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March 2016

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Page 30 of 51 29 POST MARCH 2016 Eastwood's long and storied career, seemed to really connect with the general public, several of the nominees have been big box office hits. Big box office is a key part of the story, as Hollywood cele- brates its biggest year ever, with over $11 billion in receipts, and Best Picture nominations for such crowd-pleasers as Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, The Big Short and Bridge of Spies show that Oscar is once again embracing the kind of large-scale studio movie it's often shunned in recent years. But huge commercial success didn't automatically ensure Oscar's love this year. Despite becoming the biggest film of 2015 and the highest-grossing film ever in North America, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was shut out from the Best Picture race, and as consolation prizes, received five nominations in technical categories. Also left out of the Best Picture race were several critically lauded films, including Straight Outta Compton and Carol, which were expected to get some recognition. Ultimately, most of the survivors of the Academy's mysterious voting procedures seemed to be tales of survival themselves; in The Revenant, hunter Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) barely survives a brutal bear-mauling only to be betrayed, abandoned and left for dead in the wild; in The Martian, Matt Damon's bota- nist astronaut, left behind for dead on the dead, hostile planet af- ter an aborted mission, has to survive hunger and storms; in Mad Max: Fury Road, everyone's trying to survive in the post-apoca- lyptic wasteland; and in The Big Short most people are trying to survive the economic collapse. Even the smaller-scale films, such as Room and Spotlight, deal with the theme of survival. And the Oscar went to…Spotlight, surprising many who thought either The Revenant would win after its BAFTA, Globes and DGA wins, or that The Big Short would triumph following its PGA win (for the past five years, the PGA winner went on to win the Best Picture Oscar). But the early front-runner fought off the late charges and managed to hang on to grab the big prize. BEST DIRECTOR Like a thriller with a good twist at the end, this race's nominees looked all but certain until the very end, when the announce- ments suddenly upended all the predictions and punditry. In fact, this race and its five directing nominations — Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Adam McKay (The Big Short), Lenny Abrahamson (Room) and Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) — arguably contained the biggest surprises and snubs of all the nominations. The biggest shock by far was the exclusion of director Ridley Scott. The legendary 78-year-old, three-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker is one of the supreme stylists of contemporary cinema — as such oft-imitated and seminal works as Blade Runner, Alien and Black Hawk Down make abundantly clear, and he was con- sidered a sure bet to be nominated — and even the frontrunner to win. However, as a consolation prize, he was still in the running as a producer in the Best Picture race. Also snubbed was writer-director Todd Haynes, who was Oscar-nominated for his Far From Heaven '50s drama, as a screenwriter. Haynes, whose credits include the acclaimed Bob Dylan picture I'm Not There, Velvet Goldmine, Safe, and Mildred Pierce, has yet to be nominated in the Oscars Best Director category. The biggest surprise? Lenny Abrahamson, the little-known Irish director who helmed the little-seen cult indie Frank be- fore making Room, another small indie film about very difficult subject matter. His unlikely inclusion also upended conventional wisdom that this race usually comes down to flashy direction and a sort of lifetime achievement award. Another surprise was the career makeover of writer/director Adam McKay, one of the most successful comedy directors in Hollywood thanks to such hits as the Anchorman franchise, Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, The Other Guys, and Marvel's Ant- Man, which he wrote. So he might seem like the last person in town to snag a Best Director nomination for The Big Short, a se- riously-dense drama. But the critically-beloved film has also done well at the box office and surged in the awards season, winning Best Picture at the PGA. And the Oscar went to…Inarritu, who won Best Director last year for Birdman, and who was again nominated, this time for The Revenant, surprising some insiders. But the film's powerful, if simplistic storytelling and strong showing at the box office is vindication for the Mexican filmmaker, who battled the elements and bad press about an out-of-control budget and production while filming in remote locations in Canada and Argentina. CINEMATOGRAPHY Another exceptional year with a varied range of beautiful- ly-shot films, with Oscar honoring John Seale for Mad Max: Fury Road, Robert Richardson for The Hateful Eight, Roger The Revenant was honored for its Leading Actor, Director and Cin- ematography. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Leonardo DiCaprio are pictured here during the shoot.

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