#OscarsSoWhite: Chris Rock, Israel trip boycott, and other highlights

Host Chris Rock opens the show at the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 28, 2016. © Mario Anzuoni
The journalism film "Spotlight" won the Best Picture at Sunday night's 88th Academy Awards, but race was in the spotlight as host Chris Rock dubbed it the “White People’s Choice Awards”.

The backlash over the lack of diversity among nominees inspired the comedian’s opening monologue, highlighting issues on both sides of the argument.

“How come it's only unemployed people tell you to quit something?” joked the millionaire star of Top Five.

Rock said black people are only protesting now over the lack of nominees because previously “we had real things to protest” and “were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer.”

"Were"?

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His Jada Pinkett Smith joke about her boycott of the ceremony seemed to land, saying it was the equivalent of “me boycotting Rihanna’s panties... I wasn’t invited”.

Others didn’t go down so well, including a bizarre appearance by actress-turned-Fox-News-commentator Stacey Dash in a reference that may have been too obscure for most viewers and garnered no reaction whatsoever.

Never one to miss an opportunity comedian Sacha Baron Cohen brought his character Ali G out of retirement to push the issue into overkill.

Beyond the race issue, nominees were urged by two pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) organizations to #SkipTheTrip and not avail themselves of the controversial tickets to Israel in their Oscar goody bag.

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The organizations took out an ad in the LA Times asking the nominees to boycott the $55,000 gift aimed at promoting tourism is Israel, saying it would “endorse Israeli apartheid”.

Best supporting actor winner Mark Rylance has previously supported the BDS movement, signing a letter asking for Shakespeare's Globe theatre to boycott an Israeli production.

The actor also said he will #SkipTheTrip.

DiCaprio may be a fine actor, but his acceptance speech was less than riveting, delivering an obviously rehearsed speech with some cringeworthy lines that only an Oscar winner can (barely) get away with.

“Your fierce talent on screen can only be surpassed by your friendship off screen,” DiCaprio said of co-star Tom Hardy, before adding some weight to the ego of director Alejandro González Iñárritu, telling him, “As the history of cinema unfolds you have forged your way into history these past two years.”

Not that Leo is hurting for cash, but the Academy Awards lead to an 81 percent increase in average pay for best male actor Oscar winners, with the exception of African-American Cuba Gooding Jr, according to a study out of Colgate University.

Best actress winner Brie Larson won’t expect the same bump as the study also found that female winners see no financial benefit from the win, usually seeing their value drop with age.

Hilary Swank made headlines after her best actress win for Boys Don’t Cry in 1999 because she didn’t have health insurance.

The acting union’s plan requires a minimum income of $3,000 per year, but she was only paid $75 per day.

We will have to wait until January next year to find out if the Academy meant what they said and see if next year’s nominations are a more diverse bunch.

After two years running, can the Academy change, or will Chris Rock will continue to be proved right when he said, “You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist!”