Swedish actress Alicia Vikander won the supporting actress Oscar on Sunday for transgender movie "The Danish Girl" as host Chris Rock pulled no punches in taking aim at the #OscarsSoWhite controversy dominating Hollywood.
Catholic church abuse probe "Spotlight" and financial misdeeds movie "The Big Short" took home Oscars for original and adapted screenplays, respectively.
Rock, the outspoken black comedian chosen to host the Oscars months before the selection of an all-white acting nominee line-up for a second year, welcomed viewers to what he called "the white People's Choice awards."
Speculating on why the furor over diversity in the industry had taken root this year, rather than in the 1950s or 1960s, Rock said black Americans had "real things to protest at the time."
"We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematography," he said.
Turning to the present day, Rock joked that things would be different at Sunday's Academy Awards, saying the traditional segment honoring stars who died is "just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on their way to the movies."
A few blocks away from the glamor of Hollywood's Dolby Theater, about 40 people gathered to make the case for more diversity in a rally organized by civil rights leader Al Sharpton. Sharpton also called for Americans to "tune-out" the live telecast, the most watched non-sports TV event of the year.
Director Spike Lee, who shunned the Academy Awards ceremony along with actor Will Smith, instead attended a New York Knicks basketball game on Sunday. However a wider Oscar boycott largely failed to gather steam as black celebrities including Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, Pharrell Williams and John Legend all showed up.
“I really want to be part of the conversation so we have institutional change, so we never have a year like this again,” Washington told ABC television on the red carpet.
The under-representation of people of color in the film and TV industry prompted pledges to bring more women and minorities into the industry and the Academy.
BEST PICTURE TOSS-UP
Going into Sunday's ceremony, there was no consensus on which of the eight best picture nominees will take home the top prize, to be announced at the end of the 3 -1/2 hour ceremony.
With a leading 12 nominations, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, 20th Century Fox's "The Revenant" has the epic qualities that traditionally appeal to the 6,200 voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
If "The Revenant," directed by Mexican Alejandro Inarritu, wins best picture, it would mark the first time in Academy Awards history that a filmmaker directed two best picture winners in a row. Inarritu's "Birdman" won the 2015 best picture Oscar.
Open Road Films' "Spotlight", which traces the journalism probe of sex abuse in the Boston Catholic Church, is also in the mix, along with Paramount's "The Big Short," pundits say.
Warner Bros well-reviewed "Mad Max: Fury Road" has 10 nominations and could turn out to be a rare action-adventure best picture winner.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who brought his mother to the Oscars, is seen as certain to win his first ever Oscar for his role as an 1820s fur trapper bent on revenge in "The Revenant."
Rising star Brie Larson, 26, is the favorite to take home the best actress Oscar for her compelling depiction of an abducted young woman in indie movie "Room."