Making Room at the Oscars

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The 88th annual Academy Awards combined red carpet glamour, political commentary and a long-awaited win for one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors.

It was the moment movie fans had been waiting for: after years of snubs, the Academy Award for Best Actor went to… Leonardo DiCaprio. Golden statuette in hand, DiCaprio took the opportunity to deliver an impassioned speech not about filmmaking, but about climate change, which he called “the most urgent threat facing our entire species.”

"Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted."

- Leonardo DiCaprio
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Leonardo DiCaprio’s role in “The Revenant,” a gruesome telling of a vengeful frontiersman, finally won him his Oscar. This was DiCaprio’s sixth nomination, and he beat out Bryan Cranston and Matt Damon.

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Brie Larson, nominated alongside Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence, won the Best Actress award for her portrayal of a mother who escapes captivity in “Room.” Larson, 26, said she holed herself up in her apartment for a month to prepare for the role, which was filmed largely in a 10x10 room on set in Toronto.

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Mark Rylance, 56, won Best Supporting Actor for the Cold War thriller “Bridge of Spies.” This was the British actor’s first Oscar; he also has three Tony Awards.

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Best Supporting Actress Alicia Vikander, 28, was Gerda to Eddie Redmayne’s Lili Elbe in “The Danish Girl,” based on the real-life story of one of the first people to undergo gender confirmation treatment.

Political issues ran throughout the evening, which followed months of protest about the Oscars’ lack of diversity. Many celebrities, including Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee, boycotted the ceremony; on social media, a backlash mobilized via the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. Host Chris Rock addressed the issue head-on (“Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right, it’s racist”)... then veered into tasteless territory with a bit that involved three Asian children portraying PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants. Several prominent artists of Asian descent wrote an open letter condemning the jokes, prompting the Academy to issue an apology.

"I am keenly sensitive to stereotypes, as bland, as innocuous as they may seem, because all it takes is one catastrophic event for that stereotype to become a deadly weapon used against us."

- George Takei

But as buzz begins to build for the 2017 awards, it’s looking like the Oscars may finally be a little less white. Among the films making critics’ lists: Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight,” based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s coming-of-age play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”; “Loving,” about the groundbreaking interracial relationship that led to the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision; an adaptation of “Fences,” starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis; and “The Birth of a Nation,” the story of Nat Turner as told by actor/director Nate Parker.

2016 in numbers