88th Academy Awards Recap

So the Oscars were last night. A lot to talk about.

This is where we officially close the book on 2015 and move into 2016. I’ll try to give everything its due, but there was a point about an hour into the ceremony where I was just kind of over it and wanted to move on.

Overall it was a strange year. They really spread the wealth around. Mad Max won six, I think, and then The Revenant won 3 and Spotlight won 2 and then everything else only won 1. Crazy.

A lot of major stats fell and a lot of crazy shit happened. So let’s get into it:

Best Picture: Spotlight

I don’t think anyone really saw this coming. It started off the year with a big win at BFCA, and then really did nothing since. Had it won the PGA, we’d have all had it cold. That’s that preferential ballot biting us all in the ass.

We all correctly went off of The Big Short, but everyone moved to The Revenant.

This tells me that a lot of people had The Revenant near the bottom of the ballot. Most people had Spotlight top four. Still surprised The Big Short and Mad Max didn’t make cases for themselves/won. But hey, I knew it would be in the conversation. I really didn’t see this coming. I have no issues with it whatsoever.

The big stat that fell is the PGA. They had been right every year going back to 2006 (the last time a film won only the BFCA en route to a Best Picture win), and had been right every year since the preferential ballot and expanded Best Picture nominees came into effect. They were never perfect, but they took a little bit of a hit here. And then The Revenant winning the Globe and BAFTA is now a makeup award for them snubbing Birdman.

Oh, and this film becomes the first film to win Best Picture with less than 3 overall awards since The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952. That’s the other major stat that came out of this. A quarter of all Best Picture winners (22/88) have won 3 Oscars or less. Only 9 of them won two Oscars or less. Take away The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952, you know what you’re left with? Rebecca, 1940. You Can’t Take It With You, 1938, Mutiny on the Bounty, 1935. The others were four of the first five ceremonies. Wow. In 75 years, it’s happened 3 times. And this is one of those three.

I had no issue with any of the nominees, so I can’t say I’m upset with their choice in the least. It feels like a solid film, and one that fits with what they usually reward. No real issues except in terms of my ballot. Which doesn’t even matter anymore anyway.

Oh, and The Revenant not winning means that Best Picture/Screenplay stat continues to hold up. That was gonna go down if it won.

Also, I guess the actors carried this one to victory, it having won SAG. Maybe the actors are now the dominant branch in the Academy, not the producers. (Birdman and Spotlight are both SAG Ensemble winners. Maybe something to keep an eye on for next year.)

Best Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant

No question. He was, to me, the best effort of the year. I know a lot of people wanted to see George Miller get it, and he’d have been good to. But no problems with the way they went at all. Cannot argue this.

Again, the DGA is correct, and pretty much every single precursor went the same way. So no big changes here. He becomes the third person ever to win back-to-back Best Director Oscars (John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz are the others).

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

We knew this was coming from the start. Nothing to say here. He got his Oscar.

I joked last night that now he’s like Jessica Chastain at the end of Zero Dark Thirty. He just got his Bin Laden. Now what?

Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room

Another one that was locked all the way. She fully deserved it, and she got it. Nothing more to be said here.

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Okay, now we have something to talk about.

So SAG is wrong. And he was one of two SAG nominees on the actual list. BAFTA gets it right. It’s not that he isn’t deserving. I just really thought Stallone had that one in the bag. They were the two major choices based on precursors. In the end, the guy with the performance that came out of nowhere won over the veteran, and everyone will be left thinking how Idris Elba probably should have gotten nominated. That’s the historical takeaway from this category.

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Category fraud. This comes down to. Plus she had a hell of a year. So it makes sense. In the end, the precursors were right, and the reason Kate Winslet won her two awards is because Vikander was nominated for lead for this performance on those two ballots.

She won for the year. The performance is good too, but she won for the year. A lot of people gave her the Ex Machina vote.

Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight

It was always gonna win this. Even if it didn’t win Best Picture.

How shocking would it have been if Straight Outta Compton won this and then this won Best Picture?

This won all the precursors. In the end, it went exactly as we figured it would go.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short

This was locked all the way through and made perfect sense.

Best Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road

Another one that won all the precursors. The only reason I went off it in my ballot was because I wasn’t sold on The Revenant winning Best Picture (rightfully so). Though I had the wrong alternate choice. Big Short needed this to take Picture, so I took a shot. Otherwise, this was the obvious winner and it came through.

Also, fun fact: Mad Max has the exact same ratio of wins as the original Star Wars. 6/10. You know what Oscars Star Wars won? Production Design, Costume Design, Editing, Visual Effects, Score and Sound Mixing. So the same as this one except Score and Visual Effects instead of Makeup and Sound Editing. (Though Star Wars did get a special award for Sound Editing that wasn’t technically a competitive award.)

Best Cinematography: The Revenant

Another of the biggest locks of the night. No arguing with Chivo.

He becomes the first person to win this category three years in a row ever.

Maybe now we can get Deakins one of these.

Best Original Score: The Hateful Eight

Morricone gets his Oscar. Nothing to be upset about there. All the precursors held up. They all gave it to him. So nothing much to say there.

Best Original Song: “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre

This one I had a feeling about. The Gaga song felt like the frontrunner, and you can tell they thought it was gonna win because they put it on last, had the big Biden intro and had that big number… and then it lost.

What did we learn? Voters don’t know what the fuck most of the songs are. They heard of the Bond song, so they voted for it. That’s how this goes. The problem is the song choices. No one’s heard of the fucking documentary. So they’re not gonna vote for it. Plus I didn’t think the song was particularly good, but that’s a whole other story.

Let’s also not forget the sad irony that a song about sexual abuse lost to James Bond, the king of treating women like sex objects. Sadly fitting.

Mostly I lament the state of original songs in film. I listened to all the potential nominees and was thoroughly underwhelmed. So of course this was going to happen, where you have a category and you’ve only really heard of one of the songs. And even though that song was underwhelming, at least you heard of it. That’s where we’re at with this category. It’s a shame. They fixed the voting to get more songs on, but it means nothing if the songs suck.

Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road

This won every precursor, and with the category the way it was, couldn’t have lost. The only surprise would have been if The Revenant won instead.

Best Costume Design: Mad Max: Fury Road

Another easy winner. Cinderella made sense with their history, but it was hard to argue with this having won every other costume award they gave out beforehand. You should have had this. You can ignore some of them, but mass consensus usually results in a win.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Mad Max: Fury Road

This made sense. Three weeks ago, I’d have said The Revenant was gonna win this for sure. And even though no one else really gives out awards for this, going into tonight, it didn’t seem like this was going to lose. It was a 50/50 either way, and I’d figure most people rightly took this.

Best Visual Effects: Ex Machina

The biggest shocker of the night, and one of the biggest shockers of all time, in a way. If we’re looking at the numbers. We ALL got this wrong.

It’s a shocker not only because Star Wars, The Revenant and Mad Max (not to mention another Best Picture nominee in The Martian), but because I was going in saying how never in the history of modern visual effects has a Best Picture nominee lost this category to a non-Best Picture nominee. And I thought it might happen this year. But with Star Wars. Not with this. No one could have honestly seen this coming. This throws all the history right out the window, and there will always be this one asterisk there when we talk about Visual Effects. It’s now possible to take down a Best Picture nominee.

That said — I’m really curious to see what the votes looked like on this one. There must have been a huge logjam of votes, and this one won like 23 to 21 to 21 to 20 to 15. It must have been really, really tight.

I’m happy for it, because the effects were great and they didn’t cost money and served the story entirely, but man, was this a shocker for the ages.

Now I can honestly say, in the past five years, there are three categories that completely shocked the shit out of me when they announced them. It doesn’t happen often.

Best Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road

The key with the Sound categories is knowing that the voters don’t know shit. So that’s why you never predict the split. And the key here was — if you don’t know about sound, Mad Max was the loudest and made the most sense. If you do know about sound, you probably chose The Revenant, like the guilds did. So that was what I bought into. I figured, even if they didn’t know about sound, they’d give one film one category and one film the other. This always seemed like a Max win for me, but the rule is to never split the categories, because if you split wrong, you’re fucked.

I overthought it. I had a feeling Max would win this, so I should have told you to split them and gone Mixing for The Revenant or both for Max. I take full responsibility for this. Plus, looking at this historically, of course this won both. So that’s all on me.

Best Sound Mixing: Mad Max: Fury Road

Winning both made complete sense. Flies in the face of the guilds, but I don’t care about that. Usually they’re gonna go to the same movie if it’s this kind of movie.

Not much else to add, I said it all up there in Editing.

I will add — how great was it, the way they presented these categories? THAT’S gonna do more to educate voters than anything. I can pull up those videos next year to explain it better (though how much simpler does it get than, one is the creation and capturing of the sounds themselves, and one is everything all put together in a mix?). That was the best thing that came out of these categories.

Best Animated Feature: Inside Out

Another one that was one of the biggest locks of the night. This one I didn’t even have to think once about. Not even a question of, “What if something else wins?” This was actually the #1 lock of the night. No one should have gotten this wrong.

Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul

This was one of the biggest locks in ten years. I got nervous when people around town started saying Mustang might win, because the same people were saying Mark Rylance was going to win. But otherwise, you had to take it. Just watching the films, this was by far the most powerful. Easy winner.

Best Documentary: Amy

This was a no-brainer. Easy win. The only question is what would have beat it if it lost. But that wasn’t a very high probability. It’s nice when Documentary is easy. Because you can go nuts trying to break that category down.

Best Documentary Short: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

If I was going by what fit the category, this would have been in my top two choices. But since Doc Short, unless there’s a solid winner, is pretty nebulous, I got swept up in, “Oh, they’re gonna vote for the Holocaust one.” Forgetting, if they don’t see anything, they don’t vote. So people watch them all before they vote. And if I really thought hard, I’d have gone with Chau because it fit, and like I did on the smart ballot, covered my bases with this because this is the most engaging one that fits with what they do, and I’d have had it on one of the ballots. I even said how this fit in all my articles. So that’s my fault. I should have had this higher than third. Overthought it.

Best Live-Action Short: Stutterer

This fit with what they go for. Unless there’s something undeniably powerful and star heavy (like The Phone Call last year), they’re gonna go with something like this. It fits. I’m glad I had it on one ballot. I got swept up with the depressing ones that seemed like they’d get votes. My fault.

Best Animated Short: Bear Story

This fit them the best. I don’t know how to explain it, but I know it when I see it. Unfortunately, I did not trust those instincts on the other two shorts categories. If I did, I’d probably have gotten two right and the other would have been the second choice. Oh well. Either way, this was always the one that made the most sense.

– – – – – – – – – –

Here’s a list of the films that won Oscars:

Mad Max: Fury Road — 6 Oscars (Editing, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing)

The Revenant — 3 Oscars (Director, Actor, Cinematography)

Spotlight — 2 Oscars (Picture, Original Screenplay)

Room — 1 Oscar (Actress)

Bridge of Spies — 1 Oscar (Supporting Actor)

The Danish Girl — 1 Oscar (Supporting Actress)

The Big Short — 1 Oscar (Adapted Screenplay)

The Hateful Eight — 1 Oscar (Original Score)

Spectre — 1 Oscar (Original Song)

Ex Machina — 1 Oscar (Visual Effects)

Inside Out — 1 Oscar (Animated Feature)

Other winners were: Son of Saul, Amy, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Stutterer, Bear Story

– – – – – – – – – –

Here’s how I did on my predictions:

On my personal ballot, I got right: Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Song, Original Score, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Sound Editing, Animated Feature, Foreign Language Film, Documentary, Live-Action Short, Animated Short

I got wrong: Picture, Supporting Actor, Editing, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Documentary Short

So that’s 18 of 24. An average year.

On the ballot I told you to take, the smart ballot, I got: Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Animated Feature, Foreign Language Film, Documentary, Animated Short

I got wrong: Picture, Supporting Actor, Original Song, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Documentary Short, Live Action Short

16 of 24. Not great. That’s actually average for most people. Which is unacceptable for me.

Picture pretty much surprised everyone. I’m okay with that. Supporting Actor I wouldn’t have told anyone to take, so fine there. Original Song was a 50/50. Not too upset there. Visual Effects was a shocker for the ages. I’ll take the hit on Mixing and Editing. My fault. Doc Short, at best I probably would have had those two at the top and told you to take it, but I can’t be too upset there. And Live-Action Short, maybe. Honestly, I’d have gone 19/24 at best on this one. So I take the hit for the Sound categories, the others, I think I did a good job diagnosing.

Now for the Scorecard:

I expect this to be especially brutal.

Best Picture: +4

Best Director: +1

Best Actor: +1

Best Actress: +1

Best Supporting Actor: +2

Best Supporting Actress: +1

Best Original Screenplay: +1

Best Adapted Screenplay: +1

Best Editing: +1

Best Cinematography: +1

Best Original Score: +1

Best Original Song: +2

Best Production Design: +1

Best Costume Design: +1

Best Makeup & Hairstyling: +1

Best Visual Effects: +5

Best Sound Mixing: +2

Best Sound Editing: +1

Best Animated Feature: +1

Best Foreign Language Film: +1

Best Documentary Feature: +1

Best Documentary Short: +3

Best Live-Action Shot: +2

Best Animated Short: +1

37. +13.

Not as bad as I thought I was gonna do. Actually, all things being equal, that’s fucking terrific. I took a 5 and a 4 here. The 5 was gonna happen. Maybe the 4 could have been a 3 and the 3 for Doc Short could have been a 2. Even so… mostly 1s and 2s there. I take that as a complete positive.

– – – – – – – – – – –

So yeah, that’s all I got for this. Time to move on to the next year. Goodbye 2015, hello 2016.


4 responses

  1. How does Iñárritu’s effort compare to Miller’s, in your mind?

    I recently watched Fandor’s video essay on the Best Director nominees and the essayist didn’t like Iñárritu’s effort, calling it overly grandiose and more of a technical achievement that “borrows” “new age-y sequences” from Terrence Malick.
    (I commented that the almighty Tarkovsky also falls into this trap half the time, minus the borrowing from Terrence Malick.)

    On the other hand, the essayist praised Miller as a master musical conductor in his directorial effort, not to mention the genius behind sequences with a complex grandeur not seen since the days of Buster Keaton.

    February 29, 2016 at 4:04 pm

  2. I did really well getting 20/24 missing Supporting Actor, Visual Effects and the Live Action/Documentary shorts. I can never get those right. I had Spotlight from the get go, it made the most sense. The Big Short was too different and esoteric. The Revenant was getting too much push back for a BP win. The easy choice was Spotlight.

    My big takeaway for the night was finally understanding the difference between the Sound categories. It made such perfect sense and I feel dumb for not understanding before. Loved the way they presented those.

    February 29, 2016 at 7:28 pm

  3. Jenna

    Do you plan on updating your Oscar Quest Viewer’s Guide with the recent nominations?

    March 1, 2016 at 2:53 pm

  4. Nathan

    Having now seen all the Best Picture nominees, while Spotlight wouldn’t have been my choice (i’d have picked Room), I think it’s a respectable pick and I’m glad it beat The Revenant (which I’ve grown to dislike more and more). The Revenant is an example of style over substance: I can appreciate how technically amazing it is, but I always find it dubious when people say something should win because of its technical aspects it is or how difficult the shoot was (‘they shot it in the cold and used natural lighting’). In terms of story, I just get nothing out of it and I can’t get invested in it.

    In retrospect it’s not that hard to see why Spotlight won. It’s a ‘message’ film and has a theme that many people feel very strongly about.

    August 24, 2016 at 11:32 am

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