A few weeks ago one could have been forgiven for thinking this years awards season was fairly light-weight. In the previous two or three years we’ve seen a strong group of contender films who – even though some may never have had a chance at winning – jostle both critical acclaim and audience popularity.
Boyhood, Birdman, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, Whiplash; we’ve been spoilt for choice. Yet this year’s refreshing nomination of Mad Max: Fury Road yet dubious inclusion of The Martian suggests this year’s nominees are made up of quite different DNA. But, of course, I was wrong. This year was actually dominated by quiet surprises.
Against the ‘70s throwback journo-thriller of Spotlight and returning Oscar-winning director Alejandro G. Inarratu’s The Revenant, Roomcould have been overshadowed. Yet, with only a predominantly two-actor cast, the film is superbly profound and emotional, with Brie Larson now the frontrunner to win Best Actress.
Meanwhile, The Big Short is equally as much a cinematic achievement as The Revenant in masterfully taking an uncinematic, impenetrable topic (the 2008 financial crash and all the jargon and bureaucracy that entails) and making it a funny, gripping, understandable watch.
Indeed, the more Oscar-y, awards-bait fodder in the likes of The Danish Girl have fallen aside in the wake of these dark horses, only notably cropping up in the acting categories.
However, as with every year, there are always omissions. The excellent Steve Jobs and otherwise awards-heavy Carol have been overlooked at the Oscars, making The Martian’s appearance all the more befuddling. But, perhaps cynically, The Martian was a roaring box-office success, while Steve Jobs bombed.