After months of schmoozing and speculating, the 88th Academy Awards finally happened last night. I, for one, was equal parts excited for the night to have finally arrived and relieved that the end was in sight. (That being said, you better believe I am already hard at work on my Tony Awards predictions. It never ends. NEVER.) Despite clocking in at almost 4 whole hours of programming, the ceremony didn’t feel too boring or bogged down. There were very few unnecessary odes to things that didn’t need to be oded to. The goal seemed to be to dole out the awards, say a few jokes and thank you’s and get out before it got too late. Here are five key moments that, in my mind, made the show worth watching.
1) Chris Rock’s Compton Movie Theater Sketch
A large topic that loomed over the whole ceremony was the glaring fact that this year was the second year in a row that all of the actors nominated for Oscars were white, sparking the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. In a year that had such great, diverse films as “Creed,” “Straight Outta Compton” and “Beasts of No Nation,” it seemed particularly absurd that Academy voters couldn’t even select one actor of color from any of these films for a nomination slot. It spoke volumes about not just the Academy, but the film industry as a whole. Needless to say, people were eagerly awaiting host Chris Rock’s monologue to see how he would address the issue and he did not disappoint, talking about diversity in Hollywood at length in ways that were both funny and a little uncomfortable (and rightfully so) for the primarily white audience. This theme was prevalent in his bits throughout the night, including a sketch that hearkened back to Rock’s first time hosting back in 2005. In the sketch, Rock chatted with people outside of his favorite movie theater in Compton about #OscarsSoWhite, diversity in film and movies in general. It really highlighted the Oscars’ continual challenge to stay relevant in a world where many of the movies that get nominated for Oscars are not really the movies that the general public is itching to see. In the sketch, Rock mentioned nominees like “Spotlight” and “Bridge of Spies” to moviegoers who had never heard of them and in some cases thought that Rock was making the movies up. It was a genius and hilarious way of skewering the event without being too cruel.
2) Louis C.K.’s Low Key Audition to Host (Although Let’s Be Real, He Would Never)
While Rock was no slouch when it came to hosting the Oscars, it’s never too soon to look towards next year’s potential host. Louis C.K. may have unintentionally thrown his hat into the ring with his incredibly funny presentation of the Oscar for Documentary (Short Subject). His presentation focused on the fact that the award is his favorite, seeing as how, in his words, it’s “the only award that has the opportunity to change a life.” He went on from there in typical, lovable Louis C.K. form, going as far as to name “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a six-time winner that evening, as the victor before naming the actual winner, “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.” While it seems highly unlikely that C.K. would ever be willing to take on this task, it’s fun to think of a delightful alternate universe where the 89th Annual Oscars are hosted by none other than Louis C.K.
3) The (Somewhat) Surprise Win of Mark Rylance
For most of award season, the Oscar for Supporting Actor appeared to be destined for Sylvester Stallone for this portrayal of Rocky Balboa in “Creed.” He had the perfect comeback narrative and a Golden Globe win that practically seemed to cement his status as a winner. But an Oscars ceremony is never really complete without a surprise or two, and one of the big surprises of the night came when Stallone lost to Mark Rylance, an actor known mostly for his theatre chops who co-starred with Tom Hanks in Best Picture nominee “Bridge of Spies.” While I had generally been rooting for Stallone to take home the trophy, I ended up very pleased with Rylance’s win. I was lucky enough to see Rylance on Broadway several years ago in an incredible play called “Jerusalem,” (for which he won one of his three Tony Awards) and he was truly amazing. He’s also known for reciting poems in lieu of an acceptance speech, although for the Oscar he decided to go the more traditional route. In a year where so many of the acting wins seemed like forgone conclusions, it was nice to see a surprise and one that was very much deserved.
4) Brie Larson’s General Existence
Every awards season there seems to be a newbie to the game who steals the hearts of everyone (and inevitably walks away with all of the shiny trophies). This year that newbie was “Room‘s” Brie Larson, although she’s not really that new to the game. Larson has been acting since she was a child and almost had a chance for an Oscar nomination back in 2013 for the absolutely brilliant “Short Term 12.” Her time finally came this year though, and she didn’t squander it. From the non-stop parade of adorableness between Larson and her “Room” co-star Jacob Tremblay to the fact that Larson hugged all of the sexual assault survivors that stood with Lady Gaga during her powerful Oscar performance, Larson really seems like the dream best friend. Or, at least, my dream best friend. She’s the best kind of rising star, one that seems completely genuine and nice.
5) “Spotlight’s” Best Picture Win
While all of the blogs and news outlets predicted that the exhausting-looking “The Revenant” would take home the biggest award of the night, I held out hope that the small but powerful “Spotlight” would surprise them all to take home Best Picture. And guess what? It totally did. “Spotlight’s” big win not only highlighted the power of great journalism (the film tells the story of a group of Boston Globe reporters uncovering a major sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church) but also showed that sometimes, if we’re lucky, story can actually beat spectacle.
Well there you have it, the best moments of the Oscars all put together in a nice little post. If you didn’t watch last night (you’re dead to me, btw) the whole ceremony is available online. Get to watching. And for those of you who did watch last night, what were your favorite moments? Did you think Chris Rock was a great host? Have any absurdly early predictions for next year’s big night? Let me know in the comments. And, like momma used to say…
P.S. Happy Leap Day! I hope Leap Day William brought you all treats in exchange for your tears.