No matter how good the films are each year, the actual Oscar ceremony can vary wildly in tone and quality. In recent years viewing figures have been in rapid decline, then with this year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy things looked perilous.
Cue, Chris Rock, the African-American host who held his ground through calls to boycott and quit, delivering a piece of satirical presenting that rarely wavered from tonal perfection! That must be the one thing that saved this year’s ceremony above all else, that Rock had been hired before the nominations were announced and so was perfectly poised to be able to comment on racial matters in a way that no white or replacement host could have even dreamt of. Sure, he didn’t let it go for the whole night, returning to the same well for material each time he stepped on stage, but somehow he managed to avoid being bitter and even addressed the boycotters in the most direct way possible.
Apart from the hosting, a few other highlights of the evening included the surprise wins for films such as ‘Ex Machina‘ and ‘Spotlight‘, as well as Mark Rylance winning then delivering the most gracious of speeches. Performance-wise, Lady Gaga was introduced with the most glowing of endorsements by vice-president Joe Biden, then gave an impassioned and powerful performance, despite then losing out on the win to Sam Smith, something that wouldn’t have happened if the votes were taken after the performance.
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs gave a very good speech in her annual appearance in which she addressed the racial diversity issues head on, and put the onus where it should be, on the industry as a whole. Even the unexpected reprisal of Ali G by Sacha Baron Cohen managed to get a laugh while making jokes that Rock and other presenters had paved the way for.
Though apparently ratings hit another low, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris Rock was invited back to take the hosting role again. In future years hopefully his unique perspective on race might not be what’s needed for an organisation vowing to lead the way into a more diverse film future.