Chris Rock pulled no punches as Oscars host, and controversy over the lack of diversity among this year’s nominations was the major theme throughout the night. During his opening remarks Rock said, “You’re damn right (Hollywood) is racist,” and he closed with, “Black lives matter!”
The evening featured a satirical segment on “films reimagined with black actors,” a “Black History Month Minute” that honored Jack Black (get it?) and the introduction of actress and conservative pundit Stacey Dash – who has sparked controversy by criticizing BET and calling for an end to Black History Month – as the “director of minority outreach.”
Rock set the tone the minute he took the stage.
“I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards,” his opening monologue began. “This is the wildest, craziest Oscars to ever host. We’ve got all this controversy.”
He noted that some called for him to bail on hosting duties.
“How come it’s only unemployed people who tell you to quit something?” he quipped. ‘I thought about quitting. I realized, they’re going to have the Oscars anyway and the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart. Kevin makes movies fast! Porno stars don’t make movies that fast.”
He noted the historic aspect of this year’s event.
“Why are we protesting this Oscars? This is the 88th Academy Awards. You’ve got to figure this happened .. at least 71 other times.”
His unsparing monologue then strayed into controversial territory, when he addressed why there were no protests in decades past.
“We had real things to protest,” he said. “When your grandmother is swinging from a tree it’s really hard to care about best documentary sport.”
He also said, “This year’s ‘In Memoriam’ segment is just going to be black people who were shot by the cops on the way to the movies.”
Rock then transitioned into more lighthearted fare, noting Jada Pinkett Smith’s calls to boycott.
“I understand you’re mad. Will (Smith) wasn’t nominated for ‘Concussion.’ It’s not fair, I get it,” he said. “It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for ‘Wild, Wild West.'”
He described Hollywood’s racism as pernicious.
“Is Hollywood racist? You know, you gotta go at that the right way. Is it ‘burning crosses’ racist? No. Is it ‘fetch me some lemonade’ racist? No,” he said. “Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you, Rhonda. But you’re not a Kappa.'”
He wrapped up by calling for change.
“We want opportunity. We want black actors to get the same opportunities. Not just once. Leo (DiCaprio) gets a great part every year. What about Jamie Foxx? Jamie Foxx was so good in Ray that they went to the hospital and unplugged the real Ray Charles. They said, ‘We don’t need two of these.'”
He ended on an upbeat note, referencing criticism by some commentators that female Oscars attendees seem to spend more time discussing their gowns than pertinent topics on the red carpet.
“Everything’s not racist or sexist,” Rock said. “They ask the men more because they’re all wearing the same thing. If George Clooney showed up wearing a lime green tux and a swan coming out his (behind), they’d say, ‘What you wearing, George?'”
And finally: “You want diversity? We got diversity!”