2016 oscar snubs

In many cases, the 2016 Academy Awards played out as many pundits predicted. Leonardo DiCaprio finally took home an Oscar. Alejandro González Iñárritu won his second Best Director statuette in as many years. The Big Short and Spotlight snatched up the screenplay awards. Brie Larson and Alicia Vikander walked away with acting trophies. If you went to Vegas and put your money where the awards season pros told you to put it, you had a fairly solid night.

But the craziest and most contentious Oscars in years still had its fair share of snubs and surprises. Surefire winners stayed in their seats while dark horses took the stage. Small films came out of nowhere to win awards over gigantic competition. A genuinely bad song managed to win its category over a bunch of other mostly bad songs. The winner of Best Picture only won one other award. And through it all, Mad Max: Fury Road rode shiny and chrome, picking up more honors than any other film.


Spotlight Slips Away With Best Picture

When the evening came a close and Morgan Freeman took the stage to announce the Best Picture winner, it felt like a forgone conclusion. It was going to be a The Revenant, which had just won Best Director and Best Actor moments earlier (and had snatched up Best Cinematography much earlier in the evening). And then, after a literal drumroll, Freeman announced Spotlight and the internet melted down.

Although it’s common for a Best Picture winner to only take home three awards (Argo and 12 Years a Slave, for example), Spotlight is the first film since 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth to win the top prize and only one other award. In other words, this is not common. Everyone watching surely thought that the film’s Best Original Screenplay prize would be its sole honor that night. And like that, Spotlight joined the strange club of films that take home the biggest prize without actually dominating the night.

But how did Spotlight win, especially since The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road otherwise dominated the evening? This could very well be the preferential ballot at work. Unlike the other categories, where voters simply pick one nominee, the Best Picture race asks voters to rank the films in order of preference. This sometimes means that the least divisive films, the films that everyone likes even if they don’t love them, often take home the top prize. In a year where the other big contenders divided voters, the universally praised Spotlight was able to squeak out a victory. And that’s great – Spotlight is a damn fine film.

Bridge of Spies poster

Mark Rylance Wins Best Supporting Actor

All of the odds were in favor of Sylvester Stallone winning Best Supporting Actor for his work in Creed. He was the sentimental favorite, the aging movie star who returned to his most iconic character 40 years after being nominated for the original Rocky. Plus, he’s actually really good in the movie. It was a lock. A shoo-in. And then Patricia Arquette called Mark Rylance‘s name. Cue the other big internet meltdown moment of the night.

Here are the facts. Rylance is tremendous in Bridge of Spies, giving a quietly towering performance in an admirable and hugely entertaining film. Rylance is also one of the most celebrated stage actors of all time, a regular on both the London and New York stage scenes who has often been called the best performers of his generation. Even if regular people aren’t familiar with him, actors certainly are. Actors adore Mark Rylance. And actors make up the largest division of the Academy.

Oscar voters often love a narrative. They love to give awards to the new ingenues to welcome them to Hollywood and the aging actors who have spent decades toiling in their craft and have “earned it.” But sometimes, they simply choose the best performance.

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