HOLLYWOOD, Feb 29: The Academy Awards, or “Oscars,”on Sunday (Feb 28) unfolded in the wake of perhaps the gravest crisis the annual awards show has faced.
It was a politically charged evening, one in which winners and presenters used their moment on stage to shine a light on issues ranging from global warming to campus rape.
Backlash over the lack of nominations for actors of colour for the second straight year, threatened to overshadow the broadcast itself, leading to boycotts from top figures such as Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith, a viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, and a protest outside the Dolby Theater led by Rev. Al Sharpton.
“Spotlight,” a searing portrait of The Boston Globe’s investigation into child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, won a surprise Oscar for best picture at the 88th Academy Awards.
The movie, which has picked up a string of honours on its way to Oscars glory, beat rivals “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “Room,” and “The Revenant.”
Co-producer Michael Sugar, in his acceptance speech, voiced hope that the film would send a signal to the Vatican whose treatment of survivors of abuse by priests came under harsh criticism in the movie.
“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 said.
“Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith,” he said.
Another producer, Blye Pagon Faust, said that “Spotlight” showed the importance of a robust media amid years of financial struggles for the industry in the United States.
“We would not be here today without the heroic efforts of our reporters. Not only did they affect global change, but they absolutely show us the necessity for investigative journalism,” she said.
Hollywood A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio finally bagged Oscars gold for his gruelling star turn in “The Revenant,” 22 years after his first Academy Award nomination.
DiCaprio edged out Bryan Cranston (“Trumbo”), Matt Damon (“The Martian”), Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”) and Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”) to take the best actor statuette.
DiCaprio won a standing ovation as he accepted the award — one of the most highly anticipated moments of the night. He had been nominated six times in total, five of them for acting roles.
The 41-year-old film veteran thanked a long list of figures who have helped him in his career, including Martin Scorsese, before speaking on his passion — climate change.
“Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work together and stop procrastinating,” he said to applause.
“We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, the big corporations, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world,” he said.
Brie Larson won the best actress Oscar for her searing performance as a kidnapped mother in “Room,” catapulting her to the top of Hollywood’s A-list.
The 26-year-old Larson beat fellow nominees Cate Blanchett (“Carol”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy”), Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”) and Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”).
Larson, accepting the golden statuette, thanked early supporters of the once-obscure film including the Toronto International Film Festival.
“Thank you to the movie-goers. Thank you for going to the theatre and seeing our film,” she said.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu entered Hollywood lore, giving Mexico a best director triumph at the Oscars for a third straight year with the epic vengeance and survival story “The Revenant.”
Inarritu — winning his second straight Academy Award — beat Adam McKay (“The Big Short”), George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”) and Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”) to the honour.
Inarritu hailed his latest Oscar as a tribute to diversity — a major issue at the latest Oscars, where non-whites were absent from the nominees lists in the acting categories.
“There is a line in the film that says, ‘They don’t listen to you when they see the colour of your skin’,” Inarritu said.
“So what a great opportunity to our generation to really liberate ourselves from all prejudice and, you know, this way of thinking and make sure for once and forever that the colour of skin becomes as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, ACTRESS
Racial themes and barbs about the selection of an all-white acting nominee line-up for a second year ran throughout the evening as black comedian Rock opened the show that he called “the white People’s Choice awards.”
Meanwhile, Britain’s Mark Rylance scored a best supporting actor win for his portrayal of a Soviet agent in “Bridge of Spies” over heavily favoured “Creed” star Sylvester Stallone.
Best known as a theatre actor, the Steven Spielberg drama marks Rylance’s highest-profile film to date. He will re-team with the director in next summer’s “The B.F.G.”
“I’ve always just adored stories,” said Rylance. “So for me to have the chance to work with, I think one of the greatest storytellers of our time, Steven Spielberg, has been such an honour. And unlike some of the leaders we’re being presented with these days, he leads with such love.”
Alicia Vikander, a Swedish actress, who had head-turning roles this year in the likes of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “Ex Machina,” scored a best supporting actress statue for her portrayal of an artist whose husband undergoes gender reassignment surgery in “The Danish Girl.”
Vikander thanked director Tom Hooper, co-star Eddie Redmayne, and her parents for “giving me the belief that anything can happen. Even though I never would have believed this.”
A movie on late singer Amy Winehouse won the Oscar for best documentary feature, even though the film upset her family.
Director Asif Kapadia, accepting the golden statuette, said that “Amy” strived to show the truth behind the soul singer who died in 2011 at age 27.
“This film is all about Amy, showing the world who she really was. The beautiful girl, the amazing soul.
“Funny, intelligent, witty. Someone special. Someone who needed looking after.
“We just wanted to show the world who she really was,” he said.
“Amy” became the second-highest grossing documentary at the British box office. But her father attacked the film, saying it dwelled on the negative and not on Winehouse’s fun-loving side, hinting that the family would come out with its own official documentary in the future.
“Amy” beat out another music documentary — “What Happened, Miss Simone?” — which features archival footage of legendary singer Nina Simone who became active in the US civil rights movement.
Other nominees included “The Look of Silence” by Joshua Oppenheimer, his latest documentary to probe Indonesia’s mass killings of suspected leftists and ethnic Chinese in 1965-66.
The film was a follow-up to Oppenheimer’s 2012 “The Act of Killing,” which was also nominated for an Oscar and is credited with renewing calls for accountability over a dark chapter in Indonesia’s history which had long been officially ignored.
The other nominees this year were “Cartel Land,” which focused on the Mexican drug war and vigilantism on the US side of the border, and “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” about the protests that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and intensified a showdown with Russia.
The Oscars’ host, comedian Chris Rock, quipped after the award: “You know, the people that made ‘Ukraine on Fire’ (sic) are going to hate Amy Winehouse’s music for the rest of their lives.”
Among other major awards, Hungarian Holocaust drama “Son of Saul” won best foreign language film, “Inside Out” scored best animated feature, and Warner Bros “Mad Max: Fury Road” started the night with 10 nominations and the action-adventure won a slew of Oscars, including for costume, make-up, editing, and production design.