The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Academy Awards

The madness is all over for another year. Am I the only one a little glad for that? I cannot remember a previous Oscar race that genuinely exhausted me as much as this year. It was fun. It was surprising. But with so many twists and turns, I started to miss the days where one film sweeps the entire season. I say that now, but the next time it happens, I know I’ll moan about how boring an unpredictable race is. Ah, being an Oscar watcher is a complicated thing.

In the end, things mostly went to plan. While it wasn’t my pick, I’m happy for Spotlight. It’s a terrific little film and one that deserves to be called the best of the year.

Let’s take a look at what I loved, what I disliked, and what had me banging my head against the wall.

THE GOOD

Spotlight’s surprise win. While it wasn’t a massive shock, it was still somewhat unexpected. Entirely deserved, regardless. We haven’t seen a film win Best Picture and only one other category since 1952. While I would normally hate this (I remember declaring 12 Years a Slave as a bad Best Picture choice because it only won 3), I’m fine with it here. As an ensemble piece, Spotlight didn’t have the stand-out performances to take the acting categories. It wasn’t showy enough to take out Director or Editing. And given it’s a simple modern day film, it wasn’t represented in any of the tech categories like Costume, Production Design or Makeup. What it is though is an all-round beautifully crafted film. As an Oscar pundit, you can’t ask for more than a film like that to take out Best Picture.

Leo wins at last. We all knew it was coming, but boy did it feel good to finally see him up there. I still maintain he’s given better and more worthy performances, but who cares. The man finally has an Oscar, and now the internet can shut up…or maybe move on to someone else. Might I suggest five-time loser Amy Adams?

Mad Max: Fury Road takes the most awards. Six Oscars for one of the most stunningly crafted films of recent times. For a moment there, I think we all thought a surprise Picture win was on the cards, but it wasn’t to be. A film like that was never going to win Oscar’s top prize. I believe this is now the most Oscar-awarded Australian film of all time, so bravo to all involved. My only gripe is the mastermind behind the whole thing, George Miller, went home with nothing. Seems a little wrong, no?

Ex Machina‘s surprise Visual Effects victory. I don’t even care that it screwed up my final predictions score. This was the biggest surprise of the night and so incredibly deserved. While the other nominees had far more visual effects in total, nothing they produced was as captivating as Ava and I’m glad voters acknowledged that. I’m mostly just happy we get to call Ex Machina an “Academy Award-winning film”.

Lady Gaga’s performance of “Til It Happens to You”. For the second year in a row, Gaga owned the Oscars stage and earned another standing O from the crowd. Powerful is an understatement for what she delivered. While it was somewhat soured by her subsequent loss for Original Song (more on that shortly), it doesn’t take away from the fact her performance will be one of the most spoken about moments of the show, particularly given how important it is for the topic of violence against women (and men) to be discussed openly.

Spreading the wealth. While Mad Max ultimately dominated, I’m happy the three frontrunners, The Revenant, The Big Short and Spotlight, all went home with something.

Chris Rock as host. His sharp and biting opening monologue was the best we’ve seen in years. He wasted no time tackling the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, making more than a few audience members nervous in the process. I think after such a stellar opening, he struggled to maintain that level of greatness throughout the rest of the show, but overall, a solid effort.

Ennio Morricone finally wins. The man is a true legend of cinema and one of the greatest composers of all time. If you haven’t heard his haunting score for Once Upon a Time in the West, do so immediately. To see him win at last was a true joy.

Tracy Morgan as The Danish Girl. Perhaps the moment of the night.

“Drunk” Tina Fey presenting with Steve Carell. I think you’ve found your hosts for next year.

THE BAD

The scrolling “thank yous” news-ticker thing. Firstly, it looked tacky as hell. Secondly, no one at home actually read it, unless perhaps you personally knew a winner and were hoping to see your name scream by. And thirdly, it did nothing to free up time for winners to make proper speeches. Except Leo and Inarritu, they all still nervously rushed and mostly made a mess of things. Or they tried to make a memorable prepared speech and were promptly played off by the orchestra. Don’t bring it back next year. And for the love of god, give people a little more time for their speeches. They’ve earned it. Cut time elsewhere instead.

The “special guest” presenters. Nobody wanted to see the minions present an award. Your 5 year-old wasn’t watching the Oscars. Likewise with the trio of Star Wars droids. Not even Buzz and Woody making an appearance was all that thrilling. Stick with humans in future.

The pop-up fun facts. I have no idea why but each presenter had a little box pop up with a random fact about them. None of them were even remotely necessary. We’re all fairly aware Henry Cavill is the 7th person to portray Superman. We all know Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for Walk the Line. Viewers of the Oscars are fairly savvy and clued in. We don’t need to be told shit we already know.

Sam Smith’s performance…actually Sam Smith in general. He’s admitted to being extremely nervous, causing him to make a mess of both his performance and his speech (first openly gay man to win an Oscar? Oh, sweetheart, no.), so I won’t dig the knife in any further.

THE UGLY

Diane Warren/Lady Gaga’s loss. I’m still at a loss for words to explain this one. I’m going to assume last night was the first time voters had actually heard “Til It Happens To You”. After seeing it performed live, there’s no way you can tell me it shouldn’t have won over that dreadful Bond song. For Warren to lose for an eighth time is heartbreaking enough. To lose for a masterful song like that is a travesty of Crash winning Best Picture proportions.

Sylvester Stallone’s loss. Speaking of travesties, this one takes the cake. While he wasn’t exactly a total lock to win, I think it’s safe to say we all assumed it was on. He deserved it. He earned it. He’s a legend. It was a stellar performance. It should have been his. He was sitting in the front row, for fuck’s sake. It was all set to happen. But sadly he joins the Eddie Murphy/Mickey Rourke/Michael Keaton club for comeback performances nominated but ultimately overlooked by the Academy. I like Mark Rylance but no. No, no, no. For shame, Academy.

Stacey Dash. Enough said.

That’s all for another year, folks. See you next year when this circus starts all over again.

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