Night of racial punchlines, upsets

LOS ANGELES • Catholic Church abuse movie Spotlight was named Best Picture at Sunday's Oscars ceremony, in a night peppered with pointed punchlines from host Chris Rock about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

In a ceremony where no single movie commanded attention, Mexico's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu nabbed Best Director for The Revenant, becoming the first director in more than 60 years - after Joseph L. Mankiewicz for A Letter To Three Wives in 1950 and All About Eve in 1951 - to win back-to-back Academy Awards. He won last year for Birdman.

The Revenant went in with a leading 12 nominations and was believed to have the best chances for Best Picture after it won Golden Globe and Bafta trophies.


The Pioneer-era tale also brought a first Oscar win for its star Leonardo DiCaprio, 41, after four previous acting nominations. The actor, who bested nominees Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Michael Fassbender and Eddie Redmayne, received a standing ovation and used his speech to highlight climate change.

Yet voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose Spotlight, which traces The Boston Globe's 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning probe of child sex abuse by Catholic priests, for Best Picture. The film took only one other award earlier - Best Original Screenplay - and Hollywood's Dolby Theatre gasped as the stunned cast and crew headed onstage to accept the trophy.

The film was seen as a front-runner after debuting in September, but it later watched competitors win key awards from the producers guild, directors guild and British film academy.

Best Original Song winners for Writing's On The Wall from the movie Spectre, Jimmy Napes (left) and Sam Smith. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

  • And the Oscar goes to...

  • Best Picture: Spotlight

    Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant

    Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

    Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room

    Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance, Bridge Of Spies

    Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

    Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy

    Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay

    Best Animated Feature Film: Inside Out

    Best Documentary Feature: Amy

    Best Foreign Language Film: Son Of Saul, Hungary

    Best Original Score: The Hateful Eight by Ennio Morricone

    Best Original Song: Writing's On The Wall from Spectre, by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

Co-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."

Rising star Brie Larson, 26, won Best Actress for her role as an abducted woman in indie movie Room, adding to her armful of trophies from other award shows.

Racial themes and barbs about the selection of an all-white acting nominee line-up for a second year were a running theme of the show, dubbed "the white People's Choice awards" by Rock.

"If they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get the job," Rock, 51, snapped as the show opened. In a politically contentious year, he took the only safe course: He unloaded on everyone. "Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties," he said. "I wasn't invited." It was a jab at actress Jada Pinkett Smith and those who had called for a boycott.

In a taped section, he visited the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Compton - the heart of the hip-hop music industry - to ask residents if they had heard or seen the Oscar-nominated movies. None had.

Several nominees gave him a thumbs-up for striking the right balance on a tricky theme.

"I thought it was jabbing at Hollywood, yet at the same time, even-handed and kind of dealing with a new era of how we discuss diversity," said Adam McKay, director and co-writer of Best Picture nominee The Big Short. "Really impressive and really funny."

Rock was not alone in putting people of colour in the spotlight on the movie industry's biggest night.

"I am very lucky to be here tonight, but unfortunately, many others haven't had the same luck," Inarritu said, expressing the hope that, in the future, skin colour would become as irrelevant as the length of one's hair.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2016, with the headline 'Night of racial punchlines, upsets'. Print Edition | Subscribe