If the 87th annual Academy Awards ceremony was devoid of the kind of shocks that fuel a week’s worth of water cooler conversations, it was not lacking in a creeping tide of subversion.
Heading into the night it had been expected that Boyhood and Birdman would square off in a kind of running battle for the senior awards that would keep things interesting up until the closing moments.
Yet by the time Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu took to the stage to claim his first directing Oscar, there was the sense that the preferred pre-show narrative of two admired indie darlings slugging it out until the bitter end would dissolve into a barren night for Boyhood.
Iñárritu’s recent victory in the DGA Awards bolstered the Mexican’s credentials and so it proved to be as he collected his first Academy Award for directing.
In hindsight his win looked increasingly likely once the DGA had cast its influential vote, although many had predicted Richard Linklater to emerge victorious for Boyhood, in light of victories at the Golden Globes, Indie Spirits, BAFTA and others such as the National Society Of Film Critics.
Iñárritu became the second Mexican in consecutive years to win the prize after Alfonso Cuaron triumphed for Gravity last year.
A strong night for Mexico and Birdman kicked off when Emmanuel Lubezki prevailed in the cinematography category, as he had done the year before for Gravity.
After that, Iñárritu and his fellow writers collected the original screenplay Oscar. When Sean Penn took to the stage at the show finale to announce the best picture winner, Birdman’s recent wins at the PGA and Indie Spirit Awards seemed weighty indeed.
Yet Boyhood was not to be completely overshadowed. During the red carpet arrivals Ethan Hawke had likened himself and his compadres as pirates and Patricia Arquette’s widely expected supporting actress win plundered plenty of attention and social media love as she called for wage equality.
Eddie Redmayne prevented Birdman from earning a firth award as he beat Michael Keaton in the lead actor stakes. The star of The Theory Of Everything was always going to be the one to beat after his SAG triumph, given the large number of actors that make up the Academy voting block.
Similarly SAG winner Julianne Moore’s lead actress victory for Still Alice had never really been in doubt throughout the season and she finished top of a pool that did not catch the eye for its strength in depth this season.
J K Simmons’ victory in best supporting actor contest kicked off a fine night for Bold Films’ Whiplash, which finished the night on three wins including editing for Tom Cross and sound mixing. Sony Pictures Classics distributed the film in the US.
On paper the Oscar ceremony was set up to be a big night for Fox Searchlight and it was. A total of 18 nominations for Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel resulted in eight wins – four apiece for the two films.
Wes Anderson’s beloved film triumphed in crafts, walking off with Oscars for production design, costume, make-up / hairstyling and score categories.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida returned Poland’s first foreign language winner and beat off a stiff challenge by Russia’s Leviathan.
The Imitation Game turned eight nods into a single win for Graham Moore’s adapted screenplay, while American Sniper collected best sound editing, Interstellar best visual effects and Selma best song for Glory.
Big Hero 6 turned the tables on How To Train Your Dragon 2 in an animation category that did not procure a nomination for The LEGO Movie, which in and of itself may well have been the biggest shock of the entire awards season.
Citizenfour was named best documentary in another contest that few believed would go any other way.