, really likes itself.

"Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)," the story of a onetime action movie star trying to redeem himself on stage, won best picture, best original screenplay, best director for Alejandro G. Inarritu and best cinematography.

Eddie Redmayne won best actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything," while Julianne Moore won best actress for her role as a woman with early onset Alzheimer's in "Still Alice."

"I read an article that said winning an Oscar could make you live five years longer. If that's true I'd really like to thank the Academy because my husband is younger than me," Moore said, before adding, "There is no such thing as best actress."

Native Detroiter and lifelong Tigers fan J.K. Simmons won the Oscar for best supporting actor Sunday night for his portrayal of a tyrannical music teacher in "Whiplash."

Instead of running through the standard litany of agents and producers to thank, Simmons, who has won a slew of awards this season for the role, thanked his wife and kids. And then he implored everybody watching to be grateful for family.

"Call your mom, call your dad if you're lucky enough to have a parent living on this planet," he told the audience, many of whom had joined in a standing ovation for the actor, who had never been nominated for an Oscar before but who, at 60, has become a familiar face and voice through film, television and commercial work.

As expected, Patricia Arquette won best supporting actress for playing a single mother in "Boyhood," which was shot over a period of 12 years. After giving out her thank yous she roused the audience with feminist fervor, saying "It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America."

The Oscar for cinematography went to Emmanuel Lubezki for the second year in a row; this time around it was for "Birdman," last year it was "Gravity."

"The Grand Budapest Hotel" won Oscars for costume, makeup, original score and production design while the Oscar for best foreign language film went to Poland's "Ida." "Whiplash" picked up its second Oscar for sound mixing and third for film editing and "American Sniper" took the award for sound editing, while "Interstellar" won visual effects. Best song went to Common and John Legend for "Glory," from "Selma."

"'Selma' is now because the struggle for justice is right now... right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real," Legend told the audience, while a heartfelt Common said the bridge in "Selma" was a bridge of "hope." They drew a standing ovation.

"Big Hero 6" won best animated feature while "Citizenfour," which followed Edward Snowden as he released classified documents, won best documentary feature. "For some reason Edward Snowden could not be here tonight," quipped host Neil Patrick Harris.

Simmons' was the first award of the evening and followed a surprisingly brief – for an Oscar show – musical number from Harris. Singing his way (a bit shakily at first) through various projected scenes from movies a la Billy Crystal, Harris was joined by Anna Kendrick in an ode to the marvels of film ("moving pictures shape who we are").

The ode was interrupted by Jack Black who rose from the audience to come up on stage and deliver a musical rant about screens large and small, which included some nice scathing comments about the state of Hollywood but held back just enough to keep from being too seriously critical.

All in all it was an efficient start. Harris also showed he's not above a bit of edge himself. His first line of the night – referring to the absence of minorities in the acting and directing races – was "Tonight we honor Hollywood's whitest, uh, brightest."

He returned to the theme later when introducing actor David Oyelowo, who was not nominated for best actor for playing Martin Luther King Jr. in "Selma." Harris introduced him, the audience applauded, and Harris said, "Oh, sure, now you like him."

The night saw some interesting pairings as presenters, including non-nominee Oyelowo with fellow non-nominee Jennifer Aniston (who missed the cut with "Cake") and singer Idina Menzel with John Travolta, who famously butchered her name at last year's Oscar show. Hollywood does have a sense of humor, it seems.

Some bits worked. The performance of "Everything is Awesome" from "The Lego Movie," with Lego statues being handed to audience members was appropriately awesome. And even if most viewers likely didn't get the references to the little-seen"Birdman" and "Whiplash," it's always good to see an Oscar host walk on stage in his underwear.

But others flopped – Harris went to interview audience members and immediately clunked into two seatholders followed by a not particularly funny Steve Carell. The joke he told with Oyelowo was pretty dead and that thing about his Oscar picks being in a briefcase guarded by Octavia Spencer wore thin.

And wait – did Lady Gaga seriously sing "The Sound of Music"? Was that absolutely necessary?

All this took place on a stage, by the way, adorned with life-size, apparently impaled golden Oscar statues. Let's hope it wasn't some kind of twisted omen.

A partial list of winners:

Picture: "Birdman."

Actor: Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything."

Actress: Julianne Moore, "Still Alice."

Supporting actor: J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash."

Supporting actress: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood."

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Birdman."

Foreign language film: "Ida."

Adapted screenplay: Graham Moore, "The Imitation Game."

Original screenplay: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)."

Animated feature film: "Big Hero 6."

Production design: "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Cinematography: "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)."

Sound mixing: "Whiplash."

Sound editing: "American Sniper."

Original score: "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Original song: "Glory" from "Selma."

Costume design: "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Documentary feature: "CitizenFour."

Documentary (short subject): "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1."

Film editing: "Whiplash."

Makeup and hairstyling: "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Animated short film: "Feast."

Live action short film: "The Phone Call."

Visual effects: "Interstellar."