LOS ANGELES, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Chris Rock opened the 88th Academy Awards ceremony by tackling Hollywood's diversity debate head-on.
After watching a collection of clips from the best movies of 2015 -- many of which were blockbusters that weren't nominated for Oscars -- Rock quipped, "Man, I counted at least 15 black people on that montage."
"Well, I'm here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People's Choice Awards," he continued, a dig at the fact no people of color were nominated in the acting categories this year.
"Do you realize that if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job? You'd all be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now. ... This is the wildest, craziest Oscars to ever host because we have all this controversy. No black nominees and people are like, 'Chris you should boycott.' 'Chris, you should quit.' 'You should quit.' How come it's only unemployed people who tell you to quit something? No one with a job ever tells you to quit. So, I thought about quitting. I thought about it real hard, but I realized they're going to have the Oscars any way. They are not going to cancel the Oscars because I quit. And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart. I don't need that."
Rock also mused about why this year's omission of people of color from the nominations list has gotten so much attention when it has happened in the past.
"It's the 88th Academy Awards, which means this whole 'no black nominees thing' has happened at least 71 other times," he said. "You've got to figure that it happened in the 1950s, in the '60s. In the '60s, one of those years Sidney [Poitier] didn't put out a movie. I'm sure there were no black nominees some of those years -- say, '62 or '63 -- and black people did not protest. Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time. They had real things to protest. Too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won Best Cinematographer. When your grandmother is swinging from a tree, it's really hard to care about Best Documentary Foreign Short. But what happened this year? What happened? People went mad. Spike [Lee] got mad. And [Al] Sharpton got mad and Jada [Pinkett Smith] went mad and Will [Smith] went mad. Everybody went mad. Jada got mad. Jada says she's not coming. Protesting? Isn't she on a TV show? Jada is boycotting the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties. I wasn't invited. That's not an invitation I would turn down."
Emphasizing he understands Pinkett Smith is upset because her spouse wasn't nominated for an Oscar for his excellent performance in Concussion, Rock noted, "It's also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for Wild, Wild West."
Scandal actress Kerry Washington talked in a pre-ceremony, red-carpet interview with ABC about why she decided to attend this year's Oscars.
"A lot of people have asked me why I am here tonight and the thing I've been thinking about is that if you look at the history of movements, the history of change, a lot of voices are needed at the table," Washington explained. "So, I really respect and actually admire some of the people who are not here tonight. I really get it. But, for me, I felt like my voice and my heart and my voice is best used at the table. As a new member of the Academy -- I joined the Academy about three years ago -- I really want to be part of the conversation to make sure there is institutional change so that we never have a year like this again, so we can be as inclusive as possible."