And the Oscar Goes to…

We all dream in gold. Teachers give out gold stars to their best students. Athletes receive gold medals for winning out over the competition. But for the film community, the only gold that could drive someone to survive on Mars, fight a bear, escape a room, or bet against the banks is the little man known as Oscar.

Oscar is an allusive creature. He seems to favor some fan favorite movies, but many times give himself over to the film no one believed in. He upsets the crowd or pleases them as it pleases him. But Oscar’s biggest gift of the night is the gift of the Best Motion Picture win. This year the top prize was given to a fabulous film known as Spotlight, which won over several big hits in the years of 15 and 16. What made this relative below the radar film a winner of the night? And what made the other films worth a nomination?

The former nominees for Best Motion Picture are…

Mad Max: Fury Road

What a lovely day!”

— Mad Max: Fury Road

The prequel to the 1979 film hit theaters in the action filled summer movie month of May, but brought with it a beauty in its madness. Max and his mad friends brought in over 150 million dollars in total making it the third highest grossing nominee. On Oscar night, Mad Max sweeped all but two of the technical awards in movie making thanks in no small part to returning director George Miller. Having directed the original Mad Maxes, Miller had no problem in knowing what the series is truly about, but what made it a triumph was the painstaking and brutal task of recreating a typical action series into a visually stunning film for the ages. Despite Fury Road’s lack of acting nominations, Miller still received a nomination for Best Director as well as a Best Picture nomination.

Why it may have lost: Despite its brilliance, some still viewed it only as an action movie and nothing more. Others view it as an emotionless pit of stunts, fire, and gasoline. Another possible explanation would be its story being a bit like the original. Despite its clear escape from the original hits of the late 70’s and 80’s, the Oscars are all about originality coupled with quality and even the slightest similarities in script or on the screen might be frowned on by the film community.

The Martian

Bring him home.”

— The Martian

Another visually stunning film with breathtaking scenery The Martian scored the highest box office gross of all 2016 Best Picture nominees. The Martian brings a surprisingly down to Earth man crashing down and stranded on Mars with only the supplies left behind in his former camp. Matt Damon as always brings a likeable sense of humor as well as a very sad and desperate character to life. Ridley Scott sat in the director’s chair for yet another larger than life film that wowed everyone watching from Earth. As well as visual effects that could fool just about anyone, the story brought heart into a sciencey space story. The film overall was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Lead Actor for Matt Damon’s performance, but went home with nothing to show for it.

Why it may have lost: The Martian was often in second place in many of the aspects of the film. It was considered the second or even third story of survival of the year. It was the second best space movie in terms of box office and fanbase. Even the acting was overshadowed by the films on Earth. The Martian also came out a month earlier than most of the other nominated films, making it a bit of an outcast when it came to Oscar talk. Another major concern was the characters outside of Mars being the boring side of an otherwise great film.

Bridge of Spies

We need to have the conversation our governments can’t.”

— Bridge of Spies

Steven Spielberg brings us yet another worthy competitor for Best Picture with one of the most beloved actors of all time; Tom Hanks. Gathering a total of six nominations and one win in acting, Spielberg easily bridged the commercial success and award winnings of a well made movie. The biggest successes for the film came with its nomination for Best Original Soundtrack and Mark Rylance’s win in the Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of a captured Russian spy. I suppose the name Steven Spielberg basically sums up this film’s quality.

Why it may have lost: The truth is this film really was not that entertaining. At times there was a large amount of dialog that just made the movie drag on and on. It’s one of those movies that pretentious movie-goers would pretend to really love, but honestly it was not something many people would watch more than once. If it weren’t a Spielberg or Hanks film, it really wouldn’t have had nearly as much success as it did.

Brooklyn

My body was here, but my life was back in Ireland, with you”

— Brooklyn

To be honest, no one really saw this movie or even gave it a second glance. It lacked big name stars, name recognition, historical significance, or even a really interesting plots. Not only that, but it came out on the same day as the winner for Best Picture, Spotlight. Look, it does not look like a bad movie. It really doesn’t. But it just lacks in general interest. Overall, it scored three nominations, but failed to win any. Brooklyn is just one of those movies that comes out and makes you say, “Hmm… should I go see this movie or stay at home and save money? I’ve never heard of it, so I’ll stay at home.”

Why it did not win: Let’s put it this way. When you type Brooklyn in on Google, you actually have to scroll down before you find the movie. That’s how unpopular it is.

The Big Short

Eventually you get caught, things go south.”

— The Big Short

Remember when everyone lost their money thanks to the fall of the economy in the 2000’s? Well, here’s a story about the people who were smarter than you and didn’t lose their money! The only comedy of the Best Picture nominees scored a surprisingly large success in terms of money and in awards. Winning Best Adapted Screenplay and having a star studded cast talking about beating the banks makes for a surprisingly interesting movie. Director Adam McKay brings his knowledge of the financial crisis into a funny yet in your face look at the modern wolves of Wall Street and the outsiders who no one bothered to listen to.

Why it may have lost: Unless you have an extensive knowledge of the gears and cogs of Wall Street, you will be lost within the first ten minutes of the movie. As much as the film tries to explain the workings of the stock market with celebrities cameos, it is just impossible to follow anything outside of the personal side of the story. “Oh look! There’s Steve Carrell talking about money! What is he saying? Oh, who cares? He’s just so fun to watch!”

Room

And things happen, happen, HAPPENING. It never stops. ”

— Room

Room is the movie everyone now wishes they had gone to see. Brie Larson star and Jason Tremblay star as a mother and son trapped by a kidnapper in a locked bunker. To keep the young boy from absolute depression, the mother tells the boy that the room they are trapped in is the entire world and nothing else exists outside of the room. This proves to be trouble when they eventually escape and the boy refuses to believe that the world he has entered is real. Lead actress won an Oscar for her performance in this strange film along with four other nominations in different category. Despite its low gross of less than 18 million in the box office, the film has generated a large amount of hype that has lead to a large flock of movie nerds buying the movie after it came out. Many have even called it one of the greatest movies of this decade, but everyone was still wrong about it when it first came out.

Why it may have lost: Room, when summarized, does not sound like a movie that anyone would really want to see. The only thing that caused its rise to fame is one actress receiving one golden man. There’s always a reason for an entire country essentially shunning a movie. Sometimes your gut is right.

Revenant

As long you can grab a breath, you fight.”

— Revenant

Leo Dicaprio. The man doesn’t even seem like a man anymore. His movies have all gone on to become some of the greatest ever made. He really can do anything. The role that won him Oscar is that of Hugh Glass. After being attacked by Indians, malled by a bear, watching his son die, and being left for dead, frontiersman Hugh Glass crawls and fights to get revenge on the man who killed his son. After a huge success at the box office, director Alejandro Inarritu was expected to bring home the Best Picture win for a second year in a row (his first being Birdman in 2014). Inarritu even won Best Director, but failed to bring home the big prize. Not a single movie in the past year has even come close to the bar that The Revenant has set and in my opinion, it should have won.

Why it may have lost: The only possible explanation that comes to mind would be the general lack of dialogue in entire film. Leo’s character was mostly silent and mostly just grunted and screamed in agony. Else than that, I suppose Revenant was tied with Spotlight.

And the winner is…

Spotlight

I know there are things you cannot tell me. But I also know that there’s a story here and I think everyone’ll want to hear it.”

— Spotlight

A story of the truth. The truth behind 90 priests molestation of minors. The truth behind the cover-up. The truth behind the Boston Globes’ own failure to follow the story from the beginning. The truth.

Spotlight won because of its similarities to the newspaper industry itself. They stuck to the facts. They delivered it in a way that could keep a reader’s interest. The actors worked hard before the filming of the movie to understand the world they would be a part of. They were unafraid to pull any punches towards the Church or anyone who did nothing to stop them. Watching it really makes understand the truth of the world. The fact that when it comes down to it, power doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the truth. Truth and justice reign supreme.

It’s understood that this is not a movie that everyone is going to watch. Most pretentious people will avoid the conversation with a joke along the lines of “Who would watch a movie about something like that?” Their pretentious friends will laugh for a second and go on to their pretentious conversation about how much they “loved” Bridge of Spies, but they won’t understand.

Seeing a movie that has won Best Picture means that it was at some point well-made and new. Spotlight does not break this trend at all. Spotlight redefined what it means to bring a true story onto the silver screen. Spotlight was a movie that wasn’t afraid of the truth.

It’s been a great year in film and that’s the truth.