Oscars 2015: Neil Patrick Harris, John Legend Put Diversity at Forefront

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Common and Nicole Kidman also shared messages of how film should unite people.

The Oscars telecast took jabs at the Motion Picture Academy's diversity issues.

Neil Patrick Harris opened the ceremony with this, "We honor Hollywood's best and whitest. I mean brightest."

Later, he singled out Selma's David Oyelowo, who he said was powerful as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He got big applause, prompting Harris to chide the audience, who failed to nominate Oyelowo for best actor: "Oh, sure, now you like him."

Introducing Common and John Legend's performance of "Glory" from Selma, Octavia Spencer praised the song as from "two artists have joined together for a song that speaks to his struggles to this day."

The duo collected the best original song trophy with Legend offering a message of solidarity to black men.

"We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850" said Legend.

Presenting the foreign language Oscar to IdaChiwetel Ejiofor said watching the news reminds us "of the things that separate us," such as race and religion. Co-presenter Nicole Kidman added, "In a darkened theater, those differences melt away.

"We laugh or cry as one. Because movies aren't about countries. They are about being humans," said Kidman.

Ahead of the ceremony, the Academy came under fire for nominated an all-white acting slate, and for its membership, which is predominately white and male.