Neil Patrick Harris kicks off Oscars ceremony; J.K. Simmons, Patricia Arquette winners

By Karen Butler  |  Updated Feb. 22, 2015 at 11:42 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Host Neil Patrick Harris kicked off the 87th annual Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles Sunday night with a spectacular song and dance number.

"Tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest. Sorry, brightest," Harris said in his opening remarks, referring to the fact that all of this year's acting nominees are white.

"Check out the glamor, the glitter, people tweeting on the Twitter," he began singing. "And no one's drunk and bitter yet because no one has lost."

The camera then panned to Best Actor nominee Benedict Cumberbatch who took a swig from a flask, scowled and mouthed the words, "Go away!"

The song then became a musical tribute to the magic of motion pictures -- and how they connect us all as human beings. It featured Anna Kendrick as her Into the Woods character Cinderella and was interrupted by comic actor Jack Black who pointed out the more cynical, bottom-line-obsessed side of show business until Harris yelled, "Jack!" and Cinderella threw her golden shoe at him, prompting him to leave the stage.

"That whole thing was completely improvised," Harris quipped when it was done.

Moments later, J.K. Simmons won the first award of the evening -- Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Whiplash.

"Wow, thank you. Thank you to the Academy. Thank you to everyone involved in the making of Whiplash," Simmons said. "And I am grateful every day for the most remarkable person I know: my wife, the wonderful Michelle Schumacher. I'm grateful for your love, your kindness, your wisdom, your sacrifice and your patience. Which brings me to the above-average children -- even though I may try their patience more. Joe and Olivia, you are extraordinary human beings. Smart, funny, kind, loving people and that's because you are a reflection of your mother. And if I may, call your Mom, everybody. I've told this [to], like, a billion people, or so. Call your Mom, call your Dad. If you're lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call 'em. Don't text. Don't email. Call them on the phone. Tell 'em you love 'em, and thank them, and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you. Thank you. Thank you, Mom and Dad."

"He won an Oscar. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam," Harris joked, a wink to the jingle for Simmons' many Farmers Insurance television commercials.

Patricia Arquette picked up the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in Boyhood. She used her acceptance speech as a platform to call for wage equality for women, a move that earned loud cheers and applause from the audience. Among her most enthusiastic supporters in the crowd were Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez.

"OK, Jesus," Arquette said. "Thank you to the Academy, to my beautiful, powerful nominees. To IFC, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland, Molly Madden, David DeCamillo, our whole cast and our crew. My Boyhood family, who I love and admire. Our brilliant director Richard Linklater. The impeccable Ethan Hawke. My lovelies, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater. Thomas and Paul, thank you for giving me my beautiful children. Enzo and Harlow, you're the deepest people that I know. My friends who all work so hard to make this world a better place. To my parents, Rosanna, Richmond, Alexis and David. To my favorite painter in the world, Eric White, for the inspiration of living with a genius. To my heroes, volunteers and experts who have helped me bring ecological sanitation to the developing world with GiveLove.org. To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's equal rights. It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America."

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