Spotlight, a dramatic recreation of the Boston Globe’s investigation into sexual abuse by the Catholic Church, took the big prize at the 88th Academy Awards, winning Best Picture. The film also won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
“We made this film for all the journalists who have and continue to hold the powerful accountable,” said director/co-writer Tom McCarthy. “And for the survivors whose courage and will to overcome is really an inspiration to all. We have to make sure this never happens again.”
The Revenant, the survival drama that was shot on location and became one of the most difficult film productions in recent Hollywood history, took home three big prizes, including Best Actor and Best Director.
The Revenant’s Alejandro González Iñárritu joined the rarified ranks of John Ford and Joseph L. Makiewicz, becoming the third director in Oscar history to win back-to-back Best Director trophies, following last year’s Birdman.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Iñárritu said. “It’s amazing to receive this award tonight. But it’s much more beautiful for me to share it with all the talent, the crazy cast and colleagues and crew members along the continent that made this film possible.”
Iñárritu, who is Mexican, said he was “very lucky” to be onstage. “What a great opportunity to our generation to really liberate ourselves from all prejudice and this tribal thinking and make sure once and forever that the color of our skin becomes as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”
After four previous acting nominations, Leonardo DiCaprio finally became a Best Actor Oscar winner for his portrayal of a frontiersman who is left for dead in The Revenant.
“The Revenant was a product of a tireless effort of a cast and crew I got to work alongside,” a gracious DiCaprio said, giving a shout-out to his co-star Tom Hardy, who had been nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He also thanked Michael Caton-Jones, who cast him in his first starring role in 1993’s This Boy’s Life, and his frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese.
DiCaprio, a passionate proponent of the global-warming movement, ended his speech with a cautionary message.
“Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted.”
First-time nominee Brie Larson won Best Actress for her performance of a woman imprisoned for five years with her young son by a kidnapper in Room.
“Thank you to the moviegoers,” she said. “Thank you for going to the theater and seeing our films.”
Mad Max: Fury Road won more Oscars than any other film – six – including Best Editing, Production Design and Makeup. The movie’s recognition was particularly notable considering it is part of a genre — post-apocalyptic action — which rarely is recognized by the Academy.
In one of the night’s biggest upsets, Creed’s heavily-favored Sylvester Stallone lost the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Mark Rylance, who played a Soviet spy in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies.
“I’ve always just adored stories — hearing them, seeing them, being in them — so for me to have a chance to work with I think one of the greatest storytellers of our time, Steven Spielberg, has just been such an honor,” said Rylance, who also plays the lead role in Spielberg’s upcoming summer release The BFG. “And unlike some of the leaders we’re being presented with these days, he leads with such love that he’s surrounded by masters in every craft. … I’m so pleased that our film has been nominated so many times.”
The Big Short, a humorous yet factually-dense recreation of the 2008 economic crisis directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman), won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.
Emmanuel Lubezki set a new record for most consecutive Oscars for Best Cinematography, winning his third in a row for The Revenant, which was shot on location using only natural light. He previously won for Birdman and Gravity. Leon Shamroy (Cleopatra) and Joseph Ruttenberg (Gigi) share the record for the most wins in this category, with four each.
Writer-director László Nemes won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for his debut Son of Saul, the harrowing story of an Auschwitz prisoner forced to worked the concentration camp’s furnace.
After five previous nominations, the legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly) won his first-ever Oscar for Quentin Tarantino’s Western thriller The Hateful Eight, earning one of the night’s few standing ovations. Although it wasn’t well received by critics or fans, Sam Smith’s James Bond theme song Writing’s On the Wall for the 007 adventure Spectre won for Best Original Song.
Amy, the story of the short life and career of the late singer Amy Winehouse, won the Best Documentary Feature Oscar.
“This film is all about Amy,” said director Asif Kapadia. “It’s all about showing the world who she really was, not a tabloid persona. The beautiful girl, the amazing soul, funny, intelligent, witty. Someone special, someone who needed looking after. We just wanted to make a film to show who she really was.”
As expected, Alicia Vikander won the Best Supporting Actress prize for her portrayal of the wife of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl. The box-office smash Inside Out won Best Animated Feature, and Chile took home its first-ever Oscar for the Animated Short Film Bear Story, beating out higher-profile competitors such as Pixar’s Sanjay’s Super Team.
Host Chris Rock, who was expected to weigh in on the lack of diversity in this year’s batch of nominees, rose to the occasion with a pointed — yet elegant and funny — opening monologue that addressed everything from demands from other celebrities that he back out of the MC gig to the Oscars’ long history of shutting out minorities.
“Why these Oscars?” Rock said. “It’s the 88th Academy Awards. Which means this whole no-black nominee thing has happened at least 71 other times. You gotta figure it happened in the 1950s and the 60s. I’m sure there were no black nominees those years and black people didn’t protest. Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy getting raped and lynched to worry about who won Best Cinematographer. When your grandmother is swinging from a tree, it’s hard to care about Best Documentary Short.”
Rock called out Will Smith, an Oscar contender for Concussion, who made a big deal of boycotting this year’s ceremony along with his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith.
“It’s not fair that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated,” Rock said. “I get it. It’s also not fair that Will got paid $20 million for Wild Wild West.
“It’s not about boycotting anything. It’s about opportunity. We want black actors to get the same opportunities. That’s it. Not just once. Leo gets a great part every year. But what about the black actors?”
Introducing a pre-taped segment, Rock said, “I want to help solve the problem, and that requires a fresh perspective” before showing interviews with moviegoers at a theater in Compton, none of whom had seen any of the Best Picture nominees.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, took a more serious, direct approach to the controversy.
“The Oscars celebrate the storytellers who have the opportunity to work in the powerful medium of film,” she said. “And with that opportunity comes responsibility. Our audiences are global and rich in diversity. And every facet of our industry should be, as well. Everyone in the Hollywood community has a role to play in bringing about the vital changes the industry needs so we can accurately reflect the world today.
“Each of you is an ambassador who can influence others in the industry,” she said. “It’s not enough to just listen and agree. We must take action. While change is often difficult, it is necessary.”