The 88th Academy Awards: It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Year

For F*** Magazine

The 88thAcademy Awards: It’s a Mad Mad Mad Year
By Jedd Jong

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance
for Bridge of Spies

The culmination of the 2015-2016 awards season, the Academy Awards ceremony, took place on 28thFebruary at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The Oscars may be often labelled “stale” and “lame”, but this year, a balls-to-the-wall, high octane, genuinely insane action movie took home the most trophies – an anomaly, to say the least. Mad Max: Fury Road bagged six little golden men, with Spotlight and The Revenant taking two each. And yes, it was sixth time lucky for Leonardo DiCaprio, whose hitherto fruitless Oscar pursuit has finally concluded with rousing victory.

The night contained two significant surprises: a Best Supporting Actor win for Bridge of Spies’ Mark Rylance when it was assumed that Creed’s Sylvester Stallone would emerge victorious, and Best Picture for Spotlight, with The Big Short pegged as the favourite because it won the Producer’s Guild Award. Also unexpected was Ex Machina’s victory in the Best Visual Effects category over the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Ex Machina was by far the film in that category with the lowest budget. Double Negative, the main effects vendor on the film, has a facility in Singapore which was responsible for a portion of the Oscar-winning effects work.
Best Picture: Spotlight
For the first time, a ticker listing the names the winners would like to thank scrolled at the bottom of the screen. The winners who went over time with their thank you speeches were chased off by Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.
Host Chris Rock
The lead-up to the ceremony was fraught with controversy, as fiery discussions regarding the lack of diversity in the acting nominations swirled. Host Chris Rock, who also presided over the 77th Oscars in 2005, got his chance to address this right out the gate. The majority of his material was dedicated to this issue. After a highlight reel of 2015’s films played, Rock took the stage, opening with “I counted at least 15 black people in that montage!”
He admitted that he thought about quitting after facing considerable pressure to do so, justifying his decision to remain as host with “the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart!” Rock pointed out that there probably were no black nominees for long stretches of the 50s and 60s, saying “Black people didn’t protest the lack of nominees in the 60s because we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to worry about who was going to win Best Cinematographer!”
“The ‘In Memoriam’ segment will just be black people who got shot by the cops this year,” Rock said to gasps. It was the edgiest he got before backing away from said edge. “Rocky takes place in a world where white athletes are as good as black athletes, so Rocky is a science fiction movie,” he said, dubbing CreedBlack Rocky”. Throughout the ceremony, Rock referenced convicted record producer Suge Knight, with an actor playing Knight wheeled into the hall accompanied by police officers and strapped to a Hannibal Lecter-esque gurney. In a taped segment, Whoopi Goldberg played a janitor who steals Joy Mangano’s thunder in Joy, Leslie Jones replaced the bear mauling DiCaprio in The Revenant, Tracy Morgan was a “Danish Girl” munching on pastry and Rock himself was a black astronaut whom NASA decides to just leave on Mars.
Tracy Morgan as the Danish Girl in a sketch
To say the ceremony was politically-charged would be an understatement. Another taped segment featured Rock visiting a local movie theatre in Compton, California to interview moviegoers, where the predominantly black audiences had not heard of any of the films nominated for Best Picture, but had all watched Straight Outta Compton. In a segment entitled the “Academy Awards Black History Month Minute”, Angela Bassett spoke of an “actor, producer, comedian, musician,” who starred in the likes of Enemy of the State and Shark Tale, with the implication being that the figure in question was Will Smith, who had boycotted this year’s ceremony alongside his wife Jada Pinkett. It was a bait and switch, and she was referring to Jack Black instead.
Taking a more serious tack, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the director of the Academy, said in her speech that “concrete action” was being taken to re-evaluate the membership of the organisation, giving the imperative that “Each of you is an ambassador who can help influence others in this industry. It’s not enough to listen and agree.” She did not specifically explain what said measures were.
Best Original Song nominee Lady Gaga performing Til It Happens to You
In addition to issues of race, sexual assault on college campuses received attention. Vice-President of the United States Joe Biden made an appearance to introduce Lady Gaga, who performed the song Til It Happens to You from the documentary The Hunting Ground, a song she wrote with Diane Warren. As Gaga’s stirring performance at the piano drew to a close, she was joined on stage by a number of male and female survivors of sexual assault. Each had words and phrases such as “It happened to me”, “not my fault” and “survivor” written on their arms in sharpie. The song lost to Writing’s on the Wall, the Bond theme by Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes.
Best Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu,
The Revenant
Noted conservationist DiCaprio slipped an environmental message into his acceptance speech, recounting how 2015 was the warmest year on record and that Global Warming caused the production to venture from Canada to Argentina in search of snow. “Climate change is real, it is happening right now,” DiCaprio proclaimed. “We need to work collectively right now and stop procrastinating.” He encouraged viewers to withdraw their support for big corporations known to be major polluters.
Similarly, The Big Short writer Adam McKay exhorted “if you don’t want big money to control government, don’t vote for candidates that take money from big banks, oil or weirdo billionaires: Stop!” McKay and Charles Randolph shared the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay; McKay was also nominated for Best Director but lost to Alejandro G. Iñárritu. The director of The Revenant took home his second Best Director Oscar in as many years.

In his acceptance speech, Iñárritu quoted a line from The Revenant: “They don’t listen to you. They see the colour of your skin.” He highlighted the opportunity to “make sure for once and forever that the colour of skin becomes as irrelevant as the length of our hair.” The last time a director took home back-to-back Oscars was when Joseph L. Mankiewicz won for A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950).
The In Memoriam segment, which featured tributes to actors Leonard Nimoy, Alan Rickman, Christopher Lee and David Bowie in addition to behind the scenes figures like cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, composer James Horner and film critic Richard Corliss, was set to Dave Grohl’s acoustic rendition of Blackbird by the Beatles.
Best Actress Brie Larson,
While last year’s ceremony feature a wacky performance of Everything is Awesome from The LEGO Movie as a light-hearted break from the heaviness of hot-button political issues, the closest this year’s ceremony came to that was the appearance of Star Wars droids C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8. “Actually, I do not look like him. He happens to look rather like me,” the worrywart Protocol Droid said in reference to the golden Oscar figure. The Minions, and Buzz and Woody from Toy Story, would later take the stage to present the Best Animated Short and Best Animated Feature awards.
BB-8, R2-D2 and C-3PO
When it came to the theme of “comedians keeping it real,” Louis C.K. stated flatly that the nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject would never go on to the fame and fortune of their counterparts nominated for other categories. “These people will never be rich for as long as they live,” he said to laughter. “This Oscar is going home in a Honda Civic…it’s going to give them anxiety to keep it in a crappy apartment.” Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy took home the prize for her film The Girl In the River: The Price of Forgiveness, about the victims of honour killings in Pakistan.
Best Documentary Short Subject:
The Girl In the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
DiCaprio was not the only winner who had waited a while for his moment of glory. Legendary composer Ennio Morricone, 87, had been nominated five times prior and was presented with an honorary Oscar in 2007. Morricone spoke in Italian, with a translator on-stage interpreting. He gave a special acknowledgement to fellow nominee John Williams. Morricone, who the Best Original Score Oscar for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, has written the iconic scores for films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Missionand Cinema Paradiso.
When the time came to introduce the accountants from Price Waterhouse Coopers, three young Asian children walked onto the stage. “Anyone who’s offended by that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids,” Rock quipped. Rock also had his daughters’ girl scout troupe going through the audience selling girl scout cookies, in an obvious riff on Ellen DeGeneres’ pizza-ordering bit two years prior.
Sacha Baron Cohen presented in character as Ali G, alongside Olivia Wilde. “how come there’s no Oscar for very ‘ardworking yellow people with tiny dongs?” he wondered aloud in the character’s signature ‘Jafaican’ accent. “You know, the minions!” Ali G also gave props to “The amazing black bloke from Star Wars – Darth Vader!” Introducing Best Picture nominee Room, he remarked “Now check out a movie about a room full of white people!”

Presenters Sacha Baron Cohen as Ali Gi and Olivia Wilde
The night’s one moment of swearing came courtesy of Mad Max: Fury Road sound editor Mark Mangini. “F*** yeah Mad Maxxers!” he cheered.
While the jokes were certainly weighted with political intent and host Rock kept an undercurrent of tension as he attempted to bring the funny, this proved to be a bearable and relatively memorable ceremony. Besides the entire film industry getting a slap on the wrist for failing to be more inclusive, the 88th Academy Awards will also be remembered as the year a post-apocalyptic action adventure drove away with six trophies and Leonardo DiCaprio clinched that coveted statuette.

Spotlight WINNER
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant


Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The RevenantWINNER
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road


Leonardo DiCaprio, The RevenantWINNER
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl


Brie Larson, RoomWINNER
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn


Mark Rylance, Bridge of SpiesWINNER
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Best Supporting Actress Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl


Alicia Vikander, The Danish GirlWINNER
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Best Original Screenplay:
Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy,

Spotlight, by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy – WINNER
Bridge of Spies, by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Ex Machina, by Alex Garland
Inside Out, by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley; original story by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen
Straight Outta Compton, by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff

The Big Short, Charles Randolph and Adam McKay – WINNER
Brooklyn, Nick Hornby
Carol, Phyllis Nagy
The Martian, Drew Goddard
Room, Emma Donoghue

 Mad Max: Fury Road,  Jenny Beavan – WINNER
 Carol,  Sandy Powell
 Cinderella,  Sandy Powell
 The Danish Girl,  Paco Delgado
 The Revenant,  Jacqueline West

Mad Max: Fury Road, production design by Colin Gibson; set decoration by Lisa Thompson – WINNER  Bridge of Spies, production design by Adam Stockhausen; set decoration by Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich
The Danish Girl,  production design by Eve Stewart; set decoration by Michael Standish
The Martian,  production design by Arthur Max; set decoration by Celia Bobak
The Revenant,  production design by Jack Fisk; set decoration by Hamish Purdy

Mad Max: Fury Road, Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin – WINNER 
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared,  Love Larson and Eva von Bahr
The Revenant,  Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini

The Revenant, Emmanuel Lubezki – WINNER 
Carol, Ed Lachman
The Hateful Eight, Robert Richardson
Mad Max: Fury Road, John Seale
Sicario,  Roger Deakins

Mad Max: Fury Road, Margaret Sixel – WINNER
The Big Short, Hank Corwin
The Revenant, Stephen Mirrione
Spotlight, Tom McArdle
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey

Mad Max: Fury Road, Mark Mangini and David White – WINNER 
The Martian, Oliver Tarney
The Revenant, Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender
Sicario, Alan Robert Murray
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Matthew Wood and David Acord

Mad Max: Fury Road, Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo – WINNER 
Bridge of Spies,  Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin
The Martian, Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth
The Revenant, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek
Star Wars: The Force Awakens,  Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
Best Visual Effects: Ex Machina


Ex Machina, Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett – WINNER 
Mad Max: Fury Road,  Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams
The Martian,  Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner
The Revenant,  Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer
Star Wars: The Force Awakens,  Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould

Bear Story,  Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala – WINNER 
Prologue,  Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton
Sanjay’s Super Team,  Sanjay Patel and Nicole Grindle
We Can’t Live without Cosmos,  Konstantin Bronzit
World of Tomorrow, Don Hertzfeldt

Inside Out,  Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera – WINNER 
Anomalisa,  Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran
Boy and the World,  Alê Abreu
Shaun the Sheep Movie,  Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
When Marnie Was There, Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness,  Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy – WINNER 
Body Team 12,  David Darg and Bryn Mooser
Chau, Beyond the Lines,  Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah,  Adam Benzine
Last Day of Freedom,  Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman

Amy, Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees – WINNER 
Cartel Land,  Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin
The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
What Happened, Miss Simone?  Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor

Stutterer,  Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage – WINNER 
Ave Maria,  Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont
Day One,  Henry Hughes
Everything Will Be Okay  (Alles Wird Gut),  Patrick Vollrath
Shok,  Jamie Donoughue

Son of Saul, Hungary – WINNER 
Embrace of the Serpent,  Colombia
Mustang,  France
Theeb,  Jordan
A War, Denmark

Writing’s on the Wall from SpectreWINNER
Music and lyric by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith
Earned It from Fifty Shades of Grey
Music and lyric by Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephan Moccio
Manta Ray from Racing Extinction
Music by J. Ralph and lyric by Antony Hegarty
Simple Song #3 from Youth
Music and lyric by David Lang
Til It Happens To You from  The Hunting Ground
Music and lyric by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga

The Hateful Eight, Ennio Morricone – WINNER
Bridge of Spies, Thomas Newman
Carol, Carter Burwell
Sicario, Jóhann Jóhannsson
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, John Williams
Photo credits: A.M.P.A.S.

Thanks to HBO Asia