I won’t title this blog “The Academy Awards 2016: Controversial, Emotional & Predictable”, although I want too. What have we had so far? Protests regarding the representation of black people and women nominated, and nominated actors who you can so safely bet on winning – the chances that they won’t is like forgetting your own name. Diversity & Competition or rather a lack thereof. Here, I will only comment on the Best Picture, Best Animated Film, and Best Actor and Actress categories.
The Best Picture Academy Award went to Spotlight (other nominees being The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Bridge of Spies, The Big Short, Brooklyn, and Mad Max: Fury Road). Surprising? Hardly. Room may be too traumatic or misunderstood for the Academy to applaud, The Martian too science-fiction to take seriously, and The Revenant just not good enough to win.
Best Actor and Best Actress Academy Awards went to Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) (other nominees being Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) and Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)); and to Brie Larson (Room) (other nominees being Cate Blanchett (Carol), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years) and Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn). One could only describe these Awards as: “Forget this year, we give out our Academy Awards to those who haven’t had them yet and are long overdue”.
Regarding Leonardo DiCaprio’s win: I love Leonardo DiCaprio. We all love Leonardo DiCaprio. We all have followed his career from Titanic (1997) or maybe even from The Basketball Diaries (1995) and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), and are madly overjoyed with happiness when he finally pockets his golden statuette. Did we want him to win? Yes! Did he deserve to win this year? Probably not. Emotions aside and with a cooler head, it is safe to say that DiCaprio had excelled more brilliantly elsewhere (The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Blood Diamond (2006), The Aviator (2004)), even if he did not exert himself so overtly and strenuously before on the set. The Oscars should not be the competition of lets-see-who-can-show-the-best-film-commitment in terms of physical exercise, weight gain/loss (Bale in The Fighter (2010)) and skills learned (Portman in Black Swan (2011)) that it has become. But apart from that, in The Revenant, DiCaprio still remained pretty much in his comfort acting zone, not showing something extraordinary or acting out-of-his-usual character. Michael Fassbender was unjustly ignored in his role of Brendon in McQueen’s Shame (2011), and at least here in Steve Jobs his superb acting ability could have been recognised.
Regarding Brie Larson’s win: Seeing that Jennifer Lawrence already has an Oscar under her belt and Cate Blanchett has two of them, why not give it to Brie Larson for a change, seeing that Saoirse Ronan is only up-and-coming? Charlotte Rampling is a terrific actress, and in 45 Years, as in such films as I, Anna (2012) and Melancholia (2011), her acting always surprises the audience with its realism. Though Larson’s win appears to be a deserved one, one cannot help but wonder whether, for example, Blanchett’s previous Academy Awards successes had a role to play here, since Blanchett hadn’t displayed less of that outstanding acting ability here than she did in Blue Jasmine (2013), for which she won her Award.
The Best Animated Film Award went to Inside Out (other nominees included Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Shaun the Sheep Movie and When Marnie Was There). A much deserved win, but, alas, with no real competition in the category. Inside Out is already (rightly) considered a masterpiece of modern animation, and other movies in the category simply haven’t had a slightest chance. One of the biggest injustices of this year’s ceremony was not to include Inside Out as a nominee for the Best Picture Award. It is clear that it would have won in that category, and in any other. It is that good.