The Oscars have come and gone, and the result seems to lie somewhere between indifference and pleasant surprise. We’ve spent a lot of time over the past week looking at the awards of past and present, and as we put a cork in our coverage, here’s one last look at the awards from Sunday night.
Last night was the first night in maybe five or six years that I allowed myself to have some Oscar night fun. I chose to watch Room instead of the entire awards ceremony, but I did manage to catch Chris Rock’s opening monologue and a few of his other bits. Chris Rock was a great host this year, the perfect guy to address the controversy over this year’s snow white nominees. Not every joke landed, but he was slinging them hard and fast. I wish I could say I was happier about Spotlight winning Best Picture last night, but that’s not because I dislike it. I just haven’t seen it! It’s available for rental on the US iTunes Store right now, and is next on my watch list (after that, Son of Saul). Mad Max sped away on the Fury Road last night with a whopping six awards, which pleases me to no end. George Miller was snubbed in the Best Director category, but there was no film last year that made its direction so apparent as The Revenant, and I shouldn’t be surprised that Iñárritu walked away with another conversation piece for his fireplace mantel.
It’s a great thing that Mad Max: Fury Road won as big as it did. There were plenty of films nominated this year that were brilliantly executed and produced, but seeing George Miller’s labor of love get the recognition it deserved was heartwarming. The talent on display at the 2016 Academy Awards proved that the ceremony still has some worth to it. While many recipients chose to politicize their agendas in front of millions, we the audience still got to have a great time thanks to Chris Rock hosting the event like a pro.
There were victories and there were upsets, but in the end it was good to see brilliant creators like Don Hertzfeldt at least get nominated. In a sea of terrible songs and musical performances we had to endure, the win that legendary composer Ennio Morricone walked away with for The Hateful Eight was incredibly well deserved. The Revenant took away some very prestigious awards and A24 won big with Room, but having a film as powerful as Spotlight take the Best Picture award showed that films can still make a difference.
Most Academy Awards have their themes shaped by the films they are honoring. The 88th Academy Awards telecast was the first to devote itself to the films and actors it was not representing. Yes, the Best Picture winner Spotlight had its own weighty topic worthy of focus, but the twitter firestorm over the lack of African-American nominees overwhelmed it. Luckily #OscarsSoWhite fits into Chris Rock’s edgy stand-up routine, when it could have easily been a disaster on the scale of Sam Smith’s falsetto. Chris Rock can pull off a cutting joke about police shootings. One shudders to imagine James Franco in drag, looking like a lost little puppy dog trying to land that same joke. The night was not always pleasant, but it was an Oscars with more energy than there has been in a very long time.
Rock was able to cover most arguments in the controversy while remaining very entertaining. And he interviewed some normal people on the street, who naturally had not seen any of the nominees for Best Picture, pointing out another perhaps larger flaw in the Oscar system: the best films of the year are not being seen by enough people. The fantastic Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian are the only two Best Picture nominees to have been targeted at general audiences. We want Hollywood to take chances, but as long as people consider the child molestation controversies of Spotlight to be boring compared to their usual pallet of dinosaurs and superheroes, nothing is going to change. Hollywood can promise diversity but remember: 2016’s first films with an African American star are 50 Shades of Black and Ride Along 2. Meanwhile Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq? That’s on Amazon Prime, not in theaters.
Overall, this year’s Oscars took a step in the right direction, but it still has ways to go.
OK, Leo. Go hibernate for a while.
In all seriousness, this was one of the better Oscars in recent memory. Seeing Mad Max: Fury Road take home six statues almost made up for George Miller losing. …Almost.
The greatest wins of the night belonged to Ex Machina for Visual Effects ($15 million made that movie look like $1 billion) and Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight.
The biggest snubs were World of Tomorrow for Best Animated Short (though this maintains Don Hertzfeldt’s well-earned outsider status), Roger Deakins for Sicario (he’s the Leo of the Cinematography category. Can we get a campaign started for his work on Blade Runner 2?), and George Miller for Best Director. Still, people will be talking about Mad Max: Fury Road fifty years from now. I doubt The Revenant has that staying power.
Chris Rock did a great – if short – job hosting, and Louis C.K. and the droids from The Force Awakens were the best presenters of the night.
Let’s already start guessing what’s going to be nominated for next year! My guess: Deadpool sweeps every category.
So the Oscars were…good? It feels odd to like a show that is so often dreadfully boring and unsurprising but this year’s affair was actually pretty darn solid. Chris Rock’s work as host was professional, biting and most importantly funny. The winners were mostly predictable (with a few welcome surprises) but generally deserving. And the show, though as long as always, didn’t have painfully boring portions that felt decades-long. All in all, this was a good show. An Oscars that didn’t take itself too seriously but still recognized the grandeur of the event.
It was a reminder of what an Oscars should be: glitzy and maybe a bit too full of itself with a fun host who provides the laughs but mostly stays out of the way. Is there still room for improvement? Always, but this was a good standard for future years to be held to.
Here’s our 2016 coverage for the 88th Oscars: