Thursday, March 10, 2016

Top Five Highlights of the 2015-16 Oscar Season

Twelve days removed from the Oscars, and I'm more than ready to leave it in the rear view. The overall season felt a bit fatiguing and lacklustre this year, which I can owe that to my own pessimistic misreading of the Best Picture race. But the big night itself had a few positively thrilling outcomes, and the preceding months were not completely without their pleasures. Herewith are my top 5 highlights.

5. Leo's Red Carpet Rampage and other fun stuff
Leo winning what many would call his overdue Oscar for such an uninteresting performance (Hoo-Ah!) would normally bother me a lot more, but a couple of things allowed me to enjoy it. A) I don't weep for his competition. B) There was just so much glee to be had on the Internet! The Red Carpet Rampage video game is an obvious highlight, but there were plenty of other good guffaws.

4. Cheryl Boone Isaacs
Now here's a distinction Sid Ganis, Tom Sherak and Hawk Koch would never have earned from me, but Isaacs' cool head and courage under fire in the wake of a second controversial season has been nothing short of admirable. The new voting measures yielded from her emergency board of governors meeting marked a perfectly reasonable step towards modernity, and her publicized statements on the tricky diversity issue have been transparent but tactful. It's comforting to know the Academy is in the hands of such a savvy leader.

3. Ex Machina shocks in Best Visual Effects
Honest shockers are so incredibly rare these days. Either a film is a stone cold lock or there's a range of possibility for multiple contenders. It almost never happens that something considered outside that realm of possibility takes the win. The last I can remember was Geoffrey Fletcher stealing Best Adapted Screenplay from Jason Reitman in 2010, but even this feels like a bigger WTF moment. And not in a bad way. Ex Machina's beautifully subtle CG embellishments would have been my third choice of the nominees, but I love the precedent this sets. Will supporting effects be considered more seriously in future Oscar contests? Even if not, it's an encouraging thought. This win is bound to age very well, along with the six trophies for Mad Max and the victory for this guy...

2. Ennio Morricone wins an Oscar
The only thing keeping this looooooong overdue win from being #1 on this list is the sense of inevitability that took hold early in the season. The critics sure weren't going to let anyone overlook the legendary Italian maestro, and with the Globes and BAFTA following suit, it became clear that this was happening. That doesn't make the moment less special. To think ten years ago, when Celine Dion was singing tribute to him at the Oscars (back when honorary recipients got to accept on the air), I thought that was as good as Ennio would ever get. Oh, and the score itself? Pretty awesome.

1. Best Picture goes to Spotlight
It's no coincidence that my three highs of the year come down to three individual Oscar night wins, because most of the buildup felt like a disheartening march towards one of two films for which I personally did not care winning Best Picture. Honestly, it's hard to invest yourself in a contest between “didn't like it” and “didn't like it more”.

It wasn't until Morgan Freeman read the final envelope of night that my disinterest boomeranged into a spontaneous combustion of elation.
I jumped out of my seat, no word of a lie.

In retrospect, I should have seen it coming. The preferential ballot is all about weeding out divisive titles and settling on something everyone can get behind. And who can't behind something as refined and intelligent as Spotlight?

It does illustrate the fallacy of stats. This is just the fourth time that Oscar's Best Picture has taken neither the DGA or PGA, and the first time in the expanded era. Just how did The Big Short manage that PGA win?

Above it all, the overall lack of homogeneity among those usually informative guilds has been refreshing. Let's hope we have a season as close as this one again soon (Just please make it between three or four films that are all good).

And that's it. I'm done with 2015 now. Time to take a much-needed breather before assaying the 2016 cinematic landscape.


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  2. To continue on my spheal from the "Pet Peeves" article...Spotlight is a worthy winner. I always thought it would be a weak winner over time (and who knows? It still came away with just two Oscars, which hasn't happened since 1952's The Greatest Show on Earth), but I feel that what it represents (namely its championing of what journalism used to be) far outweighs the (let's be honest here, people calling its execution anything) TV-grade filmmaking (shot, reverse shot, shot, reverse shot...ooh, there's that one tracking shot with Brian D'Arcy James...back to shot, reverse shot, shot, reverse shot, shot, reverse shot...*cue Liev Schreiber sigh*).

    I'd've preferred Mad Max, Big Short, or Revenant to win, but Spotlight does feel like the most appropriate winner according to the Academy's tastes and I have no problem with that. It's a good, strong, well-written, and well-acted film.

    On to next year! :)

  3. I know it's early, but I think Spotlight will age gracefully in terms of BP winners. Bird man is a fine film, but I think it doesn't quite have what it takes, it's not forgettable, but not terribly memorable either, Still, good year for winners, save for Smith and Inarritu, enough to compensate for the bad, Spotlight in particular being the shingling star of it all!

    1. I disagree. Spotlight will age gracefully in terms of its subject matter, but Birdman will age likewise according to its execution (plus being my favorite film of 2014).

    2. The Single Shot look was cool, but I don't think it will age as gracefully, if anything the first thing that comes to mind is Michael Keaton being robbed, but that's just my personal memory of the film, great film, but not something I feel will last...

    3. I like and remember them both, so whatevs.

    4. Fair Point, I'll concede as it is only 2 years old...