As the 88th annual Academy Awards began, viewers were anxiously waiting to find out if their favorite flicks and actors would win, which categories would see big “upsets,” and which speeches and performances might stand out. Not to mention how host Chris Rock would approach the “Oscars So White” controversy, and who he would target during the opening monologue.
Did Leo finally take home a golden statue? Whose speech was the funniest? Most touching? Controversial? Just how adorable was nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay? And what moments had everyone talking?
The buzz began during the red carpet events prior to the official event. Jennifer Jason Leigh, nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for The Hateful Eight, seemed slightly out of it during her interview with Ryan Seacrest on E!’s special. But arguably the biggest surprise was Best Actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role nominee Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) playing to their nostalgic fans by walking the red carpet together. Can you believe it’s been nearly two decades since they starred together in the 1997 blockbuster film Titanic (which took home Best Picture)? Let’s all let out a collective “Aww.”
Chris Rock monologue | #OscarsSoWhite | Sam Smith & George Michael | Jared Leto’s merkin | The real Suge Knight
Right out of the gate, host Chris Rock addressed the elephant in the room: the controversy over the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations.
“Welcome to the Oscars. Or as some people like to call it, the ‘white people’s choice awards,'” the comedian joked. “If hosts were nominated, I wouldn’t be here; instead, you’d have Neil Patrick Harris.”
Rock, who addressed the issues with ease and expected humor, added that he did seriously consider quitting after so many people spoke out and pressured him to do so. “But the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart,” he said, as the crowd erupted in laughter (including Hart himself, who was in the audience).
Arguably, the best part of Rock’s monologue was his blatant dig at Jada Pinkett-Smith and her vocal “boycott” of the Oscars. “Isn’t she on a TV show? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties,” he said. “I wasn’t invited!” Ouch.
On a more serious note, Rock suggested that with this being the 88th annual Academy Awards, the absence of any black nominations has had to have happened already at least 71 other times, including during the 1950s. “People didn’t protest back then,” he said, “because we had real things to protest at the time.” Double ouch.
Rock’s focus on black actors continued. And leave it to the funnyman to inject this focus into Oscar-nominated films in the most hilarious and, in one case, creepiest ways. It started with Whoopi Goldberg mopping the floors in a scene from Joy, where she mocks Jennifer Lawrence’s character for not being able to speak on camera about her new mop. Of course a white girl gets an entire movie made about her because she invented a mop, she says. A black person would have to invent a cure for cancer!
We also see Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones in place of the bear that attacks Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, presumably after he failed to call her back after a date. In another clip, Rock himself plays the title role in the The Martian, while Jeff Daniels and Kristen Wiig contemplate whether to spend the $2,500 “white dollars” it would require to retrieve the black astronaut from outer space. But the real treat was Tracy Morgan in a dress wearing red lipstick and eating a pastry in his version of The Danish Girl. Welcome back, Tracy!
Rock calling Sam Smith George Michael
Blink and you might have missed it, but after Sam Smith performed his Oscar-nominated tune Writing’s on the Wall from the latest James Bond movie Spectre, Rock pointed his way and applauded the musician, noting that Father Figure is his favorite song. That tune was, of course, written by another notable openly homosexual Brit, George Michael. Guess Rock figures he’d even the playing field on the stereotyping front? But Smith got the last laugh; when he later picked up an Oscar for the song, and dedicated it to the LGBT community.
Jared Leto collectively gets the world to Google the word “merkin”
While introducing the award for Hairstyling alongside Margot Robbie, Oscar winner Jared Leto undoubtedly caused a collective “Google” for the word “merkin” as he referenced the, er, unique “hairstyle” type as being one that was occasionally required during filming. Do you know what a merkin is? If not, get ready for a hearty laugh once you look it up — #merkin.
The real Suge Knight
Rock highlighted several people in attendance on whom roles were based, including the real Michael Rezendes from the movie Spotlight (he was played by Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo) and the real Joy Mangano from Joy (played in the movie by Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence). Then, he cut to the “real Suge Knight” from Straight Outta Compton, showing a bald black man strapped to a gurney in an orange jumpsuit, flanked by two cops. Way to help the cause, Rock!
Thank You ticker | Black History Month | C3PO & R2-D2 | Girl Scout cookies | Kevin Hart
‘Would like to thank’ ticker
What a clever way to ensure that award recipients can thank everyone they’d like to, but also get on and off the stage quickly while avoiding the dreaded hurry-up music. As award recipients walked up on stage, a ticker appeared at the bottom of the screen with a scrolling list of who they’d like to thank. Okay, so it’s a bit informal, but at least winners don’t need to worry about forgetting anyone.
Black history month honoring Jack Black
Angela Bassett appeared in a short clip from the Academy to honor Black History Month, highlighting that great “black” actor, Jack Black. All right, Academy Awards. We get it. You’re poking fun at yourself.
C3PO and R2-D2 make a quick appearance
The dynamic Star Wars duo of C-3PO and R2-D2 appear on stage, alongside BB-8, the droid from the new movie, for a quick bit of comic relief. After scolding his pal for forgetting the envelope, C-3PO looks over at a big photo of the golden Oscar statue and remarks that it looks like him (it’s certainly not the other way around). It was nice and all, but can this movie win an award, already?
Please, buy some Girl Scout cookies
Rock urges the audience to buy some Girl Scout cookies from his daughters, since he’s been away and missed the selling season and the opportunity for them to beat out that friend that always sells the most. Everyone from Kate Winslet to Lou Gossett Jr. was happy to fork over a few bucks for a box of thin mints to help out. After all, these stars are probably starving as they wait for the dinner portion to start! And hey, talk about some fantastic free advertising for the Girl Scouts. By the way, it’s clear Rock’s daughters won this year: he revealed later in the broadcast that over $65,000 worth of cookies were sold.
Kevin Hart gives a heartfelt speech?
Who would have thought that Kevin Hart of all people would be the one to speak most eloquently about diversity issues. When appearing on stage briefly to introduce The Weeknd, who performed his Oscar-nominated song Earned It from Fifty Shades of Grey, the comedian urged his fellow black actors not to focus on tonight and these awards. Rather, focus on doing what we love, working hard, and doing it well. Couldn’t have said it better.
Compton theater | Twitter games | C3PO & R2-D2 | Asian insults | In Memoriam
Interview of passers-by outside a theater in Compton
Taking a tip from late night TV hosts, Rock showed a segment whereby he interviewed passers-by in front of a movie theater in Compton about the diversity controversy. The best part: one woman who believes he’s making up the names of the actual nominated movies. Rock revisited the diversity issue far too much, and probably did so on purpose. Why quit the job, after all, when you can simply make the entire three-hour broadcast about the diversity issues?
Rock attempted to start his own Oscar game by Tweeting in the middle of the broadcast and asking that viewers take a shot every time he makes the audience feel uncomfortable. Awk-ward.
Chris Rock insults Asians?
In attempt to spread the lack of diversity “love,” Rock brought out three Asian children, presumably representing PricewaterhouseCoopers. If the joke offended you, he says, just Tweet about it on your phones that were made by these three kids as well. Clearly, nothing was off limits.
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl’s performance of the Beatles’ Blackbird live on stage to celebrate those we lost this year, was truly beautiful. Mentions included Wes Craven, Robert Loggia, Maureen O’Hara, Omar Sharif, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Leonard Nimoy, and more.
Before Lady Gaga absolutely slayed her performance of ‘Til It Happens to You from The Hunting Ground, Vice President Joe Biden introduced her with a passionate speech about the growing issue of sexual abuse in colleges. He asked that everyone take the pledge that they will intervene if they see someone in a position where they are not giving consent, or may not be able to give consent, to prevent them from becoming a victim of sexual abuse. It was a fitting introduction to Gaga’s performance, which was full of passion and powerful lyrics on the subject.
Sacha Baron Cohen | Leo’s standing O | Stacey Dash | Louis C.K.
Sacha Baron Cohen presents as Ali
Sacha Baron Cohen presented an award as one of his many hilarious alter egos, Ali G. “I know what you are all thinking,” he says in the character’s signature street accent. “Another token black presenter.” Following a few racially-charged jokes, he adds that he’s presenting in honor of all of those who have been overlooked, including that black character from Star Wars: Darth Vader. Ah, how we miss Ali G.
After six nominations and zero wins, it’s no surprise that Leonardo DiCaprio received a standing ovation following his big win for Best Actor for The Revenant. He used the platform to discuss his environmental concerns about climate change and the threats it poses. Good on him for using his win not to promote himself, but an important cause. “Let us not take this planet for granted,” he ended. “I do not take tonight for granted.”
Stacey Dash pops on stage as new director of minority outreach
You might not have gotten the humor in the awkward appearance of Stacey Dash, who strolled up on stage as the reported new Director of Minority Outreach for the Academy. Dash, who’s best known for her role in the 1995 film Clueless, faced backlash from the African American community for her open support of Mitt Romney when he was running against President Obama. And she has publicly spoken out against things like the BET Awards and Black History Month, noting that they create a double standard. Needless to say, she was the perfect ironic choice for this clearly fictional role. Sadly, many in the audience didn’t get it. Stacey, who?
Louis C.K. makes us want him as host
Leave it to comedian Louis C.K. to almost upstage the host during his short minute-and-a-half on stage presenting the award for Documentary Shorts. “This Oscar,” he joked, “is going home in a Honda Civic. These people will never be rich as long as they live.” This award can actually change someone’s life, he added. Way to make us appreciate the category so much more, and have our eye on you as next year’s host, perhaps?
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