Oscars night filled with shocks and surprises


Josh Axelrod

When the Oscar nominations came out this year, I was angry. I love the Oscars and eagerly await them all year, but when 20/20 of the acting nominations were given to white actors, I knew this year of cinema highlighted a crucial problem that needs to be addressed immediately. What I wasn’t expecting was for the Oscars telecast to focus on this issue of diversity throughout the entire show, never shying away once. Whether the gags flopped or landed, I give kudos to the Academy for a bold embrace of the problems that define it and an attempt at change – albeit gruelingly slow.

The Good Stuff:

  • Chris Rock nailed it. He was conveniently hired to host before the diversity controversy and never once backed away from the obvious subject on everyone’s mind. Lampooning everyone and everything from racist moviegoers, to Oscar boycotters, to police brutality, Rock’s monologue killed, and reminded everyone that the movie industry is hugely flawed, but progress is on the horizon.


  • Spotlight wins Best Picture! I never lost faith that this phenomenal drama would overtake The Revenant. Even after the sweeping epic gained huge momentum and took home top prizes at the BAFTA  and Director’s Guild Awards, I knew that Spotlight could still win it. Most pleasant surprise of the evening goes to the Academy for giving the best-movie-of-the-year-award to the best movie of the year (especially after Birdman stole the prize away from Boyhood’s deserving hands last year.

  • Mark Rylance. Still more proof that the Academy hasn’t turned into a roomful of slobbering fools who are only capable of voting for the flashiest or showiest performance. Rylance’s brilliant performance in the excellent Steven Spielberg film, Bridge of Spies, was merely another in a career of many from this British thespian. Sylvester Stallone was expected to win for Creed, but Rylance gave a much more nuanced and profound performance. It was rewarding to see that subtlety can still be rewarded at the Oscars.

My tweet at the beginning of the Oscars — I never gave up on you Spotlight!

  • Mad Max: Fury Road. Although not my favorite movie of the year, Mad Max was a technical spectacle and a cult favorite. The Academy usually shies away from big-budget hits or sci-fi flicks, so to see this wild dystopic ride pick up six statues was a real treat.

  • Leonardo DiCaprio wins Best Actor. This is only good because it finally means people will shut up about it on the internet. But, yes, he did deserve it.

  • The Thank You Reel. Notorious for being a breeding ground for overly long acceptance speeches, the Academy instituted a scrolling list of thank yous at the bottom of the screen for viewers at home to see. The speeches were much more bearable this year and allowed winners to designate time to important causes like Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s call for diverse storytellers.

The Bad Stuff:

  • Everything that wasn’t Chris Rock. From annoying Minions, to a tasteless Asian labor segment, to an awkward Stacey Dash bit that never landed, the side-gags were unfunny and wasted precious time. In a three-plus-hour telecast, viewers didn’t need the floundering attempts at comedy.

  • Sam Smith’s anti-climactic win. After bringing the house down with her performance of Till It Happens to You, a song condemning domestic violence from The Hunting Ground, complete with an introduction from Vice-President Joe Biden, Lady Gaga lost Best Original Song to Sam Smith. Smith accepted the award, incorrectly stating that he might be the first openly gay man to win an Oscar, an embarrassing flub that soured his win ever further.

  • Playing off the winners. You’d think the thank you reel would save a lot more time for winners to deliver their impassioned and inspirational messages, but Oscar recipients were still played off the stage abruptly interrupting their already-brief speeches. We needed to see a non-live, five-minute sketch about the irksome Despicable Me creatures, but Best Documentary Short winner, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy gets played off the stage while talking about empowering women in the face of adversity?

Overall, the Academy handled the pressure of presenting an entertaining ceremony in the midst of serious controversy smoothly and sure-handedly. Chris Rock is primarily the reason behind that success, but Spotlight’s big win proved the Academy does care about important social issues regarding injustice. Next year I have a feeling we’ll see more actors of color nominated, and continue our uphill-and-never-ending journey towards equality. Don’t let us down again, Academy.