Reuters

LOS ANGELES

Catholic Church abuse movie “Spotlight” was named best picture, the top award at Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, after a night peppered with pointed punchlines from host Chris Rock about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that has dominated the industry. In a ceremony where no single movie commanded attention, Mexico’s Alejandro Inarritu nabbed the best directing Oscar for “The Revenant”, becoming the first filmmaker in more than 60 years to win back-to-back Academy Awards. Inarritu won in 2015 for “Birdman.” “The Revenant” went into Sunday’s ceremony with a leading 12 nominations, and was among four movies believed to have the best chances for best picture after it won Golden Globe and BAFTA trophies. The ambitious 20th Century Fox Pioneer-era tale, shot in sub-zero temperatures, also brought a first Oscar win for its star Leonardo DiCaprio, who got a standing ovation from the A-list Hollywood audience.

“I do not take tonight for granted,” DiCaprio said, taking the opportunity in his acceptance speech to urge action on climate change. Yet voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose Open Road Films’ “Spotlight,” which traces the Boston Globe’s 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning investigation of child abuse by Catholic priests, for best picture. The movie also won best original screenplay.

“This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope can become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican,” said producer Michael Sugar. Rising star Brie Larson, 26, took home the statuette for best actress for her role as an abducted young woman in indie movie “Room,” adding to her armful of trophies from other award shows.

Racial themes and barbs about the selection of an all-white acting nominee line-up for a second year were a running theme of the show, dubbed “the white People’s Choice awards” by Rock, an outspoken black comedian. He questioned why the furor over diversity in the industry had taken root this year, rather than in the 1950s or 1960s, saying that black Americans had “real things to protest at the time.” “We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer,” Rock added. In a taped section, Rock visited the Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton - the heart of the hip-hop music industry - to ask residents if they had heard or seen the Oscar-nominated movies. None had. Several nominees gave Rock a thumbs-up for striking the right balance on a tricky theme.

“I thought it was jabbing at Hollywood, yet at the same time even-handed, and kind of dealing with a new era of how we discuss diversity,” said Adam McKay, director and co-writer of best picture nominee “The Big Short.” “Really impressive and really funny.” Rock wasn’t alone in putting people of color in the spotlight on the movie industry’s biggest night.

“I (am) very lucky to be here tonight, but unfortunately many others haven’t had the same luck,” Inarritu said, expressing the hope that, in the future, skin color would become as irrelevant as the length of one’s hair. Among surprises, Britain’s Mark Rylance beat presumed favorite and “Creed” actor Sylvester Stallone to win the Academy Award for best supporting actor for “Bridge of Spies.”

“Sly, no matter what they say, remember, to me you are the best, you were the winner. I’m proud of you,” Arnold Schwarzenegger, a fellow action star, said in a short video he posted online. British singer Sam Smith’s theme song for James Bond movie “Spectre” beat Lady Gaga’s assault awareness ballad “Til It Happens to You.” Swedish actress Alicia Vikander won the supporting actress Oscar for transgender movie “The Danish Girl” while documentary “Amy,” about the late and troubled British pop star Amy Winehouse was also a winner.

DiCaprio finally wins first

Oscar for Revenant

LOS ANGELES(Reuters): Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar on Sunday, taking home the best actor statuette for his role in revenge movie “The Revenant.” DiCaprio, 41, had been nominated four times previously for an acting Oscar over a career spanning 25 years. He was the favorite to clinch the Academy Award this year for his grueling portrayal of a fur trapper left for dead in an icy wilderness after being mauled by a bear. In a fight for survival, his “Revenant” character Hugh Glass treks through snow-covered forests, gets swept away in a waterfall, sleeps inside the carcass of a disemboweled horse and hungrily eats raw bison liver before making it back to his camp. DiCaprio, a bachelor with a string of supermodel girlfriends, has matured into one of the world’s most admired and popular actors, as well as a champion of environmental causes ranging from marine reserves to the rights of indigenous people. In his acceptance speech, DiCaprio, who received a standing ovation, said: “Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted.”

DiCaprio added: “Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet to find snow. Climate change is real, it is happening now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together, and we need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters and the big corporations but who speak for all of humanity.”

DiCaprio had already won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild trophies for the role, which transformed the heartthrob from movies like “Titanic” and “Romeo + Juliet” into a greasy-haired 1820s fur trapper who barely speaks after the bear ripped his throat.

DiCaprio won his first Oscar nomination in 1994 for his supporting role as a mentally challenged boy in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” His romantic “Romeo + Juliet” and “Titanic” roles went unrecognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and it was another 10 years before his obsessive-compulsive Howard Hughes in “The Aviator” brought a second Oscar nomination. Nominations for 2006’s “Blood Diamond” and 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” came and went without DiCaprio taking home the most coveted trophy in show business.

Brie Larson wins best

actress Oscar for Room

LOS ANGELES (Reuters): Brie Larson won her first Oscar for best actress on Sunday for her moving portrayal of a young woman held captive for years with a son in the emotional thriller “Room.” Larson, 26, won praise for her role as ‘Ma’ in the film in which she plays an abducted woman patiently seeking ways to escape from a small, dark and oppressive room. “The thing I love about movie making is how many people it takes to make it,” Larson said, thanking everyone involved in making and supporting the film. “Thank you to the movie-goers for going to the theaters and seeing our films,” she added. The actress was the front-runner for the honor after winning Golden Globe, BAFTA, Spirit and Screen Actors Guild awards. It was the first Oscar nomination for Larson, who has starred in more than 45 films and television shows since beginning her career as a child actress almost 20 years ago. Previous roles, often as a supporting actress, spanned comedy and drama such as “21 Jump Street” and “The Spectacular Now.”

The actress has been a fixture on the independent film scene, and her role in “Room,” seen through the eyes of a 5-year-old boy born in captivity, won early acclaim in film festivals last year.

Larson said she mined her own relationship with her mother to play the character of ‘Ma’, and praised her young co-star Jacob Tremblay, with whom she shared intense and fraught scenes. While the film is based on a fictional story, it echoes real-life kidnapping victims such as Austria’s Natascha Kampusch, who was held hostage for eight years.

The actress, who has spoken about how acting helped her overcome her own social insecurities and anxieties, is currently filming action-adventure film “Kong: Skull Island.” Larson is also an accomplished singer who signed a record deal at the age of 13 and released her first album, “Finally Out of P.E.” in 2005.

Key Oscar winners

BEST PICTURE “Spotlight”

BEST DIRECTOR Alejandro Iñárritu, “The Revenant”

BEST ACTOR Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”

BEST ACTRESS Brie Larson, “Room”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM “Inside Out”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE “Amy”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM “Son of Saul” Hungary

BEST ORIGINAL SONG “Writing’s On The Wall” from “Spectre”