2016 Oscars Review! Awesome, awkward or somewhere in between?

Do all the nominees get Oscar mini figures?
Do all the nominees get Oscar mini figures?

We talk a lot about movies on NerdFunnel. About a lot of different types of movies. With lots of different types of people in them. So I feel that I should talk a bit about the Oscars this year, which wins I agreed with, which ones I did not agree with, which parts of the show itself, which did not, and how it seemed to fit into the current cultural consciousness. Spoilers below for winners.

First I will say that the nerdiest (and highest grossing) movie of the year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was nominated in 5 categories (Original Score, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Film Editing, and Visual Effects) and won none of them. As a Star Wars fan, I was a grumpy loser, but as a nerd over movies and how their components are designed, I understand why Mad Max: Fury Road took most of the technical and editing awards. It was quite a spectacular film visually and sonically, and as much as I love Star Wars, the sounds and effects were not anything groundbreaking new or original feeling, though the practical effects were a refreshing change. I was pleasantly surprised that Ex Machina took best visual effects, not because it was a science fiction film, but that its visual effects were so much more subtle than those of Star Wars, or Mad Max or the Martian.  Sometimes it feels like we are so spoiled by the power of computer effects and sound effect machines these days that it takes a really original vision to shock us back into the realization of how much work it takes to push the limits of what technology can do instead of mimicking what has come before.

Subtle but powerful special effects
Subtle but powerful special effects

Inside Out from Pixar won best Animated Feature. Absolutely no surprise there. It was great and beautifully animated. Though to be fair I only saw one of the other animated films, but Inside Out was definitely better. I’ll have to check the other’s out eventually.

I’m happy Leonardo DiCaprio finally got his Oscar after 6 nominations and no wins. The Revenant was visually stunning and his performance was powerful. Not my favorite role that Leo has played, nor my favorite kind of film personally, but an achievement nonetheless.  Matt Damon was great in the Martian and its isolation of the main character mirrored the Revenant, but I agree, though I like sci-fi more and enjoyed the Martian to a greater degree, that Leo had a stronger performance, though both were great. Inarritu took Best Director for Revenant and I think it was well deserved, though it was competition this year. George Miller could have taken it for Mad Max, but maybe he’s happy with the six other Oscars his film won.

A range of gender and performance
A range of gender and performance

Tom Hardy seemed like the unsung hero of the night. Nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor in the Revenant, which he did not win, while also starring in Mad Max, which won 6 Oscars, seems to firmly cement him as a Hollywood cornerstone. I’m looking forward to seeing what else he’s got up his sleeve in the future, besides a funny Bane voice.

I'd like to thank the Academy...wait... I didn't win? How unfortunate for you...
I’d like to thank the Academy…wait… I didn’t win? How unfortunate for you…

I was surprised by Best Actress, perhaps because I haven’t seen the film that Brie Larson won her Oscar for, but more so because it was her first nomination and her body of work is not that large. I’m tempted to go see the film now because it seems somehow unfair that Leo was nominated six times and did not win until this year, despite a large and impressive acting resume, and Brie Larson won the first time out. Her performance must have been impressive. I’m not sure how the Academy chooses its winners, but these kind of disconnects seem to me present the need for some sort of transparent rubric, or at least the semblance of one, so that perhaps we could understand these mysterious trends in nominations. But then again, there’s probably lots of money and politics behind it all, that would only serve to frustrate us as movie nerds should we chance to ever find out how it all works.

As for Spotlight’s win for best picture, I’m interested to see it because it’s a great ensemble cast, and its controversial religious and sexual subject matter is compelling, but I’m surprised that though it won best picture, despite no other performance Oscars. It did win best Original Screenplay, and perhaps that’s where the heart of the film resided, in how subject matter was created and written rather than how it was performed.

Hats off to Dave Grohl’s Blackbird performance during the In Memoriam section (Nimoy, Rickman and Bowie, you will be sorely missed). That was as good as it gets.

It's times like these I'm glad Dave Grohl smoothed out the awkwardness
It’s times like these I’m glad Dave Grohl smoothed out the awkwardness

Lady Gaga’s performance was also powerful and incredibly well done, and I thought she should have won for best song instead of Sam Smith’s creation for Spectre. They were both great, but perhaps it’s just because she is more my flavor.

As far as the racial issue is concerned, I’m happy they addressed it, but I feel as if instead of respectfully recognizing the discrepancy in the number of white nominees and nominees of color and moving on, it became a stumbling block that many of the presenters and winners were stumbling over all night, either trying too hard not to talk about it or joking too much about it. The president of the Academy, a black woman in fact, came out and addressed this issue in a broad sense midway through the show. I thought this was tasteful and elegant, but should have been done at the beginning of the show so as to set the tone a little better than Chris Rocks’ inflammatory opening. Rock had some awesome insights in his opening monologue, but I felt like he was playing to the wrong room, as there were some awkward pauses, faces, and reactions to his comments, as if some of the slices were hitting too close to home, (rich white homes that is). Whoopi Goldberg’s skit addressing the issue was excellent, but I thought Chris Rock interviewing random black people at a movie theater about the issue of black nominees and movies, though funny, seemed a bit out place in the overall show.

Right guy, wrong room?
Right guy, wrong room?

When it comes to this issue, I think that it would be nice if there were more minority nominees of all types: Hispanics, Asian, Middle Easterners as well as African Americans, as they and other minority groups are all part of the fabric of America and should be represented in some way. But we must remember that these are the Academy Awards. The “Academy” is an elite group, and they will pick who they want in the end, as they are beholden to no one but themselves and the shareholders of the big film companies, not even us, the nerdy movie goer.

But despite the racial and financial politics of the day, the movies go on, and this coming year is looking particularly great for the nerdiverse, considering last year was the highest grossing year of all time for Hollywood, thanks in large part to all the geeks and nerds out there, who both create and enjoy all this great content. I’ve covered a lot, but there was plenty more, and we will get into it on the cast! So stay tuned!