Our Five Favorite Moments From The 2016 Academy Awards


While it was an already tense evening at the Academy Awards this year with the #OscarsSoWhite controversy shining the spotlight on the clear lack of diversity among the big category nominations (Best Actress & Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Actor and Best Director) and the fact that once again we are down to zero nominations for any women in the Best Director category, we have to admit we were pleasantly surprised by how the evening turned out.

Host Chris Rock did not disappoint, coming right out of the gate swinging with jokes about the exclusion of people of color and how the industry needs to do better. It was probably the best thing to do and props to the Academy for acknowledging their huge oversight, and taking steps to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future.

While there were noticeably no black actors or directors nominated, we did at least see some other minorities represented and win big. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu won the Best Director award for the second year in a row, representing his native country Mexico, for ‘The Revenant’. Director Gabriel Osorio Vargas, screenwriter Daniel Castro and producer Pato Escala Pierart won the first Oscar award for their home country Chile for the Best Animated Short film ‘Bear’. Viva Chile!


Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki won for Best Cinematography, and made history as the first Latino to win this award three years in a row (2013’s ‘Gravity’ and 2014’s ‘Birdman’ were his other two wins). ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ was the big winner of the night taking home a whopping 6 awards in total (Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Production Design Makeup and Hairstyling, Costume Design and Film Editing), where the majority of wins were by Australian filmmakers and production crew.

One moment we really loved was when Best Adapted Screenplay winners Adam McKay and Charles Randolph (‘The Big Short’) spoke about the need to elect better political leaders who aren’t bought by billionaires, and since the film is all about the worst economic crisis in our history, it was a timely and important reminder why to vote Democrat this year!

The Award for Best Animated Feature went to ‘Inside Out’, and filmmakers Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera gave sweet and powerful reminder that we need to do better to identify youth who suffer from mental illnesses and not ignore that it is a serious problem.


While he didn’t win for Best Actor, to see Eddie Redmayne be nominated in this category (which he won in 2014 for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in ‘The Theory Of Everything’) the fact that his performance as a woman who was a pioneer in receiving gender reassignment surgery was a big deal. On that note, the fact that ‘Carol’, a film featuring 2 female leads, who were lesbians, and who made critical life decisions without relying on men is a major breakthrough for the types of diverse female characters being given space alongside the rest.

We also have to give a huge shout out to Best Original Musical Score winner Ennio Morricone (‘The Hateful Eight’) who is 87 and gave his entire speech in Italian (which was translated in English) and beat out industry favorite John Williams. The Oscars may have been “so white”, but they were as diverse as they could’ve been in other ways.

There were five moments in particular which were our favorites. The first was Margaret Sixel winning the Best Film Editing award for ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. She is only the 12th woman to win this normally male-dominated award, and did so in a major blockbuster action film no less.

The second was Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who won Best Documentary Short for her powerful film exposing the horrific epidemic of honor killings, ‘The Girl In The River’. In her acceptance speech, she talked about the impact her film is already making on world leaders, and why it is important for men as well as women to champion the end of gender violence.

Sharmeen won the same award back in 2012 for the film ‘Saving Face’ about a doctor who helps acid attack survivors in Pakistan get plastic surgery. She is the first Pakistani to win an Oscar, and now that she has two, she is well-positioned to be a social justice champion for women in her home country.

Among all the Hollywood celebrities and industry power players, it was a surprise to see Vice President Joe Biden make an appearance, but it was not just for publicity. He came as a representative of the Obama Administration’s ‘It’s On Us’ sexual assault prevention campaign where he wasted no time issuing a firm reminder why it is all of our responsibility to stand up and become better advocates to those who are victims and survivors.

Before introducing Lady Gaga, the Vice Prez gave a short speech that attracted a standing ovation.

“Despite significant progress over the last few year, too many women and men, on and off college campuses, are still victims of sexual abuse and tonight I am asking you to join million of americans including me, President Obama, the thousands of students I’ve met on college campuses and the artists here tonight to take the pledge,” he said.

“A pledge that says – I will intervene in situations when consent has not or has not been given. Let’s change the culture. We must and we can change the culture. So that no abused womam or man, like the survivors you will see tonight, ever feel they ever have to ask themselves ‘what did i do?’ They did nothing wrong. I really mean this, take the pledge. Visit itsonus.org.”


Which brings us to Lady Gaga’s incredibly moving performance of ‘Til it Happens To You’ written along with hit maker Diane Warren for the documentary ‘The Hunting Ground’ centered on the sexual assault epidemic happening on college campuses across America. Hot off her well-lauded Super Bowl National Anthem performance, the multiple award-winning singer belted out her emotional hit alongside a group of college students and former sexual assault survivors.

Sadly, she didn’t go on to win the Best Original Song award, that Oscar went to Sam Smith for his song ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ from the James Bond movie ‘Spectre’. But nevertheless, the performance was a win in and of itself and gave a voice to victims and survivors everywhere who have been shamed into silence by a culture that too often ignores gender violence or treats it as normal.

An award that was a LONG time was Leonardo DiCaprio’s Best Actor win for his performance in ‘The Revenant’. He has been the subject of countless memes and running jokes about how he has been overlooked for so many Oscar-worthy performances. He finally took home the award but not before using his acceptance speech to talk about an issue that is dear to his heart and is something all of us should take heed about: climate change.

“Making ‘The Revenant’ was about man’s relationship to the natural world…climate change is real. It is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating,” he said while also urging us to vote for political leaders who will take this seriously and not side with corporations and interest groups who only seek to harm the planet for a profit.

It was an entertaining evening celebrating art, social justice, creativity, hard work, and important issues. Despite the negativity surrounding the evening, what each winner chose to talk about during their acceptance speeches gave us a lot of hope that with each moment in the spotlight, each platform given to the creative community will be used to spread powerful messages.

With that being said, let us once again enjoy every moment host Chris Rock used to talk about the need for diversity, making plenty of people uncomfortable (in a good way!) with his jokes about the lack of black nominees. We should point out that we need to see ALL minorities represented on screen. It goes back to the “you can’t be what you can’t see” sentiment.

Here’s to the Academy Awards in 2017 setting the bar even higher for an industry that has the privilege of shining a light on powerful stories and captivating visuals in a creative way.


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