Solid as a Rock: The Oscars 2016 Reviewed

No matter how good the films are each year, the actual Oscar ceremony can vary wildly in tone and quality. In recent years viewing figures have been in rapid decline, then with this year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy things looked perilous.

Cue, Chris Rock, the African-American host who held his ground through calls to boycott and quit, delivering a piece of satirical presenting that rarely wavered from tonal perfection! That must be the one thing that saved this year’s ceremony above all else, that Rock had been hired before the nominations were announced and so was perfectly poised to be able to comment on racial matters in a way that no white or replacement host could have even dreamt of. Sure, he didn’t let it go for the whole night, returning to the same well for material each time he stepped on stage, but somehow he managed to avoid being bitter and even addressed the boycotters in the most direct way possible.

Apart from the hosting, a few other highlights of the evening included the surprise wins for films such as ‘Ex Machina‘ and ‘Spotlight‘, as well as Mark Rylance winning then delivering the most gracious of speeches. Performance-wise, Lady Gaga was introduced with the most glowing of endorsements by vice-president Joe Biden, then gave an impassioned and powerful performance, despite then losing out on the win to Sam Smith, something that wouldn’t have happened if the votes were taken after the performance.

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs gave a very good speech in her annual appearance in which she addressed the racial diversity issues head on, and put the onus where it should be, on the industry as a whole. Even the unexpected reprisal of Ali G by Sacha Baron Cohen managed to get a laugh while making jokes that Rock and other presenters had paved the way for.

Though apparently ratings hit another low, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris Rock was invited back to take the hosting role again. In future years hopefully his unique perspective on race might not be what’s needed for an organisation vowing to lead the way into a more diverse film future.



My Oscars 2016 Predictions!

As I do every year, I’ve attempted to get through a good chunk of the Academy Award nominated films before the awards are given out on Sunday. Of the 42 features and 15 shorts, I’ve seen and reviewed nearly 30 of the feature films and 3 of the animated shorts which isn’t too bad.

Here are my predictions of the winners, with my preferred system of 1 for my first choice, 2 for what I think has an outside chance, and P for the film I personally would like to see win it. Points are then awarded with two points for a correct first choice, one point for a correct second choice and no points for personal preference as that’s just for interest and expression. With the 24 categories there are potentially 48 points up for grabs!

Print off or email this PDF OSCAR BALLOT 2016 sheet and challenge your friends to see who can predict the most winners!

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
P. Matt Damon, The Martian – It is hard to pick my preference, Damon just nabs it for me, nothing against Leo just I found Matt Damon so very personable in this film.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
2. Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, Carol
1P. Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
2. Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
2P. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
1. Sylvester Stallone, Creed 

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
1. Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl -though her performance in ‘Ex Machina’ should be the one getting praise, that may go in her favour here with people voting for this as that’s not available.
2P. Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs 

Best Directing

Adam McKay, The Big Short
2. George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
1. Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
P. Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Best Film Editing            

2The Big Short
1PMad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Foreign Language Film

Colombia, Embrace of the Serpent
2P. France, Mustang
1. Hungary, Son of Saul
Jordan, Theeb
Denmark, A War

Best Original Score

Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies
Carter Burwell, Carol – While I’ve not seen the film I have listened to the soundtrack, it’s got a lightness and elegance to it that’s lovely, however I did find most of the tracks to be little more than a variation on the main theme, I’d like a bit more variety in the score.
1. Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight – I haven’t seen the film but I have had chance to listen to the score around the house and it really adds a lot of tension to buttering toast! 
P. Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario
2. John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Williams’ 50th nomination!

Best Picture

2. The Big Short – I don’t want this to win, I’d rather see ‘Spotlight’ nab it but sadly I think this may.
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
1. The Revenant
P. Room – It’s no surprise from my review that I’d like this to win but sadly it won’t. Abrahamson will get a best picture Oscar one day though.
Spotlight – I’d prefer to see this pull a surprise win rather than ‘The Big Short’ but it’s a close run for 2nd.

Best Production Design

Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
P. The Martian
2. The Revenant

Best Visual Effects

P. Ex Machina
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens 

Best Adapted Screenplay

1The Big Short
The Martian
2P. Room

Best Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
2P. Inside Out
1. Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton – Not meaning to belittle the writers’ work, this film apparently has one offensive word every 10 seconds. I was always told that swearing profusely was a deficiency in one’s use of the English language, so I can’t see how a film with that level of strong language can win this award.

Best Animated Feature Film

2. Anomalisa
Boy and the World
1P. Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There 

Best Cinematography                      

The Hateful Eight
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
1. The Revenant – Not what I think should win outright, impressive as it is, it really should tie with ‘Mad Max’ & ‘Sicario’, they are all brilliantly shot.
P. Sicario – I’m giving this my vote as I want to see Deakins win.

Best Costume Design

2P. Cinderella
The Danish Girl
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Best Documentary – Feature

1P. Amy
2. Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Best Documentary – Short Subject – I’ve sadly not seen any so basing on what I’ve heard about.

1. Body Team 12
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
2. Last Day of Freedom

Best Makeup and Hairstyling – All are very good at this in different ways.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
P. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
2. The Revenant

Best Original Song – Often the category for films not nominated otherwise, this year it is wholly that! I’m basing on sentiment I’ve heard and the quality of the songs alone not the films they’re in, all are worth a listen, see my YouTube playlist below.

P. “Earned It,” Fifty Shades of Grey – though the film is nominated for Razzies, the OST was rather excellent and this track in particular sounds epic on my sound system!
“Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction
“Simple Song No. 3,” Youth
1. “‘Til It Happens to You,” The Hunting Ground
2. “Writings on the Wall,” Spectre

Best Animated Short Film

Bear Story
1. Sanjay’s Super Team
P. We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
2. World of Tomorrow

Best Live Action Short Film – I’ve sadly not seen any so basing on what I’ve heard about.

1. Ave Maria
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
2. Shok

Best Sound Editing – More about the sound done in post.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
2. The Revenant
P. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Sound Mixing – More about the original captured sound on set or location.

Bridge of Spies
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
1. The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens


You have to shake your head when news outlets care more about ‘thigh gaps’ than pay gaps!

Trending on Facebook tonight is news that Jennifer Lawrence was photographed at an event. It’s the run up to the Oscars this weekend, so that’s not really news, it should be no surprise. However I looked to see more about this event by clicking on the link which brought up a slew of articles mentioning it.

Now I love Jennifer Lawrence as much as the next man, possibly more, but even I had to shake my head when seeing the contrast between articles that make a point about the event she was attending and those that just cared about what she was wearing.

The event should come first, so here on my blog it will. It was a dinner hosted by Patricia Arquette, who you might remember used her speech when she won for ‘Boyhood’ to highlight the pay gap between male and female actors. This is a topic Jen has written articles on, speaks about eloquently and passionately, so her being at this dinner should come of no surprise. The pictures from the evening have shown her standing in the middle of a full room, standing up and speaking to the guests seated at their tables. The best articles online are mentioning how Patricia Arquette feels like she has lost out on work after speaking out on the issue. The worst articles lead with the headline ‘BOOBS’. Yes, seriously.

Surely that must be some ‘lads mag’, a gossip site, or other source that rarely elevates itself above how an actress looks? No. That was the website for Cosmopolitan! I quote from their Facebook description: “Cosmopolitan is the best-selling young women’s magazine in the U.S., a bible for fun, fearless females that reaches more than 17 million readers a month. Cosmopolitan delivers the latest news on men and love, work and money, fashion and beauty, health, self-improvement and entertainment.”

Surely a magazine like that should not be publishing articles in which the writer mentions in passing that Jennifer spoke, then turns attention back to how she maintained her modesty, and describing one photo with pure filler, “Eric and Patricia are looking in one direction while everyone else is looking in another. Not that it matters or is even remotely interesting. I just figured I should write something more than “boobs.”” I despair.

I know I don’t always write Pulitzer prize-winning articles here, but I honestly wanted to hear more about this event and the ramifications of these actresses speaking so publicly and fearlessly on the pay gap. Maybe one of the reasons behind the issue is that the media is perpetuating the idea that people are more interested in how women look and dress than what they do or have to say?

Thankfully ‘Variety’ provided the actual journalism I was looking for with a very interesting article you should read here.

Printable Oscar Ballot 2016

Of the 42 features and 15 shorts nominated this year I’ve currently seen 28 of the features and 3 of the animated shorts, the reviews of which can be found on my Oscars page here. I’ll be posting my predictions Saturday night (or Sunday morning if I struggle to decide!)

Here’s a full OSCAR BALLOT 2016 in PDF format for you to print or email to friends so you can have a go at making predictions for the Oscars on Sunday!

It has (small) boxes for completing digitally if you so wish, or print it off and fill in with your choice of physical writing tool!