It was another night of self-congratulating stars, passionate speeches being interrupted by play-’em-off music (“Ride of the Valkyries”? Really???), and several genuine upsets (Rylance over Stallone; Spotlight over The Revenant) — as well as a scorching Oscars monologue that will go down as one for the ages. There were inspirational and uplifting moments, there were cue-the-sad-trombone gags gone wrong, and then there was Stacey Dash wishing everyone a “Happy Black History month.” Here are the 20 best, worst and genuinely WTF moments from last night’s Oscars 2016 broadcast. Here’s hoping we see Rock back next year on that stage and Ali G is nowhere to be found.
Best: Chris Rock addresses #OscarsSoWhite head on
There was no way that Rock wouldn’t talk about the controversy over the lack of diversity at this year’s Academy Awards — and of course, the comedian didn’t pull any punches. “Is Hollywood racist?” he asked. “You’re damn right it’s racist!” Over the course of his fantastic opening speech, he cracked plenty of extremely cutting jokes (“This year the ‘In Memoriam’ package is just going to be black people who were shot by the cops on the way to the movies!”) while also pointing out some deeply uncomfortable truths about diversity at the awards show. (As to why the firestorm over the lack of black nominees is only happening this year: “Cause we had real things to protest at the time. They were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won Best Cinematographer.” Damn!) “We want opportunities,” he said towards the end, pounding his fist for emphasis. Maybe now, the Academy will listen.
Worst: The anti-Will and Jada Smith sentiment
Even if Chris Rock wanted to be fair by ribbing each side, why relentlessly mock two people who decided to take a stand? First of all, Rock’s joke likening Jada’s boycott of the ceremony to Rihanna’s underwear was so tasteless that it didn’t even make sense, and it was in keeping with other clueless remarks about asking women what they’re wearing, Asian children’s math skills, etc. Did the diversity argument just not apply when the host of the evening didn’t want it to? Second of all, taking more shots at Will Smith by honouring Jack Black in the “Black History Month Minute” segment was straight-up dumb. If Rock had run out of ways to tackle the topic, he should have changed the subject. There was altogether more talk about diversity than actual diversity — an overcorrection or a mea culpa that rang hollow after so many hours.
Best: Rock interviewed Compton theatregoers about Oscar 2016 nominees
The monologue wasn’t the only place where Rock addressed the #OscarsSoWhite firestorm: In a pre-taped bit, the host went to a movie theatre in Compton to chat with black moviegoers about some of this year’s Oscar-nominated films. The bit served to underscore the fact that what the Academy cares about isn’t necessarily what audiences care about; to wit, not one person had heard of Trumbo, but everyone had seen Straight Outta Compton (which garnered only one nomination, for Best Original Screenplay). Our favorite moment, though, happened when Rock asked a woman if she had seen Bridge of Spies, and her incredulous reaction. Him: “These are real movies!” Her: “Like, in London?”
Worst: Stacey Dash made the night’s most awkward appearance
Dash was once best-known for playing Dionne in Clueless, but these days, her right-wing views have been garnering more headlines. She’s criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, and recently said that BET and Black History Month shouldn’t exist, because “it’s a double standard,” in her own words. That, presumably, was the impetus for her appearance at the Oscars, where she wished the audience a “Happy Black History Month!” If it was meant to be a joke, it fell flat, but if not … well, we’ll let Chrissy Teigen’s face during that moment speak for us.
Stacey Dash onstage at the 2016 Academy Awards Mark Ralston/Getty
Best: Ryan Gosling’s delightful rapport with Russell Crowe
This unlikely pair got things off to a great start when they took to the podium to present the second award of the evening (partially as a way to promote their upcoming movie The Nice Guys, we’re assuming). Given that the banter between later presenters wasn’t nearly as witty or effortless, and that Crowe has proven himself unwilling/unable to take a joke, we’re going to assume all credit goes to Gosling here. He mansplained, he agreed to disagree about facts he was very wrong about, and this absurd little sendup of smugness even made Crowe seem more charming. Is Gosling perfect? Nobody’s perfect. But, yes, probably. Let there soon be more Oscars between them for real.
Worst: Sarah Silverman’s baffling Bond routine
What exactly was the punch line here? Silverman chose to announce Sam Smith’s performance of “Writing’s On the Wall” from Spectre by saying she hadn’t seen the movie. For a second, it looked like she was about to lay into Bond films, or at least the latest installment, which could have been awkward or rude or something. Instead, she rambled on about having sex with 007 and finding his manhood wanting. It checked the box in terms of going blue, but the Bond girl joke didn’t go far enough, or have any real edge; it was never clear what the audience was supposed to find funny. Even Silverman didn’t seem committed to it when she admitted she was saying “whatever comes into [her] mind.”
Best: Jacob Tremblay loves the Star Wars droids
Tremblay, the nine-year-old star of the devastating drama Room, has cemented his status as one of the most adorable young stars in the lead-up to the Oscars. (He especially shines on Instagram, which is full of snaps of him with other stars, and sweet shout-outs to his Room co-star, Brie Larson.) So of course he was responsible for one of the night’s cutest moments: When the Star Wars droids — C-3P0, R2-D2, and BB8 — rolled onto the stage to honor prolific composer John Williams, Tremblay all but lept out of his chair to catch a glimpse of the trio. Say it with us: Awwww.
Worst: The animated presenters
Admittedly the droids were a tough act to follow, but if you’re going to ask animated characters to present, then there are two who should definitely should have made the cut: Inside Out‘s Joy and Sadness — and maybe Bing Bong. Inside Out didn’t really get the love it deserved with such formidable contenders in the Best Picture category, but nobody would have balked at getting more of these characters, especially from a movie that doesn’t have built-in sequel potential. This might have been our last chance. Seriously, minions? At close to two hours into the ceremony, when even the most determined eight-year-old would have surely dozed off, the Academy made the wrong choice.
Best: The thank-you note ticker
For some, winning an Oscar is a once-in-a-lifetime experience — and yet those people had to hustle through their big moment last night, assisted by a ticker that preemptively acknowledged a complete list of thankable associates in the event the orchestra cut anyone off. Is it fair that Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t have one of these and the directors of the short Stutterer did? Of course not: There are winners, and there are Winners. But we are so grateful — we only have bandwidth for so many names of people we don’t know and kids watching at home who should be asleep. The ticker, while not entirely democratic, kept what felt like a brisk pace, and one everybody could feel okay about since the telecast still acknowledged the appreciated friends, families, coworkers, and preferred deities of the winners.
Worst: What’s with the pop-up video bits?
In addition to the chyron running at the bottom of the screen showing the people each award-winner wanted to thank, the producers added another on-screen bit: A little bubble next to each presenter that offered some tidbit about them. Which sounds like it would be nice, in theory, but ultimately proved to be distracting. (Does the audience really need to be told who Morgan Freeman or Julianne Moore is? Probably not.)
Best: Joe freaking Biden showed up to introduce … Lady Gaga?!?
It’s not as weird a pairing as you might think: Biden has been instrumental in promoting the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign, aimed at ending sexual assault, since it launched last November. Gaga, meanwhile, was nominated (but didn’t win) in the Best Original Song category for “Til It Happens to You,” which appeared in The Hunting Ground, a documentary about rape on college campuses. Biden’s introduction for the performance highlighted the importance of the campaign: “We must and we can change the culture so that no abused woman or man … ever feel they ever have to ask themselves, ‘What did i do?’ They did nothing wrong.” Survivors of sexual assault (many of whom had “It Happened to Me” or “Not Your Fault” written on their arms) joined Gaga on stage during what was definitely the night’s most powerful performance.
Worst: Ali G is back
It’s been a while since Sacha Baron Cohen has trotted out Ali G, the character who made his gonzo comedic style famous. And, true to form, the clueless wanna-be gangsta was rude and slightly lewd, calling the Minions “hard-working little yellow people with tiny dongs.” Still, it was one of the more WTF moments of the night — apparently, the comedian had his wife sneak in the Ali G costume after the Oscar producers had asked him not to do anything “out of order” — particularly when introducing Best Picture nominees Room and Brooklyn. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it wasn’t all that good, either.
Best: Louis C.K.’s intro for Best Documentary Short
Historically, during what’s usually a long night, it’s the shorts that suffer. This is when most people grab a snack, use the facilities, have a stretch. But Louis C.K. made a compelling case for the grandness of the smaller category when he said, “This award is going home in a Honda Civic.” Whether or not Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy drives such a car, when she got up there and said, “This is what happens when determined women get together,” two things happened: 1) people cheered her on and 2) they realised they were still sitting down. Like the Louie star said, most people in the Dolby Theater last night arrive winners and leave rich — or maybe it’s the other way around — but for some, these awards truly mean something other than “time for a bathroom break.”
Best: Amy wins for Best Documentary
Much like last year’s Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck, Amy was the rare film that introduces audiences to an entirely different person than the one they thought they knew. In both cases, this is thanks to a trove of home videos that capture raw, before-they-were-famous moments more poignantly than any filmmaker or magazine profile ever could. The Look of Silence was perhaps equally deserving (some would even say more deserving), but it was a tiny consolation to see Amy Winehouse freed from the lurid tabloid persona that followed her to her grave, and definitely helped put her there.
Best: Leo finally wins an Oscar
The Revenant might not have been DiCaprio’s very best role. But delayed gratification is the name of the game at the Academy Awards, so while this should have been Leo’s for The Wolf of Wall Street or What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? or Django Unchained (which he somehow wasn’t even nominated for), the star ate raw bison liver for this role. He nearly froze to death again, and without Kate Winslet around to hog all the driftwood he managed to survive. He finally won, and frankly there are a lot of Critters 3 and late-season Growing Pains fans out there who can assure you it was a long time coming.
Worst: Sly Stallone didn’t get his Oscar
Don’t get us wrong: Mark Rylance’s win in the Best Supporting Actor category is fantastic — he’s been a beloved theatre actor for years. But this is probably the biggest upset of the night; after Sylvester Stallone’s Golden Globes win for Creed, it seemed like he had the Oscar on lock. But alas, it was not to be. Rylance, unsurprisingly, was a class act in his speech: after giving a shout-out to the other nominees, he concluded, “It’s a wonderful time to be an actor, and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Best: The Mad Max mini-sweep
Mad Max: Fury Road‘s run of six awards (Film Editing, Costume Design, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Makeup and Hair) almost had us convinced that George Miller had a shot at Best Director. That didn’t happen, but at least this loveable, largely Aussie collection of creatives snagged one right after another while rocking refreshingly badass outfits (shout out to Jenny Beavan’s bomber jacket, Lisa Thompson’s black leather ensemble, and Margaret Sixel’s glasses). Only a team of non-Hollywood types could imagine this kind of weird, wholly unique, mesmerising “dystopian, steampunk future.” That their endeavours in the Namibian desert weren’t overlooked or written off as purely eccentric was one of the most pleasant surprises of the evening.
Worst: “Fight the Power” over the end credits?!?
This isn’t so much a “worst” moment as it is a genuine “WTF” moment: As the credits rolled on the 88th Academy Awards, Public Enemy’s seminal 1990 song “Fight the Power” played. Was there a producer in the room who realised the irony? Or was it a completely tone-deaf move? (Though, for what it’s worth, Chuck D tweeted a few thoughts on the subject.) But regardless of intent, the move came off as … well, weird, considering it was playing over the credits of a glitzy ceremony where people of colour were, by and large, absent.
Best: Spotlight wins Best Picture
It was shaping up to be a close race, but smart money was on The Revenant — journalism just wasn’t sexy enough went the thinking, which put an awful lot of pressure on poor Rachel McAdams’ chinos. Spotlight was easily deserving: The cast was top-notch, the writing was sharp and unshowy, and the subject remains relevant and controversial a decade on from the scandal’s first shockwaves. Also, the pace didn’t slacken, and the storytelling was never indulgent — two things you cannot say about The Revenant, as gorgeous as Emmanuel Lubezki’s naturally lit landscape shots were. The only upset that could have been tolerated in this category was Mad Max: Fury Road.
Worst: How did this year’s Oscars run nearly four hours?
Despite the time-saving measures that were put into place — winners were given approximately 45 seconds for their acceptance speeches, and the aforementioned chyron was used to scroll the names of folks that the winners wanted to thank along the bottom of the screen. And yet, even with those in place, the ceremony still felt bloated, running nearly four hours. What’s more, the limit on speeches was meant to hopefully provide more entertaining fodder — if you only have a proscribed amount of time, you’re less likely to ramble, in theory — but the majority of the speeches were snoozers. Well, there’s always next year.