After a year of incredible films—or incredibly white films, as host Chris Rock pointed out several times—the Oscars did not disappoint, and put on a spectacular show.
While there has been much controversy on the lack of diversity in nominations for the second year in a row, Rock handled it with class and ease, both during his opening monologue and throughout the show. He joked that there were at least 15 black people in the montage of the year’s film releases, and that the Oscars could be renamed the “White People’s Choice Awards.”
Rock was not the only person to comment on #OscarsSoWhite. In a video montage of what some of this year’s nominated films would look like if they were populated by more African-Americans, Academy Award winner Whoopi Goldberg, “Saturday Night Live” comedian Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan all also took part. But perhaps the strongest comment of the night came pre-show on the red carpet, in an interview between Robin Roberts and Kerry Washington.
“I really respect and actually admire some of the people who are not here tonight,” Washington said, regarding some actors who decided to boycott the awards show. “But for me … I felt like my voice was best used at the table.”
Rock also took a moment in the opener to comment on gender inequality in film by questioning why there is even a distinction between male and female actors at the Oscars.
“Robert De Niro’s never said, ‘I better slow this acting down so Meryl Streep can catch up,’“ the comedian joked.
Lack of diversity aside, the awards show brought some emotional moments and, of course, the occasional snub and shock.
George Miller’s epic action film “Mad Max: Fury Road” swept the technical awards, including Best Costume Design and Best Film Editing, proving that award-winning films can be a thrill from start to finish.
Alicia Vikander and Mark Rylance took the early acting categories as Best Supporting Actress and Actor for “The Danish Girl” and “Bridge of Spies,” respectively. Vikander was the favorite to win in her category, although she had stiff competition from “Steve Jobs” nominee Kate Winslet. Rylance, on the other hand, was quite the underdog in his category. Many were saying Sylvester Stallone would take the award for reprising his role of Rocky Balboa in “Creed,” a character which earned him an Oscar nomination an incredible 37 years ago.
“I’ve always just adored stories—hearing them, seeing them [and] being in them,” Rylance said upon winning. “For me, to have a chance to work with one of the greatest storytellers of all time—Steven Spielberg—that’s such a great honor.”
In between awards, multiple artists took to the stage to perform numbers from the Best Original Song category. Both Sam Smith and The Weeknd shined with their vocals, but it was Lady Gaga who, just a year after surprising audiences with her “Sound of Music” tribute, brought the audience to tears. Toward the end of the powerful performance of “Til It Happens to You” from the documentary “The Haunting Ground,” Gaga brought out a number of sexual assault survivors who stood together in solidarity. The audience gave a standing ovation as the cameras showed teary-eyed shots of Rachel McAdams, Steve Carell and Winslet, which made it all the more shocking when Smith’s “James Bond” theme took the prize.
As the smaller awards were given out, plenty of jokes and thank-yous were given out. A highlight was when first-time winner and 87-year-old Ennio Morricone won Best Original Score for “The Hateful Eight” and recognized fellow nominee James Williams for his incredible 50th nomination, this time for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Then came Louis C.K., who presented the award for Best Documentary Short and joked about how broke these specific filmmakers are. “This is documentary short film. You cannot make a dime on this,” C.K. started. “This Oscar is going home in a Honda Civic.”
America’s new favorite star, Jacob Tremblay, was thrilled to be at the awards show. He could not contain his excitement when C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8 stumbled onstage, gave Rock praise for his role of Marty the Zebra in the “Madagascar” franchise, and was clearly thrilled when his “Room” co-star Brie Larson won for Best Actress.
But no one—except maybe Winslet—could have been happier than when Leonardo DiCaprio finally took home an Oscar for Best Actor in “The Revenant.” While he should have won plenty of other times, DiCaprio didn’t mention the wait but instead tackled climate change.
“#ClimateChange action starts w/ electing leaders who’ll make brave & vital changes needed to save our planet,” he tweeted after the show, following the lines of his acceptance speech.
And the biggest award of the night, Best Picture, was perhaps the most unpredictable of the night. An award that normally has a clear winning going into the ceremony, it was a toss-up between “The Revenant,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Spotlight.” The latter, about the Boston Globe investigative team that uncovered the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, proved to be victorious.
Producer Michael Sugar said, “This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican. Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.”
By the end, the Oscars proved that, although they definitely were not as diverse as they could have been, they were surely entertaining. It will be interesting to see what will happen with all of the controversy in a year’s time.
This article was published on Boca Magazine on Feb. 29, 2016 and can be found here.