While the actual ceremony wasn’t without its faults the honors that were given at this year’s Academy Awards proved that the movie industry seems to actually be paying attention to the truly important movies and not just Oscar-bait.
This was a year of controversy and long overdue accolades. Any other year The Danish Girl or Carol would have swept the Oscars for their dramatic portrayal of the LGBT community in a period setting. That description alone practically qualifies them for Oscar consideration. But neither film made a dent this year to the surprise of many. While both films are worthwhile neither one really pushed the envelope like The Revenant, Mad Max or Spotlight and thankfully they ended up being the true winners of the night.
It is as if the Academy suddenly realized that many of the nominees had been paying their dues for decades and it was time they were rewarded. George Miller spent years bringing Mad Max: Fury Road to life and managed to create one of the greatest action films ever made. But action movies don’t win Oscars, at least not until now. By sweeping the technical awards Mad Max legitimized the world of action/science fiction and broke open the floodgates for wildly original filmmaking. It may not have won Best Picture but George Miller should be very proud.
George Miller was the first of the underdogs to win the night. Adam McKay’s win for Best Adapted Screenplay has turned the writer/director, once known for such comedies as Anchorman and Step Brothers, into a certified A-lister. The same can be said for Brie Larson’s win. Up until now Larson has been an indie darling but with an Oscar on her side expect her to easily become the next It Girl. She has the talent; it is about time the world noticed.
The only win of that night that didn’t feel quite right was Ex Machina for Best Visual Effects. Let’s be clear, Ex Machina was one of the best movies of 2015, but its strength came from its acting not its visuals. Either Star Wars or Mad Max should have received that honor for creating utterly surreal worlds and making them believable.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s win really didn’t come as a surprise though The Revenant is really his least deserving role. Granted he should have won the Oscar ages ago, just not for that particular role. He has shown far more range in films like Wolf of Wall Street and The Departed. Still, he was long overdue.
The biggest honor of the night unsurprisingly went to Spotlight. The film struck a chord with many and its devotion to honest storytelling needs to be commended. Like The Big Short, Spotlight tells a timely tale that everyone needs to know about. Had something like The Revenant won it would have been a major slight to a film that not only has significantly better writing but one of the best ensemble casts ever put on screen.
The Academy seems to be making an effort to right the wrongs of previous years by expanding the range of who they nominate and the type of films considered. Diversity both on and off screen is still an issue but at least the Academy is aware of it and making an effort to stem the tide of popular culture to fit the new worldview.