In an underdog win for a movie about an underdog profession, the newspaper drama “Spotlight” took best picture at the 88th Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
Tom McCarthy’s film about the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting on sexual abuse by Catholic priests won over favored frontier epic “The Revenant.” It also won for McCarthy and Josh Singer’s original screenplay.
Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar, for a best actor in “The Revenant” — a grunting performance that traded little on the actor’s youthful charisma. His director, Alejandro G. Inarritu, won back-to-back directing awards after the triumph last year of “Birdman.” It’s a feat matched by only by 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 (following wins for “Gravity” and “Birdman”), and only the seventh to three-peat in Oscar history.
But the night’s most-awarded film was 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 also Miller’s wife. The flurry of wins brought a parade of Australian craftsmen onstage, including sound editor Mark Mangini, who celebrated with a loud expletive.
Best actress went to Brie Larson, the 26-year-old breakout of the mother-son captive drama “Room.”
In another big surprise, Mark Rylance beat Sylvester Stallone for best supporting actor. Stallone, nominated a second time 39 years later for the role of Rocky Balboa, had been expected to win his first acting Oscar for the “Rocky” sequel “Creed.” He instead lost to the famed stage actor who co-starred in Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies.”
Adam McKay and Charles Randolph took best adapted screenplay for “The Big Short,” their self-described “trauma-dy” about the mortgage meltdown of 2008.
Best supporting actress went Alicia Vikander for the transgender pioneer tale “The Danish Girl.” Vikander, the 27-year-old Sweden-born actress was ubiquitous in 2015, also winning awards for her performance in the sci-fi “Ex Machina.”
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 in a concentration camp.
This year’s awards were charged with politics. Down the street from the Dolby Theatre where the ceremony was held, Al Sharpton led several dozen demonstrators in protest against a second straight year of all-white acting nominees.
In response to the crisis, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, pushed ahead reforms to the academy intended to diversify its overwhelming white and male membership.
In remarks during the show by the president — usually one of the sleepiest moments in the broadcast — Boone Isaacs defended the changes, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. and urging attendees to bring greater opportunity to the industry: “It’s not enough to listen and agree,” said Boone Isaacs. “We must take action.”