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Wrapping Up the 88th Academy Awards

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Spotlight team meeting

Everyday people, simply doing their jobs…and winning the big one to boot.

I don’t even know where to begin with this night.

Actually, I do.

Can we all agree the hosting was on fucking point tonight? Chris Rock has been one of my favorite stand-ups for a long while, and damned if he wasn’t firing on all cylinders, tackling the thorny issue of #OscarsSoWhite without ever becoming preachy. I won’t say there weren’t some lulls–I don’t know if Jared Leto entirely knew where he was–and the omission of Abe Vigoda from the In Memoriam segment was pretty inexcusable; also, much as I enjoy Zoolander, I really wish they’d used The Man Who Fell to Earth for Bowie’s clip.

Those issues aside, this was one of the better telecasts I’ve seen in quite some time. It felt like a certain layer of bullshit had been stripped away, and if it ultimately became a showcase for Hollywood liberalism, I’d honestly rather see that than another pointless montage or asinine skit.

But there’s also the awards to consider. And my God, did we have some upsets. It was a precedent massacre out there, and I’ll just do my best to note all of the breaches.

Best Picture: Spotlight

I Predicted: The Big Short

“I think we can set Spotlight aside and let it surprise us.”

Once The Big Short lost Editing, I knew it wouldn’t win. But the outcome of the Sound awards made me realize The Revenant was on shaky footing as well. It was heading into Picture with just three awards, and had lost all the major tech awards aside from Cinematography. So it shouldn’t be so much of a surprise that it lost. But that Spotlight won…that’s where things get weird.

It’s the first film since 1952 to win Picture and only one other award. It won Picture despite losing the Globe, BAFTA, and PGA–breaking the 6-year streak of PGA winners winning the Oscar–and failing even to be nominated for the ACE.

I have to assume the quirks of the preferential ballot are partly to thank for this. Even if Spotlight wasn’t everyone’s #1, it was plenty of other peoples’ #2 or #3. Me, I thought it was actually the weakest of the nominees, even if it is by far the best weakest nominee since I began closely following the race.

It’s just…if a film was going to win with just 2 total awards…why couldn’t The Big Short have won instead? That, to me, was so much the better film. Instead, the film we thought would win all along, until the last month or so, won anyway. Kind of anticlimactic, really.

Best Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant

I Predicted: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant

“And given how much he’s won as of late, I can’t imagine he isn’t winning this.”

Based on the outcome of certain other races, I began to hope Miller might pull out a last-minute victory. But this was the outcome I predicted, and one which I’m quite happy with, at least based strictly on the direction itself. I just could’ve been happier.

One precedent held in his case: though twice a director has won Director in consecutive years, no director has ever won Picture in consecutive years.

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

I Predicted: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

“It’s Leo’s year. I’ll laugh my ass of if it isn’t.”

It was Leo’s year.

The bastard didn’t acknowledge the memes, though.

Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room

I Predicted: Brie Larson, Room

“It’s just bullshit that Jacob Tremblay wasn’t nominated as well.”

It really is. At least he got to be there.

So happy for her, though. And if you haven’t, check out Short Term 12. She’s brilliant there.

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

I Predicted: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

“For a while it looked like he was going to be the winner. And he still might be (he won BAFTA), but I think he’s the second likeliest to win.”

This was something of an upset. I think we all assumed the narrative would get Sly over the hump. But he didn’t get nominated by either SAG or BAFTA, which probably should’ve been more of a red flag. His winning would’ve made for a more satisfying victory, but Rylance is good and his film was excellent. So I can’t really complain too much about the victory.

Besides, Rocky doesn’t have to win. He just has to go the distance.

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

I Predicted: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

“Honestly…I think Winslet might actually win. The film’s reception aside, my instinct says it’s her. It could go either way, but I think Vikander will get hers another time.”

I should’ve trusted SAG. (That applies to Best Picture as well.) And good for her. Category fraud aside, she was excellent and had a hell of a year.

Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight

I Predicted: Spotlight

Spotlight, whatever else it wins, is winning this.”

Seriously, though.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short

I Predicted: The Big Short

“The best script of the year. So fucking good. And it’s almost certainly winning. So that’s one outcome at least I should be happy with.”

I’m happy.

Best Cinematography: The Revenant

I Predicted: The Revenant

“Three in a row, motherfucker.”

I don’t think he can make it four. But goddamn, Chivo.

Best Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road

I Predicted: The Big Short

“If it wins…Picture is probably going to the next nominee.” (The next being The Revenant.)

Margaret Sixel deserved this, absolutely. I don’t know if this award going a different way would’ve actually changed the outcome of Best Picture, but you have to wonder. Certainly once it hit, I knew The Big Short was done–but I still thought The Revenant might’ve had a chance.

Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road

I Predicted: Mad Max: Fury Road

“It won the ADG for Fantasy Film, which certainly boosts its chances.”

No surprise here. There just wasn’t another contender which posed a serious threat.

Best Costume Design: Mad Max: Fury Road

I Predicted: Mad Max: Fury Road

“The People Eater and his pierced nipples might just win an Oscar. That’s pretty fucking cool.”

You know what else was cool? Jenny Beavan’s fucking jacket.

This is the one award Max won which I would’ve given to a different nominee. But it was a good choice nonetheless.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Mad Max: Fury Road

I Predicted: Mad Max: Fury Road

“I can’t see it losing unless The Revenant majorly sweeps.”

It didn’t. I think this not going to The Revenant was also a decent tip-off that it wasn’t going to win the big one.

This is the best winner in this category in quite some time.

Best Original Score: The Hateful Eight

I Predicted: The Hateful Eight

“Ennio Morricone should finally get his.”

That man is a fucking legend.

Also, notice that the orchestra didn’t play him off*.

That’s respect, right there.

*Both this year and last year, though, I’ve noticed more and more winners are just ignoring the play-off music. Iñárritu certainly did. I’m totally cool with that, honestly. Cut out the extra bullshit and give people more time to talk.

Best Original Song: “Writing’s On the Wall”, Spectre

I Predicted: “‘Til It Happens to You”, The Hunting Ground

I’m completely okay with this. I thought “Writing’s On the Wall” was actually the better song. A lot of people seem to hate it, but I don’t really get why. It’s not like Gaga’s song was better.

It’s funny, though, that they hyped up her performance, had Joe fucking Biden introduce her, gave her a standing ovation…and she still lost.

Makes me wonder what it would’ve been like if Scorsese hadn’t won in 2006. How awkward Spielberg, Lucas, and Coppola would’ve looked giving the Oscar to someone else.

Best Sound Mixing: Mad Max: Fury Road

I Predicted: The Revenant

The Revenant won the BAFTA and the CAS. So it’s probably winning this. Not that I thought the mixing was that outstanding, but so it goes.”

This and Sound Editing going to Max really got me thinking about what The Revenant’s chances actually were. Because without them, it was looking at a rather thin final tally.

I was wrong, and glad for it.

Best Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road

I Predicted: The Revenant

Mad Max and The Revenant tied at the Golden Reel Awards (the sound editors’ guild) last night. I’ll guess The Revenant wins this as well, but it could go either way.”

I love that Max won twice as many awards as The Revenant, and more in fact than Spotlight and The Revenant put together. That is, in its own way, very, very satisfying.

Best Visual Effects: Ex Machina

I Predicted: The Revenant

“Great film, and it did an excellent job on a fairly low budget. Won’t win, but that’s okay.”

I have to imagine this was the biggest shock of the night for most people. It probably was for me.

This shatters that 45-year record of no Picture nominee losing this category to a non-nominee. And there were three Picture nominees in the category, plus fucking Star Wars!

And they pick a film which cost $15 million and made less than $40 million worldwide, a film whose effects were deliberately subdued, yet as crucial to the story as those of any other nominee.

I can’t say it was my choice, but honestly, wrong as I and everyone else was regarding this category, I give the Academy major credit for recognizing the work here. I currently have the effects ranked #16 on my list, but in light of this award I really want to rewatch it and see if I might not bump it up.

Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul

I Predicted: Son of Saul

A hell of a film, and it was the favorite to win. No surprise here.

Best Animated Feature: Inside Out

I Predicted: Inside Out

“…Inside Out will win this by a mile, and fully deserves to.”

Best Documentary Feature: Amy

I Predicted: Amy

“However, Amy will win this handily (it’s won nearly everything else).”

Best Live Action Short Film: Stutterer

I Predicted: Shok

“It feels like it could have been just a bit more fleshed out, but it was really sweet.”

Surprised they went with the sweet little comedy-drama over the more dramatic entries, but I’m not upset.

Best Animated Short Film: Bear Story

I Predicted: World of Tomorrow

“The animation isn’t 100% there (the characters’ eyes are kind of creepy), but it was good.”

Yeah, it wouldn’t have been my choice. But it wasn’t a bad choice.

Best Documentary Short Subject: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

I Predicted: Body Team 12

I was just guessing there.

All right, let’s tally up my total: 13/24 predicted accurately. That’s 54%, which is none too great. Even if you take out the shorts (which I normally wouldn’t try to predict), I would still only be at 62%.

So let’s review the eight major categories I got wrong:

  • Picture: The signs all pointed to Spotlight losing here. All except SAG Ensemble (and, to be fair, the Independent Spirit Awards). But it squeaked by to win, probably as I said with the help of the preferential ballot.
  • Supporting Actor: This category was a mess. And I had Rylance as my “Could Win”. So I wasn’t that far off.
  • Supporting Actress: I should’ve trusted SAG. Again, I had Vikander as my “Could Win”, but I took a gamble on Winslet that didn’t pay off.
  • Editing: I think I let my desire to see The Big Short win cloud my judgment. I knew it would be one or the other. But I let my agenda decide. I should have known better.
  • Song: I think I let the general hype around the song decide for me. There aren’t a lot of precursors here–mostly the Globes. Maybe I should listen to them more often. But I did have the winner as my “Could Win”.
  • Sound Mixing/Sound Editing: The guilds and BAFTAs were pointing towards a Revenant win here. The lack of precursors in these categories makes predicting them difficult. Still, it was either that or Mad Max.
  • Visual Effects: I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted this outcome. This was just an out-and-out upset. I don’t know quite how it happened, and I would really love to see the voting totals for this category. I could imagine it was a close race.

So of the eight categories, the eventual winner was my runner-up for six of them, and was my third-likeliest for Picture. Visual Effects was the only one with a truly left-field decision.

So giving myself half-credit for those six near-misses, that puts me at 16/21 for the major categories, or 76%. Which isn’t bad.

I’m not entirely happy with how this year turned out. Picture went to what was, in my opinion, the weakest nominee, after two consecutive years where the strongest nominee took it. That it was still a good film is a reflection of how comparatively right the Academy got it. But honestly, I don’t think it’ll go down as one of the best winners. I think Mad Max will go down in history as the greater film. The Revenant…we’ll see about that one. Since it lost Picture, the Director win feels kind of gratuitous, even if he did an incredible job.

The acting categories were mostly satisfactory. Not over the moon about Rylance, but I get it. And the tech categories were mostly great.

It just comes back to that final moment when the film we thought had been outmatched snuck back in to win the big one. And even though I liked The Revenant much more, I wouldn’t have been terribly happy had it won. So maybe it was the better choice, in its way?

But as I’ve said before, to me Spotlight is excellent history but only decent drama. And that a film which was not really that outstanding as cinema took the top prize is, honestly, a little frustrating. But it happened. And so we close the book on 2015, and look towards the future.

And damned if I have the slightest clue what it holds.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Wrapping Up the 88th Academy Awards

  1. The VFX Oscar for EX MACHINA was one of the biggest shocks in recent memory, and one of the reasons to keep following the Oscars ^^

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