From Chris Rock delivering some blows to the Academy, to a ill-advised appearance and joke from Stacey Dash, and even a oddly mixed message (The Weekend performed his single, “Earned It” from 50 Shades of Grey before Lady Gaga got on stage surrounded by sexual assault victims to perform “Til It Happens To You” from The Hunting Ground) and celebrity call outs on various issues, this years ceremony was very odd. I applaud the effort by many to bring up a host of social issues even if the final product was a bit uneven.
Let’s get to the awards themselves shall we? You see what actually won and how far off I was on my predictions…
Is Michael Keaton magic? Does he carry a bunch of lucky rabbit feet to all his productions now? That’s two years in a row where he’s been the lead (Birdman) or integral part (Spotlight) of the Best Picture now two years running. Like the career makeover Matthew McConaughey, the McConaissance has reached Keaton and it’s been a fun ride to watch. The Oscar train will probably end here for Keaton, but there’s no reason for the top notch quality to stop.
My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road
I’m not even mad it loss given how amazing the winning film is. That being said, I seriously wonder how much this nomination really meant in the grand scheme of things. Was it simply lip service to a younger crowd? It may partially be that, but I think the other areas Fury Road excelled at show that this film was highly respected despite losing Best Picture. While the Academy has to grow in various respects, they are becoming more sensitive to films that don’t fit the Oscar bait mold.
Winner and My Pick: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
It’s about time!! I wasn’t sure if he was going to pull it off, but I never thought the rest of the field stood out enough. Leo’s commitment is clear in every scene and his preparation shows. I would argue it’s actually not his best performance, but it ranks highly and competes well against the other nominations fairly well. He certainly didn’t win his Oscar as a collection of everything of previous work; this one was well deserved.
Oscar Nominees I Left Off: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl & Matt Damon, The Martian
Both of these were solid performances, but they didn’t stand out enough to warrant inclusion in the Best Actor race. I would argue Redmayne is really overshadowed by the skill of Alicia Vikander (and her performance in Danish Girl wasn’t even what I put up for Best Actress as you’ll see below). Damon is good and he had to be when the majority of the film is fixated on his face. However, all the additional screen time wasn’t enough to make his performance better than the field of contenders.
Hopeful: Michael B. Jordan, Creed
While I still didn’t have Jordan winning on my list, it’s very hard to see Stallone’s nomination for best supporting actor when Jordan was the bedrock of the film. He certainly deserved a nomination for an excellent job and the impressive range of emotions he has grown into. I have been watching this man since Fruitvale Station and his maturation has been a thrill to watch. I doubt this will be the last time he makes my list.
Winner: Brie Larson, Room
Larson was very high on my list even though I didn’t pick her to win. Her work in the first half of the film is excellent. We see a mother doing her best in arguably one of the most impossible situations. She works hard within the confines of her imprisonment to encourage and build up her son. Her major argument with him, when she attempts to explain their situation, is a fine balance of love, anger, and despair. She wears different hats through that conversation and I’m not sure many could have pulled it off. Her acting in the second half of the film is more intriguing than the first. She now has to adjust to new surroundings and deal with her captivity. Trust me, I see why she was picked and the best actress category was the most densely packed of any field this year.
My Pick: Saorise Ronan, Brooklyn
I truly thought she could pull it off, but Larson was too much of juggernaut with Room. In Brooklyn, the dialogue is important through so much of it, but film site Fandor highlights one of my favorite parts of her performance, Eilis’s expressions. We can identify with much of her story and growth as she leaves home, but if Ronan fails to wear those tears and joys on her face, the movie would simply fall flat. There are two scenes that nail this concept for me: when she confront her old boss in Ireland and when she’s on boat ride back to America. The proud and confident face she wears in these are a sharp contrast to the way she started the film. Again, it was a packed field and
Hopeful: Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
While I was thoroughly impressed by her performance in The Danish Girl (Which even made me knock Redmayne down a few pegs), Ex Machina still holds as her strongest of the year. Similar to the expressive face that Saorise Ronan displays in Brooklyn, Vikander impresses and draws all the attention on her. I wasn’t thinking about the CGI they used to create the rest of her body, which was very well done. I wasn’t concerned with her male counterpart whom she ends up deceiving in spectacular fashion. She did such a great job that her acting was the only thing I could focus on even with how strong the rest of the film was. I’m glad she won later for Danish Girl and received Best Supporting Actress, but she coul
Oscar Nominees I Left Off: Charlotte Rumpling, 45 Years (Only film I wasn’t able to see this year, apologies Charlotte!!), Jennifer Lawrence, Joy Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Again, apologies to Charlotte Rumpling, as 45 Years was the only film I couldn’t get in time before the awards show. Lawrence and Blanchett had strong performances, but I felt like I was watching them, and not their characters; I wasn’t overtly blown away.
Best Supporting Actors
Winner: Mark Rylance, Bridge Of Spies
This win surprised most of the Nerd Union writers, and I have to agree. It was a solid performance and I think the nomination was warranted. It just hard to imagine that it beat some pretty incredible work by Ruffalo and Hardy.
My Pick: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Easily the standout in a crowded film of superb performances, Ruffalo excels in his portrayal of journalist Michael Rezendes. He inhabits this pretty well with the frustrations and persistence of Rezendes expressed well through Mark Ruffalo’s mannerisms. He’s easily able to get us to rooting for him in his search for the truth. Ruffalo may get knocked a few pegs for the sheer number of other performance in Spotlight. To which I’ll say, hogwash! He’s clearly excelling above everyone in that film.
Honorable Mention: Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Wow, this category is really harder than Best Actor and Hardy is one of the reasons why. From his accent, delivery and mannerisms, if Hardy’s character wasn’t one of the most vile in the past decade, then it’s at least tied with Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds for best villain to love and root against.
Oscar Nominees I Left Off: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Did he have a solid performance? Yes. Oscar Worthy? No, not really. I think there were a bunch of solid performances that could have probably made it into this list, but I don’t believe Stallone should be one of them.
Best Supporting Actresses
Winner and My Pick: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Vikander has been one of the most impressive actresses in Hollywood and this year has been her coming out party. As stated above, I took Redmayne out of my Best Actor category because of how strong I think her performance was. Granted, she benefited from playing off of the transitions and discoveries Redmayne’s character was going through, but she made the most of her material and it showed. I was rather disappointed by the Supporting Actress field as much I the best actor field
Winner and My Pick: Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Can he pull off back to back wins? Yes, he can and did. That was one of the biggest questions heading into tonight, and Iñárritu clearly impressed enough. The Revenant was one of the best shot films in recent memory and it captures the narrative so well, it’s hard to make a solid point against it. Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio may be front and center, but the work Iñárritu puts into the gritty and gruesome parts shines just as bright. He’s the first two time winner since 1949 and 1950 when Joseph L. Mankiewicz won back to back for All About Eve and A Letter to Three Wives.
My Additions: Ryan Coogler, Creed, Ridley Scott, The Martian
So if I don’t have Michael B. Jordan winning in my Best Actor (even though he should have been nominated), the biggest snub has to be to Ryan Coogler. He directed in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time. As I stated in my Best Picture post, his decisions to make the fights more visceral and engaging pay off in a major way. He brought life back to series I seriously felt should have been left alone. He also put together a great film using some under-utilized actors, reminded us that Stallone can still act when he wants to, and has possibly put Jordan on a higher playing field. What more do you want from a Best Director?
In a similar way, picking The Martian brought life back to Ridley Scott in a way that made my jaw drop. Kyle Nelson has been on record saying several times that if Scott would pick better scripts, he might have more success. No one knew The Martian was going to be a sure fire hit, but it certainly had a great framework and Scott succeeded in knocking it out of the park.
Here are the other winners and picks from last night:
Best Animated Feature: Inside Out, Pete Docter, Jonas Rivera
This was really a no brainer and as I stated in a earlier best picture article, it should have made some waves for best picture.
Best Foreign Language Film, Son of Saul, László Nemes
Best Original Song, “Writing’s on the Wall” Sam Smith, Jimmy Napes for Spectre
Best Original Screenplay, Spotlight, Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
Best Cinematography, The Revenant, Emmanuel Lebuski
Easily one of best filmed movies in the past 10 years. There’s not a single boring scene visually and the new camera, Alexa 65 will probably be getting a lot of use after this win.
Best Writing Adapted Screenplay, The Big Short, Adam McKay, Charles Randolph
Best Visual Effects, Ex Machina, Andrew Whitehurst, Sara Bennett, Paul Norris
Well deserved indeed. We are able to believe Vikander is moving and behaving as an android. The fact that she’s in a green suit doesn’t cross your mind at all.
Best Documentary Feature, Amy, Asif Kapadia, James Gay-Rees
Best Animated Short Film, Bear Story, Gabriel Osorio Vargas
Best Documentary Short Subject, A Girl In The River: The Price Of Forgiveness, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
Best Live Action Short Film, Stutterer, Benjamin Cleary
Best Original Music Score, The Hateful Eight, Ennio Morricone
I think Mad Max should have been considered a bit more for Best Picture and if you take a look at the strong haul below, there’s a good case for it. Dialogue was probably what hurt it the most, but at least the other notable and key elements of the film were recognized.
Let’s look at all the awards Mad Max: Fury Road received:
Best Makeup to Lesley Vanderwalt, Damien Martin and Elka Wardega
Best Sound Mixing to Gregg Rudloff, Chris Jenkins, and Ben Osmo
Best Production Design to Lisa Thompson and Colin Gibson
Best Sound Editing to David White and Mark Mangini
Best Film Editing to Margaret Siskel
Best Costume Design to Jenny Beavan