Academy Awards winners, 2016

I’m almost two months late writing this post, sorry about that! Here are my thoughts on this year’s winners (you can refresh your memories of last year’s winners with my post here):

Best Picture
The Big Short
Bridge Of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Spotlight took home the big prize, after one of the closest race in awards history ever. With the PGA going to the Big Short, and the DGA going to the Revenant (and Golden Globe), there was just no predicting which one would win Best Film… Turns out Spotlight, with a SAG ensemble cast win, managed to gather a consensus, wide enough, to get this one. The Academy’s voting system, a much-discussed preferential ballot, strongly favours films that do not polarise the audience – perhaps the Big Short was just too much a ‘comedy’ rather than straightforward drama; the Revenant, on the other hand is the typical definition of a polarising film. Does Spotlight deserve this prize? You bet it does. Both relevant and contemporary, Spotlight is a masterpiece of subdued drama, a film that doesn’t have any triumphant moment, a film that celebrates investigative and important journalism. Out of a year of strong films, it definitely is one of the strongest ones and possibly my personal favourite in the bunch with Mad Max and Bridge of Spies. So very well-deserved indeed, and well done to the Academy for picking the ‘right’ film over The Big Short and the Revenant.

Best Director
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Lenny Abrahamson , Room

Wow, a back-to-back win for Alejandro González Iñárritu, what an achievement! This one is also a deserved one – the Revenant is absolutely gorgeously shot, no wonder he claimed that one. I still had the vaguely tiny hope that George Miller might take this one, but I guess Iñárritu’s artistic sensitivity appeals more to the Academy than Miller’s (quite literally) furious vision. I think for first-time nominees Tom McCarthy, Adam McKay and Lenny Abrahamson, it would have been a really tough one to win, so all in all I quite agree with this choice.

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

YAY LEO! That’s all I have to say really. There is really no need to comment on Leo’s win, other than this one was long due and we can now say ‘Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio’. His performance in the Revenant is, dare I say it, larger than life –it’s hard to say if it’s real or imagined suffering at any rate.

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Well done Brie! As a real fan of hers, I feel personally invested in her career and her perfomance was nothing short of a miracle. But if at her age she is an Oscar winner already, imagine how she will be in a couple of years’ time. Fantastic stuff and a much-needed young face amongst the winners. There wasn’t any real suspense in this category to be honest, like Best Actor, sometimes there are performances that are just so far ahead of all others, they immediately stand out as the strongest contender. Brie certainly was one this year.

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge Of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Aaaaaaaand here is the surprise! Oddly enough I had Mark Rylance ranked THE LOWEST in my Oscar forecast. There just seemed to be so much more momentum for Spotlight, the Big Short and the Revenant, and of course Sylvester Stallone was kind of the favourite here, after his Golden Globe win and the critics lauding his performance. I guess we should have kept a lookout for Mark Rylance – a well-respected actor, in a performance that got a lot of early buzz in a film that clearly resonated since it had many nominations. I’m very happy indeed, his Abel was quite a creation, and there’s something about his presence as an actor that’s quite fascinating.

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Well-done Alicia Vikander! I guess Oscar can’t and won’t resist an It girl –this category was actually quite close I reckon, between her and Kate Winslet who got the Golden Globe and the Bafta. But I guess Alicia’s performance was just too strong (I mean, it was a Best Actress performance more than a Supporting one, how annoying) and some of the voters might have wanted to reward her for her equally strong performance in Ex Machina. So all the momentum was on Alicia’s side really and I can’t wait to see what she does next. Although she is indeed gorgeous, let’s not forget that she is also a fantastic performer, with a natural way of acting that reminds me of Kate Winslet actually. So I’m glad she won this one, and that in between the 6 ‘big’ categories, the Academy managed to spread the prizes out and reward several films.

Best Original Screenplay
Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen, Bridge Of Spies
Alex Garland, Ex Machina
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Inside Out
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, Spotlight
Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, Straight Outta Compton

This one was also largely expected. Well done Tom McCarthy for writing and directing such a story – it genuinely has some fantastic beats, again without being too melodramatic or triumphant. That’s the part I liked best about Spotlight, how subdued and restrained it was. But in my heart Inside Out was an equally deserving winner. When will we see a screenplay like this one again? Not really sure…

Best Adapted Screenplay
Emma Donoghue, Room
Drew Goddard, The Martian
Nick Hornby, Brooklyn
Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, The Big Short
Phyllis Nagy, Carol

And so Adam McKay can get a consolation here from winning Best Adapted Screenplay. To be honest I haven’t read the book so I am not sure how much of a good adaptation the Big Short is, but it is one hell of a screenplay. Quite glad the Martian didn’t win anything and I can’t figure out why it was nominated in the first place. Shame that all the other three nominees, Carol, Brooklyn and Room are all rather female-driven stories. But I guess the Big Short hit that sweet spot of Important Issue that Matters to America and also entertaining enough without being slobby on the characters and/or story construction. So again, a deserving winner and an expected one too.

Best Foreign-Language Film
Son Of Saul
A War
Embrace The Serpent

A fully expected win here, since Son of Saul had been sweeping prizes left right and centre since Cannes.

Best Animated Film of the Year
Boy & The World (O Menino E O Mundo)
Inside Out
Shaun The Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS ONE!! Of course if there ever was a Pixar animated film that deserved that prize, it was this one. Pete Docter’s words were wonderful, too. It’s just such an outstanding film, I reckon it should have really been up there with Spotlight and the Revenant in the Best Film category, as it just ultimately represents the best in film today…

Best Documentary Feature
Cartel Land
The Look Of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom

I really, really need to see this one. It’s no surprise that Amy won here, despite the controversy that followed the release of the documentary.

Best Production Design
Bridge of Spies
Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo, Bernhard Henrich
The Danish Girl
Eve Stewart, Michael Standish
Mad Max: Fury Road
Colin Gibson, Lisa Thompson
The Martian
Arthur Max, Celia Bobak
The Revenant
Jack Fisk, Hamish Purdy

This one was SUCH a strong one for Mad Max, it was really theirs to lose. It was just such unique production design, incredible stuff. I remember seeing the trailer for the first time and feeling queasy just looking at that production design, it was unlike anything we’d seen before… A deserving winner here for sure.

Best Cinematography
Edward Lachman
The Hateful Eight
Robert Richardson
Mad Max: Fury Road
John Seale
The Revenant
Emmanuel Lubezki
Roger Deakins

Aaaaaaaaaaaand Chivo pulling out the THIRD win, oh my god amazing. I am such in awe of his talent, his commitment to natural lighting, the way he literally captures poetry on film. His filmography is such a strong testament of his talent and artistry, there’s just literally no one quite like him as DoP. Well at this level of genius, there is Roger Deakins, sure, but it’s a completely different thing, Lubezki is just so completely in a different register. The way I describe the Revenant is (and to me it’s the highest compliment I could make) ‘Iñárritu trying to emulate Terrence Malick’. And that’s how beautiful it is, just pure poetry. Oh and also a quick shout-out to John Seale who really did outstanding work on Mad Max.

Best Costume Design
Sandy Powell
Sandy Powell
The Danish Girl
Paco Delgado
Mad Max: Fury Road
Jenny Beavan
The Revenant
Jacqueline West

Jenny Beavan, oh boy, YOU ROCK JENNY. I mean this whole controversy around the way she dressed at the ceremony and how no one clapped for her was ridiculous but at least it brought under the limelight a category that doesn’t often get it. Well done Jenny Beavan for a) your fantastic work on Mad Max b) your bad ass and exemplary attitude in handling all of this. I guess winning the guild award in the tech categories was more of an indicator than it was for the main categories. But anyway, I’m glad she won and sorry Sandy Powell despite the double nomination!

Best Editing
The Big Short
Hank Corwin
Mad Max: Fury Road
Margaret Sixel
The Revenant
Stephen Mirrione
Tom McArdle
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey

The big one!! I like how all the big prizes were scattered amongst different films, it’s a bit boring to see one film sweep many categories. Anyway, this is a HUGE win for Mad Max, rarely do Best Picture and Best Editing split, but I guess they wanted to recognise Mad Max with a ‘major’ award. And to be honest it was fantastic work from Margaret Sixel and I wish there were more female editors working out there.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann
Love Larson, Eva Von Bahr
Mad Max: Fury Road
Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, Damian Martin
The Revenant
Sian Grigg, Duncan Jarman, Robert A. Pandini

A well-deserved win for Mad Max, who turned out to be the big winner of technical Oscars. It was just such a stunning universe, no wonder hair and make-up won as well, it’s such an integral part of the visual experience. I must say the Revenant was also looming large over this category, but in the end the skills displayed in Mad Max were too big to ignore.

Best Music (Score)
Bridge of Spies
Thomas Newman
Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight
Ennio Morricone
Jóhann Jóhannsson
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
John Williams

Another expected win here, I mean, what a legend, hard to believe he hadn’t won one before. Finally that particular wrong was made right. Next year Thomas… the fourteenth time might be the one!! What a category though, all these composers are absolutely outstanding.

Best Music (Song)
Fifty Shades of Grey
“Earned It”
The Weeknd, Belly, Jason ‘DaHeala’ Quenneville, Stephan Moccio
The Hunting Ground
“Til It Happens to You”
Diane Warren, Lady Gaga
Racing Extinction
“Manta Ray”
J. Ralph, Antony Hegarty
“Writing’s On The Wall”
Sam Smith, James Napier
“Simple Song #3”
David Lang

No one saw that one coming, with Lady Gaga campaigning and being front and centre of this category! Also, I kind of hate this song, it’s the utter opposite of Skyfall – poorly written, not memorable at all. Not sure why it won here, perhaps Oscar voters just ticked off the film they’d seen and out of all of these, Spectre must have been the one that was the most widely seen…

Best Sound Mixing
Bridge of Spies
Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Drew Kunin
Mad Max: Fury Road
Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, Ben Osmo
The Martian
Paul Massey, Mark Taylor, Mac Ruth
The Revenant
Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom, Chris Duesterdiek
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, Stuart Wilson

Aaaaand that’s four for Mad Max, wow, lots of love from the Academy there! I wonder if sound mixing and editing tend to go to the same film? I believe they do but would need to check… Anyway I believe this definitely qualifies as a technical sweep for Fury Road. The Martian went home empty-handed in the hand, quite surprising for a film that relied so much on technical prowess too, but I guess Mad Max was just too big of a contender.

Best Sound Editing
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mark A. Mangini, David White
The Martian
Oliver Tarney
The Revenant
Martín Hernández, Lon Bender
Alan Robert Murray
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Matthew Wood, David Acord

Well done Mad Max for grabbing this one, I thought maybe Star Wars would ultimately win this one but clearly there was a lot of love for Mad Max’s technical achievements. And deservedly so. Sound editing is a true art, in this particular film more than others I should think; in many ways it’s as difficult as the film editing really, it’s all about recreating the sounds and making them feel real and natural. Certainly in Mad Max the level of work was really outstanding, or maybe it was just that flame throwing guitar that won everyone over!

Best Visual Effects
Ex Machina
Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Williams Ardington, Sara Bennett
Mad Max: Fury Road
Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver, Andy Williams
The Martian
Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence, Steven Warner
The Revenant
Richard McBride, Matt Shumway, Jason Smith, Cameron Waldbauer
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Roger Guyett, Pat Tubach, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould

This one is such an upset when you really think about it. I mean, most Oscar watchers would have just never guessed that one. With all those heavy contenders, and especially Star Wars and Mad Max that just literally sweeped all the tech categories, Visual Effects was the one you would expect them to win the most. And yet, yet, little Ex Machina made its way in the voters’ head and there you are, in the face of all those big blockbusters, ultimately Ex Machina was recognised. I reckon that’s a wonderful story, and the proof that budget isn’t always everything, even in terms of VFX which would be the biggest expense in terms of making those films. Well done Ex Machina indeed.

And finally, as usual:

Best Documentary Short
Body Team 12
David Darg, Bryn Mooser
War Within the Walls
Courtney Marsh, Jerry Franck
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
Adam Benzine
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
Last Day of Freedom
Dee Hibbert-Jones, Nomi Talisman

Best Animated Short Film
Historia de un oso
Gabriel Osorio Vargas, Pato Escala Pierart
Mi ne mozhem zhit bez kosmosa
Konstantin Bronzit
Richard Williams, Imogen Sutton
Sanjay’s Super Team
Sanjay Patel, Nicole Paradis Grindle
World of Tomorrow
Don Hertzfeldt

Best Live Action Short Film
Ave Maria
Basil Khalil, Eric Dupont
Day One
Henry Hughes
Alles wird gut
Patrick Vollrath
Jamie Donoughue
Benjamin Cleary, Serena Armitage

See you next year for another fantastic year in filmmaking!!

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