Host Chris Rock opens Oscars with caustic race jokes

Hollywood (United States) (AFP) –


Oscars host Chris Rock opened the annual show of glitz and pageantry honoring cinema's finest with a salvo of jokes targeting the lack of racial diversity among the acting nominees.

Tinseltown's elite gathered for the glittering celebration with survival epic "The Revenant" leading the charge for golden statuettes -- but a row over the lack of ethnic minority hopefuls overshadowing proceedings.

"Well, I'm here at the Academy Awards -- otherwise known as the white People's Choice awards. You realize if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job. Y'all would be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now," joked Rock, 51, as he began his opening monologue.

For the second year running, all 20 nominees in the main acting categories are white, and an angry social media backlash under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has grabbed the awards season headlines.

An audience expected to number several hundred million around the world tuned in as Rock, who is hosting despite calls for him to join a boycott, gave the Academy a rough ride from the start.

Insiders say he completely rewrote his opening monologue in the wake of the scandal to hold the Academy's 6,000-plus voting members, overwhelmingly white men, to account.

"It's the 88th Academy Awards, which means this whole no black nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times, ok? You got to figure that it happened in the '50s, in the '60s," Rock said, caustically joking that blacks did not protest about it before.

"You know, when your grandmother's swinging from a tree, it's really hard to care about best documentary foreign short."