Diversity, DiCaprio, and a dystopian thriller’s mini-sweep, the 88th Academy Awards certainly left us with some memorable moments. As expected, Chris Rock’s hosting expertise relied almost solely upon the #OscarsSoWhite controversy following the Academy’s second consecutive year in which it failed to produce a single black nomination. Despite playfully addressing some of Hollywood’s major shortcomings in racial diversity, Rock became his own worst enemy as his persistence and contradictory nature deflated his entire argument. His overcorrection of the topic through awkward and poorly written cutaway gags rang hollow after so many hours.
Elsewhere George Miller’s visual marvel Mad Max: Fury Road triumphed in six of its ten nominations, placing the film firmly at the top of this year’s leaderboard. Leonardo DiCaprio experienced a night he did not “take for granted” and an undoubted career highlight as he took home the award for Best Actor for his performance in The Revenant, his first Academy Award despite five previous nominations. While Spotlight, Ex Machina, and Mark Rylance provided the biggest shocks of the night, taking home the awards for Best Picture, Visual Effects and Best Supporting Actor respectively despite fierce competition from other fellow front-runners.
Tom McCarthy’s investigative drama Spotlight confirmed the Academy’s ongoing adoration for substance over style when it comes to the Best Picture Award. Despite boasting an inspired ensemble as well as a haunting narrative arc, McCarthy’s newsroom melodrama had appeared to have fallen by the wayside, having been awarded just one of its other five nominations that night for Writing (Original Screenplay). However Spotlight provided the final unexpected twist of the ceremony, beating fellow contenders The Revenant and The Big Short.
Best Actor/Actress In A Leading Role:
No surprises here whatsoever as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brie Larson humbly accept the awards for their acclaimed performances in The Revenant and Room respectively. DiCaprio remained characteristically suave in accepting the award that would change the course of Internet memes forever. While Larson’s gripping performance alongside Jacob Tremblay was justly celebrated as the stand-out female lead performance of the year.
Best Supporting Actor/Actress:
British actor Mark Rylance provided another late shock in the ceremony, edging out Hollywood A-Listers Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Mark Ruffalo and Sylvester Stallone to earn the Award for Best Supporting Actor. His portrayal of Rudolf Abel opposite Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies was as unforgettable as it was sincere. However Stallone had widely been considered as the outright favourite for his nostalgic mentorial performance in Creed. Meanwhile Alicia Vikander‘s performance alongside Eddie Redmayne stood as the only victory for Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl. Her portrayal of Gerda Wegener was well balanced in both her free-spirited elegance as well as her ability to mirror Redmayne’s emotional despair.
Best Director/Best Cinematography:
Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki proved to be the formidable collaboration for the second year running. Repeating last year’s success of Birdman, Iñárritu and Lubezki’s unparalleled work ethic earned them the awards for Best Director and Best Cinematography respectively. Despite taking home three of its twelve nominations, these two awards in particular solidify The Revenant’s status as a cinematic spectacle. Lubezki’s signature tracking shots against the backdrop of the Canadian Rockies, are simply breathtaking. The experimental nature of John Seale’s increasing/decreasing frame rate in Mad Max: Fury Road as well as Robert Richardson’s engagement with Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight shot in 70mm makes Lubezki’s triumph all the more impressive. Similarly the unforgiving filming conditions of The Revenant alone is a testament to Iñárritu and his art.
Best Original Score/Best Original Song:
Ennio Morricone took home his first ever Academy Award (excluding 2007’s Honorary Award) following a deserved win with his original score for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. Despite immense competition from household names Carter Burwell, John Williams Thomas Newman and Jóhann Jóhannsson, Morricone retained his position as one of the industry’s most iconic and timeless composers with his gruesome and unnerving soundtrack. By contrast, pop singer Sam Smith controversially took the award for Best Original Song with “Writings On The Wall” following an empowering live performance by Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens To You”. Gaga’s performance received one of the few standing ovations of the night, declaring itself a clear-cut winner. However Smith’s Bond Theme prevailed in taking what resulted in one of the night’s most unexpected twists.
Best Visual Effects:
With a relatively small budget of $15 million, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina symbolised a major achievement for independent film, taking the award for Best Visual Effects. Despite being nominated against four of the year’s most visually captivating big-budget films; Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, and of course the hot favourite Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Andrew Winehurst proved that flawless execution can ring louder than budgetary allowance.
Best Costume Design/Best Production Design/Best Make-up & Hairstyling/Best Film Editing/Best Sound Mixing/Best Sound Editing:
As mentioned earlier George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road dominated the 88th Academy Awards, winning six of its ten nominations. The innovative steam-punk influenced costume design of Jenny Beavan coupled with Lesley Vanderwalt’s intuitive and artistic eye for hair and make-up ensured Mad Max distinguished itself from any other motion picture. While Colin Gibson’s production design was the canvas for Margaret Sixel’s editing that allowed the Namib Desert to come alive at a thrilling and heart racing pace. Finally Mark Mangini’s sound editing as well as Chris Jenkin’s sound mixing allowed the immediacy of Mad Max to transcend aurally as well as visually. The result was a perfectly executed action thriller, igniting each of the cinematic senses.