Oscars 2016: Five quick reactions

So it’s the morning after the night before (it’s still morning in L.A, OK?). All over Hollywood, celebrities are waking up with sore heads. Leo has fallen asleep clutching his statuette. Jenny Beavan, the evening’s biggest badass, is probably still partying.

What to make of it all, now that the dust has settled?

DiCaprio

  1. It was a pleasingly political night

Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist. – Chris Rock

The consensus seems to be that Chris Rock was a great host – a few cringe-worthy moments aside – with his jokes generating laughs whilst hitting the satirical mark. This mark, of course, is the controversy surrounding the lack of diversity at the Oscars and in the film industry in general. It’s hugely encouraging to see this issue gaining so much traction of late; here’s hoping it leads to real change.

Among the glitz and the glamour, other figures also took the opportunity to speak up about serious causes. Leonardo spoke passionately about climate change, as did Jenny Beavan, citing her fear that Mad Max could be ‘horribly prophetic‘. Vice President Joe Biden spoke out against campus rape culture whilst introducing a performance by Lady Gaga, who brought sexual assault survivors out onto the stage to highlight her song’s powerful message. And, on the back of Spotlight‘s surprise Best Picture win, producer Michael Sugar called on Pope Francis to ‘protect the children and restore the faith’.

These moments are all reminders that, trivial though awards can be, the platform they offer can be used for good.

2. Mad Max rules – but there’s still a long road ahead

Mad Max editor Margaret Sixel takes to the podium. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
Mad Max editor Margaret Sixel takes to the podium. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Mad Max: Fury Road may not have taken home the award for Best Picture, but there’s no denying that it ruled the night, winning six statuettes overall: Best Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Film Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Its success in these ‘technical’ categories is both deserved and kind of telling, as it serves to highlight the film’s lack of success or even of nominations elsewhere.

Generally we tend to consider Sci-Fi, fantasy and action films to be ‘low culture’ rather than the kind of worthy art the major awards are supposed to recognise. It’s rare to see acting or writing recognised in these genres – hence Alicia Vikander getting her nomination for The Danish Girl rather than her widely acclaimed role in Ex Machina, and Tom Hardy getting his nomination for his mumbly turn in The Revenant rather than his mumbly turn in Max. Even The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which absolutely swept the board at the 2004 Oscars, failed to get a single acting nomination.

Fantasy and Sci-Fi are absolutely mainstream these days, not the preserve of so-called nerds, and are huge business for the entertainment industry. But when it comes to artistic recognition, they’ve got a way to go.

3. Spotlight took everybody by surprise

The cast and crew of Spotlight takes to the stage. Image: The Telegraph
The cast and crew of Spotlight takes to the stage. Image: The Telegraph

The bookies had The Revenant, by a mile, or even The Big Short (thank goodness that didn’t win). Unglamorous, unshowy Spotlight seemed like a respectable contender, and nothing more.

I’m not sure it would have been my choice (see: Brooklyn, Room) but I’m very happy to see this well-made, gripping and important film get such a big boost. This win will mean it’s seen by more people, and its crucial message will be spread far and wide.

4. I love Brie. And Alicia. And Mark. And…oh, Leo too, I suppose.

Image: nydailynews
Image: nydailynews

I’ve always just adored stories. Hearing them, seeing them, being in them. – Mark Rylance

I have loved Brie Larson ever since she made me cry ugly snotty tears in the beautiful indie Short Term 12. I have loved Alicia Vikander since she was the most enchanting thing about Joe Wright’s thoroughly enchanting Anna Karenina. (Basically what I am trying to say is that I loved these actresses before they were cool.) I am a little sad for Saiorse and for Cate, but otherwise, thoroughly worthy winners.

As for Mark Rylance, he is a magical, delightful, wise little pixie of a man. As well as being an actor of towering global stature, obviously. If he can’t be in absolutely everything I’ll settle for him being the absolute best thing in one or two films every year, which seems to be his current trajectory.

Leo’s Oscar is both a recognition of a long and stellar career in the movies, and a compensation for having to sleep inside that dead horse. As far as the former goes I’m more than happy to see him get his reward, and his triumph after so many years as an also-ran was the source of last night’s best internet jokes. The fact that it’s his Revenant performance which finally clinched it is a little concerning, as it highlights the tendency of awards ceremonies – and of film criticism in general – to fetishise suffering, and to appreciate the showy over the subtle.

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Image: Tumblr

5. It’s all over for another year

And thank goodness for that. The media can stop pointlessly speculating, making embarrassing red carpet faux pas, putting women under unfair scrutiny for their clothing choices, and generally acting like art can be reduced to winners and losers. I can stop complaining about how much I hate the Oscars whilst simultaneously providing a suspicious amount of Oscar coverage on this blog.

So roll up the red carpet, hang up your tux, and stash your statuette in the downstairs loo.  Whether you’re an A-lister nursing a hangover or a punter checking out the #Oscars hashtag on Twitter, it’s time to get back to work.

Published by

Sophie Lister

Damaris resources bring films to new audiences, start conversations, and enrich lives. Find out more at www.damarismedia.com Here at the Damaris Film Blog, we publish regular discussion guides to help you make the most of the latest cinema releases.

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