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.
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.
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.
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.
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.