FIRST IMPRESSIONS FROM THE 2016 CEREMONY

The 88th Academy Awards took place last night, Feb. 28.

Additional analysis to come later this week, but here are some quick thoughts about this year’s Oscars that you can use to impress/intimidate your colleagues at work today:

1. Spotlight wins Best Picture

Though Spotlight was the early Best Picture frontrunner out of Telluride and the SAG ensemble winner, it had last a lot of momentum going into last night’s ceremony: The Big Short won the PGA award, The Revenant took the DGA award, BAFTA and Golden Globe and Spotlight had just six nominations compared to The Revenant’s 12. But for the first time since Crash upset Brokeback Mountain in 2005 (and second since Shakespeare in Love upset Saving Private Ryan in 1998), neither the Producer’s Guild nor the Director’s Guild winner emerged victorious. Instead, a movie about the Boston Globe journalists uncovering rampant child sex abuse among the Boston clergy pulled off a big win. Best Picture was one of just two awards for Spotlight last night (the other being original screenplay), making this the first time a Best Picture winner won fewer than three statuettes since 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth.

On a more personal note, I was ecstatic when Spotlight was announced. I don’t know if my favorite movie in a given year has ever won the top prize, and the disappointment of Birdman last year left me pessimistic that the Academy would recognize something as great as Spotlight. They proved me wrong.
 

2. Leo wins Best Actor
After four previous acting nominations (and one previous produced-his-own-movie nomination), Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar for his lead role in The Revenant. The Internet promptly exploded, as the moment generated “a whopping 440,000 Tweets per minute, making it the most-tweeted moment of an Oscars telecast ever, the social media platform announced Sunday evening.”

Two small points I want to get off my chest:

First of all, I think that it’s difficult to say that Leo was snubbed before. His four prior nominations (for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond and The Wolf of Wall Street) were never really expected to land him a golden statuette. Instead, we can be talking about the roles that he was not nominated for, such as Django Unchained, J. Edgar, Revolutionary Road, Catch Me If You Can and Titanic.

Second, while he is overdue, there are plenty of others who are as well or who waited longer for their own Oscar. Kate Winslet, his Titanic co-star, had to wait for her sixth acting nomination to win an Academy Award (for The Reader). Amy Adams has had five Oscar nominations since 2006 and no one is rioting in the streets. An interesting FiveThirtyEight piece questioned whether Leonardo DiCaprio really “deserved” an Oscar based on the quality of his recent work: it found that “22 living actors at minimum can claim they deserve an Oscar more than DiCaprio, by one methodology or another,” including Matt Damon, who was up this year in the same category.
 

3. Chris Rock and a very political ceremony
According to the New York Times review, “For the second year in a row, no acting nomination went to a minority performer. Hollywood was guilty, and Chris Rock was deputized to carry out the sentence.” He did so in spades in his opening monologue (transcript here) and beyond. He started by welcoming the audience to the Academy Awards, “otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards.” Near the end of the segment he asked, “Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right. Hollywood is racist, but it ain’t that racist that you’ve grown accustomed to. Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’”

Later on in the ceremony, he presented a hilarious sketch placing black actors in some of this year’s top movies, including Whoopi Goldberg in Joy and Tracy Morgan in The Danish Girl. In the parody of The Martian, Jeff Daniels and Kristen Wiig decided not to spend 2,500 “white dollars” to rescue astronaut Chris Rock, who had been stranded on Mars.

Chris Rock’s take on diversity was largely black-focused. As the New York Times wrote, “One of the few acknowledgments of Asians in the broadcast was an awkward gag in which Mr. Rock introduced three Asian children as the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants.”

Other political aspects of the ceremony came from The Big Short screenwriters coming out against big money in politics, the documentary short winner criticizing honor killings, Iñárritu coming forward for diversity, Joe Biden introducing a Lady Gaga song on fighting sexual assault (“Let’s change the culture”) and a Leonardo DiCaprio speech on climate change (“Let us not take this planet for granted, I do not take tonight for granted”).
 

5. Other snubs, stats and upsets
Alejandro González Iñárritu won best director for The Revenant, following his win last year for Birdman. Back-to-back directing wins have happened twice before, but not for about 65 years: John Ford won for The Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley in the early 1940s and, most recently, Joseph Mankiewicz won for People Will Talk and All About Eve around 1950.

Sylvester Stallone was the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor, but he lost to first-time-nominee Mark Rylance, who powerfully underacted the role of a Soviet spy in Bridge of Spies.

Mad Max was the big winner of the night, taking home six (largely technical) awards: Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Production Design.

Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki became the first cinematographer in history to win three Oscars in a row, scoring last night for The Revenant after previously winning for Gravity and Birdman.

Ex Machina was a surprise win for Best Visual Effects. Usually, the visual effects Oscar goes to any Best Picture nominees in the group; this year, Mad Max, The Revenant and The Martian all fit this slot. And many others were predicting a win for Star Wars. It was therefore a surprise when the low-budget science fiction movie Ex Machina took home the prize.
Perennial bridesmaids Roger Deakins and Diane Warren have to keep on waiting. Neither the cinematographer (13 nominations) nor the songwriter (8 nominations) nabbed their first Oscar last night. Warren’s loss was more surprising, since Best Original Song went to a hugely mediocre Bond song rather than Lady Gaga.

6. Jacob Tremblay had a really good time

Inline image 1

Someone we all can aspire to.

Have a great day,

Mason

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