88th Academy Awards: Unpredictable Wins; Predictable Themes

February has drawn to a close with the 88th Academy Awards just spilling into the day after. The awards, which ran overtime, were cutthroat for the entire evening. From Chris Rock’s promised #blackout to the wins that we all did or did not see coming, there were numerous highlights and lowlights of the night that beg to be reexamined.

Spotlight ended up pulling off a highly unexpected, yet well deserved, win for Best Picture. With only two wins to both start the evening and end it off, many of us wrote off the journalistic drama as being a single award winner for it’s original screenplay. This is the fewest amount of wins for the Best Picture winner since 1952’s unexplainable win for The Greatest Show on Earth. Nonetheless, Spotlight won in the way the protagonists in it’s story won: Appropriately quiet. This win proved that sometimes the Oscars just aren’t always easy to read.

That was proven true throughout the majority of the night. We had best supporting gambles that some of us bid incorrectly on (newcomers Alicia Vikander and Mark Rylance won over Kate Winslet and Sylvester Stallone respectively), a director who didn’t win for Best Picture in a year that seemed likely (Alejandro G Iñarittu has pulled off a rare achievement in winning two years in a row), and a film still won more awards than expected  (we all knew Mad Max: Fury Road would win most of the technical awards, but to see it take some production wins too? Oh, what a lovely day!).

The one thing the actual Oscar ceremonies usually get right is how each category gets presented, and this year was no exception. Every group of nominees had special treatment, including the isolated sounds for Sound Editing, the rolls of fabric and the sewing machines floating onto the stage for Costume and even the tasteful camera panning of the five featured nominees of each acting category as each of their faces were shown behind the presenter as they would be talked about. In terms of presentation, the Oscars have done it again!

Then there was the actual presenting, and we knew we were in for an edgy ride once Chris Rock came onto the stage. His opening monologue was razor sharp with some interesting points about the controversial #oscarssowhite boycotting. This included some jokes that were harder to swallow than others, massive digs at Jada Pinkett Smith and more. This theme ran on throughout the evening, and while his opening monologue was an absolute ride, some of the following stunts just felt too much. When Rock brought on infamous figure Stacey Nash, I don’t think a single soul clapped (they got the joke easily, they just didn’t care to laugh). When Rock made a joke about sweatshops with three yoing Asian children behind him, it felt more like Seth McFarlane was back as the master of ceremonies and was making a very distasteful joke. Then you had Sacha Baron Cohen as Ali G being unnecessarily offensive with his lack of regard for actually wanting to introduce Room as a Best Picture nominee.

For the most part, Chris Rock was solid. Did he have some moments that didn’t quite work? Sure, but at least these were all on the same page as everything else he was doing. Some past recent presenters have tried to do too much and have fallen flat in many areas, so at least there was thematic consistency here. Rock had another bit where he wanted his daughter’s girl scout group to finally raise more money than any other group. He proceeded to have the group sell cookies to rich film personalities, and he allegedly ranked around sixty five thousand dollars in doing so. The joke got a bit stale (like old cookies) whenever Rock brought up the same punchline after the amount raised was revealed, but at least there was consistency (which is all we could ask for, especially after some of the hosting duties we have faced).

Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his coveted Best Actor award, and fresh face Brie Larson also won big (his sixth nomination and her first). Veteran composer Ennio Morricone finally won an Oscar for his first western score in decades (The Hateful Eight) and he was presented with a warranted standing ovation. Emmanuel Lubezki pulled off an incredible three year win for his groundbreaking cinematography (his second time working with Iñarittu) for The Revenant. Sam Smith beat out the Earth shattering performance Lady Gaga gave and I don’t think he expected it either (he singled out his praise for her during his acceptance speech).

All in all, this was a highly unpredictable evening for Oscar pools (many of us have had the roughest bets we have had in years), but I don’t think any of the wins could be considered undeserving. Some of these wins have been given to those who deserved them eons ago, and some were given to first timers. Chris Rock was a good host with great moments (and not so great ones, too). The whole evening was full of dropped jaws, widened smiles, and smeared grimaces (for some of those awkward moments).

The list of winners are here:

Best Picture:

Alejandro G. Iñárritu: The Revenant

Actor In A Leading Role:
Leonardo DiCaprio: The Revenant

Actress In A Leading Role:
Brie Larson: Room

Film In A Foreign Language:
Son of Saul (Hungary)

Animated Feature:
Inside Out

Documentary Feature:

Actor In A Supporting Role:
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies

Actress In A Supporting Role:
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

Adapted Screenplay:
The Big Short

Original Screenplay:

The Revenant

Visual Effects:
Ex Machina

Original Score:
The Hateful Eight

Best Original Song:
“Writing’s on the Wall”-Spectre

Film Editing:
Mad Max: Fury Road

Production Design:
Mad Max: Fury Road

Costume Design:
Mad Max: Fury Road

Make Up/Hair:
Mad Max: Fury Road

Sound Editing:
Mad Max: Fury Road

Sound Mixing:
Mad Max: Fury Road

Live Action Short:

Best Animated Short Film:
Bear Story

Documentary Short:
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.