The 88th Academy Awards
Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles
By Richard Fitzwilliams
Chris Rock hosts the live ABC Telecast of The 88th Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre in Hollywood. Credit: Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.
This was a colourful, slickly produced and highly entertaining ceremony which had an unpredictability throughout which made it most exciting. It was dominated by the controversy over the absence of persons of colour among the twenty acting nominees for the second year running. An emotional controversy on social media and a boycott by several well known figures followed and the Academy announced it
was changing its rules over the next four years to ensure it was more representative of contemporary America, both ethnically and with regard to gender equality. It was unofficially revealed by the Los Angeles Times that the Academy’s voters were 94 per cent white, 77 per cent male and had an average age of 62. The host, African American comedian Chris Rock, had the perfect opportunity for some hard-hitting satire enlivened by some wickedly funny sketches. Rock began with a memorable monologue which also poked fun at some of those boycotting it. He was not always subtle and never left the topic but he ensured the issue had the impact intended. He blamed the lack of opportunity for black actors on racism in the industry in Hollywood and ended with the slogan “Black Lives Matter”.
It was widely believed that The Revenant, a western based on the endurance of the frontiersman Hugh Glass and set in the 1820s, would win Best Picture as it was so atmospheric and such an amazing feat of filming. In the end, Spotlight, depicting the way the Boston Globe’s investigative unit revealed the systemic abuse of children by Catholic priests, a flawless film, was the deserving winner.
Emmanuel Lubezki, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Alejandro González Iñarritu pose with the Oscar® Credit: Scott Diussa / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Brie Larson reacts to winning the Oscar® for Performance by an actress in a leading role, for work on “Room”. Credit: Aaron Poole / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s win for Best Actor for his superb portrayal of Glass had been widely predicted and in this, his fifth acting nomination, he was successful. The Director of The Revenant, Alejandro G. Inarritu, also won – his second win in consecutive years – and made a strong plea for racial understanding. Brie Larson was an excellent choice for Best Actress for her role as the kidnapped mother of a five year old boy in Room. Alicia Vikander’s superb role in The Danish Girl was recognised when she won Best Supporting Actress but the dream photo opportunity of the stars of Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, also a nominee, together with their Oscars, never materialised.
There was also an upset when the brilliant British actor Mark Rylance playing a Russian spy in Bridge of Spies beat the favourite Sylvester Stallone to win Best Supporting Actor. As expected, the imaginative Inside Out won Best Animated Feature Film and Son of Saul from Hungary, a searing portrait of life in Auschwitz, won Best Foreign Language Film. Amy, a powerful documentary about the tragic life of the singer Amy Winehouse, also won in its category. The much praised action movie Mad Max:Fury Road won six technical awards.
This was a carefully crafted ceremony in which many of the presenters were persons of colour, some of whom were presumably chosen to balance the all-white nominee list. It was also a reminder of how amazingly spectacular the ceremony, which reaches a vast global audience, actually is. The sets were a triumph and it was superbly filmed, though the orchestra interrupted when any winner exceeded the allotted time of 45 seconds for their speeches. This was very distracting. The fashions were fascinating and the standard was very high.
Vice President Joe Biden appeared on stage to make an appeal against sexual assaults. This issue was also highlighted by a moving empowerment song, Til It Happens to You by Lady Gaga from the documentary The Hunting Ground. She was accompanied on stage by young people who were victims of rape – a deeply meaningful sequence!
As always, there was a touching interlude when we remembered those who have passed on and the Ceremony opened with dramatic clips from the movies of the year. The nominated films were an excellent mix which included art house movies, two westerns, several films which were set in the 1950s, issues of sexuality were confronted and there were a large number of nominees in all categories from Britain as well as several from Ireland. It is, however, crucial for the Academy that in the future it becomes a more inclusive body comprising voters who are more responsive to current trends.