Spotlight triumphs, Leo finally wins, and Hertzfeldt is robbed: Thoughts on the Oscars 2016
And so awards season is over for another year. How did 2016 compare to previous years? Personally, I’ve enjoyed how unpredictable its been. Though most of my Oscar predictions I posted a few days ago were correct (more on that later), there were enough surprises scattered throughout the night (some good, some bloody ridiculous) that it made for a respectable ceremony. It was a night which saw a long-running joke about a certain actor never winning an Oscar being put to rest, a violent two hour car chase winning six Academy awards, and a filmmaker winning Best Director back-to-back for the time in 65 years. Let’s take a look at the winners, and losers, of the 88th Academy Awards.
In the least surprising result of the night, Mad Max: Fury Road swept the technical categories, bagging itself six Oscars in the process. It’s hard to say it’s undeserving; the sound design, editing, and makeup were all outstanding, especially Margaret Sixel’s amazing job in the edit suite. In one of the big surprises of the night, however, Mad Max: Fury Road lost out in the Best Visual Effects category to perhaps the biggest underdog, Ex Machina. Given it was up against Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and The Revenant, I don’t think anybody expected Alex Garland’s strange little sci-fi to take home the prize, but I’m pretty glad it did.
The screenplay awards were given out to deserving winners, Spotlight and The Big Short, both of which I predicted correctly. Similarly, the Best Acting awards went to Leonardo DiCaprio and Brie Larson, both of whom were easy predictions. Brie Larson has been doing solid work for the last few years now, and her win here feels like the hard work has paid off.
Was Leo a deserving winner, or was it “his time” to win? Honestly, I’m torn. He did give a terrifically tough, physical performance in The Revenant, but was his portrayal as nuanced and subtle as some of the other nominees? Probably not. Still, his turn as Hugh Glass was good enough that I can’t begrudge him the win. Thank God we can finally stop making jokes about the Oscar voters hating him now.
Perhaps my two worst predictions of the night were in the Best Supporting categories; both awards went to my runner-up choices. Though Mark Rylance did give an awards-worthy performance as a mysterious Russian spy in Bridge of Spies, I can’t help but wish Sylvester Stallone had taken this one. His performance as the aging, tired Rocky Balboa in Creed was a heartwarming turn; stripped of his action hero chops and vanity, he gave his best performance since 1997’s Cop Land.
Alicia Vikander winning Best Supporting Actress for her work in The Danish Girl leaves me with similarly conflicted feelings. While 2015 was her breakout year and she gave great performances all year long, I feel like she’s been rewarded for the wrong film. Had she been nominated for her work as a disturbing A.I. in Ex Machina, I would have had no doubts that she deserved the win. Winning for The Danish Girl? I wish Kate Winslet had won the award for Steve Jobs.
Pixar win Best Animated Feature every year so it was no surprise to see them take the award again for the excellent Inside Out (it was just nice to see Anomalisa nominated). Despite tough contenders in Cartel Land and The Look of Silence, I thought Amy was moving and wonderfully detailed, so I was fine with its Best Documentary win. The Best Original Score award went to Ennio Morricone, and while The Hateful Eight wasn’t his best work, he’s more than earned the win over his career. I can’t quite say the same for Sam Smith, whose Writing’s On The Wall won Best Original Song. I didn’t hate it as much as most people, but still, compared to some previous winners, it’s pretty weak. Still, that’s four more accurate predictions from Ford On Film.
The biggest predictions I got wrong about the night were Best Director and Best Picture. I assumed Oscar voters would reward George Miller for his grand comeback Mad Max: Fury Road over a second consecutive win for Alejandro G. Inarritu. Inarritu certainly deserved the award; The Revenant was unlike any other film last year, only brought to life by his insane vision. He’s come a long way since the frankly diabolical Babel. Shame Richard Linklater didn’t get the win last year though.
As for Best Picture, I was dead certain The Revenant would take it, having lead the majority of categories and winning Best Director and Best Actor. Happily, my favourite of the contenders, Spotlight, took the big prize, proving that if you want to win Best Picture, you better hire Michael Keaton. Kudos also to Thomas McCarthy, who somehow went from The Cobbler to Best Picture. It’s funny, this film business…
However, we now turn to the worst decision of the night, in which the Academy decided to once again snub one of film’s most unique visionaries. There’s no other way of putting it; Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow was the Best Animated Short of 2015. It was possibly the greatest animated short ever made, quite frankly, a bold and frequently jaw-dropping journey into the future. I haven’t seen the Chilean short film Bear Story, which took the prize, but I find it hard to believe anything could have come even close to World of Tomorrow. It was the best film I saw last year, and Hertzfeldt losing was easily the worst decision of the night.
The 88th Academy Awards was pretty agreeable by awards show standards. Other than World of Tomorrow being robbed, most of the winners were pretty deserving. Best Picture went to the best picture among the nominees. Best Actor and Best Actress went to a modern icon and a breakthrough star, respectively. Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress were more surprising, but both winners gave great performances. Alejandro G. Inarritu proved that diversity isn’t an issue if you’re deserving of the award win. It’s been a hell of an unpredictable awards season; here’s hoping 2017 is just as fun.
By Harry J. Ford
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