Last Updated Feb 28, 2016 9:08 PM EST
All eyes were on Hollywood Sunday night for the 88th annual Academy Awards, where there were very few sure things.
The ceremony kicked off with a tribute to the year in film for 2015, spreading far beyond the nominated films for its montage. "I counted at least 15 black people in that montage," host Chris Rock said as he took the stage.
Most of the assembled Hollywood elite were on the edges of their seats about how Rock would address the elephant in the room: the lack of racial diversity in the nominees and the resulting #OscarsSoWhite controversy. The answer? With gusto. It turns out that when he said he needed to rewrite his opening monologue after the controversy started making headlines, he wasn't kidding.
He quickly proved that he wasn't going to let the topic go, calling the Oscars, "the White People's Choice Awards" before moving on to mock those calling for a boycott. "Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties. I wasn't invited," he said.
Rock risked crossing a line or two, with some eyebrow-raising lines:
- "We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer" in the 1960s.
- "This year, in the In Memoriam package, it's just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on the way to the movies."
After more than nine minutes on the subject, Rock insisted, "Everything's not about race," and then tossed in one joke about women getting more style questions about their attire than men.
The awards kicked off in earnest with the first win of the night for "Spotlight" -- for Best Original Screenplay -- with Tom McCarthy's chronicle of the Boston Globe's exposé on child abuse in the Catholic church looking to repeat its success from the day before at the Spirit Awards.
The Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay went to another Best Picture nominee, "The Big Short." Director and co-writer Adam McKay used his speech to address the current election: "If you don't want big money to control government, don't vote for candidates that take money from big companies or weird billionaires," he said.
With the first pair of awards out of the way, Rock returned to harp on the diversity issue once again, playing an entertaining video package that superimposed black characters into this year's nominated films, like Whoopi Goldberg mopping a floor in "Joy," Rock as the astronaut in "The Martian" and Leslie Jones as the bear mauling Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant."
But any goodwill he built up with that bit was dashed by an odd choice to bring out controversial figure Stacey Dash to wish everyone a happy Black History Month.
Sam Smith took the stage next -- after an odd introduction by Sarah Silverman -- to sing "the Writing's on the Wall" from the James Bond film "Spectre." He was the first of three Best Song nominees to perform, though two were noticeably left out of the broadcast.
Best Supporting Actress -- one of the harder-to-predict races of the night -- went to Alicia Vikander for her work in "The Danish Girl," her first nomination and win, and Jenny Beavan won the Oscar for Best Costume Design for her work on "Mad Max: Fury Road."
Risking being played off, Beavan used part of her speech for a message of tolerance and environmental action: "It could be horribly prophetic, 'Mad Max,' if we're not kinder to each other and if we don't stop polluting our atmosphere," she said.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" also won for Best Production Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling, suggesting a big night for director George Miller's critical crowd-pleaser.
Breaking the "Mad Max" streak, Emmanuel Lubezki took home the Best Cinematography award for "The Revenant," making him the first cinematographer in history to win the award three years in a row. He previously won for "Birdman" and "Gravity." And Best Visual Effects went to the team from the indie sci-fi drama "Ex Machina."
But "Mad Max" soon got back to business, winning Best Editing for Miller's wife, Margaret Sixel, a first-time nominee. "Us Mad Maxes are doing OK tonight," she joked from the stage before pointing out that it was the "best-reviewed film of 2015." That win was followed up by another pair of wins, for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.
Rock won back some goodwill by bringing out a fleet of Girl Scouts to sell cookies to the assembled celebrities and moguls, harkening back to -- and besting -- Ellen DeGeneres' pizza delivery bit from a few years ago. He later revealed that the scouts had earned a total of $65,243 from cookie sales to the attendees.
Chile's "Bear Story" won for Best Animated Short, marking the first Oscar for a film from the country, while Best Animated Feature landed closer to home, with the award going to "Inside Out," marking a return to form for Disney's Pixar, which hadn't won an Oscar since 2012's "Brave."
Kevin Hart took the stage to introduce the Weeknd's performance of "Earned It," but first he got serious for a bit, putting a positive spin on the diversity problem in Hollywood. "I want to applaud all the actors and actresses of color who did not get nominated," Hart said. "These problems of today will eventually become problems of the old." Then he lamented not being given a front-row seat at the awards show.
Rock soon returned to further address the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.
"I don't want to just complain, I want to help solve the problem," he said, introducing a video of him interviewing moviegoers outside a movie theater in Compton, California, some of whom thought he was making up some of the Best Picture nominee titles.
In another of the higher-profile races of the night, Best Supporting Actor went to Mark Rylance for "Bridge of Spies," beating out odds-on favorite Sylvester Stallone, who'd hoped to finally earn an Oscar for playing Rocky Balboa.
Louis C.K. took the stage to steal some of Rock's comic thunder -- and hand out the award for Best Documentary Short. "These people will never be rich as long as they live," he joked. "This Oscar is going home in a Honda Civic." Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won for "A Girl in the River," quickly pointing out that this is her second Oscar.
On the feature documentary side, the Oscar went to Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees for the Amy Winehouse documentary, "Amy," exploring the tragic life of the late singer.
Upping the cuteness factor, "Room" star Jacob Tremblay and "Beasts of No Nation" star Abraham Attah came out to announce the award for Best Live Action Short -- but not before Rock assisted the vertically challenged Tremblay with some boxes to stand on. Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage took home the prize for "Stutterer."
As many predicted, Laszlo Nemes took home the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for the Holocaust drama "Son of Saul."
Vice President Joe Biden took the stage to introduce Lady Gaga's performance of Best Original Song nominee "Until it Happens to You," imploring viewers and attendees to help change the culture of sexual abuse and violence. "They did nothing wrong," he said of the survivors who defiantly took the stage during the musical number.
Gaga and her co-writer, Diane Warren, went home empty-handed, though, as Sam Smith's "the Writing's on the Wall" took home the Oscar for Best Original Song. And Best Original Score went to "the Hateful Eight" composer Ennio Morricone, who had never won an Oscar before, though he'd been awarded an honorary Oscar in 2007. John Williams, who was up for "Star Wars: the Force Awakens," received his 50th Oscar nomination this year.
The "Mad Max: Fury Road" groundswell couldn't go on forever, as once again "The Revenant" upset the Australian action flick, as Alejandro G. Iñarritu won Best Director for the second year in a row.
In the hotly contested Best Actress race, with a contest between newcomers and more experienced talent, the Academy ended up siding with youth over experience, giving the Oscar to first-time nominee Brie Larson for "Room." And Leonardo DiCaprio finally got to make his Oscars acceptance speech, winning for his elements-enduring role in "the Revenant," his first win and sixth nomination.
"Making 'The Revenant' was about man's relationship to the natural world," he said. "Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to find snow. Climate change is real. We need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating."
Morgan Freeman presented the biggest award of the night, Best Picture, with eight films vying for the top prize. And the Oscar went to "Spotlight," with Tom McCarthy and crew taking the stage to celebrate. And Rock ended the night by inviting everyone in attendance to the BET Awards this summer.