And just like that, the 88th Academy Awards took almost four hours to reveal the year’s main winners. No surprises for the millions of Leo supporters and fans who’ve been putting up with the thousands of memes and parody video games – DiCaprio finally won his first ever trophy, while Brie Larson took home the Lead Actress trophy for the wonderful Room. People were afraid Leo would eat his own flesh in his next film if he didn’t win this one – but it was a happily ever after. As he said, he wouldn’t take this night for granted. There were a few surprises and a few cop-outs by the Academy voters as usual, but all in all, they went against the grain and rewarded genres that weren’t lock-in, traditional Oscar bait-ish favorites.
Eventually, everybody’s darling Mad Max: Fury Road took home a whopping six Oscars (all of them technical awards – Best Production Design, Costumes, Make-Up, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Editing). The Revenant won three major awards (Direction, Actor, Cinematography). Spotlight won two big ones (Original Screenplay, Picture), and Inside Out won the Best Animated Film Oscar.
Many journalists, including this writer, across the globe celebrated the emergence of Spotlight – a film based on the Boston Globe’s famous expose on sexual abuse by Church priests – and hoped that it would bring forth a new dawn on the oft-abused and much sidelined profession.
Let’s take a look at the night’s best moments, deserving winners and shocking passes:
Best Supporting Actor (Male)
Mark Rylance, the Russian spy in Steven Spielberg’s The Bridge Of Spies hadn’t won a single trophy through the season (including Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards) despite a terrific show-stealing performance in the espionage saga. Sly Stallone had won most of the events leading up to the Oscars, and was the emotional favorite to win the big one – just like Mickey Rourke was for The Wrestler in a lead role before Sean Penn upset him for Milk. This was, however, an upset for only those who wanted heart over mind. Mark Ruffalo was actually the alternate favorite for his turn as a reporter of the Boston Globe in the brilliant Spotlight, but Rylance’s years of stage acting impressed the voters too much. Much deserved and a fantastic choice by the academy.
Best Original Song
Sam Smith, who won for The Writing’s On The Wall for the underwhelming Bond film Spectre, dedicated his award to the LGBT community, and had quite a few heartwarming words for his peers. But there was no way in the world anybody believed that his was the best – probably one of the weakest Bond title tracks in its history. He followed Adele for Skyfall, and won it over Lady Gaga – who had only moments ago belted out an awe-inspiring, moment-of-the-night performance for her nominated song, Till It Happens To You on stage.
This was arguably an upset in context of the momentum of the night. Till the Red Carpet, Alejandro Inarritu was favorite to win his second consecutive Directing Oscar in a row after Birdman. But as the night progressed, Mad Max picked up its first six out of seven nominations and raised hopes of a Miller-sized upset come the big ones. Surely, there’d be a fairytale ending. Eventually, you could just sense the millions of Mad Max fans screaming “MEDIOCRE” when Inarritu won for The Revenant – which was, let’s face it, more of an endurance cinematic test than an experience, more David Blaine than David Copperfield.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Okay, Spotlight – the best film – had to win a writing award because that’s how it usually goes. But really, on a technical ground, was Spotlight an original screenplay, even though it was adapted from real events? The journalism drama deserved the Best Picture award, but pipped the insanely imaginative Inside Out to the writing trophy. That the Pixar film only won its expected Animated category, and wasn’t nominated for Best Picture and didn’t win Screenplay was the biggest disappointment of the night. You’d expect more from an industry that just stopped short of awarding cinematic experience and imagination (Mad Max, Inside Out) over intention and heft (Spotlight, The Big Short, The Revenant)
Pete Docter (Director, INSIDE OUT)
“Anyone out there who’s in junior high, high school, working it out, suffering — there are days you’re gonna feel sad, you’re gonna feel angry, you’re gonna be scared. That’s nothing you can choose, but you can make stuff. Make films. Draw. Write. It’ll make a world of difference.” said Docter, who inspired millions of impressionable young souls watching the ceremony in their early years and wondering if their week would get any better at school. Just like that, seeds of artistry and imagination were sown.
You’d think he would just fall on the stage with relief, but DiCaprio focused his eyes selflessly and spoke passionately about Earth’s climate change issues and the dwindling of native, indigenous populations. “I will not take this night for granted. We should not.” he said, steely and determined, as he walked off looking completely different from the desperate, broken, frighteningly broken characters that he usually plays on screen. Never mind that he won the award for probably his 5th or 6th best career performance – and not even the best of 2015.
Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl and Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs stuck to the more verbose traditional facets of acting instead of the slugfest that Revenant demanded from Leo. Perhaps this was an honorary Oscar for his overlooked acts in Django Unchained, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Aviator, Revolutionary Road and Catch Me If You Can. That monkey is finally off his back, and we can now turn our attention to Christopher Nolan (who is perhaps gunning for a big one with his next French World War 2 drama) and Jake Gyllenhal (one of two boxing leads who were ignored on the night after Michael B. Jordan for Creed.
Lady Gaga singing “Till It Happens To You”
Kate Winslet stood up and applauded, in tears. So many others were choked up towards the final flourish of Lady Gaga’s rendition for the sexual abuse survivor documentary, The Hunting Ground. She held hands, clasped tight with real sexual violence survivors on stage, and all of them were hugged by Brie Larson as they walked off. Gaga more than made up for the tame Sam Smith Bond song performance earlier in the night, but lost out moments later to that very song. Nevertheless, she brought the industry’s most powerful folks to their feet, and convinced everybody that her days of shocking dresses and wigs are a distant second to a very, very powerful voice.
Comedian Chris Rock took the Oscar racial diversity #OscarsSoWhite storm head-on in the first few minutes and ribbed every white person present in the Kodak Theater with some relentless self-depreciating humour. Even the segment which featured an African-American actor hilariously ruining some of the most cinematic scenes of the year (The Bear in The Revenant, The Danish Girl eating Danish pastry, Whoopi Goldberg mopping the floor with Joy’s invention) was imaginative and sharp.