What The Oscars Really Mean

In an unpredictable year, I got 16 predictions right and got another five nearly right, confusing my ‘should wins’ with my ‘will wins’. I always wanted Spotlight, for example, but really thought The Revenant was going to drag itself panting and bloodied over the line, just like Leonardo himself in the movie.

If the build-up was overshadowed by the race row, actually dealing with it head on gave the ceremony more edge than usual, a far more exciting and interesting spectacle than in recent years, with the surprise extending all the way til the end with the most gasp-inducing final envelope read-out since Crash beat Brokeback Mountain exactly 10 years ago at the 2006 ceremony.

But it was the smiling spikiness of host Chris Rock that gave the night its edge. His opener was terrifically smart satire. He stood there and told Hollywood it was racist, straight up. No messing. I liked that , especially as everyone then spent the night trying (too hard?) to show off their classically liberal credentials, even with awarding Best Pic to an “issue” movie.

Was it a step forward, or was it, by the end, like that Life of Brian sketch about the Sermon on the Mount? Climate change, sexual assault, Mexicans, LBGT, abuse in the Catholic church, blacks, women, evil billionaires –  they all got something in the speeches, all except the meek. And the Jews.

But does Hollywood mean it? Are movies going to be any different and will audiences flock to films more because they’ve got rainbow nation casts? Do the Chinese, soon to be the biggest consumers of Hollywood product, want to see more black characters? And howcome the diversity debate has focused so much on the lack of black nominees. What about the Indians and the Koreans?

Still, it was a good dose of salts. As I’ve said before, the movies were pretty average this year, so it was good to be finally talking about something complex. I really liked the little alternative skit on The Martian, in which Rock himself played a black astronaut left on Mars and Kristen Wiig and Jeff Daniels back at NASA decided to leave him up there.

Ultimately the race issue is too complex to be solved by a more inclusive Oscar ceremony and a change in the Academy membership, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

So, what of the awards? I’m happy for Leo, though he should have won for Wolf of Wall Street. I think Mark Rylance is obviously a far superior actor to Sylvester Stallone so thank god for that win, really. Brie Larson and Alicia Vikander are smart, pretty and talented, but it’s too soon for them to be feted with wins – Hollywood constantly needs new stars but this just means their fees go up and they can only be in shitty blockbusters instead of the indie movies which gave them their breaks anyway.

Innaritu’s feat of a second directing win in a row puts him on a par only with John Ford and Joseph Mankiewicz. I don’t think he’s that great a director, but I do admire his ballsy commitment to and confidence in his own pompous style, often a key talent for a film maker.

For me the night’s key stat is Mexican Emanuel Lubezki’s third win in a row for Cinematography – a phenomenal record, considering the variety of lights he’s created with Gravity, Birdman and now The Revenant. The man they call “Chivo” is THE great artist in cinema at the moment – it’s all very tough on our own Roger Deakins, whose nomination for Sicario was his 13th without a win.

Thrilled for Asif Kapdia’s Amy, obviously, as I am for the home front wins for the VFX team of Ex Machina and the guys behind short film winner Stutterer.

Great of Son of Saul and for Inside Out, and I’m one of the only people I know who likes Sam Smith’s Bond song, particularly when it’s played over the opening credits it’s designed for.

Mad Max, you know I just don’t get (of all the films, this could have had more black characters in it and it looks like it didn’t even think about such things) so I’m frustrated Jenny Bevan’s costumes for it beat Sandy Powell’s work on Carol.

And there you go. That’s it for another year, when back-slapping turned to self-flagellating and hand-wringing, before everyone said Fuck It and went to the Vanity Fair party.

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