The 88th Annual Academy Awards: Highs and Lows

2016’s big winners: (L-R) Mark Rylance | Best Supporting Actor for “Bridge of Spies,” Brie Larson | Best Actress for “Room,” Leonardo DiCaprio | Best Actor for “The Revenant,” and Alicia Vikander | Best Supporting Actress for “The Danish Girl.”

In a lackluster award show year in the midst of perhaps the most publicized Hollywood controversy over the lack of nominations for actors of color, I knew the 2016 Oscars would be a rather different ceremony than in years past. That being said, I still wasn’t expecting so many uncomfortable moments shoved down the audience’s throat by host Chris Rock in his second stint on the stage.

88thoscars_key_hostWithout touching too much on a provocative subject I’m not exactly equipped to speak knowledgeably about, I thought he might use his opening monologue to address the debate, which he did, and maybe close out the show with some sort of call to action, which he did by citing #BlackLivesMatter, and leave it at that. However, the night was rife with crude jokes, relentless little jabs at the underrepresentation of black actors (not all minorities, just blacks) in film, and several awkward moments that made the talent in the room shift in their seats, tittering as though they weren’t sure if they were supposed to laugh or not. After scanning some reviews, it seems some people were a fan of his tactics, but I happened to find jokes like, “In the In Memoriam package, it’s just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on their way to the movies,” to be needlessly tasteless.

Aside from the big white elephant in the room and the host determined to point at it as much as possible, there were some refreshing changes and updates to the show’s structure that I enjoyed. When presenters came out, little fun fact blocks appeared beneath them, which showed the audience how they were connected to the Oscars, whether they were a nominee in prior years or if they had co-starred with someone who was. Winning speeches were accompanied by a running crawl of whom that person wanted to thank, lest they forget their list or get cut off by the music. The technical awards were given more focus, with set pieces designed to display just how much goes into making a film and sound bites to try to explain to people the difference between editing and mixing.

Some high points: My inner child was delighted to see the minions, Star Wars droids, and Toy Story BFFs come out for a bit of comic relief that didn’t rely on Girl Scouts or huge bears waving from the wings (if you watched, you know what I’m referring to). Lady Gaga slayed the stage for the second year in a row with an incredibly moving performance of her Oscar-nominated song “’Til It Happens To You” from the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which touts the importance of spreading awareness about rape and sexual assault on college campuses—a song many took to the internet to defend when it lost to Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On The Wall” from “Spectre.”

Speeches: I’ve grown so tired of hearing list after list of names. I get that people feel the need to thank anyone and everyone who worked on the film that put that statue in their hands, but I’m much more engaged in the moment when the winners take their big moment to say something profound. Aside from the Best Actor winner (I’ll get to him soon enough), there were two speeches that stood out to me and I appreciated those people in that moment for saying something other than, “I want to thank our director, the writers and producers, our amazing cast and crew and blah blah blah…”

1. Tom McCarthy, accepting “Spotlight’s” * Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with Josh Singer: “We made this film for all the journalists who have and continue to hold the powerful accountable 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.”
*NOTE: “Spotlight,” which also took home the night’s biggest honor, Best Picture, was a profound and in-depth look at the child molestation scandal within the Catholic church that was uncovered by The Boston Globe and radiated throughout the world. As a journalist raised Catholic, it was a film that resonated deeply with me. I may explore it further in a future PSA.

2.Inside Out” director Pete Docter, accepting the award for Best Animated Feature along with producer Jonas Rivera: “Anyone out there who’s in junior high, high school, working it out, suffering. There are days you’re gonna feel sad, you’re gonna feel angry, you’re gonna feel scared. That’s nothing you can choose, but you can make stuff. Make films. Draw. Write. It’ll make a world of difference.”

LeoMy favorite moment: The big question on my, and seemingly everyone else’s, mind was—would Leo finally take home the gold? You’re damn right he did! And the moment was every bit as triumphant as we’d hoped. He received a standing ovation and the longest bout of applause of the night. In his (noticeably well-memorized) speech, he graciously thanked everyone who worked on “The Revenant” as well as all those who helped his career along the way from the onset of his Hollywood debut. His speech ran long but wasn’t dare touched by the music as he delved into his environmental message about climate change, a topic he’s been passionate and vocal about for quite some time. He wasn’t pretentious or arrogant. I imagine many of us looked and felt as Kate Winslet did—like an emotional and proud friend who’s been waiting and watching, as we all have, for a brilliant actor to finally get his due.


And the Oscar goes to

BEST PICTURE | Spotlight

DIRECTOR | Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant)

ACTOR | Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

ACTRESS | Brie Larson (Room)

SUPPORTING ACTOR | Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS | Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)





FILM EDITING | Mad Max: Fury Road


COSTUME DESIGN | Mad Max: Fury Road

MAKEUP | Mad Max: Fury Road

SOUND EDITING | Mad Max: Fury Road

SOUND MIXING | Mad Max: Fury Road

SCORE | The Hateful Eight

SONG | “Writing’s on the Wall”




Itching to judge some couture? I skipped the Red Carpet arrivals this year(!), but here are three ladies I noticed were certainly dressed to impress.

Jennifer Lawrence


J.Law kept a surprisingly low profile this year. She didn’t trip (as far as we know). She wasn’t even shown that much in the audience reaction shots. She did, however, turn heads in this gorgeous lace and feather piece from Dior. Nominated for Best Actress for the fourth time this year as the titular character in “Joy,” Jen lost to Brie Larson.

Brie Larson

Speaking of Brie, she showed up hoping to take home the gold for her career-changing performance in “Room” wearing a royal blue Gucci gown. And by the end of the evening, she was indeed crowned a winner.

Alicia Vikander

Looking very much like a Disney princess poised to be Belle of the ball—an observation many a media outlet made that night, the Best Supporting Actress nominee (for her role in “The Danish Girl”) took to the carpet in buttery golden Louis Vuitton. And now she has an Oscar to match.


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