Rock Adds More Than Color to 'All-White' Oscars
February 29, 2016

It was all the talk on the Red Carpet show. What was Academy Awards host Chris Rock going to say about the controversial diversity issue? There were no black actors nominated for Oscars this year. If you've ever seen Rock perform, you knew he wouldn't sidestep the issue. Not only did he confront it head-on, but that's all his opening monologue was about.

“I'm here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the white people's choice awards”, Rock opened with after pointing out that he saw about 15 black people in the opening montage. Rock also posed the question “Why this Oscars?” “This is the 88th Academy Awards”, he said. “That means this whole no black nominees thing had to have happened at least 71 other times.”

Rock got on Will Smith and his wife Jada, who were among the first to talk of a boycott. With Jada claiming it wasn't fair that Will wasn't nominated for Concussion, Rock added “It was also not fair that Will was paid 20 million for Wild Wild West.”

Probably Rock's priority message, and the one that will be most remembered, is when he posed the question to himself. Is Hollywood racist? Rock said “you're damn right it's racist”, but it's not “burning cross racist” or “fetch me some lemonade” racist, but “sorority racist.” He said it's like “We like you Rhonda, but you're just not a Kappa.”

Rock turned away from race toward the end of his opening speech when he noted that women were supposed to be asked more than just what they were wearing. After pointing out that all guys pretty much wear the same outfit, he said “Not everything is racism. Not everything is sexism. If George Clooney showed up in a lime green tux with a swan coming out his ass, somebody would go Whatcha wearin', George?”

After the 10-minute open, Rock was hit and miss from thereon. He introduced former Clueless star Stacey Dash as the new director of the Academy's minority outreach program. Dash now works for Fox News and had previously called the boycott 'ludicrous'. The bit was met with silence, and then a polite smattering of applause when she exited the stage.

A little while later, Rock was back on again with the Black History Month Minute. Angela Bassett presented a tribute to a “man (who) has long been an inspiration to his people. You can call him actor, producer, comedian, musician. We simply call him Jack Black.” Cut to a picture of the white guy that starred in School of Rock and the Kung Fu Panda movies.

While Rock did get the multimillionaire honored guests to buy 65-thousand dollars worth of Girl Scout cookies, the bit was too reminiscent of when Ellen Degeneres ordered pizza while hosting the Oscars two years ago. Rock, who always invokes race in his act, was back on target, though, when he interviewed moviegoers outside a theater in Compton, and no one had ever heard of any of the movies that were nominated. One woman thought he was making up the names.

As for the rest of the show, maybe it wasn't all white, but it was rather vanilla. Dave Grohl playing a nice acoustic version of 'Blackbird' during the 'In Memoriam' segment may have been the highlight. Lady Gaga showed off her unbelievable voice again with 'Til It Happens To You', but the nominated song did not win. There was also no big lifetime achievement presentation, although highlights were shown of Gena Rowlands receiving an award earlier.

They tried something different with the speeches this year. The winner would get to talk, but all of his or her 'thank yous' were scrolled across the bottom of the screen. If the idea was for shorter speeches, it didn't work. Also, the orchestra played more intrusive marches when time ran out instead of a more polite classical interlude.

You know the results by now, and while I didn't see any of the movies or even fill out a ballot this year, I was shocked at the end when Spotlight took Best Picture. It makes sense. The academy loves a good political story, but I figured The Revenant had it locked up. I read today that most people had it as their third choice. Who knew it wouldn't be race, but instead a church child sex scandal that would provide the night's surprise ending.

Best speech: Pixar's Pete Docter after Inside Out won Best Animated Feature. “Anyone out there who is in junior high, high school working it out, suffering. There are days you are going to feel sad, you're going to feel angry, you're going to feel scared. That's nothing you can choose, but you can make stuff. Make films, draw, write. It will make a world of difference.”

Best presenter: Louis C.K. for Best Documentary Short. He called it the most important award, saying, “You cannot make a dime on this. These people will never be rich as long as they live.” He also added that while other Oscars go home to mansions, “this one is going home in a Honda Civic. It's going to give them anxiety to keep it in their crappy apartment.” It also turned out to be the second Oscar for winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

Oddest moment: Most would likely say Dash, but how about when Benicio Del Toro and Jennifer Garner introduced The Revenant? After playing the clip, and then showing star Leonardo DiCaprio applauding, they cut to a balcony and an applauding guy in a bear suit. Most of the audience at the theater didn't even notice, and few of us at home certainly didn't see that coming.

A new record?: It's probably not, but it seemed like it. Which movie has gotten the most Oscars without winning Best Picture? Mad Max: Fury Road got six last night. At least Mel Gibson wasn't at this awards show.

Striking a chord: There were some exceptions, but didn't the musical introductions seem a little random? When Vice President Joe Biden was introduced, they played the Indiana Jones theme.

View All Commentaries