This year the Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, celebrated eighty-eight years of doling out the tiny golden guys to the filmmaking community at large. 2016 brought with it renewed criticism that the Academy was out of touch with the rest of the community of not only filmmakers, but everyday citizens as well. Race played a big part in the acknowledgement that all nominees were white while 2015 had offered films centering on african-american characters and stories that were essentially ignored by the Academy. ‘Straight Outta Compton’, ‘Creed’, and ‘Dope’ were just a handful of films that I personally believe should have gotten more attention and acknowledgement by the famed awards show. In fact the reaction on twitter, giving rise to the popular #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, alone has put the Academy, for lack of better terms, in the limelight when it comes to this subject and they have begun to incorporate structural changes to the membership of the board of voters that has been a long time coming.
The show as a performance was on point and appropriately topical given the circumstances of the national zietgiest. Chris Rock deftly handled the subject and made for a competent, and important, host for the times. I can’t think of a better actor to have handled this year’s show. Kevin Hart also had a moment to focus on positvity rather than any negative reactions to come from the awards show results. On the whole it was an entertaining night of fanfare and respect for the craft of filmmaking, how Lady Gaga didn’t win for her musical nomination after that performance is still puzzling though, more on that later.
Best Actor: Leo fights a bear to win an Oscar
Admission: I haven’t yet seen ‘The Revenant’. Now however, I need to. Its been a long time coming for Leonardo DiCaprio, personally I think he should have won way back for his performance as Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Aviator’ in 2004, but now that he’s won a lil gold guy of his own we can finally put all those Leo oscar memes to bed. Finally.
Best Picture: Spotlight shines a light on journalism
I also missed ‘Spotlight’, but the film did seem compelling by its very nature. Any film that champions true journalism, especially when its tough and the world is against you, is sorely needed in this political climate we find ourselves in currently. The cast is a knockout and the screenplay won gold as well so it seems this ensemble piece nestles itself neatly between compelling and enthralling.
Best Director: Coogler and Miller’s missed opportunity
In my personal opinion the greatest missed opportunity came at the expense of Ryan Coogler’s ‘Creed’. Not only was it not nominated for Best Director, it definitely should have been, but even ‘Mad Max’ director George Miller couldn’t break the spell and oust last year’s winner, Alejandro Inarritu. Granted, as noted before I haven’t seen ‘The Revenant’, and I did love ‘Birdman’, but the technical prowress that Coogler showcased in ‘Creed’ was beyond impressive and deserves to be lauded.
‘Straight Outta Compton’ also should have gotten at least some kind of recognition, especially with how current that storyline is right now in America. Topical, loud, rebellious, and important ‘Straight Outta Compton’ connected with the pulse of the times and to ignore it outright certainly did no good deeds for the Academy members.
Best Supporting Actor: Stallone V Rylance
Admittedly, while I still believe Sly earned the Oscar more-so than Rylance, it couldn’t have gone to a better second contender. Mark Rylance’s role as the mild mannered Soviet spy caught on American soil in the cold war was a restrained and grounded performance that reveiled more of the personality of the character as time went on. It was one of the best aspects of Spielberg’s sandbox of American drama, ‘Bridge of Spies’. There’s still a chance Sly has one more Rocky role in him left for the ‘Creed’ sequel but I feel he’ll be more likely to go the way of Kenobi if he even chooses to rejoin the sequel at all.
Alicia Vikander: Ex Machina vs The Danish Girl
Not to take away from the levity of the oscar win that Alicia Vikander got, but I feel as though she won it for the wrong film. The Danish Girl is all well and good, but it is very clearly the sort of film you would expect the Academy to dole out awards to. The very notion of the story lies within the comfort zone of the Academy. A marginalized character that rebels against the larger machinations of the public, or establishment’s (of the time in which said story takes place), unchallenged perception. Like I said this is not to take away from the performances, or direction, staging, score etc, I bring it up because it is painstakingly predictable that this film would get nominated and win. ‘Ex-Machina’ on the other hand, is a unique small scale sci-fi dealing with heady questions of existential threat and the rise of supercomputers and, eventually, Articifical Intelligence. Moreover, Alicia Vikander’s performance as Ava is what grounded the film, and set it soaring to new heights. It’s a film that deserves recognition, but I suppose it will have to settle with snagging the special effects Oscar away from Star Wars for now.
Mad Max: Knockout by production
While George Miller didn’t win Best Director, he should be more than happy with the outcome of his film’s night at the Oscars. The Juggernaut that is ‘Mad Max’ swept the technical awards at the show, and it certainly deserved every win it racked up. At the end of the night the wastelanders were adorned with six Oscars in total: Production design, Film editing, Costume design, Make-up, Sound editing, and Sound Mixing. What a lovely day indeed!
Animation: Inside out turned us all inside out
We all knew ‘Inside out’ would win this year’s animation Oscar, how could it not? The film was a heartfelt and tear jerking experience about a young girl moving to San Francisco from the midwest. That might not sound like the most compelling plotline in the world, but trust me, it’s brilliant. Seriously, it’s a beautiful story and will mean all the more to you if you have children.
How did Sam Smith win for that Spectre song?
I still have no idea how Sam Smith won for that lackluster Bond opening. Of course anyone would have a hard time topping Adele’s Skyfall, but Smith’s offering was less than stellar to say the least. It must have been odd receiving the award after Lady Gaga’s powerful performace. Although in all honesty it matches the overall quality of that Bond flick, passable, but could have been so much better.
In other Musically related news Ennio Morricone finally won some incredibly well deserved limelight for the score to Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’, which makes all the sense in the world as that score elevated the nature of the film to another standard. If you haven’t seen the film, you definitely should, the score, not to mention cinematography, is wondrous.
Art is subjective
This was an interesting year at the famed awards show to say the least. Ironically, by being out of touch with relevancy the awards show garnered enough bad press to make some real changes in how the membership works. Of course the show also had it’s gaffes, praises, upsets, expected wins, deserved wins, and of course, obligatory fanfare. But, that is what the whole thing is about right? Putting on a show. Being entertainers. It’s a reflection of the people in the room that it takes place in. But is it what ultimately thrones or damns film? Of course not. We all have to remember that awards are simply up to the subjectivity of the Academy. Yes we can all agree to a certain degree of what makes or measures a “Good” film, but none of that really matters in the end because everyone has a differing taste in opinion. You know what they say about one’s man’s trash, it’s another man’s Oscar. This goes the other way as well, but it really all just depends on what you enjoy. There are films I love beyond measure, movies that I put on when I’m not feeling well, when I’m elated, when I want to be scared… these films will never win an Oscar, and sometimes that makes the film shine a little brighter. Not every film can win, and some simply shouldn’t- not because of anything quality related, but because some films don’t need to be put on the Academy’s pedestal, they’re already on ours.