While Sunday’s 88th annual Academy Awards were embroiled by racial controversy headed in, the actual awards were fairly drama-free (at least until the big surprise winner at the end). But that’s not to say they were forgettable. Here are the 5 best moments that we’ll remember from this year’s Oscars.
#OscarsSoWhite takes center stage
In a year of Oscar controversy over the lack of African-American nominees, host Chris Rock went for the jugular with a biting opening monologue that managed to draw laughs — albeit mostly nervous ones. Among his more memorable lines:
• “I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards.”
• “Is Hollywood racist? You got to go at that the right way. Is it burning cross racist? It’s a different type of racist. . . . You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, we like you, Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.”
• “Why are we protesting this Oscars? It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this ‘no black nominees’ thing happened at least 71 other times.”
• “This year, in the In Memoriam package, it’s just going to be black people who were shot by the cops on their way to the theater.”
‘Mad Max’ runs roughshod
“Mad Max: Fury Road” was among the best received movies of the year from both critics and moviegoers, and the visual spectacle cleaned up in the technical awards.
The action film won in six of the eight categories for which it was nominated: for Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Best Production Design. The way “Mad Max’s” momentum was going, the biggest shocker might have been “Ex Machina” crashing the party to win for Best Visual Effects.
And down goes Rocky…
OK, who had Mark Rylance for Best Supporting Actor in the pool?
Didn’t think so. In a category that everyone thought Sylvester Stallone had locked up for reprising his role of Rocky Balboa in “Creed,” the “Bridge of Spies” co-star was a true Cinderella story, coming out of nowhere to knock out not just Rocky Balboa, but also The Hulk, Batman and Mad Max (aka Mark Ruffalo, Christian Bale and Tom Hardy).
Stallone will get over it. It’s not the first time he’s been on the losing end of a split decision. (Remember the ending of the original “Rocky”?)
Lady Gaga strikes a chord
The most emotional moment of the night belonged not to any actor or award-winner, but to Lady Gaga’s powerful performance of her song “’Til It Happens to You.” The song about sexual abuse, up for Best Original Song for the documentary film “The Hunting Ground,” combined a haunting piano melody, wrenching lyrics and a stage full of rape survivors holding hands in solidarity, each with a personal message written on their arm: “IT HAPPENED TO ME.” “SURVIVOR.” “UNBREAKABLE.” “NOT ALONE.”
The performance earned the first standing ovation of the night.
Stop the presses!
In a legitimate shocker, “Spotlight” upset “The Revenant” for Best Picture. While it didn’t do boffo business at the box office, or take home a boatload of other awards Sunday, “Spotlight” apparently tapped into the Academy’s sweet spot, combining an important social issue with high-quality ensemble filmmaking.
Of note: “Spotlight” was the first Best Picture winner to win only one other award since 1952 (“The Greatest Show in Earth”).
For a film celebrating the tireless efforts of newspaper journalists, it’s too bad the award came at midnight Eastern time, past the print deadline for most papers. Thank goodness for the Internet.