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Oscars 2016: Eight quick takeaways

Joshua Rothkopf

Spotlight won Best Picture at tonight's Academy Awards, much to the delight of journalists, fans of understated movies, and wearers of khaki pants worldwide. Here's a complete list of all the winners. Even in the face of #OscarsSoWhite, the show went on, accommodating racial tensions with humor and sincerity. The winners' names are now being etched on the statuettes, so while the iron is hot, here are eight bleary-eyed takeaways.

1. Chris Rock nailed it.

Don't blame the host for a show that stretched to midnight—"informercial late," in Rock's words. He was the perfect choice to address the elephant in the room. Most of his zingers landed, including a let's-get-real opening monologue that played like the comedian's finest standup routines (why didn't racial rage surface in previous all-white years? "Because we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won Best Cinematographer."). Best of all was a perfectly timed Rock crack after a commercial break: "And we're black!"

2. Montages continue to suck the life out of the telecast.

The first thing viewers saw at home (not counting the red-carpet arrivals) was a ridiculous animated segment in which an assembly line injected "passion" and "heart" into an anonymous movie going down the conveyer belt. Not the best metaphor for an artform about to be celebrated over four hours. Then came a montage of what felt like a zillion films from 2015. More successful were the handling of the sound-effects categories, announcing nominees with artful doses of actual sound work.

3. For a while, it looked like Mad Max: Fury Road was going to sweep the board.

George Miller's grungy masterpiece won an impressive six Oscars by the halfway point, the largest haul of the night. Those wins were mainly for technical "below-the-line" achievements—including including Best Costume Design, Hair and Make-up and Production Design. But after an hour or so, one could be forgiven for thinking that this little post-apocalyptic film-that-could was going to ride all the way to glory. At the very least, it produced this amazing GIF of The Revenant director Alejandro G. Iñárritu giving some serious side-eye to yet another Fury Road winner:

4. The show is still capable of surprises.

Mark Rylance nabbed the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his superb work in Bridge of Spies, knocking out favorite Sylvester Stallone for Creed. Known for his poetic, somewhat rambling Tony speeches, Rylance instead uncorked a polished bit of thanks to his director, Steven Spielberg, who "leads with such love." In another shocker, Sam Smith prevailed over Lady Gaga for Best Original Song with "Writing’s On the Wall" from Spectre. (Gaga, meanwhile, reversed the mojo from her awful Grammys David Bowie tribute with an emotional performance of "Til It Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground.) 

5. Speeches were serious.

Vice President Joe Biden injected his introduction of Lady Gaga with an appeal for campus-rape awareness: "We must—and we can—change the culture. They did nothing wrong." Gaga was joined on-stage by sexual-assault survivors to a standing ovation. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the producer of doc-short winner "A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness," exploring honor killings in Pakistan, declared to another huge ovation: "This is what happens when determined women get together." And Best Director winner Iñárritu barreled over his pushy play-off music (Wagner's regrettable "Ride of the Valkyries") with an appeal for tolerance beyond skin color.

6. Presenters were less so.

Sarah Silverman made everyone squirm with a painfully awkward bit about having sex with James Bond ("not a grower or a shower"). Outdoing even host Rock, Louis C.K. slayed the crowd during his presentation of the Best Documentary Short award, admitting to loving this category because the winner was undoubtedly broke: "This Oscar is going home in a Honda Civic. It’s going to give them anxiety to keep it in their crappy apartment."

7. The screenwriter of Step Brothers now has an Oscar.

Adam McKay, co-writer of The Big Short, claimed the film's only prize of the night, for adapted screenplay. (The movie was seriously being discussed as a potential Best Picture spoiler.) In keeping with the serious-speeches trend of the evening, McKay took the opportunity to both thank Paramount for making a movie about "financial esoterica" while advising the audience to keep his movie's subject in mind come November's presidential election: "Don’t vote for candidates who take money from big banks and big oil.”

8. Leonardo DiCaprio is finally one of Hollywood's coronated greats.

As everyone predicted, Leo took home Best Actor gold for The Revenant, his sixth nomination. Thankfully, his sensitive speech was light on eating raw bison liver, heavy on acknowledgement to mentor Martin Scorsese, his parents and his friends. Lastly came a global appeal for ecological awareness (DiCaprio's longtime cause), as he explained that the production had to travel south just to find a place that was cold enough: "Climate change is real. Let us not take this planet for granted—I do not take this night for granted."

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