DiCaprio eloquent in Oscar victory, but Stallone’s loss a disputed decision

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The Oscars delivered a crowning moment for Leo, but a crushing defeat for Rocky.

Mark Rylance is one of the world’s finest actors and his work in “Bridge of Spies” was certainly deserving of an Academy Award — but judging from the respectful but relatively mild applause from the audience at the Dolby Theater and the silence as Mr. Rylance took the stage, it was evident many if not most of the live audience were stunned when Sylvester Stallone’s name wasn’t called.

As expected, prohibitive favorite Leonardo DiCaprio won Oscar gold on his sixth nomination, receiving a standing ovation from the audience and looking every bit the part of Hollywood’s Leading Man as he delivered a simple and elegant speech, ending with a passionate call for the world to work together to end global warming.

Brie Larson, a talented but relatively unknown actress who was at the “Oh I like her, what’s her name?” category until recently, won best actress for her deeply moving work in “Room.” About 15 minutes into my first time watching “Room,” I was convinced Larson would at the very least get a best actress nomination.

The supporting actor win for Rylance was the biggest surprise — and to my mind, the biggest disappointment — of the evening. I was also hoping George Miller would win best director for “Mad Max: Fury Road,” but Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu won his second consecutive Oscar (after “Birdman”) for “The Revenant,” and that was the moment it seemed certain “The Revenant” would also win best picture.

And then “Spotlight” won best picture.

So a film featuring the winner for best director and the winner for best actor lost out for best picture? Why not? This was one of those years when there was no clear-cut best movie, and it’s difficult to find fault with the Academy’s picks in the major categories.

Overall, the telecast was about as entertaining as the bloated, overlong Oscars can get.

Chris Rock reminded us why he’s the best stand-up comic in the world with a perfectly timed, brilliant and funny but just edgy enough 10-minute monologue almost exclusively concentrated on the lack of diversity in Hollywood.

Meanwhile, an unexpected controversy bubbled up on social media over Kohl’s commercials, with many applauding the appearance of an interracial family in one spot, but others questioning the wisdom of having a young white guy lip-sync to Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Oscar acceptance speech in the aforementioned ad, and then a little white girl lip-sync Whoopi Goldberg’s acceptance speech in a second spot.

There was debate about whether this was sly, subversive social commentary — or a tone-deaf concept. When a third ad featured a young African-American boy lip-syncing Jeff Bridges’ Oscar speech, and a fourth ad showed an Asian woman lip-synching Penelope Cruz’s speech, it seemed pretty clear Kohl’s knew what it was doing. But to what end? It was provocative at first, but irritating by night’s end.

It was gratifying to see “Mad Max: Fury Road” win for a number of behind-the-scenes categories, including production design, makeup, editing and the sound categories. Heavy favorite Alicia Vikander cemented her standing as one of film’s brightest young stars with her supporting actress win for “The Danish Girl.” (I liked her even more in “Ex Machina.”)

Adam McKay, who spent time in Chicago in the 1990s perfecting his comedy chops with ImprovOlympic and Second City and is married to Shira Piven, won the Oscar for adapted screenplayfor co-writing “The Big Short.”

The night’s best speech came from “Inside Out” co-writer and co-director Pete Docter:“Anyone out there who is in junior high, high school, working it out, suffering, there are days when you’re gonna feel sad, you’re gonna be angry, you’re going to be scared. That’s nothing you can choose. But you can make stuff up, make films, draw, write. It’ll make a world of difference.”

Some of the strangest moments came courtesy of the live band. The musicians played the “Ghostbusters” theme while the announcer told us the Minions were coming up soon; they went with “Bittersweet Symphony,” famously used in “Cruel Intentions,” as Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling walked onstage; and as one of the winners for short film (animated) shouted “Viva Chile,” the music of choice was “Ride of the Valkyries,” which of course was used by Robert Duvall’s war-thirsty Col. Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now” and was a favorite of the Third Reich.

As for Rock, from this opening monologue to his quick little jabs (coming back from a commercial, he said, “Ah, we’re black”) to a cute bit where he urged the crowd to buy Girl Scout Cookies from his daughters’ troop, it was excellent work.

Calling the Oscars “The White People’s Choice Awards” in his monologue, Rock talked about the calls for him to boycott the Oscars, saying, “How come it’s only unemployed people that tell you to quit? The last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.”

Rock expressed amusement at the volume of the fury this year, saying, “Why this Oscars? It’s the 88th Academy Awards. Which means this whole ‘no black nominees’ thing has happened at least 71 other times.”

Most of what Rock said was a brilliant encapsulation of what a lot of people have probably been thinking. About Jada Pinkett Smith’s boycott, Rock said:“Jada says she’s not coming. ‘Ain’t you on a TV show?’ Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!”


Rock also poked fun at our tendency to make everything an issue these days, as with the recent movement to urge red carpet reporters to ask female nominees something more substantial than, “Who are you wearing?”

We don’t ask men what they’re wearing because “the men are wearing the same outfit,” observed Rock. “If George Clooney showed up in a lime green tux with a swan coming out of his ass, they’d ask, ‘What are you wearing, George?’ ”

A minute later, Charlize Theron came out with Emily Blunt to present the best original screenplay award. She was wearing a tomato-red dress with a neckline plunging two-thirds of the way down her torso. A necklace shimmered between her assets. She looked stunning. After that, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling presented.

I think they were wearing suits or something.

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