I live in two minds about award ceremonies. On the one hand picking the best anything is an act of futility. Taste has so much to do with it. So because of that they seem indulgent and overblown, at worst self-congratulatory acts of excess when so many more vital things warrant the cost and attention.
On the other hand, art deserves recognition, and the most impactful work over the course of a year or however you wish to catagorise it is worth celebrating.
With that in mind and also because I love making lists, here are my ‘alternative Oscars’ for 2016 as the Academy’s own ceremony takes place this weekend. My basis for inclusion? The films released in the UK that I’ve seen between 1st March 2015 and, well, today. As a simple list of winners wouldn’t come close to recognising all of the great work, I’ve included nominees also. For this year I’ve stuck to the main categories you tend to see, but if I do this again I may flex them. Off we go then.
Nominees: Ant-Man, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
Why: For the seamless combination of practical and digital work, for the impeccable stunt work also. For making the film such a visceral, gripping ride.
Hair / Make Up
Nominees: Carol, The Danish Girl, Insidious Chapter 3, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant
Winner: The Revenant
Why: Wounds. Horrible, gaping, disgusting, squeamishly believable wounds. From Glass’ back to Fitzgerald’s partially scalped head. All uncomfortably convincing.
Nominees: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, Phoenix, The Revenant
Why: Sandy Powell’s choices don’t just clothe the characters beautifully; they inform the characters.
Nominees: Crimson Peak, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Winner: The Revenant
Why: Jack Fisk has been a master for decades, but this may be one of his crowning glories. The minutiae of details sell the time period, and who’s going to forget that pyramid of skulls anytime soon?
Nominees: Jean-Baptiste de Laubier (Girlhood), Disasterpiece (It Follows), Jóhann Jóhhannsen (Sicario), Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight), Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Revenant)
Winner: Disasterpiece (It Follows)
Why: The jagged propulsion “Heels” gives the opening sequence, that glorious title theme, the insidious creeps as Jay discovers ‘it’ in the kitchen and so many other memorable stings and cues – they all help shade one of the best horrors in years.
Nominees: Iris, Listen To Me Marlon, The Look Of Silence, What Happened Miss Simone?, The Wolfpack
Winner: The Look Of Silence
Why: This wasn’t even a competition. Staggering work once again from Joshua Oppenheimer. Required viewing.
Nominees: The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, The Peanuts Movie, Song Of The Sea, The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya
Winner: Inside Out
Why: Again, no contest. My film of the year in my 2015 countdown and a decision I don’t regret in the least. A phenomenal achievement.
Film Not In The English Language
Nominees: The Assassin, Girlhood, Jauja, Phoenix, Timbuktu
Why: It lingers. This was a tough one as all nominees had a lot in their favour, but Céline Sciamma’s portrait of a black young woman in the Paris suburbs feels like the one I’ll return to the most.
Nominees: Hank Corwin (The Big Short), Parker Laramie & Andrew Wesman (Unfriended), Stephen Mirrione (The Revenant), Maragret Sixel (Mad Max: Fury Road), Joe Walker (Sicario)
Winner: Parker Laramie & Andrew Wesman (Unfriended)
Why: There’s a strong argument that Unfriended is one of the most innovative horror films in the last few years, potentially even creating a new genre of filmmaking. And it would be nothing without the editing.
Nominees: Crystal Fournier (Girlhood), Mike Gioulakis (It Follows), Ping Bin Lee (The Assassin), Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant), John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Winner: Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant)
Why: C’mon. It’s ridiculously beautiful even when portraying the ugly. The roving, gliding, free movement of Lubezki’s camera is heavenly, recalling his work with Malick, but there’s also an immediacy to the handheld moments. And all that chilly nature porn too.
Nominees: Emma Donaghue (Room), Drew Goddard (The Martian), Phyllis Nagy (Carol), Charles Randolph & Adam McKay (The Big Short), Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Winner: Charles Randolph & Adam McKay (The Big Short)
Why: Randolph and McKay took on one hell of a task making this dense material digestible and entertaining within a 2 hour movie time frame. They succeeded remarkably.
Nominees: Justin Benson (Spring), Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve & Josh Cooley (Inside Out), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster), David Robert Mitchell (It Follows), David Zellner & Nathan Zellner (Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter)
Winner: Pete Docter, Meg LaFauve & Josh Cooley (Inside Out)
Why: It’s such a wholly formed and superbly executed idea, boiling down tough, complex themes into an adventure story for all ages. Funny and incredibly wise.
Nominees: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Greta Gerwig (Mistress America), Kristen Stewart (Clouds Of Sils Maria), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Faults)
Winner: Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Why: Because she is the supporting character. One of my major irks with numerous awards ceremonies this year is the assumption that, because Blanchett’s character is the titular one, she must be the lead. She’s not. But she is superb.
Nominees: Christian Bale (The Big Short), Steve Carell (The Big Short), Jason Clarke (Everest), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Rylance (Bridge Of Spies)
Winner: Steve Carell (The Big Short)
Why: Single-handedly making up for his comatose vampire routine in Foxcatcher, Carell was such a pleasing surprise here; the tough, troubled heart of a film that could’ve easily been just numbers.
Nominees: Nina Hoss (Phoenix), Rinko Kikuchi (Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter), Rooney Mara (Carol), Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road), Karidja Touré (Girlhood)
Winner: Rooney Mara (Carol)
Why: There were so many great female performances this year. Brie Larson was tough to cross off the short list. So too Nadia Hilker in Spring. And Rinko Kikuchi nearly got this one. But damn, Mara is at the top of her very excellent game in Carol.
Nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), Leland Orser (Faults), Lou Taylor Pucci (Spring)
Winner: Leland Orser (Faults)
Why: Okay, I don’t have to placate DiCaprio. He is good in The Revenant, and I’m sure he went through hell making it. But he is better elsewhere. Leland Orser owned Faults, much as Mary Winstead tried to take it away from him. Orser has been great always, and here he finally got a leading role. He made everything he could out of it.
Nominees: Todd Haynes (Carol), Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (The Revenant), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), David Robert Mitchell (It Follows), Céline Sciamma (Girlhood)
Winner: George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Why: Because Fury Road is such a vision. It is it’s creator’s invention, and Miller fully realises every element, gloriously.
Nominees: The Big Short, Carol, Girlhood, Inside Out, It Follows, Mad Max: Fury Road, Phoenix, The Revenant
Winner: The Revenant
Why: See review.
So there ya go.