The Academy Awards is the sparkliest night in Hollywood, the most prestigious celebration of all the films we’ve loved over the last year. With a lot of pomp and circumstance, and always followed by a cloud of controversy, the Oscars has a love of film at its heart, and celebrates some truly fantastic films of the last year, from George Miller’s Mad Max, to the Revenant, Spotlight, the Big Short, and the Martian.
Instead of the usual musical performance (because Chris Rock doesn’t ‘do’ singing), the Oscars open with a montage of films released all throughout last year. Then, this year’s host Chris Rock uses his monologue to shed some light on the #oscarssowhite situation and use the Academy’s biggest night to shame their omissions. It’s an important message for the night, and one that cannot be ignored, but Rock makes sure that the Academy knows it’s in the wrong, not just in the opening monologue, but throughout the entire show. But for now, it’s off to the awards!
The Academy has decided to reorganise the awards schedule tonight, to mirror the process used to make a film, and, thus, the first category is Best Original Screenplay. This goes to Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, one of the talked about frontrunners of the year, about child abuse within the Catholic Church in Boston. Best Adapted Screenplay is also won by Adam McKay’s The Big Short, another big one this year, as it managed to deconstruct the 2007 economic collapse in the US.
Then comes Best Supporting Actress, as the acting categories tend to be spread across the show to maintain interest in the whole show. And Alicia Vikander, first time nominee for The Danish Girl, takes home the prize. 2015 was a really big year for her, with Ex Machina, Man From U.N.C.L.E. and now the Danish Girl, so winning an Oscar for it should just about cap it off. I’m expecting even greater things from her in the years to come.
Mad Max: Fury Road went on to sweep many of the next few technical categories, including Costume Design, Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Editing. A huge achievement for George Miller’s much loved film, as well as for the Australian entertainment industry, one award recipient commented that Mad Max winning was “the first Oscar of the night for diversity”, as it was about “a man with mental health issues, an amputee, and 5 sex slaves”. What a lovely, lovely day.
Emmanuel Lubezki won Best Cinematography for his work on The Revenant, making this the third year in a row he’s accepted that award (last year for Birdman, the year before for Gravity). Andy Serkis also presented the award for Best Visual Effects, an area he has much experience and appreciation for, and this award went to Ex Machina, a brilliant yet underrated film about AI.
Chris Rock’s hosting duties focused mainly on the #oscarssowhite controversy this year, mixing humour with truth to send an important message to the Academy. However, one of his bigger stunts (and quite an enjoyable one) was getting his daughters’ Girl Scout troupe to sell Girl Scout Cookies to the audience, in order to beat a competitor of theirs. They also managed to raise over $65 000 doing so, which is an achievement in itself, plus the audience got to eat cookies in their ball gowns.
Whilst the Best Animated Short Film, won by Bear Story, was presented by three Minions (a character we’d probably all rather was left out of the show), the Best Animated Feature Film was presented by Toy Story characters Buzz and Woody, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pixar’s most beloved film. Fittingly, Pixar’s brilliant Inside Out took home the Oscar, and very much deserved it.
In a small upset, but still no less deserving, Mark Rylance took home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Bridge of Spies, over Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky in Creed. Regardless, Rylance gave a great performance, and definitely deserved the recognition. In the Documentary categories, Sharmeen Obaid’s A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness won Best Documentary Short Film, earning her a second Oscar, and showing the presenter of the award Louis C.K. (who had commented that the winners of this award aren’t rich and don’t lead fancy lives) just how wrong he is. Best Documentary Feature was won by Amy, a documentary about the life of Amy Winehouse.
President of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, gave an address to the attendees this year, stating how, from now on, the Academy would take greater lengths to be more inclusive and diverse, eloquently summing up all that Chris Rock was trying to say during the show, and this was a very nice, important touch. This was followed by the In Memoriam section, easily the most tear-jerking, as we said goodbye to some of Hollywood’s biggest and most wonderful contributors, whilst Dave Grohl performed Blackbird in the background.
Jacob Tremblay and Abraham Attah may have had to stand on blocks to present Best Live Action Short, but they still stole the show, presenting the award to the film Stutterer. Hungary’s nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, Son of Saul, also took home the big prize.
And now for the music. Best Original Score, or, as Quincy Jones calls it, ‘emotion lotion’, was taken out by Italian legend Ennio Morricone, a six time nominee that finally won his first Oscar this evening. Three of the nominees for Best Original Song performed, Sam Smith’s The Writing’s On The Wall, The Weeknd’s Earned It, and Lady Gaga’s ‘Til It Happens To You. Gaga’s performance was stunning and sobering, as victims of sexual abuse took to the stage hand in hand. In the end Sam Smith won the award, saying that “No openly gay man has ever won an Oscar, so I would like to dedicate this award to the LGBT community.”
Finally, it was time for the Big Four. In a very strong category, including Adam McKay’s The Big Short and Mad Max: Fury Road, Alejandro G. Inarritu was named Best Director for his film the Revenant, giving him his fourth Oscar, and second in a row after winning last year for Birdman. He really deserved this award for his film, as it perfectly captured the beauty of the wintry wilderness in which it was shot.
In all the other awards shows this season, the Best Actress category was dominated by one specific person, and the Oscars was no different. Brie Larson won Best Actress for playing Ma in Room, a beautiful and poignant film in which she and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) escape from their kidnapper and adjust to life in the real world. It was her first nomination and win, but she’s been brilliant for years, and I know we’ll continue to see great things from her.
Best Actor was the most talked about categories of this year, and for one reason: we all wanted to see Leonardo DiCaprio finally win an Oscar, for his performance in The Revenant. The category was strong, but no one else was strong enough, and Leo finally did it! His speech was lovely, as he thanked all filmmakers he’d been fortunate enough to work with and included all his colleagues in his success. He also used the platform to say some very important things about climate change, an issue very close to his heart, and wrapped up by saying, “Let us not take this planet for granted; I do not take tonight for granted.”
After nearly three and a half hours, it was at last time to award the Best Picture of 2015. After a surprising night, with Mad Max almost sweeping the technical awards, Leo winning Best Actor for the Revenant, and both Spotlight and the Big Short winning their Screenplay categories, Best Picture was really anyone’s game. Yet, even Morgan Freeman was surprised when he announced that Spotlight had won. Though The Revenant was the favourite, being so beautifully made, Spotlight was a truly deserving winner, highlighting the very topical issue of child abuse within the Catholic Church and the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize winning article about the issue. This was one of my favourite films of the year, with such a great cast, director, and brilliant script, and clearly the Academy thought so too.
Congratulations to all the winners on their awards, and what a great year in film!