Academy Awards 2016: Leo’s Win, Chris Rock, Spotlight’s Surprise & The Rylance Situation
First and foremost, I’m glad to finally be in a post “Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio” world. We’ll get there eventually, because we have a lot to digest, so everybody please calm down! As Morgan Freeman was about to read the Best Picture envelope, I’m sure everybody was ready to tweet and post how there’s never any upsets at the Academy Awards – then he read the winner: Spotlight. It began the night with a win, and ended with the biggest one of all. Yes, it was one of the front runners, but this was a legitimate upset, especially after The Revenant had just claimed Best Director and Best Actor. While I had Spotlight pegged as the #2 contender, many had The Big Short as The Revenant’s biggest challenger. You can’t deny Spotlight’s win wasn’t a shocker.
We’ll break down Best Picture soon enough, but like I said, we’ve got a crap load to cover. There’s ranting to do, the diversity controversy, my predictions that went awry and most importantly, “Writing’s on the Wall” is still a bad song. It’s the final Oscar piece of the year – my complete break down of the 88th Annual Academy Awards!
Chris Rock and the Academy Nailed It
The biggest shocker of the night for me was how well Chris Rock and the show itself handled the diversity controversy. I feared the #OscarsSoWhite business was going to be a cloud over the whole ceremony. While it dominated most of the show, it was handled with complete grace. I expected Chris Rock’s monologue to be uncomfortable and anger filled, but he handled it like a pro. It was funny. It was genuine. It was edgy, but classy. After enduring months of ranting and raving on social media, Chris Rock approached the subject with lighthearted humor. It got the message across, but it wasn’t obnoxious. It wasn’t hate filled. You don’t have to be the snarky jackass (*cough* Ricky Gervais *cough*) to host an awards show. You can take your shots, but still do it with class. That’s what it takes to be a great comedian, and Chris Rock reminded us all he’s one of the greatest. This was the first time in a long time where everyone can universally say, “The Oscar host was outstanding.”
It wasn’t just the host who got it right though. The sketches they did actually worked. Inserting Tracy Morgan into The Danish Girl and Leslie Jones into The Revenant were legitimately hilarious. The Black History Month Minute was also really clever. Again, you get the message across, but you do it with humor – not snarky, rant filled tweets and Facebook posts. There were also some funny performers this year, most notably Louie C.K. Yeah, we had a couple duds, such as Sarah Silverman’s bit, and Sacha Baron Cohen. If there’s someone out there who still finds Sacha Baron Cohen funny, I’d love to know who that person is. What the hell was he even saying!? Why did he get to present one of the Best Picture nominees? Poor, Room.
We don’t say this often, but the show itself was actually pretty darn entertaining.
Onto the awards…
Brooklyn/The Martian = Goose Eggs
One of the coolest stats of last year’s Oscars was how every movie that was nominated for Best Picture won at least one award. Not so much this year. Poor Brooklyn and The Martian, but this was expected. Oh, well.
The Mad Max Run
I talked about this on the podcast, and it played out exactly how I thought it would. Mad Max went on a tear winning all the technical awards. I warned everybody three times on Twitter not to fall into this trap – it was never going to win Best Picture. Part of what makes Mad Max: Fury Road so amazing is how well it executes in all the awards it won. It even won Best Costume Design, which always goes to period pieces, so that was cool. Mad Max: Fury Road may not have won a major award, but it did win the Oscar count. Hopefully all those wins gets more people to see it. George Miller and the entire crew should be very proud of everything it achieved.
The Roger Deakins Streak Counting
Poor, Roger. Although, I doubt he even came in second in this category. You had to give this win to The Revenant. There’s not much else to say. This was Emmanuel Lubezki’s third win in a row. I guess he’s pretty good at shooting movies. Roger Deakins will win an Oscar at some point, and the ovation will last for twenty minutes.
Nothing For Star Wars
Yeah, it was expected, but it would have been awesome for it to win something. It got plenty of love though with Threepio, Artoo and BB-8 coming on stage, and J.J. Abrams presenting Best Director was also pretty cool. Maybe next time.
Best Song (“Writing’s on the Wall,” Spectre)
I picked “Writing’s on the Wall” on the podcast by default, because the other nominees seemed lackluster. Lady Gaga’s performance was the first time I heard “Till it Happens to You.” Maybe it’s because I got swept up in the performance, but I thought there was no chance in hell that was losing after hearing the song. Then the Bond song won. Uh, okay? Seemed kind of strange. I’m no music connoisseur, but the Gaga song seemed like the clear winner. I did say on the podcast that it would probably lose because the film it was nominated for barely got publicized anywhere, and I guess that’s ultimately what happened. Should we just assume if there’s a Bond movie, the theme will automatically win Best Song?
Best Original/Adapted Screenplay (Spotlight, The Big Short)
Spotlight winning was a no-brainer, and when it was all said and done, so was The Big Short. Yeah, I feel like an idiot picking against that one. What a blunder. I said these wins would probably be it for both movies. Turns out I was right on one of them, and really wrong on the other.
Best Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl)
The momentum changed in this category several times leading up to the Oscars. In the early going it was Rooney Mara, then Kate Winslet, but in the end Alicia Vikander took home the gold. I thought this category was razor thin, but in looking back I guess it wasn’t all that close. Nearly every expert pegged Vikander. For me personally, I would have voted Vikander fourth or fifth, but she’s definitely deserving. I have no doubt that Kate Winslet will get another Oscar though.
Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies)
I have so much I want to get off my chest, but it’s hard for me to put into words how frustrated I am with Mark Rylance winning this award. In a category filled with phenomenal performances, it’s a damn shame this is who won. Nothing against Mark Rylance who gave a solid performance, but was it not clear from all the clips that everyone else in this category was a significant cut above? Rylance was always the early front runner, but he lost a ton of momentum as the Oscars drew closer. We all should have known better though. This role is the quintessential safe Oscar pick, and that’s why he won.
Part of the reason why I feared Stallone wouldn’t get a nomination is why he ultimately lost this award. There was never going to be enough Academy members who had the stomach to circle Sylvester Stallone, who played the same character for a seventh time. Stallone as the front runner was manufactured and wishful thinking by us all, even the experts. We wanted this to happen so badly that we tried to will this into existence, but our will wasn’t strong enough. Stallone’s gutsy performance losing to the generic Mark Rylance performance is so Oscarey, it makes me want to puke.
I picked Mark Ruffalo for this award because his performance was clearly more energetic and passionate, and a performance the Academy would feel okay about celebrating, unlike Stallone’s Rocky. I guess I was wrong. There’s one award every year that pisses me off. Last year it was Best Actor, and in 2016 it was this. It was a category I was beyond excited about, and it ended with the ultimate dud. This was a big fat fail.
Best Actress (Brie Larson, Room)
This was the third year in a row where Best Actress was a lock. I hope we can get some actual competition next year. I’ve said it a hundred times, so what’s once more? Brie Larson was awesome in Room.
Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant)
For those who listened to our podcast, I can’t wait to eat a bagel tomorrow morning. I was confident as hell the whole way through, but I’ll admit I got a tinge of nerves right before the name was called, but now it’s official: Leonardo DiCaprio has an Academy Award. We can all move on with our lives. I felt like a proud dad watching Leo walk up the stage, who easily had the best ovation of the night, other than maybe Ennio Morricone who won Best Score. I thought it was really classy he thanked Martin Scorsese, even though he had nothing to do with The Revenant. Leonardo DiCaprio’s career speaks for itself. He’s been my favorite actor for a long time, and I can’t wait to see decades more of great performances. I won’t make a bagel guarantee, but I’m pretty sure he’ll hold another Oscar sometime soon. This was easily my favorite moment of the night.
Best Director (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant)
While I never thought Mad Max would win Best Picture, all the Oscars it was racking up did make me think twice on George Miller winning this award. In the end though, this was Inarritu all the way. What Miller did with Mad Max: Fury Road was incredible, but The Revenant had it all. The opening battle scene. The bear attack. The epic scope. The elements. The emotional journey. Inarritu’s style was just too much to overcome. Not only did Inarritu pull off the rare feat of back-to-back Directing Oscars, but that was his fourth overall, putting him one over Steven Spielberg. Wow.
BEST PICTURE (SPOTLIGHT)
We said this several times in the podcast – you need to have an epic quality in your movie to win Best Picture. Not only did Spotlight pull off the upset, but it’s that rare character/dialogue driven movie that took home the top prize. As a writer, it also makes me happy that the only other award it won was Best Original Screenplay. Think of all the awards The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road won, yet the only other award Spotlight walked away with was for writing. It speaks to how important a damn screenwriter is. That’s pretty cool.
Out of all the movies nominated for Best Picture, Spotlight was my second favorite behind only Mad Max: Fury Road, so I’m pretty happy. So why did Spotlight win? While I picked The Revenant, I said in the podcast that Spotlight’s biggest advantage was that everybody universally loved it, while movies like The Revenant and The Big Short had detractors. The film has very little flaws, if any. That combined with the emotional subject matter probably propelled it to the win, and made for a great last few minutes at this year’s Academy Awards.
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.