And so this movie year ends, not with a bang but with a whisper.
The low-key indie Spotlight took home the night’s top prize over the larger-than-life frontrunner The Revenant. A subtle performance from Mark Rylance edged out Sylvester Stallone’s nostalgic return of the iconic Rocky in one of the night’s biggest upsets. A24’s little-seen and massively under-appreciated Ex-Machina beat out Star Wars and Mad Max for its stunning Visual Effects.
But it’s not like those films have nothing to celebrate. Mad Max (deservedly) led the night with six wins in the technical categories. The Revenant gave Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu his second Oscar (the third director ever to achieve back-to-back wins and the first since 1950). Not to mention making history for giving Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar, a long-awaited moment that began with a standing ovation and ended with an impassioned speech about environmental rights.
Chris Rock dedicated his entire monologue to racism and diversity, using a platform normally reserved for calling attention to movies and attendees to make poignant remarks about the state of the industry. Not every line was successful, and as the frustratingly long show went on, the later bits just felt like overkill. And the narrow focus of Black vs. White discounted the experience of other minorities who not only crave the same equal standing but have quietly been making strides in their own way.
That said, the Academy does deserve recognition for confronting the backlash head-on and for giving Rock an outlet for his searing humor. Had they played it safe, it could have been infinitely worse. When it comes down to it, I guess I’m glad they chose to err on the side of overkill.
Hollywood has a long way to go but like I’ve said before, little victories made history and they should be called out and celebrated. Four of the six Oscars for Mad Max went to women. Iñarritu’s win marks the third Best Director win for Mexico and the fourth in a row to go to a minority (Ang Lee won in 2012 followed by Alfonso Cuaron in 2013). Emmanuel Lubezki brought more Latino pride for his third consecutive win in Cinematography — the first in Oscar history. And Best Animated Short winner, Historia de un oso, from Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala, gave Chile its first Oscar win ever.
It was night full of history and surprises. Did I agree with all the winners? Of course not. I did get second place in my predictions pool (BY JUST ONE POINT). Though I did finally finally finally beat Jonny so that’s something.
Below check out my Won / Should Have Won thoughts for a few of the categories I got wrong.
My prediction: The Revenant
Should have won: Mad Max
While I’m by no means unhappy about Spotlight‘s win, if I had to choose another film to take home the top prize there’s no doubt Mad Max was one of the strongest ones of the year. But I do love a good underdog and an incredible story set in my favorite city in the world, well you won’t hear me complaining.
Best Supporting Actor
My prediction: Sylvester Stallone
Winner: Mark Rylance
Should have won: Sylvester Stallone
There’s something to be said about Mark Rylance’s subtle performance in Bridge of Spies, and unlike most upsets I cannot in good faith say the win was undeserved. But Creed was one of my favorite films of the year. Michael B. Jordan’s lack of nomination is still mind-boggling but if it could only get one nomination, I would have wanted it to win.
Best Visual Effects
My prediction: Star Wars
Should have won: Ex-Machina
Aside from Stallone’s loss, this was probably one of the most surprising wins of the night. I would have sworn a tight race between Star Wars and Mad Max but in a year of underdogs, Ex-Machina came out on top, becoming the first non-Best Picture nominee in the category to win over Best Picture nominees since “Tora! Tora! Tora!” topped “Patton” 45 years ago. Can’t hate on history like that.
These weren’t the only ones I missed but they were the most surprising. It has been a year of breaking predictors and making history. Whatever will await us next?
Two months until Cannes. Six months until Toronto. Sundance and Berlin already under our belts. Let another year begin.
Also. Yes. I did use a picture of Leo and Kate embracing as the cover image for this post.