Another brilliantly exciting awards season came to a close last night at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, as Spotlight took top honours at the 88th Academy Awards, taking the Best Picture prize off odds-on favourite The Revenant to become the first film about journalism to win Best Picture. It was a brilliant moment to see the film win, especially as you could see momentum swinging its way as the ceremony went on, as The Revenant lost key awards like Editing, Visual Effects, and the Sound categories, which it would have been expected to pick up along the way. And that’s not to say that Spotlight somewhat underperformed, especially as the Best Picture champ, with it only picking up one other award, Best Original Screenplay, the first award of the night, making it the first film since The Greatest Show on Earth in the 1950s to win Best Picture and only one other award.
However, The Revenant still had a pretty good night, picking up 3 awards. It comfortably won Best Cinematography, with Emmanuel Lubezki winning that award for the third consecutive year, and later won Best Director for Alejandro G. Inarritu, winning his 4th Oscar in 2 year, and his second consecutive win in this category. But its biggest win, and the most momentous moment of the night, was in Best Actor, where Leonardo DiCaprio won for the first time on his 6th nomination, and for which he received a large standing ovation, and delivered an impassioned speech about the environment. It’s hard not to feel pleased for him, but one wishes that it was for a better performance.
In the other acting categories, there was no shock defeat for Brie Larson, as she took home Room’s only win in Best Actress, completing the impressive feat of winning in the category at the Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, Critics’ Choice, and Indie Spirits. It’s a brilliant performance, and don’t be surprised if she’s back on stage again in her career. Things didn’t go so smoothly for Best Supporting Actor frontrunner Sylvester Stallone, as his return as Rocky Balboa in Creed didn’t earn him his first Oscar, 39 years after his last nomination for playing Rocky, in the 1976 Best Picture winner that he wrote. He lost to British actor Mark Rylance, who is certainly excellent in Bridge of Spies, but your heart does break for Stallone, who will probably never get another chance to win, and you could tell by his face that it hurt him dearly. In Supporting Actress, Alicia Vikander took home gold for her *leading* role in The Danish Girl, showing that category fraud does pay. I think she gives the best performance of the nominees, but it is in no way a supporting performance, and this award is probably mostly for Ex Machina.
It was Ex Machina that actually produced the biggest shock of the night, winning in Best Visual Effects, ahead of the favourite, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and 3 Best Picture nominees, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, and The Martian. It’s great to see a small British indie win this category against its blockbuster competition, but it is pretty nuts win (I had it in 5th in my predictions), and certainly didn’t have the best visual effects of the year (at least The Revenant didn’t win for it’s Birdemic-like visuals). There were actually more jaw dropping victories than anyone expected, with the most outrageous win being Sam Smith’s win in Best Original Song for Spectre’s “Writings on the Wall”, ahead of Lady Gaga’s powerful “Til it Happens to You” for the documentary The Hunting Ground. It was not a popular win at all, especially as it followed Smith’s very shaky live performance of the song, and Gaga’s incredible rendition of her song, which caused a standing ovation and some tears from the audience, reminiscent of Common and John Legend’s “Glory” performance last year. What also didn’t help was Smith saying in the speech that he was “the first openly gay man to win an Oscar” causing outrage online, especially by Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who won Best Original Screenplay in 2009, and showing that Smith completely got his facts wrong.
In the screenwriting categories, the first awards of the night, Spotlight took Best Original Screenplay, while The Big Short took Best Adapted Screenplay, the film’s only win of the night, and now means that the writer-director of Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, and Anchorman 1 & 2, now is an Academy Award winner. As a champion of Adam McKay’s work, this is incredibly pleasing, and completely deserving, proving that comedians deserve more respect from the Academy. Meanwhile, there was also a great win for Ennio Morricone in Best Original Score, who received a standing ovation as he collected his award for The Hateful Eight.
In the technical categories, action blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road dominated, winning 6 awards in total, picking up awards for Best Editing, Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, and both Sound categories. This means that Mad Max ended up with the most Oscars, with more than double the tally of the film with the next most, The Revenant with 3. But that does mean that, despite being thanked in all 6 acceptance speeches, director George Miller went home empty handed, which is unfair, but at least he still got recognition that he deserves. There were also comfortable wins for Inside Out, Amy, and Son of Saul, in Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and Foreign Language Film, respectively. It was not so straightforward in the Shorts category, with all 3 presumed frontrunners losing, as Bear Story, Stutterer, and The Girl in the River, taking the awards in Animated Short, Live Action Short, and Documentary Short, respectively.
As far as the ceremony itself was concerned, it was a fun one, helped along by the excellent Chris Rock, who did a terrific job as host, bringing humour, and social commentary, into his monologue, producing many laughs, while not making the audience uncomfortable. Add that to some brilliant video clips, such as Tracy Morgan playing Eddie Redmayne’s role in The Danish Girl, and interviews with cinema-goers outside a cinema in Compton about this year’s nominees (“Have you seen Bridge of Spies?” “Come on, man, you’re making these movies up”). It was a more restrained display than we’re used to seeing from Rock, and it certainly work, even if it did have a few rocky moments (the girl scout cookies bit didn’t work, in my opinion).
So, overall, we had the right result in Best Picture, with the best nominee winning in Spotlight, with the film probably being the best film to win since The Artist in 2011. We had a fun show, with some great winners, and surprises sprinkled in to keep us on our toes. And we had Leo winning, so the internet can finally shut up about that. It’s the perfect end to a great awards season, and thank you to everyone who has followed this journey along with me!