Well, that was one for the books, and probably the most enjoyable Oscar night for me in the past decade.
Let's start with the people: not only did we push our little basement right up against the edge of its occupancy limits, but everyone seemed to be pulling for all things Mad Max. Shouts of "Witness!" accompanied the six accolades Fury Road eventually garnered, and we were all disappointed that George Miller got shut out of Best Director and Best Picture.
The awards themselves elicited very few exclamations from the assemblage, and the only real surprise came at the end, with Spotlight beating out the heavily favoured The Revenant for Best Picture. Alejandro Innarittu certainly put together a powerful and beautiful movie, and one which especially earned its award for Cinematography, but I was glad to see an upset, especially for an ensemble newspaper pic.
Host Chris Rock not only addressed the #Oscarssowhite controversy, but fully embraced it, and was relentless in bringing the issue forward to elicit both laughs and insights. He definitely ruffled some feathers, and judging from the online comments I've read since, my guests and I may (ironically) be in the minority of people who thought he did a great job.
This year they finally introduced a text crawl so that winners could actually say something instead of hurriedly spitting out a laundry list of obligatory gratitude. Unfortunately, very few of them took advantage of this, but hopefully they keep it around for at least one more year and see if it catches on.
Some winners stepped away from this unfortunate tradition, including the sound crew from Mad Max who praised George Miller for making a loud, loud movie that also contained silence, the director of Girl in the River who pointed out her film may have helped the Pakistani PM change the law on honour killings, and the writers of The Big Short said pithily, "If you don't want big money to control government, don't vote for candidates who take money from big banks, oil or weirdo billionaires."
Now, let me say that there were some issues with this year's In Memoriam presentation, ably accompanied by Dave Grohl playing The Beatles "Blackbird". Most notably is the inexcusable absence of Abe Vigoda; how in the hell do you include Alex Rocco, who played Moe Green for only two scenes, but leave out the guy who played Sal Tessio? I'm sure it wasn't personal -everyone liked the guy - but it still feels like an infamia.
The bigger issue for me, personally, came during the March of the Dead, the irreverent yet respectful drinking game we play during the In Memoriam segment of the telecast. Now, I can't tell you what a 'good' score is in MOTD, and it is not really a competition. If you don't pay attention to the credits of a movie, you are not likely to have to take too many drinks. On the other hand, if you pay attention to the names of the people who make your movies, but don't read a lot of entertainment news or IMDb, you can end up getting punished. Like severely.
I do both of these things, but still ending up having to take an unprecedented nine drinks, one for each person whose name I recognized, but whose death surprised me (including, sad to say, Alex Rocco). Poor Rev. James regrets playing every year, but because he is a stout-hearted fellow and a game fish, he keeps coming back for more, this year to the tune of 8 shots.
Pete and I also took a memento mori shot for Abe Vigoda, a man for whom reported deaths preceded him by decades; rest in peace, Sally.
In the end, we had a tie for the most correct predictions, with 16 picks apiece for both Totty (cribbing from Nate Silver's website FiveThirtyEight.com) and Rev. James (divine insight and dogged allegiance to Fury Road), so they each got a tiny trophy but I neglected to get a photo. James also got an extra raffle ticket and a second trophy for being the first Oscar Bingo winner, but Jeff, with far less prognosticating ability, ended up winning the draw for a night at the movies.
Sure, the broadcast went a little overtime (as usual), and not everyone can be a winner, but we all seemed to have a good time, so I will call this year's Oscar party a success, and I am already looking forward to next year!