Chris Rock's Opening Monologue
Host Chris Rock didn’t dance around the elephant in the room (that would be #OscarsSoWhite): He stepped onstage and launched into a monologue about the controversy, first defending his choice to host (“They’re not going to cancel the Oscars because I quit, and the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart”) while stars like Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee were boycotting the ceremony. Then he got to the heart of it: “Is Hollywood racist?” he asked. “You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist,” he said, elaborating, “Hollywood’s sorority-racist; it’s like, ‘We like you, Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’”
Oscar-Nominated Films Get Diversified
Continuing his ridicule of the industry’s diversity problem, Rock explained, “If you’re a black actor, just getting the opportunity to be in a movie can be a struggle,” segueing into a pre-taped segment that edited black actors into Oscar-nominated films. Whoopi Goldberg appeared first, playing a janitor who gets annoyed with Jennifer Lawrence’s Joy Mangano, the inventor of the Miracle Mop, in Joy; next, Leslie Jones wrestled with Leonardo DiCaprio in a more inclusive version of The Revenant; and third, Tracy Morgan tried on a white slip in The Danish Girl. Finally, Chris Rock took over Matt Damon’s role in The Martian, while Kristen Wiig and Jeff Daniels debated whether it would be worth the considerable cost to rescue a stranded black astronaut, despite the PR problem it would mean to abandon him.
Jenny Beavan Wins for Best Costume Design
Mad Max: Fury Road took home the first of its many below-the-line awards with Best Costume Design, about 45 minutes into the ceremony. Costume designer Jenny Beavan, picking up the second Oscar of her long career (her first was for 1987’s E.M. Forster adaptation A Room with a View, which is about as far away from Mad Max, sartorially speaking, as a movie could possibly be). Beavan took the ceremony’s formal dress code into her own hands, wearing a leather jacket emblazoned with a flaming skull logo straight from Mad Max’s post-apocalyptic iconography. She concluded her gracious speech with a warning: “It could be prophetic, Mad Max,” she said, “if we’re not kinder to each other and if we don’t stop polluting our atmosphere.”
Rock introduced various surprise guests over the course of the night — some more shocking than others. After Jennifer Garner and Benicio Del Toro introduced The Revenant as one of the Best Picture nominees, the camera cut to the film’s star, Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as an enormous stuffed bear applauding in the audience. In another moment mocking the Oscars’ lack of diversity, Rock introduced the Academy’s new “director of the minority outreach program” Stacey Dash, who came out and waved with a huge smile on her face, in an evident attempt at self-aware humor (on her part) that did not go over well with the audience. Later, when giving a shoutout to the attendees who were portrayed onscreen in Oscar-nominated films, the camera cut to “Suge Knight” wearing a jumpsuit and strapped into a straitjacket.
Stars Buy Girl Scout Cookies
“I have been away from my two daughters at a very important time in their life,” Rock told the audience about halfway into the telecast. “I have missed most of Girl Scout cookie season.” He implored the audience to “reach into your millionaire pockets” and buy some Thin Mints from his daughters, so they could finally beat the girls’ competitor and perennial cookie-selling champion. In a moment reminiscent of Ellen Degeneres’ pizza party, a group of girls wearing Girl Scout sashes walked through the crowd and sold Tagalongs and Do-Si-Dos to celebrities with a sweet tooth. Later, Rock said his girls collected over $65,000, easily outselling their rival, and he thanked the Girl Scouts of Los Angeles for their participation.
Inside Out Wins Best Animated Feature
Animation had its moment, starting with the Minions presenting Best Animated Short (the award went to Bear Story), then Toy Story’s Buzz and Woody presented the Best Animated Feature statuette, to their fellow Pixar creation Inside Out. Director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera accepted the award. “This film was really borne from watching our kids grow up — which is not easy,” Docter said of the movie, which personifies the emotions inside a preteen girl’s head. The director then addressed young people: “There are days you’re going to feel sad, you’re going to feel angry, you’re going to be scared. That’s nothing you can choose — but you can make stuff. Make films. Draw. Write. It will make a world of difference.”
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy Wins Best Documentary Short Subject
Documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy took home her second Oscar for her short film A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, which exposes the practice of honor killings in Pakistan. “This is what happens when determined women get together,” she said at the top of her inspiring speech. She dedicated the award to the woman who courageously shared her story in the short film as well as “all the brave men” in the world who also “want a more just society for women,” and she concluded, “This week, the Pakistani prime minister has said that he will change the law on honor killing after watching this film. That is the power of film. “
Lady Gaga Sings "Til It Happens to You"
Vice President Joe Biden came out to present the third Best Original Song-nominated performance: Lady Gaga singing “Til It Happens to You.” The pop star co-wrote the song with Diane Warren for the documentary The Hunting Ground, about sexual assault on college campuses. “We must and we can change the culture,” Biden said, “so that no abused woman or man ever has to ask themselves, ‘What did I do?’” He then introduced “my friend and a courageous lady,” Lady Gaga, who sat at an enormous white piano and gave an impassioned performance of the ballad, which insists, “Til it happens to you / you don’t know how I feel.” Toward the end of the song, she was joined onstage by survivors of sexual assault — both men and women — who had words like “survivor” and “unbreakable” written on their arms. Rachel McAdams and Kate Winslet, among other stars in the audience, were visibly moved.
Jacob Tremblay and Abraham Attah Present
Appropriately, the Academy brought out young stars Jacob Tremblay and Abraham Attah to present Best Live Action Short. Just as Attah said that “size doesn’t really matter” when it comes to great films, Rock ran out carrying crates for the actors to stand on. Adorable as ever, Tremblay told the host that he loved him in Madagascar. “He plays a zebra,” he told the audience after Rock left the stage. “He’s hilarious!”
Brie Larson and Leonardo DiCaprio Win Big
To little surprise, frontrunners Brie Larson and Leonardo DiCaprio won Best Actress and Best Actor for their performances in Room and The Revenant, respectively. Larson got a hug and a high-five from her pint-sized costar Jacob Tremblay before taking the podium, where she thanked the festivals where the film first screened, Room’s indie distributor A24, the creative team, and the fans.
Best Actor was presented next, and finally, after six nominations (five for acting, and one as a producer), Leo took an Oscar home. The room exploded when Julianne Moore announced DiCaprio’s name, and the actor began his speech to an enthusiastic standing ovation. He gave a shoutout to Tom Hardy, “my brother in this endeavor,” and the night’s Best Director winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who DiCaprio said has “forged his way” into “the history of cinema.” DiCaprio, a noted environmentalist, ended his speech with a call to action. “Climate change is real, and it’s happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species,” he said (as the camera cut to Kate Winslet, who was in tears). “Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take this night for granted.”
Spotlight Wins Best Picture
It was a tight race for the industry’s biggest honor, but in the final award of the night, Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight took home Best Picture. The cast and creative team behind the newsroom drama gathered onstage, and producer Michael Sugar took the podium. “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.” He then addressed the Vatican directly: “Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.” Producer Blye Pagon Faust spoke next about the importance of reporters like the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team. “We would not be here today without the heroic efforts of our reporters,” she said. “Not only do they effect global change, but they absolutely show us the necessity for investigative journalism.”