The Biggest Snubs And Surprises At The 2016 Academy Awards (And The Winners Of /Film's Oscar Prediction Pool)

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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Mad Max: Fury Road Is the Most Awarded Film of the Night...

George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road didn't win any of the "big awards." It lost out on Best Picture and, much to chagrin of many, Best Director. But in terms of sheer numbers, it was the big winner of the evening, taking home six Academy Awards. That's 60% of its nominations and that is a pretty incredible percentage.

Going in to the evening, most of the technical award categories looked like showdowns between Mad Max and The Revenant, with the latter feeling like it had an edge simply because it was a frontrunner in the Best Director and Best Picture categories. And yet, one award after another went to the post-apocalyptic action film. Although it didn't win Best Visual Effects or Best Cinematography, it swept the rest of the technical awards, taking home awards for editing, production design, costume design, make-up, sound editing, and sound mixing. And that's not bad at all. Often times, the Academy is pretty good about failing to give legit masterpieces some recognition.

2016 BAFTA Winners

...and The Revenant Only Takes Home a Few Trophies

While Mad Max: Fury Road walked out with six awards, The Revenant only took home three. There's no shame in those victories: Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography are nothing to sneeze at. And yet, many thought Iñárritu's film would also sweep the technical categories, or at least split the categories with other films. Watching a prestige picture like The Revenant repeatedly get shut out by a post-apocalyptic action movie was out of character for the Academy Awards (although you won't find me complaining).

Bonus: it gave us a few chances to watch Iñárritu's fold his arms and deliberately not applaud as Mad Max crew members took the stage to accept their awards. What a baby.

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Ex Machina Wins Best Visual Effects

The Best Visual Effects award often really means "most visual effects" in the eyes of Academy voters. So Alex Garland's Ex Machina (which was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay) just seemed happy to be there, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with VFX giants like Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It's effects are incredible, but they're subtle, built into the fabric of the story and used to enhance impossible characters. It was easily the least flashy of the nominees, even though its effects are genuinely stunning.

And then, in a shocking display of good taste, Ex Machina won the category. The only people more surprised than Oscar prognosticators where the visual effects artists themselves, who were definitely not expecting to win and seemed genuinely shocked to be up on that stage.

Daniel Craig is Quitting James Bond

The Writing's On the Wall For Best Original Song

The common consensus among most people is that Sam Smith's "Writing's On the Wall" is not just a bad song, but one of the worst songs to ever grace the opening credits of a James Bond movie. And that's saying a lot. This was a weak year for original songs though and it managed to get a nomination. But just a nomination, right? Surely the Lady Gaga and Diane Warren song from The Hunting Ground, the one with a real social message, was going to win, right? The Oscar ceremony producers surely thought so, positioning Lady Gaga's tremendous performance last. It felt like a Big Deal, especially since Vice President Joe Biden showed up to introduce the performance, which concluded with real sexual abuse survivors taking the stage. It was a raw and powerful scene, one of those Oscar moments people will always talk about.

Then "Writing's On the Wall" won and the internet got mad and then Sam Smith wrongly claimed to be the first openly gay man to win an Academy Award and the internet got doubly mad at him. Anger aside, it's actually easy to see why Smith won – in a weak year for this category, far more voters saw Spectre than The Hunting Ground and voted for the song that they actually heard.

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In Memoriam Snubs

As usual, the In Memoriam segment of the show was beautifully assembled and presented. But also as usual, there were a few issues. No, I'm not just talking about Dave Grohl being forced to sing "Blackbird" over and over again because the song was too damn shot for the segment. As always, a few names were missing from the list of people who passed away in the past year.

Juliette Lewis was certainly bummed out that her father, character actor Geoffrey Lewis, was left out:

Other snubs included Joan Leslie, who acted alongside Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra and Fred Astaire in The Sky's the Limit, George Gaynes, whose credits include Police Academy and Tootsie, and Abe Vigoda, the legendary character actor best known for The Godfather and Barney Miller. Rocky actor Tony Burton was also not featured, but his death may have been too recent to be included.

2016 Oscar Winners

The /Film Oscar Prediction Contest Winners

Last week, the /Film crew submitted their predictions for which films would win at this year's Oscars. You can parse through the finer details at that link, but the basic gist goes like this: each of us had 100 points per category to distribute as we saw fit. We could put all of the points on a single nominee or divide them up evenly. If we put points on a winner, we'd win those points. And now, everything has been tallied and the scores for the first annual /Film Oscar Prediction Contest are as follows:

5. David Chen – 585 points

4. Angie Han – 770 points

3. Jack Giroux – 1100 points

2. Jacob Hall – 1330 points

1. Ethan Anderton – 1680 points

It was a slaughter. Ethan mopped the floor with the rest of us. We never stood a chance. For his victory, Mr. Anderton wins the greatest non-prize of them all: bragging rights for the next year. Until the 2017 Academy Awards. When we will turn around to crush him.