Oscar Oblivion: 2016 Winners, Surprises and the ‘Mad’

The 88th annual Academy Awards is in the books and it was a night of intrigue. Not just who would win, but what exactly would host Chris Rock say and would the ABC network have to drop the sound in case something vitriolic were uttered. Alas, Rock was a pro, handling the #OscarsSoWhite debate and lack of color among those nominated. As part of his opening monologue, Chris Rock acknowledged, “You’re damn right Hollywood is racist.” Going further he expressed that this was the 88th ceremony and that the lack of diversity among nominees had probably happened at least seventy-one other times previous. The big lightning rod comment was about the 1960s and how African-Americans could care less about not being nominated for Academy Awards. They were too busy being concerned with possible lynching.

I don’t take much stock on who wins an Academy Award. They are platitudes extended to those part of a governing body where most individuals don’t take the time or make an effort to watch a majority of the films that are voted upon. Besides, it is time that ultimately decides the true merits of a film. Give enough time to reflect and you see that the voters never get it right. “Bringing Up Baby,” Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” and “Modern Times,” film noir greats “The Big Sleep,” “Out of the Past,” “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” John Ford’s “The Searchers” and “Sweet Smell of Success” are among the great films to never be nominated for a single Academy Award.

Early on in the proceedings it looked like “Mad Max: Fury Road” was going to be this runaway freight train gobbling up awards as if it was playing a game of Pac-Man. It finished with six very deserving Oscars. Not bad for a dystopian genre release. Not bad for a sequel to a rust-bucket franchise that previously starred Mel Gibson. With all of these trophies there was a glimmer of a chance that George Miller would win Best Director over favorite Alejandro G. Iñárritu (last year’s winner for “Birdman”). Miller would not and Iñárritu became only the second filmmaker to win back-to-back directing Oscars.

Okay, let this process a second but Adam McKay, the writer and director behind such films as “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “Step Brothers” is now an Oscar winner.

The biggest surprise – or shock, rather – was Sylvester Stallone not getting his Lifetime Achievement trophy for supporting actor, losing to Mark Rylance. Honestly, I did not see that coming. I thought Tom Hardy over Stallone, maybe. Then again, Stallone and the Academy Awards is like an old girlfriend. They had been good together in 1976 with “Rocky,” where Stallone was a double nominee for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay. Forty years later they hook up again and he finds himself in contention for a supporting Oscar, but the voters weren’t looking to give him a lifetime achievement honor and instead rewarded the best part about Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies.”

The other surprise, and probably more of a gender-equality statement, was selecting Sam Smith’s opening title track to “Spectre” over the likes of The Weeknd’s “Earned It,” David Lang’s “Simple Song #3,” and heavily favored “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga. In disrespecting fashion, only three of the five nominated songs were performed at the ceremony – coincidently, the three artists are prevalent on Top 40 radio. But after Gaga’s stirring performance, which got a standing ovation and was preceded by an introduction by Vice President Joe Biden, deflation set in as Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes won for “Writing on the Wall,” one of the worst James Bond title tracks and just a few years after Adele won for “Skyfall.” But Smith is the first openly gay recipient to win an Academy Award, so perhaps the voting body felt the need to make history instead of reward something more deserving.

As the night was drawing to a close, many of the favorites in their prospective categories were victorious. Brie Larson was the best nominee in the Best Actress class by far for her performance in “Room” and Leonardo DiCaprio finally won one of those gold statues that has eluded him for quite a long time. The running joke is that DiCaprio would never win an Oscar and that the actor that played DiCaprio in a biopic of his life would win. For DiCaprio it seems like a culmination after having been overlooked for his performance in “Titanic” and the outcry from teenage girls that wanted to see the “King of the World” justly recognized. Perhaps DiCaprio should have won for “Blood Diamond” or “The Aviator” or “The Wolf of Wall Street.” But now that he’s finally won we can shut up about the will he/won’t he ever win an Academy Award. Thank goodness.

At the end of the night the right film won for Best Picture. I should have gone with my gut when filling out predictions but instead went with “The Revenant,” which was riding a wave of momentum, picking up a few trophies leading up to the Academy Awards. The winner, “Spotlight,” is arguably the most important film of 2015 and the first film about journalists to win Best Picture. “Spotlight” may have won but the best remembered film of 2015 will be “Mad Max: Fury Road.” #ShinyAndCrome #Valhalla

Well, that’s a wrap, ladies and gents. Agree to disagree, the 88th annual Academy Awards got a number of things right even though it is still color-blind to see the problems that will continue to exist for many years to come.

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