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Oscar Reflections – Part One

Oscar-2016-Nominations

The Oscars are wrapped for another year. Once again, I stayed up all night to watch the whole ceremony, and it was TOTALLY worth it! It was a great show with significant surprises, some wonderful performances and interesting acceptance speeches.

I made 21 predictions for the Academy Awards, and was only correct in 13 categories. This is largely down to the remarkable success of Mad Max: Fury Road, which was not only a radical Best Picture nominee, but the biggest winner of the night, picking up awards for Costume Design, Production Design, Hair and Make-Up, Editing, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. I was surprised but pleased that such a purely cinematic film was rewarded for some of its key cinematic elements. It was also amusing that every time a winner thanked director George Miller we got a reaction shot of him, as though the director of the ceremony knew Miller would not get a chance to speak himself!

Other predictable results included Cinematography, Score and Animated Feature. Emmanuel Lubezki made history with his third consecutive win for The Revenant, following previous wins for Gravity and Birdman. One day, Roger Deakins, one day. Ennio Morricone’s win for The Hateful Eight made him the oldest Oscar winner ever, and the standing ovation as he stepped up to receive his award was testament to the adulation in which this great maestro is held. Ex Machina was a surprise winner of Visual Effects, but a very welcome one. And my favourite film of last year, Inside Out, took home the Oscar for Animated Feature, which made me happy.

I also correctly predicted the winners for Achievement in Directing as well as the Writing Awards. After his Golden Globe and DGA awards, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s win for The Revenant was in no way surprising. The Big Short‘s win for Adapted Screenplay was also expected, as was Spotlight‘s win for Original Screenplay. But like many people, I was flabbergasted when Morgan Freeman announced Spotlight as the winner of Best Picture. The success of The Revenant up to that point appeared to make it a dead cert for Best Picture, but instead, the true story of crusading journalists within an insular community picked up Hollywood’s highest award. Although this was a big surprise (and a possible indicator of Michael Keaton being a lucky charm), it does demonstrate the pattern that Best Picture winners also win one or more of Directing, Editing or Screenplay. But winning ‘only’ Picture and Original Screenplay places Spotlight in a weird category of being a numerically low Best Picture. 12 Years A Slave, Argo and Crash are Best Picture winners that received only three awards (all won Screenplay, interestingly, Adapted for the first, Original for the other two; Argo and Crash also won Editing), but the last Best Picture to win so few was The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), which also won the Oscar for Best Story.

This in no way diminishes the achievement of Spotlight, which is a very fine film and impressed me more than The Revenant. Along with the six awards for Mad Max: Fury Road, the 88th Academy Awards proved a surprising and somewhat radical bunch of winners. Long may such challenges to convention continue.

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