Last night’s 88th Academy Awards ceremony was about many things. Off the top, it was a ceremony dedicated to celebrating the winners as chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It was also a celebration of the filmmaking process (sort of). But for host Chris Rock, it was an opportunity to address the controversy that has followed the Oscars from nomination day to its golden night. To his credit, Rock made an evening out of poking and prodding The Academy for #OscarsSoWhite.
It began with his opening monologue, a searing and hilarious comedic set that filled the room with awkward laughter. Watch the entire monologue below, via our friends at /Film.
This undoubtedly made some people on Twitter upset. During our own live-tweet of the ceremony, we were met with a number of replies citing Rock’s jokes as “not funny.” It’s clear that some people are missing the point. This isn’t about creating categories for black actors, it’s about raising awareness to create opportunities. And the real problem goes far beyond that of The Academy and its ranks. For Chris Rock, the most profound thing he can do to help foster diversity in Hollywood is to draw attention to the issue with humor.
Later in the ceremony, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs came out to address the situation more seriously. She acknowledged the Academy’s diversity issues and committed to seeking changes that will foster equality not just within The Academy’s ranks, but in Hollywood at-large. It was clear after Saturday night’s Independent Spirit Awards, which found itself with a very diverse list of both nominees and winners, that diversity is out there, it’s just a matter of lifting those voices up.
Later in the show, Rock went back to the joke with this montage (via Vulture) in which he inserted black actors into some of the Oscar-nominated films. It gave us Tracy Morgan as a Danish girl, Whoopi Goldberg as the wise janitor and Leslie Jones as Leonardo DiCaprio’s worst nightmare.
By my own estimation, Chris Rock was an excellent host. His sharp commentary and irreverent style was perfect for a year in which the Oscars needed a little levity. There are important issues on the table, issues that we hope don’t slip into the background in the months to come, and it was nice to see someone bring these issues to the forefront without feeling too heavy-handed. The message was delivered with a healthy side of laughter. On Oscar night, that’s the perfect recipe. The serious discussion continues this week once everyone recovers from their hangover.