Diversity was undoubtedly the theme of this year’s Academy Awards, despite – or, more likely, due to – the dearth of nominees of colour. Journalism drama Spotlight was named Best Picture, while The Revenant won three Oscars including a Best Actor gong for Leonardo DiCaprio. But last night’s ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles will be best remembered for its focus on race in Hollywood, and in particular for its host Chris Rock’s pointed opening monologue.
As the comedian joked, “If they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t even get this job!” A series of skits on the same topic included one in which black performers were inserted into scenes from several Oscar-nominated movies starring white actors, such as The Martian and Joy. On a serious note, Rock added: “We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. Leo gets a great part every year... but what about the black actors?”
With the Academy of Motion Pictures under uncommon scrutiny and facing unprecedented criticism, the organisation’s president Cheryl Boone Isaacs also addressed the issue, telling the audience: “Everybody in the Hollywood community has a role to play in bringing about the vital changes the industry needs so that we can accurately reflect the world today.”
While black nominees were lacking, there were several Latino winners, including a second consecutive Best Director gong for Alejandro González Iñárritu, the Mexican director of The Revenant and of last year’s Birdman; as well as an unprecedented third Oscar in a row for The Revenant’s Mexican cinematographer, Emanuel Lubezki. Chile, meanwhile, celebrated its first ever Oscar win for the animated short Bear Story.
Mad Max: Fury Road collected the night’s heaviest Oscar haul, winning six technical awards including Best Costume Design; Production Design; Make-Up and Hairstyling; Sound Editing; and Sound Mixing. Its director George Miller also returns home with an Oscar in the household, after his wife Margaret Sixel won an Oscar for the film’s editing.
Brie Larson was named Best Actress for her acclaimed performance in the harrowing, uplifting drama Room, while Alicia Vikander won the Best Supporting Actress award for her work opposite Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. Spotlight and financial crisis comedy The Big Short took the honours for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay respectively.
It was a fine night for British filmmakers, with Mark Rylance upsetting Sylvester Stallone to win Best Supporting Actor for his turn as an unassuming Soviet agent in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. Director Asif Kapadia’s moving Amy Winehouse documentary Amy was named Best Documentary Feature, while singer Sam Smith won Best Original Song for his Bond theme, “Writing’s on the Wall”.
In one of the evening’s most heart-warming moments, 87-year-old Ennio Morricone, the celebrated Italian composer, received a lengthy standing ovation after winning his first competitive Academy Award for the score to Quentin Tarantino’s western, The Hateful Eight.
In the hours leading up to the ceremony, civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton led a demonstration in a car-park close to the Dolby, decrying the absence of black nominees. Protesters wielded placards with the slogans #OscarsSoWhite and “Black Lives Matter”. Why had activists chosen this year of all years to highlight such a perennial problem, Rock asked. Because, he said, back in the 1950s and 1960s, “We had real things to protest. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won Best Cinematographer.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies