Oscars 2016: Chris Rock tackles Hollywood diversity issue in monologue

Could Oscars host Chris Rock balance the razzle-dazzle of the Academy awards with a burning social issue – the row over diversity in a second straight year of all-white acting nominees? When the comedian took the stage, there was more at stake than the usual roster of winners and losers. He got down to business […]

Could Oscars host Chris Rock balance the razzle-dazzle of the Academy awards with a burning social issue – the row over diversity in a second straight year of all-white acting nominees?

When the comedian took the stage, there was more at stake than the usual roster of winners and losers.

He got down to business straight away, welcoming guests and viewers to the 88th Academy Awards – “otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards”.

From there, he barely paused, joking (or was he?) that if the Academy nominated its hosts, “I wouldn’t even get this job”.

He confessed he had considered bowing out as host, but said: “The last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.”

The show had to strike a balance between the usual bounty of backslapping and gratitude and indulge in a rare show of remorse for Hollywood’s glaring lack of inclusion.

Leading this juggling act was Rock, in the dicey position of speaking for everyone in the industry who isn’t white. If the pressure weighed upon him, he didn’t show it. His monologue was a slam-bam assault on complacent racism – while, in the best Rock style, putting things in droll perspective. Yes, Hollywood is racist, he said, but not the usual type.

“It’s sorority racist,” he said. “We like you, Rhonda. But you’re not a Kappa.”‘

It wasn’t fair that Will Smith didn’t get a best actor nomination for Concussion, he said, but added: “It’s also not fair that Will got paid $20 million for Wild, Wild West.

Rock also mused on why the row over diversity has only erupted now, given that few black people had been nominated throughout Oscar’s 88-year history.

Why weren’t they protesting in say, the early 1960s, Rock asked, before supplying an answer: “Because we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to worry about who won best cinematographer.”

In his most painfully funny joke, Rock said things were changing, even in this broadcast: “In the In Memoriam package, it’s just going to be black people shot by cops on their way to the movies.”

In a rare serious moment, he said: “We want opportunity. We want black actors to get the same opportunities. That’s it.”

Apart from Rock and the message he drove home so effectively, however, the ceremony was a humdrum affair.

A rare non-Rock comic respite came in a “Black History Moment” paying tribute to a multifaceted artist who, in the words of Angela Bassett, has “shattered barriers” in filmmaking: white actor Jack Black.

But for the most part it was a disappointing show. A restructuring of the categories the major awards were stacked towards the end of the ceremony even more than usual. After the opening monologue, viewers could have skipped the next two hours and missed very little as a string of technical awards were handed out.

Another annoyance was the attempt to banish the names of those thanked by winners to a text crawl at the bottom of the screen.

artslife@thenational.ae

Source: art & life

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