'Birdman,' 'Budapest' top Oscar nominations with 9 each.

Byline: Jake Coyle

Two extravagant comedies, "Birdman'' and "The Grand Budapest Hotel,'' dominated nominations for the 87th annual Academy Awards with nine nods each, while "Boyhood'' remained the widely acknowledged front-runner.

The three films were nominated for best picture on Thursday along with "Whiplash,'' "The Theory of Everything,'' "The Imitation Game,'' "American Sniper'' and "Selma.'' The eight films, largely more modestly sized movies dwarfed by Hollywood's stampede of bigger blockbusters at the box office, gave the Oscars a classy if not particularly high-wattage batch of nominees.

In Hollywood's ever-expanding industrial complex of awards season, the year's front-runners -- Richard Linklater's coming of age epic "Boyhood'' (six noms) and Alejandro Gonazalez Inarritu's elegantly shot backstage romp "Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)'' -- haven't been dislodged from their lofty perch, steadily accumulating hardware.

"This is what everyone waits for. This is the last one, unless there's another one that I don't know about,'' said Michael Keaton, who was rewarded with a best-actor nod for his performance as a washed-up star trying to mount a serious Broadway play in "Birdman.'' He added: "I don't care how much people tell you: 'It's gonna happen.' When it happens, you're thrilled.''

"Boyhood'' won best drama at the Golden Globes, the latest in a string of awards for the unique, 12-years-in-making film. It landed Linklater nominations for best director and screenplay, as well as supporting nods for Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke

But there were others -- "The Grand Budapest Hotel,'' "American Sniper'' and "The Imitation Game'' -- that came away big winners Thursday.

World War II code-breaker thriller "The Imitation Game,'' about Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), captured eight nominations, including best actor for Cumberbatch. The film's distributor, the Weinstein Co., has previously shepherded prestige British period films ("The King's Speech'') all the way to best picture.

"I am knocked for six by this,'' said Cumberbatch of his first Oscar nod. "To ring my parents who are both actors and tell them that their only son has been nominated for an Oscar is one of the proudest moments of my life.''

Wes Anderson's old Europe caper "The Grand Budapest Hotel,'' which also won best comedy or musical at the Globes, has emerged as the most unexpected awards heavyweight. It managed nine nominations without a single acting...

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