This will go down as the most tumultuous Oscars in recent times – favourites fell, unknowns were crowned and history was made, even as questions of racial bias swirled around the entire event because of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign.
No single movie picked up three or more of the major awards, as is traditional.
The big prizes of the night – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Original and Best Screenplay, Adapted – were split among pictures.
In fact, the Best Picture winner, the social drama Spotlight, won only two Oscars, the fewest for a winner in that category in recent years.
The first bombshell dropped early on, when a small film that nobody saw won Best Visual Effects. It beat the heavily picked favourite, a science-fiction blockbuster that was part of an iconic billion-dollar franchise.
Ex Machina, a low-budget look at artificial intelligence, snatched the prize from the highly tipped Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a movie that cost many times more to make.
Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted.
LEONARDO DI CAPRIO, finally taking his Best Actor Oscar, in a message on climate change. With him are Best Supporting Actor winner Mark Rylance, Best Actress Brie Larson and Best Supporting Actress Alicia Vikander
The snubs for the hugely successful seventh movie in the Star Wars series continued as the night wore on.
There is a line in the film where Glass says to his mixed-race son – ‘They don’t listen to you, they just see the colour of your skin.’ So what a great opportunity for our generation to really liberate ourselves from all prejudice and this tribal thinking and make sure for once and forever that the colour of our skin becomes as irrelevant as the length of our hair.
BEST DIRECTOR ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU, referring to Leonardo DiCaprio’s role in The Revenant as trapper Hugh Glass
The space opera was not expected to win any of the major awards, but it was tipped to win at least one or two accolades in the five technical categories in which it had been nominated.
So, I thought about quitting. But, I realised, they’re gonna have the Oscars anyway. They’re not gonna cancel the Oscars because I quit. You know?And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart, okay? ’
OSCARS HOST CHRIS ROCK, addressing the Oscars diversity issue in his opening
But the picture, and director J.J. Abrams, came away with nothing, crushed by another science-fiction franchise film, Mad Max: Fury Road.
I don’t look like him.He happens to look a lot like me.
STAR WARS DROID C-3PO, on the iconic gold Oscars statue, while honouring Star Wars composer John Williams with BB-8 and R2-D2
The Australia-born road-carnage epic emerged as the night’s top winner with six awards in technical categories.
I can see lots of legs, that’s my perspective.
CHILD STAR JACOB TREMBLAY on the red carpet, to E! host Ryan Seacrest
Many who had predicted this outcome said it was a backhanded way of recognising the long and varied career of Australian director George Miller, 70, who helmed all four Mad Max movies, as well as crowd-pleasers such as Babe: Pig In The City (1998) and the Happy Feet animated films (2006, 2011).
But another industry stalwart with a long career, riding on a wave of sentiment after a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe win, saw victory snatched away from him.
Sylvester Stallone, 69, emerged as the one to beat in recent weeks for coming back as his beloved Rocky Balboa character in Creed.
But it was the relatively unknown British actor Mark Rylance, 56, who won the statuette for his portrayal of communist spy Rudolf Abel, in the Steven Spielberg-directed thriller Bridge Of Spies.
What happened? One theory is that academy members eligible to vote in the acting categories must be themselves actors and so prefer to reward a person they admire, rather than vote for a single performance.
Thus the supporting actor category is known for rewarding actor’s actors – see J.K. Simmons’ win for Whiplash (2014).
The highly esteemed Rylance fits the bill; the other nominees – Christian Bale, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hardy and, yes, even Stallone himself – are leading men who can sell tickets on star power.
As had been predicted, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu won Best Director for the western The Revenant, making him the first helmer in decades to win that accolade in two consecutive years.
Last year, he clinched it for the drama Birdman (2014).
And in another unusual occurrence, the Mexican film-maker’s project failed to win Best Picture, a prize which tends to go hand in hand with Best Director.
Birdman nabbed both, as did The Artist (2010), The King’s Speech (2009) and The Hurt Locker (2008).
The winner of Best Picture prize, Spotlight, came with its own oddities. The movie, about the exploits of Boston Globe reporters exposing systematic child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, is the most low-key Best Picture winner in a long time.
With its two modest wins – for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay – it is the least awards-bedecked of recent Best Picture winners, which tend to clean up.
Birdman, for example, won four Oscars; 12 Years A Slave (2013) three; Argo (2012) three; The Artist five; The King’s Speech four; The Hurt Locker six; Slumdog Millionaire (2008) eight; and No Country For Old Men(2007) four.
This has been the most fragmented and socially divisive Oscars in recent memory.
In the next few years, when new rules aimed at breaking the power bloc of older white men in the academy’s 7,000 voters take hold, things might become even more unpredictable.
Hits and misses on the red carpet
Olivia Munn: Despite not being up for any awards, the pretty 35-year-old actress wowed in a bright orange gown by Stella McCartney which matched her lipstick. A simple silver cuff and earrings completed the look.
Alicia Vikander: The 27-year-old Swedish beauty, who won Best Supporting Actress for The Danish Girl, was a breath of fresh air in a yellow Louis Vuitton gown. The silver embellishments and bubble hem added an interesting and youthful vibe.
Sylvester Stallone: The 69-year-old, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Creed, but lost to Mark Rylance, looked dashing in a black and blue tuxedo. He was accompanied by his wife Jennifer Flavin, who wore a simple black slip dress. This was a rare instance where a husband outshone his wife.
Lady Gaga: The 29-year-old singer-actress' outfit may not be as outlandish as her previous costumes (remember the infamous meat dress), but she was still a showstopper in a custom-made structural white jumpsuit with a matching train by long-time friend and former stylist Brandon Maxwell.
Brie Larson: Despite being "incredibly jetlagged" after getting off a plane from Vietnam, the 26-year-old looked radiant in a cobalt blue gown with vertical ruffles on the skirt. She won Best Actress for playing a kidnapped mother in Room.
Cate Blanchett: The 46-year-old seven-time Academy Awards nominee never fails to impress on the red carpet. She cut a fine figure in her Armani Prive seafoam gown embellished with matching flowers, the colour of which complemented her blonde hair. She was nominated for Best Actress for Carol, but did not win.
Saoirse Ronan: The 21-year-old actress looked grown-up in a custom sequin dress with a plunging neckline by Calvin Klein, paying homage to her Irish heritage with the dark green colour. She was nominated for Best Actress for Brooklyn, but lost to Brie Larson.
Tina Fey: The 45-year-old comedienne and actress should stop making self-deprecating jokes about her looks. The deep-blue bustier dress showed off her trim figure, and her updo and matching necklace completed her elegant look.
Kate Winslet: The black Ralph Lauren gown looked like an expensive garbage bag.
The 40-year-old actress was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Steve Jobs, but lost to Alicia Vikander.
Heidi Klum: The 42-year-old model's dress tried to be too many things at once, with the fluffiness of the tulle gown, the long shapeless sleeve, the corsage-like flowers at the shoulder and waist and the peekaboo detail at the bust. She should fire her stylist, if she has one.
Kevin Hart: There is only one word to describe the bedazzled suit of the 36-year-old: No.
Sophie Turner: The 20-year-old Game Of Thrones actress was way too underdressed in a silver dress that was more bridesmaid than Oscar red-carpet worthy.
Repeat telecasts of the 88th Annual Academy Awards will air on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) on March 2 (9pm), March 4 (10.30pm) and March 6 (4pm).
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2016, with the headline 'Oscars break with tradition'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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