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The Revenant storms 88th Oscars with Academy criticized for racial bias

February 28, 2016 - UNITED STATES

The acclaim for The Revenant improves Leonardo diCaprio's odds of receiving his first lead actor Oscar after five tries when the awards are handed out at the 88th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

The Academy, meanwhile, has courted a viewer boycott for nominating only white stars for top awards for a second year. Boycotts would come at a bad time as it is struggling to attract more viewers for the awards ceremony.

DiCaprio's harrowing survival epic has taken command of the Oscar race with 12 nominations, including Best Picture. The Australian apocalypse hit Mad Max: Fury Road takes second place with 10 nominations, and the sci-fi epic, The Martian, came in third with seven nominations. The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Room and Spotlight round out the best film nominations.

Eddie Redmayne, Michael Fassbender, Matt Damon and Bryan Cranston are DiCaprio's competition for best lead actor. The lead actress nominees are Cate Blanchett, Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlotte Rampling and Saoirse Ronan.

The figures for the 87th ceremony were so dismal that the Academy brought in new producers to create pizzazz for the show. Variety magazine reported that an average of 36.6 million viewers watched the 87th Awards ceremony, down from 43.7 million for the 86th and the event's lowest total viewer count in six years. Co-producers David Hill and Reginald Hudlin plan to start by shortening the show, which stretches 3-4 hours and reached a record-breaking 4 hours and 23 minutes in 2002. The show is telecast live on the ABC network.

The measures will need to be robust enough to counter the potential viewer backlash over the snub to black actors such as Idris Elba, who was expected to receive an acting nomination for his role in Beasts of No Nation, and for movies such as Straight Outta Compton, which had a predominantly black cast. The Academy's choice of black comedian Chris Rick as host might help it counter accusations of racial bias.

Academy Awards

Update: Oscar Ratings Down 16%, Lowest in Six Years Variety 23 Feb 2015)

Leonardo DiCaprio leads the way for 2016 Oscars nominations (New Idea 15 Jan 2016)

Looking At Oscar Nominee List As A Symptom Of Hollywood's Racial Bias (NPR 16 Jan 2016)

Are the Oscars Really Longer Every Year? (Slate 24 Feb 2012)

Date written/update: 2016-01-19