Last night felt a good deal like the Academy doing public penance for the sins of their racist hometown and voting body. They certainly let Chris Rock rake them across the coals. His hosting job had hits and misses both(that whole thing with the Asian kids was an especially Bad Idea), but above all, amid all the wisecracks, he did, finally, tell the problem like it is and like it really needed to be told:
The early part of the ceremony then became all about Mad Max: Fury Road, as it started winning all the tech awards, including netting a statue for longtime costume designer Jenny Beavan.
The biggest shock win this year, unusually, was in Visual Effects. In category with Star Wars, which is always hard to beat, Mad Max: Fury Road which by then was collecting most of the tech awards, and two more big budgets recreating space or extreme conditions, this award somehow managed to go to the more obscure Sci-Fi film:
Sadly, between this and the Academy voters deciding to finally allow Ennio Morricone to win himself an Oscar, The Force Awakens took no statues, but nonetheless the visit Threepio, Artoo, and their new droid companion BB8 paid to the stage, even when done for no apparent reason at all, was still a moment everyone loved:
The In Memoriam segment, meanwhile, was a big one this year, especially since the cutoff date being early in January rather than the actual end of 2015 meant David Bowie and Alan Rickman were included in it. Also in it was Christopher Lee, James Horner, which got to me in particular, and I highly doubt I was the only one who broke down when it ended, as it ought to, with Leonard Nimoy:
But even if it didn’t win the Oscar, the most emotional and powerful moment of the night belonged to Lady Gaga, performing her song “Til It Happens to You” and being joined at the end by a group of her fellow survivors of sexual assault:
Indeed, multiple political issues were brought up at this ceremony, especially when, having won his long-awaited Oscar, Leonardo DiCaprio decided to finish his acceptance speech by talking about climate change, and managed to say it absolutely right:
And finally, when Spotlight pulled off the surprise win for Best Picture, quite a crowd came on to the stage to make one final statement:
Although the *final* final words of the night were still Chris Rock’s reminder that #blacklivesmatter, which was probably for the best. They even eschewed the normal ending credits music for “Fight the Power,” which is probably also penance for the much older sin of snubbing Do the Right Thing all those years ago. Now, of course, the question must wait until next year to see if the rule change and whatever else they think of doing will have any effect, and if, at some point, they can actually be recognizing black people and people of other minorities, instead of doing fancy apologies for not doing so.