It happened. We finally woke up from what Wesley Morris called our “national nightmare.” The leading cause of anxiety for entire generations has been quelled at last. Never again will we have to go to bed wondering if fulfillment and assurance will one day come. No, I’m not saying someone is going to pay off our collective student debt while handing us that elusive certificate of job security (whatever that is). A problem much grander and much more troubling has been alleviated. That’s right folks, Leo finally won his Oscar.
And he sure as hell deserved it this year, at least by comparison. “The Revenant” lacked in emotional and diegetic grip, but the shear brutality of what Leo went through pulled the movie along. And though Damon did the same thing for “The Martian,” it was clearly not on the same scale. Leo won his Academy Award hands down and we all can breath. He even showed his class and selflessness by offering his stage of celebration to the important conversation of climate change, which was very nice. But we also all expected this to happen, so what made the Oscars exciting are the other things that went on.
Chris Rock hosted, and I was super excited. I mean, two years ago he wrote, directed and starred in a movie that revolves around top five rapper conversations. This guy gets it. What we were all waiting on was how he would address the fact that out of 20 nominated actors, all were White. It’s a touchy subject, and one that is often handled with either too much care or too extremely. Chris Rock came out with his opening monologue and delved straight into what we all were nervous about. He made some incredible points too:
“Is Hollywood racist? Is it burning-cross racist? No. Is it fetch-me-some-lemonade racist? No. No, no, no. It’s a different type of racist… Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’ That’s how Hollywood is.”
Chris Rock used his stage to dispel the myth: “Well, there’s no more slavery, there are no more Jim Crow laws, so what are they mad about?” Racism doesn’t exist solely in laws and human rights. It’s a mindset. And the fact that Chris Rock was able to distinguish a form of new racism from the traditional sense is super important. He got to the root of the problem, and anytime someone gets to the root of the problem on such a public stage, is a step in the right direction.
Do I think Chris Rock could have hit it home a little harder? Of course. At times he almost seemed apologetic. At one point, when comparing the ’50s and ’60s to today, he said, “We had real things to protest at the time.” And while his point that back then the Black community experienced atrocities in a much more public and frequent manner is obvious, that’s not to say what is protested today isn’t “real.” It’s just as real. Racism is still ridiculously prominent in the mindset of society. And though protests of lynchings are much more urgent, protests of an oppressive and destructive mindset are just as important.
Nonetheless, Chris Rock handled the issue swiftly, efficiently and effectively, which allowed us to focus on the works of art being honored at the celebration. The biggest surprise of which: “Spotlight.”
“The Revenant” didn’t win best picture. It is an incredible cinematic achievement. It was the biggest spectacle by far. And yet, though it is a film whose technique will be studied for the next century, “The Revenant” is a movie that lacks something. It leaves you empty, emotionally underwhelmed and intellectually unstimulated.
That being said, I don’t think anyone has ever worked as hard on a film as “The Revenant” team. And that’s why Iñárritu won his second “Best Achievement in Directing” award and Emmanuel Lubezki won his second “Best Achievement in Cinematography” in a row.
That’s why I’m surprised it didn’t win. 2015 wasn’t that strong of a year for films. I mean, I loved “The Martian” and I saw “Mad Max: Fury Road” in theaters twice (and was super happy it won six Oscars in the technical categories). They were both extremely fun and definitely entertaining, but neither made me think and feel like “Boyhood,” “Whiplash,” “Wild” or “Birdman” from the year before. The clear choice for me was the grandest cinematic spectacle… But the Academy, in the biggest surprise of the night, gave “Best Picture” to “Spotlight!”
Though the “Spotlight” actors didn’t have to swim down freezing rivers or eat real bison liver, they delivered some poignant messages about a very serious and relevant issue. Watching the movie, I was blown away. The portrayal of journalism and humanity (or lack thereof) in general is serious stuff. When it was over, I immediately said it would win “Best Screenplay” and that Mark Ruffalo would win “Best Supporting Actor.” I was right about the “Best Screenplay” (although I hadn’t see “Anomalisa” yet, which was seriously snubbed in that category because watching Anomalisa is like reading an ascendant novel). Also, though I didn’t see Mark Rylance’s performance in “Bridge of Spies,” but I firmly believe Mark Ruffalo still deserved “Best Supporting Actor.”
All that being said, the Oscar’s delivered a very entertaining show. Brie Larson was super charming, and I really want to see “Room.” The Weeknd performed, Lady Gaga blew everyone away, Ali G made an appearance and, of course, Kevin Hart gave his two cents. It proved very accessible to the public, and being less pretentious than ever, made for a show that anyone could enjoy regardless of interest in high cinema.
Alas, if you clicked on this article for nothing else other than to see the winners, here is the list of the important ones:
Best Picture: “Spotlight”
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Revenant”
Best Actress: Brie Larson for “Room”
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance for “Bridge of Spies”
Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander for “The Danish Girl”
Best Director: Alejandro Iñárritu for “The Revenant”
Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Big Short”
Best Original Screenplay: “Spotlight”
Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki for “The Revenant”