Caring about the Oscars is like rooting for a shitty sports team. Every once in a while — just often enough to keep you coming back for more, really — they do something great: Hit a walk-off home run, finally give Leonardo DiCaprio his due. Then they name Alejandro González Iñárritu best director two years in a row. Sometimes you eat the bear …
This year’s Academy Awards ceremony was marred by controversy long before it began, of course, with #OscarsSoWhite shaping the conversation from the day nominations were announced. The likes of Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight), Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson (Creed), Benicio del Toro (Sicario), Will Smith (Concussion) and Mya Taylor (Tangerine) were all snubbed; the only nominees representing Straight Outta Compton, the hugely successful N.W.A biopic, were its two white screenwriters.
As the Weekly's official Oscar
hate-watcher live tweeter this year, I had the privilege of snarkily observing the conclusion to this hot mess online. And, hey, at least the actual broadcast started on a positive note: Chris Rock’s hilarious opening monologue touched on the lack of diversity instantly. “It’s the 88th Academy Awards,” he said early on, “which means this ‘no black nominees’ thing happened at least 71 other times.” This and other choice lines made the thousands in attendance more uncomfortable than Ricky Gervais could ever hope to. Watching them squirm in their seats and try not to provide juicy fodder for the reaction cameras was more gratifying than several of the nominated performances (Eddie Redmayne? Seriously?).
The same couldn't be said of the first few wins — Spotlight and The Big Short were both underwhelming, and watching them take home screenplay prizes inspired little confidence. Then the below-the-line technical prizes started getting announced and, for a moment, the most deserving contender got its due. Mad Max: Fury Road (the actual Best Picture, at least of the eight nominated) took home six of these prizes; for a while, #OscarsSoDystopian seemed like a real possibility.
Every year at the Oscars there's an outside chance that, as in our favorite underdog movies, the good guy will somehow prevail. This time it was George Miller's mesmeric return to the wasteland. Precursor awards usually make the eventual winners easy to predict, but important prizes being split among The Big Short, Spotlight and eventual favorite The Revenant made Best Picture a more open race than usual — maybe Mad Max could slip past unnoticed?
Hollywood & Highland didn't end up being as hospitable as Fury Road, unfortunately, but we can take solace in the fact that the least objectionable alternative took home the trophy. The Dodgers may not have won the World Series this year, but at least the Yankees didn't either.