Monday, February 29, 2016

Oscars Post-Mortem: The Winners

The movies have been gilded and I've had my say – in concentrated tweets of rage or elation, at least. But now with the clearer eyes of a 4-hours night's sleep, I can start poring over the minutia of the now expired Oscar season.

I'll begin my post-mortem purge with a basic rundown of the winners, uncoloured by my yo-yo-ing feelings on the show itself (more on that in time). I need to allow the heat of the moment to subside before truly evaluating my thoughts on who was victorious and who should have been.
On the whole, I'd have to call it a fairly satisfying night, though not from a predictive standpoint. I was steeling myself for a face-plant this year, and with so much divergence among the major guilds, you could hardly blame my uncertainty. It bore itself out with a rather dismal 16/24; My poorest showing since 2011.

But I can hardly complain about such poor fortune when it's delivered in the form of Spotlight's nail-biting triumph in Best Picture, its refinement and intelligence ultimately besting the ostentatious hollowness of The Revenant and the misjudged gimmickry of The Big Short. For much of the season (ever since the PGA) I had never felt so disengaged in the outcome of the Academy's top category, but now I can't recall ever being this excited by it.

It'll give stat hounds plenty to mull over, being the first film since The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) to claim the top prize with only a single other win. It also sets a new precedent in being the first Best Picture winner in the expanded era to not be preempted by the PGA's identical preferential ballot.
This ultimate payoff was bookended by its inarguably deserved if predictable Best Original Screenplay win at the very top of the show, followed by The Big Short's equally foreseeable Adapted Screenplay win which was... less enthusiastically received by me. It's the only bad script in a category stuffed with excellent ones, but I had all season to square myself with that inevitability.

Ditto Alejandro G. Inarritu's unstoppable repeat in Best Director a mere 12 months after being over-rewarded for Birdman (and I say that as someone who loved that movie). It makes my heart weep extra for Linklater to know that AGI would be nabbing it twice in a row.

At least one could enjoy Leonardo DiCaprio's long awaited Best Actor trophy as a kind of "career honour" (though he's only 41). He gave a strong, eloquent speech, as did other acting winners Alicia Vikander and Brie Larson.
The only acting category I got wrong (and was crushed to get wrong because I could smell it coming a month off) was Best Supporting Actor, in which Sylvester Stallone was overtaken by the Mark Rylance's eleventh hour BAFTA momentum. This one stings, guys. Not gonna lie. Sly deserved it this year, and you know he's never getting a chance like that again. But you take the bitter with the better.
If anyone in the field had to pip him, I'm glad it's Rylance, a very fine thespian who gave a very fine performance in a very fine movie.

I aced the specialty categories of Animated Feature, Documentary and Foreign Language film, but who didn't? Inside Out, Amy and Son of Saul were coasting to those since the summer.

It's the shorts that killed me. I was honestly throwing darts in Documentary Short Subject so the win for A Girl in the River over Claude Lanzmann was neither a surprise nor expected. Animated Short rankles though, because I was this close to choosing Bear Story over Sanjay's Super Team at the last minute (both of which are charming but don't hold a candle to Don Hertzfeldt's brilliant World of Tomorrow). At the very least I salvaged Best Live-Action Short, and to a heart-warming end. Stutterer was my favourite of the lot, and my gut instinct that it would stand out – being the only up-lifting film in the category – proved true.

I started off real strong in the craft categories, despite them being the ones that gave me the most grief as a pundit. I nailed the first five in a row, only to blank four of the remaining five. In most cases, however, it was thrilling to err.

This is where Mad Max: Fury Road embossed its future classic status, claiming a staggering six Oscars (staggering for a post-apocalyptic gonzo action extravaganza); As much as Spotlight, The Revenant and The Big Short combined! My faith in the Academy to choose well in the design categories was rewarded, as this is one of the single coolest winners for Costume and Production Design I can recall. I should have extended that logic to the Sound races, where it swiped both awards from BAFTA/CAS winner The Revenant (which only claimed a solitary below-the-line gong for Chivo's historic three-peat). And of course, the Best Editing win for Margaret Sixel, George Miller's wife (now they both have one!) represents its most prestigious victory on the night. We can argue its claim to the Best Director and Best Picture prizes ad nauseam, but this is still an impressive, well deserved haul.

The only shocker of the evening (a word that gets thrown around too often; True shockers only occur once every few years, but this is one of them) was Ex Machina in Best Visual Effects. My jaw is still on the floor over this one. This was not even considered within the realm of possibility. Some have floated the theory that effects house politics are in play, but we know the Academy at large doesn't vote that way. My only hypothesis is that support was just spread too thin among three Best Picture nominees and the new highest grossing film of all time. Whatever voting mechanics allowed it to be, this is a landmark success for subtle, supporting effects.

That leaves us with the music categories, which were a tale of two reactions for me personally; One my least favourite result of the evening, the other by far the most satisfying, both crammed within mere minutes of each other. So the less said about Sam Smith's “The Writing's on the Wall”, the better (although there's apparently lots more to say about Smith himself, who has unwittingly become this year's John Travolta for his erroneous claim to being the first openly gay man to win an Oscar).

Instead, I'll end on the insurmountable high point of the night, when Ennio Morricone, thankfully still a living legend, took home his first competitive Oscar at 87 years young (does this make him the oldest winner ever?). His storied career has given indelible, inspired, unique voice to countless classics, from the Spaghetti Western masterpieces of Leone to the Hollywood pulp of De Palma and everything in between.
The Writing won't stain the Wall forever, but the sight of Maestro Morricone holding that statue, in front of thousands on their feet, will vividly endure.

More to come in weeks ahead, as I slowly but surely parse through the Oscar telecast itself, unearthing overlooked nuggets and sounding off on the show's biggest talking points.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely loved Ex Machina's win. Star Wars (and this is coming from a Star Wars fanatic) did nothing new; it was just what any blockbuster does every year. It was great for sure but the movie had a budget of $200 mil. Ex Machina had like $15 mil. That's HALF of what even District 9 had. It really supported the story not the other way around. Alicia Vikander looked like a REAL robot. My second would've been The Revenant.

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