George Miller gets lots of hugs
In 2016, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was sure to recognize film technicians and performers of color in every way that was not nominating them for awards. By generally highlighting the work done by black actors in 2015, reminding the audience that it had given awards to black people in the past, and giving an honorary award to Spike Lee, the Academy metaphorically extended to black people an awkward fist bump and asked “we’re cool, right?” They were lucky they hired Chris Rock to host the event long before the nominations were announced.
Rock was, as could be expected, the best part of fairly dull, though pleasantly lean, ceremony. Rock treated the derth of black nominees as what it is; a relatively small sample of the routine indignities suffered by black people in the film industry and every other area of American culture. Rock could host the Academy Awards in his sleep, so comfortable is he with performing for a crowd. He brought his easy charm and acerbic wit to the proceedings. Especially charming was his introduction of a troop of Girl Scouts who sold cookies to the amassed celebrities.
The order in which the Awards were given was meant to be a reflection of the process of making a film, a claim that fell apart almost immediately, unless somehow movies are made as such:
1. The script is written (Best Original and Adapted Screenplays)
2. A supporting actress is cast (Best Actress in a Supporting Role)
3. The costumes are made (Best Costume Design)
4. Makeup is applied to the actors (Best Makeup and Hairstyling)
5. The sets are built (Best Production Design)
5. The film is lit and shot (Best Cinematography)
6. The film is edited (Best Editing)
7. Sound effects are added (Best Sound Editing and Mixing)
8. Visual effects are added (Best Visual Effects)
9. A supporting actor is cast (Best Actor in a Supporting Role)
10. The film is scored (Best Original Song and Score)
11. A director is hired (Best Director)
12. The film’s leads are cast (Best Actor and Actress)
13. The film is completed (Best Picture) (This does not apply to animated films, shorts, documentaries or foreign language pictures, all of which were given their awards before “Best Song”
If the Academy were being honest they would say that the order had nothing to do with wanting to reflect how a film is made and everything to do with wanting to give the writing awards early in the ceremony and not with the sexier, “important” awards.
As far as the actual recipients of the aforementioned awards, there were not many surprises. Renaissance Fan favorite Mad Max: Fury Road picked up the most trophies with six, though none of them were for Best Picture or Best Director, so Director/Producer George Miller spent the ceremony embracing his crew as they passed by him on their way to the stage to accept awards for costuming, production design, makeup, editing, sound editing, and sound mixing, all which were totally deserved. It’s just unfortunate that the true author of Fury Road went un-awarded. Other highlights included Alejandro G. Iñárritu winning an unprecedented second Best Director Oscar (undeserved both years, sorry Andy), Leo DiCaprio expectedly winning his first Oscar after six nominations, dark horse candidate Spotlight taking home Best Picture, and the wonderful Brie Larson and Alicia Vikander receiving what we can expect to be the first of multiple acting awards. It was good to see the criminally under-seen Ex Machina get a win (Best Visual Effects), and it will be fun to say “Academy Award Winner Adam McKay” (Best Adapted Screenplay) from now on.
Thankfully, the ceremony was, relatively, fat-free. The presenters did not seem overly rushed by the end of the telecast, they were able to list all of the nominees before they named the winners, which is something with which they have struggled in the past. New this year was a ticker during the speeches. Presumably all the nominees had given their list of “thank-you’s” ahead of time so winners could forgo a long list of people to whom they feel gratitude, and get the real meat and potatoes of their acceptance speeches as the names of their management team marched across the bottom of the screen. Innovation, huzzah! Next year let’s diversify the nominees.