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Oscar shines on 'Spotlight'

Todd Leopold | 2/29/2016, 7 a.m.
"Spotlight" grabbed the limelight at Sunday's 88th Academy Awards.
Chris Rock at the 88th Academy Awards on Sunday, February 28. (Photo: Adam Taylor/ABC)

— "Spotlight" grabbed the limelight at Sunday's 88th Academy Awards.

"Mad Max: Fury Road" may have won more honors, leading all films with six. "The Revenant" won some major prizes, including the first Oscar for actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

But when the last award of the evening was read, it was the little film about Boston Globe investigative reporters digging into a sex abuse scandal involving Catholic priests that was left standing.

"This film gave a voice to survivors," producer Michael Sugar said. "And this film amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican."

It was one of just two awards "Spotlight" took home. The film also won for Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer's original screenplay.

But until that moment, it looked like "Revenant," about a vengeful trapper in the 1820s, was going to go all the way.

Alejandro González Iñárritu notched his second straight Oscar in the directing category; he's the first person to pull off that feat since Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1949-50. The film's Emmanuel Lubezki also kept a streak going, winning his third straight Oscar for cinematography.

But the big story was DiCaprio, who finally won an Oscar with his fifth acting nomination.

After taking some time to thank Iñárritu, co-star Tom Hardy and director Martin Scorsese, among others, DiCaprio put in a plug for environmentalism.

"Climate change is real. It is happening right now; we needed to go to the tip of South America to find snow. ... It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species," he said. "We need to support leaders around the world who speak for indigenous people, for humanity, the voices who have been drowned out by the politics of greed. Do not take this planet for granted. ... I do not take this night for granted. Thank you."

Some shockers

Though most awards were expected, given the expertise of close-watching Oscar handicappers these days, the night wasn't without its shockers.

Mark Rylance won best supporting actor for his performance as a Soviet agent in "Bridge of Spies."

The category included Sylvester Stallone, who was widely believed to be the front-runner for his performance as Rocky Balboa in "Creed" -- 39 years after he first played the role in "Rocky."

"Writing's on the Wall," Sam Smith's song from the James Bond film "Spectre," won best song -- an announcement that came not long after Lady Gaga brought the house down with a performance of her nominated song, " 'Til It Happens to You."

After a streak of technical awards to "Mad Max," "Ex Machina" won for visual effects.

Ennio Morricone, the legendary composer of such film scores as "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "The Untouchables," finally won an Oscar, his first in six nominations. It was for Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight."

And, in perhaps the biggest shock of all, the show was rather brisk, lasting just over 3½ hours. That's actually longer than some shows of recent years, including the 2011 show with James Franco and Anne Hathaway, but given the program's propensity for pushing four hours, it's not something to be taken for granted.