Academy Awards: Rylance Knocks Out Stallone, Rock Rips Into Oscar Diversity Issue


FEBRUARY 29, 2016

Los Angeles. Britain's Mark Rylance beat Sylvester Stallone to win the Academy Award for best supporting actor on Sunday while host Chris Rock pulled no punches in taking aim at the #OscarsSoWhite controversy dominating Hollywood.

Stallone, 69, who never won an Oscar for his iconic "Rocky" movies in the 1970s and '80s, was the presumed front-runner for the honor for his performance in boxing movie "Creed."

But instead it was Rylance who won for playing an unflappable Soviet spy in Cold War drama "Bridge of Spies."

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander won the supporting actress Oscar for transgender movie "The Danish Girl," and coming-of-age film "Inside Out" won the best animated feature statuette.

Yet the early awards were almost a sideshow to the racial theme running through the televised ceremony, where black actors were inserted into scenes from movies like "Joy" and "The Martian."

Rock, the outspoken black comedian chosen to host Hollywood's biggest night months before the selection of an all-white acting nominee line-up for a second year, welcomed viewers to what he called "the white People's Choice awards."

He speculated on why the furor over diversity in the industry had taken root this year, rather than in the 1950s or 1960s, saying that black Americans had "real things to protest at the time."

"We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer," he added.

Turning to the present day, Rock joked that things would be different at Sunday's Academy Awards, saying the traditional segment honoring stars who died in the past year is "just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on their way to the movies."

Director Spike Lee, who shunned the Academy Awards ceremony along with actor Will Smith, instead attended a New York Knicks basketball game on Sunday. However an Oscar boycott largely failed to gather steam as black celebrities including Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, Pharrell Williams and John Legend all showed up, many of them as presenters or performers.

The under-representation of people of color in the film and TV industry prompted pledges to bring more women and minorities into the industry and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organizes the Oscars.

Best picture toss-up

Leonardo DiCaprio, who brought his mother to the Oscars, is seen as certain to win his first ever Oscar for his role as an 1820s fur trapper bent on revenge in "The Revenant."

Rising star Brie Larson, 26, is the favorite to take home the best actress Oscar for her compelling depiction of an abducted young woman in indie movie "Room."

Yet going into Sunday's ceremony, there was no consensus on which of the eight best picture nominees will take home the top prize, to be announced at the end of the 3-1/2 hour ceremony.