Oscars: Independent studios triumph again

Eddie Redmayne picked up the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Picture: PA
Eddie Redmayne picked up the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Picture: PA
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THE stranglehold Hollywood studios had over the Academy Awards has been broken once again, after independent film Birdman took the Oscars for best picture and best director.

For the fourth time in five years, the movie world’s top prize went to an independent film, with the nominated studio blockbuster American Sniper losing out in all the major categories and winning only a single award for best sound design.

The battle for the best picture award was always judged to have been between Birdman and Boyhood – made for a budget of less than £2 million over 12 years – as each had won the top award in earlier award ceremonies.

On the night, victory went to the dark comedy about a former actor, famous for his role in a superhero blockbuster, putting on a small stage play. It collecting four awards, also picking up the prizes for cinematography and original screenplay.

Other independent films to triumph included The Grand Budapest Hotel, which also won four Oscars, and Whiplash, which won three, including best supporting actor for JK Simmons.

In the past five years, the best picture Oscar has gone four times to a lower-budget independent films – The Hurt Locker (2009), The King’s Speech (2010), The Artist (2011) and 12 Years A Slave (2013) – with only Argo in 2012 being developed and funded by a major Hollywood studio.

On a night peppered with political point scoring, Alejandro G Inarritu, who wrote and directed Birdman, joked that the academy should bring in “immigration rules” after he won, following Alfonso Cuaron’s best director Oscar last year for Gravity. He said: “Two Mexicans in a row, that’s suspicious I guess”.

Inarritu also raised the plight of Mexicans inside and outside the US, saying: “I pray for my fellow Mexicans, to have the government they deserve.”

Among the British winners was Eddie Redmayne who won the leading actor Oscar. The star, lauded for his performance as Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, saw off competition from big names including Bradley Cooper and his friend and fellow Brit Benedict Cumberbatch.

Accepting his award from Cate Blanchett, Redmayne dedicated the award to “all of those people around the world” battling motor neurone disease.

Julianne Moore also dedicated her award to those afflicted with disease, as she accepted her best actress prize for her performance as a woman with Alzheimer’s in Still Alice.

She said: “I’m so happy. I’m thrilled actually that we were able to hopefully shine a light on Alzheimer’s disease … so many people with this disease feel isolated and marginalised.”

Moore also said: “I read an article that said that winning an Oscar could lead to living five years longer. If that’s true, I’d really like to thank the academy because my husband is younger than me.”

One of the night’s most powerful speeches was made by Graham Moore, who won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for The Imitation Game, which stars Cumberbatch as Alan Turing.

Moore said he had tried to commit suicide at 16 because he “felt weird” and “different” and told the TV audience: “Stay weird, stay different and when it’s your turn and you’re standing on this stage, please pass on this message”.

The best documentary feature went to Citizenfour, about former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, and director Laura Poitras dedicated the win to him and other whistleblowers and journalists “exposing truth”.

FULL LIST OF WINNERS AT THE OSCARS

Best picture: Birdman

Actress in a leading role: Julianne Moore

Actor in a leading role: Eddie Redmayne

Supporting actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Supporting actor: JK Simmons, Whiplash

Directing: Alejandro G Inarritu for Birdman

Original screenplay: Birdman

Adapted screenplay: The Imitation Game

Costume design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Makeup and hairstyling: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Foreign language film: Ida

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

Live action short film: The Phone Call

Visual effects: Interstellar

Animated short film: Feast

Animated feature film: Big Hero 6

Production design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman

Film editing: Tom Cross for Whiplash

Documentary feature: Citizenfour

Original song: Glory from Selma

Original score: Alexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel

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