The Oscars are the Super Bowl of the entertainment industry. The annual awards show season culminates with every famous person, and those even tangentially related to showbiz, donning their best evening wear and cramming into the Dolby Theater for a night of self-congratulating. After a couple of years of lame hosting, it was comedian Chris Rock who stepped in to save the day, putting on a show that was the most entertaining the Academy Awards have been in years.
There was plenty of controversy coming into the 88th Academy Awards due to the lack of diversity (most notably of African Americans) among the nominees. This oversight by the Academy provided Chris Rock with plenty of material for his monologue instead of the usual industry inside joke fodder hosts typically utilize. Rock employed a radical new hosting strategy that has not been seen in years: actually making the audience laugh.
No topic was off limits during Rock’s opening monologue as he took stab after stab at the “white people’s choice awards.” It was the perfect time to bring in an outsider with a fresh voice who could try and point out the blatant disregard of creating opportunities for people of all races in the film industry. The jokes didn’t stop with the monologue either. Rock had some fantastic pre-taped segments and even a flash Girl Scout cookie sale.
After the first Oscar for best original screenplay was given to the writers of eventual best picture winner “Spotlight,” we caught our first glimpse of the “Thank You crawl” going across the bottom of the screen. By allowing winners to write out their thank yous ahead of time, surely the days of being played off stage by the orchestra would be behind us. Wrong. I really thought the crawl would revolutionize the thanking process, much like it did for the day drinking industry. Now I think it may just be best to do away with Oscar thank yous forever, forever ever. Only one person thought to bring a piece of paper up… c’mon Oscar people, try and be a little more prepared!
“Mad Max: Fury Road” was the big winner for the night, taking home six Oscars in categories you may forget exist: makeup, editing, production design, sound editing, sound mixing and costume. It was a nice haul for a movie I couldn’t quite get into. It’s difficult for me to properly appreciate any high-octane driving thrillers when I’m used to driving my Prius somewhere five to ten miles per hour below the speed limit. The “Mad Max” winners all managed to work in a nice plug for the the little-known south African country Namibia whose deserts provided an optimal location to film crazy albinos chasing down Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.
Heartwarming and heartbreaking moments were sandwiched together. First, some Chileans won the Oscar for best animated short, becoming the first people from Chile to win an Oscar. Just another story about Chileans mining for gold that thankfully had a happy ending. But what followed soon after shook me to my very core, Mark Ruffalo (a.k.a. Marky Ruffs, a.k.a Marf Rafalo) had his best supporting actor award stolen away from him by some other Mark, Mark Rylance from “Bridge of Spies.” I haven’t seen the movie Rylance starred in because it’s a Cold War historical drama and I’m trying my best to live in the present. Marky Ruffs is one of the most lovable guys in Hollywood (right up there with my boy Ewan McGregor) and his track record is impressive as hell. In “Spotlight,” he nearly stole every scene he was in, which is saying something since he was sharing screen time with the likes of Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, John Slattery and Rachel McAdams.
The winners of best actor and actress were a little less surprising. Brie Larson deservedly won for her role in “‘Room” and delivered an acceptance speech that was a little cheesy. Brie caught my eye in the indie “Spectacular Now” a few years back and it was good to see that the Academy was able to recognize her acting ability as spectacular now. Everyone’s favorite formerly Oscarless actor Leonardo DiCaprio finally got his little golden man after his gritty portrayal as the bear-attack-surviving frontiersman Hugh Glass in “The Revenant.” DiCaprio really had to bear down during the nine month shoot as his character beared the brunt of the movie’s narrative and himself, along with the other actors and crew, had to bear with best director winner Alejandro Inarritu’s bear of a shooting schedule due to his insistence that they film using natural light only. Anyway, both winners are well deserved and everyone is happy that Leo didn’t have to leave the Academy Awards bear-handed yet again. Bears.
Though I would like to note that DiCaprio’s speech went on for a lot longer than anyone else and his plug about climate change went uninterrupted by the notoriously quick to act pit orchestra. Leo didn’t get cut off while Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (winner of best documentary short for “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”) got cut off trying to talk about the honour killings that happen in Pakistan to this day. I guess she should have spent 25 years on the Hollywood grind like Leo before she got to talk about an issue that was important to her!
“Spotlight” winning best picture was a great way to end the night. The ensemble cast, great script and tight directing combined to create a film that is, in my opinion, the best movie about journalism ever made. There’s nothing quite like seeing Michael Keaton noshing on some Girl Scout cookies with Chris Rock to end the best Academy Awards show recent memory.