The 88th Academy Awards have been and gone, bringing the usual mix of surprises and controversies. Hosted by Chris Rock, the awards were presented in the order a film would usually be made- starting with the script.
Best Original Screenplay- Spotlight
Beating out the likes of Bridge of Spies and Straight Outta Compton, the story of The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team took home the award for best written script. Penned by Tom McCarthy (Up) and Josh Singer (Fringe), the first award of the show foreshadowed many more awards for the film.
Best Adapted Screenplay- The Big Short
The second award was won by another Oscars favourite, depicting events leading up to the housing market crash of 2007. The film beat The Martian and Brooklyn, other films adapted from novels, and was adapted from the novel by Michael Lewis by screenwriters Adam McKay (Anchorman) and Charles Randolph (Love & Other Drugs)
Best Supporting Actress- Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl
Another awards-season favourite, The Danish Girl won its only award with Vikander’s portrayal of Gerda Wegener, supporting Eddie Redmayne. Other nominees were Jennifer Jason Leigh from The Hateful Eight or Rooney Mara from Carol.
Best Costume Design- Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road won the first of many awards with Jenny Beaven’s costume design. The film’s minimal costume design beat out The Revenant and Cinderella, but also highlighted one of the controversies about the Oscars- Jenny Beaven’s treatment. After Stephen Fry’s insulting comment of her dress at the BAFTAs, several of the audience members refused to clap her on receiving the award.
Best Production Design- Mad Max: Fury Road
In one of the most confusingly-named awards, Mad Max won its second award for the set design of the film. Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson’s design of the wasteland beat out competitors The Revenant and The Martian, set in similarly stark locations.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling- Mad Max: Fury Road
The technical side of the awards were dominated by Mad Max: Fury Road, winning its third award with the facial side of costume design. The only two other nominees for this award were The Revenant and The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared– the latter of which receiving no other nominations.
Best Cinematography- The Revenant
Despite being a nominee, Mad Max’s streak was broken with the cinematography of industry veteran Emmanuel Lubezki (Burn After Reading). Other films Sicario and The Hateful Eight stood no chance for award favourite The Revenant, which seemed to do well in the non-technical awards.
Best Film Editing- Mad Max: Fury Road
After the brief interlude Mad Max returned, with experienced editor Margaret Sixel (Happy Feet) beating out favourites The Big Short and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Around two thirds of films that win this award have gone on to win Best Picture, so fingers were crossed for Mad Max to go on to win that too.
Best Sound Editing- Mad Max: Fury Road
The film’s fifth award went to Sound Editing, which entails the creation of sound effects or aesthetics. Beating out the likes of The Martian and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the minimalist style of sound effects and usage obviously paid off for the film
Best Sound Mixing- Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road won their sixth and final award for Sound Mixing, an award questionably similar to the previous one. This award is focused more on the capture and mixing of the sound, with the post-apocalypse epic trumping The Martian and The Revenant in the technical side to the music.
Best Visual Effects- Ex Machina
This award was all but guaranteed to go to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so the surprise win of this relatively small British film was a warm surprise. With a budget of only $15 million to Star Wars’ $200 million, the use of subtle yet effective effects gave Ex Machina its only Oscar.
Best Animated Short Film- Bear Story
In the traditionally less-well known categories of short films, the animation award was won by this Chilean film. It beat World of Tomorrow and Pixar’s Sanjay’s Super Team, showing that South American cinema is becoming an important cinematic movement.
Best Animated Feature Film- Inside Out
In a twist that surprised absolutely no-one, Pixar’s Inside Out won the award for best film made by computers. This is now Pixar’s fifteenth Academy Award. Other nominees included Anomalisa and Shaun the Sheep Movie, both stop-motion films.
Best Supporting Actor- Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies
Playing alongside Tom Hanks in this Spielberg film, Rylance won his first Oscar from his portrayal of Rudolf Abel, the man Hanks defends in court. He beat arguably more established actors Mark Ruffalo, Christian Bale, Tom Hardy and Sylvester Stalone for this award.
Best Documentary- Short Subject- A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
This Pakistani short exploring honour killings in the country, a very real current issue, won the award for best factual short. It was made for HBO by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, and was very highly acclaimed for its portrayal of the subject.
Best Documentary- Feature- Amy
This biographical documentary on the life of singer Amy Winehouse, who passed away in 2011. Directed by and starring Asif Kapadia, it became the highest-grossing UK documentary of all time. It beat to the post the likes of Cartel Land and Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom, showing Britain’s persistent optimism.
Best Live Action Short Film- Stutterer
Another film from the British Isles won this award- Serena Armitage and Benjamin Cleary created Stutterer, a short quite obviously about speech impediments. Other nominees included Shok and Day One, films about war and conflict, which in the end lost out to this romantic short.
Best Foreign Language Film- Son of Saul
The Hungarian film Son of Saul earned widespread acclaim upon release, and here it beat out Colombian Embrace of the Serpent and French Mustang in its dark tale set in Auschwitz. It follows time spent by Saul, a man who disposes of bodies from the gas chambers, and provided a unique cultural perspective on the Holocaust.
Best Original Song- Writing’s On The Wall- Jimmy Napes & Sam Smith- Spectre
The second controversy of the night came from Sam Smith’s acceptance of the Oscar for best individual song. Not from the award itself, written for the James Bond film Spectre and being only the second Bond theme to win the award after Skyfall. In his acceptance speech Smith claimed to be the first openly gay man to win an Oscar, which was false- although he later apologised for his mistake. This award was also disputed a lot, with others wanting Lady Gaga’s ‘’Til it Happens to You’ from The Hunting Ground or The Weeknd’s ‘Earned It’ from Fifty Shades of Grey to win- although I think we can all agree that it is better that the latter film won no Oscars, after its Razzies win previously.
Best Original Score- The Hateful Eight- Ennio Morricone
Music legends Ennio Morricone and John Williams (for Star Wars: The Force Awakens) went head-to-head for this award, which ultimately went to Morricone in his first ever Oscar win. The Hateful Eight was Morricone’s first Western in over 30 years, leading to his beating Williams as well as Carter Burwell (Carol) and Thomas Newman (Bridge of Spies), two other established film composers.
Best Director- Alejandro G. Iñárritu– The Revenant
The first of the four big awards, best director went to The Revenant’s director, who previously won for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) last year. The Mexican superstar director beat out other Oscar leviathans Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) and George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) in the film’s second win of the evening.
Best Actress in a Leading Role- Brie Larson- Room
Relatively unknown actress Brie Larson won this award for her portrayal of Joy “Ma” Newsome in this recent film which was expected to win more awards. She beat better-known actresses Jennifer Lawrence (Joy) and Cate Blanchett (Carol) in this unexpected yet refreshing win.
Best Actor in a Leading Role- Leonardo Dicaprio- The Revenant
After years of amazing roles and no awards, Dicaprio finally won his first Oscar for his portrayal of Hugh Glass in this recent epic. He beat previous winner Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), expected winner Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and unexpected nominee Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), as at this point people were sceptical that Dicaprio would ever win. Fortunately, he did.
Best Picture- Spotlight
The most prestigious award of the evening didn’t go to expected winners The Revenant or The Big Short, not to prior powerhouses Mad Max: Fury Road or Bridge of Spies, nor to less expected nominees Brooklyn or Room (or to The Martian, the only other nominee). It went to Spotlight, winner of Best Original Screenplay- the first award, and this- the last one. Directed by Tom McCarthy, the film has ultimately been declared one of the winners of the awards, along with Mad Max: Fury Road with the most awards (6) and The Revenant for second most (3).
Article by Tom Bedford