Tom McCarthy’s film about the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting on sexual abuse by Catholic priests won over the favoured frontier epic The Revenant. McCarthy’s well-crafted procedural, led by a strong ensemble cast, had lagged in the lead-up to the Oscars.
But Spotlight – an ode to the hard-nose, methodical work of a journalism increasingly seldom practised – took the night’s top honour despite winning only one other Oscar for McCarthy and Josh Singer’s screenplay.
“We would not be here today without the heroic efforts of our reporters,” said producer Blye Pagon Faust. “Not only do they effect global change, but they absolutely show us the necessity for investigative journalism.”
Streaks, broken and extended, dominated much of the evening. After going home empty-handed four times previously, Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar, for a best actor in The Revenant – a gruff, grunting performance that traded little on the actor’s youthful charisma. DiCaprio, greeted with a standing ovation, took the moment to talk about climate change.
“Let us not take our planet for granted,” said DiCaprio. “I do not take tonight for granted.”
His director, Inarritu won back-to-back directing awards after the triumph last year of Birdman. It’s a feat matched by only two other filmmakers: John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
The Revenant also won best cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki, who became the first cinematographer to win three times in a row (after wins for Gravity and Birdman), and only the seventh to take a hat-trick in Oscar history.
The night’s most-awarded film, however, went to George Miller’s post-apocalyptic chase film, Mad Max: Fury Road which sped away with six awards in technical categories for editing, makeup, production design, sound editing, sound mixing and costume design.
“Us Mad Maxes are doing OK tonight,” said editor Margaret Sixel, who’s married to Miller. The flurry of wins brought a parade of Australian craftsmen onstage in an Oscars that was at least internationally diverse.
Best actress went to Brie Larson, the 26-year-old breakout of the mother-son captive drama Room. The Sweden-born Alicia Vikander took best supporting actress for the transgender pioneer tale The Danish Girl.
Gasps went around the Dolby when Mark Rylance won best supporting actor over Sylvester Stallone. Nominated a second time for role of Rocky Balboa 39 years later, Stallone had been expected to win his first acting Oscar for the Rocky sequel Creed. But the famed stage actor who co-starred in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies won instead.
Adam McKay and Charles Randolph took best adapted screenplay for their self-described “trauma-dy,” The Big Short, about the mortgage meltdown of 2008.
At 87, Ennio Morricone landed his first competitive Oscar for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (He was given an honorary one in 2009).
Sam Smith and songwriting partner Jimmy Napes picked up the Academy Award for best song for Writing’s on the Wall, from the James Bond film Spectre.
Best animated feature film went to Inside Out, Pixar’s eighth win in the category since it was created in 2001. Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse portrait, Amy, took best documentary. Hungary scored its second best foreign language Oscar for Laszlo Nemes’ Son of Saul, a harrowing drama set within a concentration camp.