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Diversity Takes Center Stage at 88th Academy Awards

  • VOA News

Chris Rock hosts the Academy Awards program at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, Feb. 28, 2016.

Chris Rock hosts the Academy Awards program at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, Feb. 28, 2016.

Hollywood's biggest stars walked the world's most famous red carpet Sunday to attend the 88th Academy Awards ceremony, the film industry's highest honors.

This year's show, hosted by comedian Chris Rock, has been marked by controversy regarding the lack of diversity of its nominees. For the second year in a row, only white actors and actresses were chosen for the top four categories -- best actor/actress and best supporting actor/actress.

The resulting backlash led to several African-American actors and actresses, such as Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith, boycotting the event and the rise of the social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

Rock opened the show with caustic jokes about the controversy.

"I'm here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the white People's Choice awards. You realize if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job. You'd be watching Neal Patrick Harris right now."

Harris, who is white, hosted the event last year. The last black host was Rock himself in 2005.

The 51-year-old comic got serious during his opening monologue.

"We want opportunities," Rock said. "We want black actors to get the same opportunities, that's it," he said to rousing applause.

Best Picture

"Spotlight," a film about the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into child sex abuse by Catholic priests, won the Oscar for Best Picture.

WATCH: Penelope Poulou's report on "Spotlight"

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Heavy favorite Leonardo DiCaprio won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in "The Revenant." In his acceptance speech, he thanked co-star Tom Hardy and director Innarityu and urged more attention to the dangers of climate change.

"Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take this night for granted," said DiCaprio, a longtime environmentalist.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Brie Larson won the best-actress Oscar for her performance in "Room."

Best Director

Alejandro G. Inarritu was named best director for "The Revenant," this year's most nominated film. It features DiCaprio as a fur trapper who almost dies after being mauled by a bear.

"I am very lucky to be here tonight but unfortunately many others haven't had the same luck," Inarritu said in accepting his award, referring to the diversity controversy.

Alejandro G. Inarritu accepts the award for best director for “The Revenant” at the Oscars on Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Alejandro G. Inarritu accepts the award for best director for “The Revenant” at the Oscars on Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Best Original Song

Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith won the Oscar for Best Original Song for "Writing's on The Wall" from the movie Spectre."

"I stand here today as a proud gay man," Smith told the audience, dedicating his award to the LGBT community.

Sam Smith, right, and Jimmy Napes arrive at the Oscars on Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Sam Smith, right, and Jimmy Napes arrive at the Oscars on Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Smith and Napes beat out Lady Gaga, who, along with Diane Warren, wrote "Til It Happens to You." It's the theme song from "The Hunting Ground," a film expose of rape crimes on U.S. college campuses.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise appearance at Sunday night's show, asking people to pledge to intervene in sexual encounters when consent has not been given. He then introduced Lady Gaga, who sang "Til It Happens to You."

Best Foreign Language Film

The academy selected "Son of Saul," from Hungary, as the best foreign language film.


Best Supporting Actor, Actress

First-time nominee Mark Rylance won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in "Bridge of Spies," in which he played a Russian operative captured in the United States. During his acceptance speech, which was cut short, he praised co-star Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg.

The award for Best Actress in a Supporting role went to 27-year-old Sweden-born actress Alicia Vikander for her performance in "The Danish Girl."

Alicia Vikander accepts the award for best actress in a supporting role for “The Danish Girl” at the Oscars on Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Alicia Vikander accepts the award for best actress in a supporting role for “The Danish Girl” at the Oscars on Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Most awards

"Mad Max: Fury Road" claimed the most awards, a total of six, for costume design, production design, film editing, sound editing, sound mixing, and makeup and hair styling.

The South American country of Chile won its first Oscar in the Best Animated Short Film category for "Bear Story." Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala accepted the award.

Host Chris Rock and Girl Scouts participate in a skit at the Oscars on Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Host Chris Rock and Girl Scouts participate in a skit at the Oscars on Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Oscar first: Girl Scout Cookies

In what was undoubtedly a first at this year's show, host Rock asked the audience to reach into their "millionaire pockets" and buy some Girl Scout cookies to help his daughters sell a record amount this year.

Girl Scouts armed with cookies circulated through the audience, where individuals were holding up money to buy boxes of the sweets.

First award of the night

The evening's first award went "Spotlight" for Best Original Screenplay.

Josh Singer, left, and Tom McCarthy accept the award for best original screenplay for “Spotlight” at the Oscars on Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Josh Singer, left, and Tom McCarthy accept the award for best original screenplay for “Spotlight” at the Oscars on Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

More than 40 million people worldwide were expected to watch the ceremony.

Protests

Protesters urging a boycott of the Academy Awards congregated near the Dolby Theatre, the awards setting. Dozens of protesters converged on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue, holding signs and calling for more diversity in feature films.

Some of the signs included the slogans, "Hollywood Must do Better'' and "Shame on You.''

Protestors gather outside of the offices of WABC-TV to rally for more diversity in the film industry, Feb. 28, 2016, in New York.

Protestors gather outside of the offices of WABC-TV to rally for more diversity in the film industry, Feb. 28, 2016, in New York.

WATCH: Photo Gallery - Oscar Winners

List of Winners in major categories:

* "Mad Max: Fury Road" won 6 awards: for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hair Styling, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Best Picture - "Spotlight"
Best Director -
Alejandro G. Iñárritu "The Revenant"
Best Cinematography - "The Revenant"
Best Original Screenplay - "Spotlight"
Best Actor in a Leading Role - Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Revenant"
Best Actress in a Leading Role - Brie Larson for "Room"
Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Mark Rylance for "Bridge of Spies"
Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Alicia Vikander for "The Danish Girl"
Best Foreign Language Film - "Son of Saul" - Hungary
Best Original Song - "Writing's on the Wall" from Spectre - Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

WATCH: Photo Gallery - Oscars Red Carpet Looks

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