Every year towards the end of winter and the beginning of spring, I like to cuddle up on my couch and watch the flurry of glitz and glamour at the Academy Awards. Last night was no exception, especially with this list of my favorite headline-grabbing moments.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio’s first Oscar win
Leo may have won awards at other ceremonies such as the Teen Choice Awards and People’s Choice Awards, but when it comes to the Oscars, every girl and their mother has been waiting for this gorgeous actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for nearly 20 years since Titanic catapulted him to global stardom. This year, after earning six Oscar nominations, he finally earned the Best Actor award for his leading role of a 1820s frontiersman in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s epic environmental period picture The Revenant. All the women, both in the film industry–Kate Winslet shed tears of joy for her dearest friend–and the common world, cheered for his first Oscar victory. DiCaprio accepted his long sought-after award not in vanity but in gratitude as he thanked his wonderful parents for allowing him to chase his acting dream, his mentors, and the production crew for The Revenant in his speech. He also addressed the need for us to combat climate change, as his recent film touched on the issue of the human race’s relationship with the natural environment, ending his speech with, “Let us not take this planet for granted.”
2. Chris Rock taking on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy
For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hasn’t nominated a single African-American actor, director, or producer for an award in any category, yet they have chosen stand-up comedian and actor Chris Rock to host this year’s Oscars ceremony. And boy, they made the right choice. In his opening monologue, Rock cleverly joked that the Academy Awards is “otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards,” immediately jumping into the subject of racism in Hollywood–otherwise known as #OscarsSoWhite. He humorously points out that Hollywood is racist not to the level of the police force but rather to the extent in which college sororities are selective about their potential pledges. Some of Rock’s fellow peers in the audience either gasped at his jokes or sat in their leather seats in shocked silence. Rock also pointed out that since it’s the 88th annual Academy Awards, “this whole ‘no black nominees’ thing happened at least 71 other times” since its debut in 1929, but African-Americans didn’t make a big deal over it in decades past due to other racial issues, such as lynchings, rapes, and the Civil Rights Movement to even pay any attention to who was nominated for Best Cinematography or Best Foreign Short Picture. He made some references to recent events in Ferguson, but overall Rock did an excellent job as host.
3. Lady Gaga’s performance of “Till It Happens to You”
Although Lady Gaga’s song about sexual assault from CNN Films’s The Hunting Ground lost the Best Original Song bid to Sam Smith’s 007 theme “Writing’s on the Wall”, she was still able to belt out a solid, emotional performance of the anthem with introduction from Vice President Joe Biden, who urged viewers to combat campus sexual assault (the subject of the film from which the Oscar-nominated song was featured) and directed them to the website ItsOnUs.org for more information. Towards the end of the song, a group of campus rape survivors–both young men and women–who had such encouraging words and phrases as “SURVIVOR,” “YOU ARE LOVE,” and “NOT YOUR FAULT” written on their forearms in black Sharpie ink, stepped to the front of the stage and raised their arms in solidarity. Everyone gave Lady Gaga, who is a survivor of campus sexual assault as she suffered it at the age of 19, a riveting standing ovation. (Everyone except my brother, who has shunned Gaga for disrespecting the Catholic religion in her 2010 music video for the single “Alejandro.” GET. OVER. IT.)
4. Mad Max: Fury Road winning six production-related Oscars
This one pissed my Mom off. She was expecting the live-action Cinderella remake to win Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Production Design for the characters’ frilly dresses and sophisticated suits, regal couture and Victorian-esque setting, respectively. No, those three categories went to Mad Max: Fury Road for its edgy post-apocalyptic designs for the characters and the set. Mad Max: Fury Road won three other Oscars for technical categories my mom could care less about and should’ve been awarded to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Film Editing.
5. Spotlight robbing Best Picture from The Revenant
In the past few years, the Best Picture Oscar seems to be awarded to films who have touched on a vital, relevant social issue. Everybody was expecting The Revenant to win this category because not only did the film give a message on the ethical ramifications of revenge, it also gave the viewers a glimpse of how majestic the native environment was in the early 1800s compared to today, where we are abusing natural resources and evicting modern Native Americans from their homes for the sake of corporate industry. Spotlight, on the other hand, spoke about the efforts of the Boston Globe‘s investigative journalists to expose a rash of sexual abuse cases by Roman Catholic preists in the archdiocese of Boston, which aroused major controversy in the Catholic Church in the early 2000s. Environmentalism is just as relevant as sexual abuse in the world’s most religious institution, yet the Best Picture award went to Spotlight. What irony.