Spotlight dazzles but diversity takes limelight

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:05 am IST

Published - March 01, 2016 04:50 am IST - LOS ANGELES:

Newspaper drama Spotlight took the best picture award on Sunday at the >88th Academy Awards riven by protest and outrage , and electrified by an unflinching Chris Rock.

Tom McCarthy’s film about the Boston Globe ’s investigative reporting on sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests won over the favoured frontier epic The Revenant . But Spotlight an ode to the hard-nose, methodical work of a journalism increasingly seldom practiced took the night’s top honour despite winning only one other Oscar for McCarthy and Josh Singer’s screenplay. Such a sparsely-awarded best picture winner hasn’t happened since 1952’s The Greatest Show On Earth .

“We would not be here today without the heroic efforts of our reporters,” said producer Blye Pagon Faust. “Not only do they effect global change, but they absolutely show us the necessity for investigative journalism.”

After going home empty-handed four times previously, >Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar , for a best actor in The Revenant , a gruff, grunting performance that traded little on the actor’s youthful charisma. DiCaprio, greeted with a standing ovation, took the moment to talk about climate change.

“Let us not take our planet for granted,” said DiCaprio. “I do not take tonight for granted.”

Inarritu, whose win meant three straight years of Mexican filmmakers winning best director, was one of the few winners to remark passionately on diversity in his acceptance speech.

Colour no bar “What a great opportunity for our generation to really liberate ourselves from all prejudice and this tribal thinking and to make sure for once and forever that the colour of our skin becomes as irrelevant as the length of our hair,” said Inarritu.

The night’s most-awarded film, however, went to neither Spotlight nor The Revenant . George Miller’s post-apocalyptic chase film, Mad Max: Fury Road sped away with six awards in technical categories for editing, makeup, production design, sound editing, sound mixing and costume design.

“Us Mad Maxes are doing OK tonight,” said editor Margaret Sixel, who’s married to Miller. The flurry of wins brought a parade of Australian craftsmen onstage in an Oscars that was at least internationally diverse.

Gasps went around the Dolby when Mark Rylance won best supporting actor over Sylvester Stallone. Nominated a second time for role of Rocky Balboa 39 years later, Stallone had been expected to win his first acting Oscar for the Rocky sequel Creed . But the famed stage actor who co-starred in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies won instead.

Adam McKay and Charles Randolph took best adapted screenplay for their self-described “trauma-dy,” The Big Short , about the mortgage meltdown of 2008. Best known for broader comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers , McKay gave an election-year warning of the sway of “big money” and “weirdo billionaires” in the presidential campaign.

Gay pride Sam Smith and songwriting partner Jimmy Napes picked up the Academy Award for best song for ‘Writing’s on the Wall’, from the James Bond film Spectre .

“I stand here tonight as a proud gay man and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day,” said Smith.

Hungary scored its second best foreign language Oscar for Laszlo Nemes’ Son of Saul , a harrowing drama set within a concentration camp.

“Even in the darkest hours of mankind, there might be a voice within us that allows us to remain human,” said Nemes. “That’s the hope of this film.”

Protests outside Down the street from the Dolby Theatre, civil rights activist Al Sharpton led several dozen demonstrators in protest against a second straight year of all-white acting nominees. “This will be the last night of an all-white Oscars,” Sharpton vowed.

Several top African American film-makers, Ryan Coogler ( Creed ) and Ava DuVernay ( Selma ) spent the evening not at the Oscars but in the city of Flint in Michigan, raising money for the water-contaminated city.

In a quick response to the growing crisis over lack of diversity, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, led reforms to diversify the Academy’s overwhelming white and male membership. But those changes precipitated a backlash, too. A chorus of Academy members challenged the reforms.

Boone Isaacs strongly defended the changes, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. and urging each Oscar attendee to bring greater opportunity to the industry. She was received politely, if not enthusiastically, by the audience.

“It’s not enough to listen and agree,” said Boone Isaacs. “We must take action.”

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