“Mad Max: Fury Road” swept the technical prizes Sunday at the Oscars, the pinnacle of Hollywood’s glittering awards season, as host Chris Rock delivered a searing salvo against the lack of diversity among nominees.
So far, the night saw one big surprise-Mark Rylance’s triumph in the best supporting actor category for “Bridge of Spies,” confounding most experts who had forecast a sentimental first Oscar for Hollywood favorite Sylvester Stallone.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s survival epic “The Revenant” is still leading the charge for major honors at the 88th Oscars-but a row over the lack of ethnic minority acting hopefuls overshadowed the proceedings at the Dolby Theatre.
“Well, 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,” joked Rock, 51, who continued with a series of jibes against the Academy throughout the night.
For the second year running, all 20 nominees in the main acting categories are white, and an angry social media backlash under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has grabbed the awards season headlines.
Rock, who hosted despite calls for him to join a boycott, unleashed a fierce monologue-one he apparently rewrote in the wake of the scandal to hold the Academy’s 6,000-plus voting members, overwhelmingly white men, to account.
“Things are going to be a little different at the Oscars. This year, in the ‘In Memoriam’ package, it’s just going to be black people that were shot on their way to the movies,” Rock joked.
George Miller’s stark action epic “Mad Max: Fury Road” shot into an early lead, picking up six awards for best costumes, production design, make-up, film editing, sound editing and sound mixing.
The first acting award of the night went to Sweden’s Alicia Vikander, who dazzled on the red carpet in a strapless pale yellow Louis Vuitton gown, for her supporting role in “The Danish Girl.”
“This is insane,” a visibly moved Vikander said, hailing her co-star Eddie Redmayne: “Thank you for being the best acting partner. I could have never done it without you. You raised my game.”
Filmmaker Tom McCarthy picked up the Oscar for best original screenplay for “Spotlight,” a searing look at the Boston Globe’s investigation into child sex abuse in the Catholic church-and one of the top competitors for “The Revenant.”
And Adam McKay and Charles Randolph took the adapted screenplay Oscar for “The Big Short”-another best picture contender.
Mexico’s Emmanuel Lubezki made history with his third consecutive Oscar for cinematography, for his dramatic work on “The Revenant.”
While Stallone missed out, another Hollywood veteran, best actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio, is seen as the safest bet of the night for “The Revenant,” 22 years after his first of five acting nominations.
“Don’t know about u but I’m rooting for LEO! He’s blessed us w/ years of his storytelling, he deserves this!” tweeted pop diva Lady Gaga.
First-time nominee Brie Larson looks to be a lock for best actress, having dominated the awards season with her performance as a kidnapped mother in “Room.”
“The Revenant” was the overall nominations frontrunner at 12, followed by “Mad Max: Fury Road,” with 10, and Ridley Scott’s space adventure “The Martian,” with seven.
‘Surprises will happen’
The Gold Derby website, which aggregates experts’ predictions, has “The Revenant” in the lead for best film, but analysts are split on whether Inarritu will also pick up best director for the second year running following his win for “Birdman.”
“I think ‘The Revenant’ will win best picture and the director will go to Miller,” said Hollywood analyst Anne Thompson.
“It would be unlikely that the Academy would reward a genre sequel like ‘Fury Road’ with best picture, but they have gone with directors like Ang Lee and Alfonso Cuaron for well-mounted spectacles like ‘Life of Pi’ and ‘Gravity.’”
“As many people are saying, this is an unusual year when surprises will happen,” she added.
The night will also feature some social activism: several stars including Oscar winner Patricia Arquette and past nominee Steve Carell were to wear bracelets to promote a campaign against gun violence.
And Vice President Joe Biden will introduce a song by Oscar nominee Lady Gaga to push an initiative tackling sexual assault on US university campuses.