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Chris Rock pulled no punches during his Oscars montage, jumping with both feet on the controversy over the lack of diversity among this year’s nominations.
“Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood is racist,” he said during his opening remarks.
“I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards,” he said. “This is the wildest, craziest Oscars to ever host. We’ve got all this controversy.”
A photo posted by Chris Rock (@chrisrock) on
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. (But) 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.”
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.
“(People) 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 tuxedo and a swan coming out his (behind), they’d say, ‘What you wearing, George?'”
And finally: “You want diversity? We got diversity.”
Following Rock's pointed introduction, he continued his streak of making light of the controversy and aired a man-on-the-street segment in which he visited a movie theater in Compton, California to ask African-Americans what they thought about the Oscars.
"In your own words, what is the Oscars controversy about?" Rock asked a moviegoer.
"Well, I guess it's about giving Blacks a chance to win," the man answered.
Another said he "wasn't surprised," but it "bothered" him.
When Rock asked patrons if they had seen any of the Oscar-nominated movies, including "Spotlight," "Trumbo" and "Bridge of Spies," they admitted they had never heard of the films.
"Where are you getting these movies from?" one woman asked after Rock questioned her opinions of "Trumbo" and "Bridge of Spies." "You're making up stuff. You're messing with me right?"
"These are real movies," Rock responded.
"No, (they're) not. I watch movies. I come to the movies all the time," the woman said.
Rock asserted that the movies were films that had been released within the last year.
"Like, in London and stuff?" she asked.
Another interviewee said he had "never heard of "Bridge of Spies," but when asked about Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg he said of both the stars, "I've heard of him."
Each of the interviewees said they had seen box-topping movie "Straight Out of Compton."
When Rock offered what he said was a real Academy Awards statue to each interviewee, he challenged them to present a short example of what their thank-you speeches would sound like.
"This should be (for) not just white (people) -- it should be Asian, Hispanic, there's so much talent out there of all races," one man said.
"You (should) give black actors more awards because they deserve it and work hard for it just like anybody else. How 'bout that, America?" challenged one woman.