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For movie-lovers, it was a very good year
SINCE the nominations were announced last month, the 88th Annual Academy Awards have become less about who will win and all about who wasn't nominated. The big news (seemingly the only news) this year has been the lack of diversity among the nominees. When the results are announced this weekend (Monday morning, Singapore time), expect host Chris Rock to crack some, erm, off-colour jokes and more than a few winners to make impassioned calls for change.
For its part, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced plans to increase the diversity of its governing board and take additional steps to address the imbalance in its membership (over 90 per cent of its roughly 6,000 members is Caucasian and over 75 per cent male, with a median age of 62).
Let's hope that the main reason for the Oscars (honouring actors and filmmakers for their work in the preceding year) isn't lost among all the hashtags and indignation. It might be worth remembering that those golden statuettes often go to the films/actors with the best marketing campaigns, not necessarily to those that are most deserving. Life, as they say, just isn't fair.
Unless you're Brad Pitt, that is. Besides the movie-star looks and a movie-star wife, he has his pick of films to produce and appear in. And he gets paid to have fun with his buddies in the Ocean's Eleven films. He's a past Best Picture winner for producing 12 Years a Slave (2013) and has a good chance again this year with The Big Short.
Leonardo DiCaprio, on the other hand, has been nominated five times (including once as a producer for Wolf of Wall Street) and come up empty every time. However, the sixth time's the charm as he's a lock to win Best Actor for The Revenant, a brutal tale of endurance in the Old West where he really, really suffered for his art. DiCaprio has owned the Best Actor category this awards season, and no one should begrudge him finally winning The Big One.
The Revenant also has a decent chance of snagging Best Picture, although it is in a tight three-horse race against investigative journalism flick Spotlight and The Big Short, a film about the financial crisis of 2008. Revenant director Alejandro G Inarritu is favoured to pick up his second Best Director award in a row (he won for Birdman last year), a feat that's occurred only twice before (John Ford in 1940 and 1941 and Joseph L Mankiewicz in 1949 and 1950). And he would be the first to win both Best Picture and Best Director in two consecutive years. But Inarritu would still be lagging behind his cinematographer nonpareil Emmanuel Lubezki, who is going for his third Oscar in three years (after Gravity and Birdman).
There may yet be a surprise in store in the other acting categories, although Brie Larson (Room) is in the enviable position of being 99.99 per cent sure of winning the Best Actress award - despite having Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence in her category.
The supporting actor and actress categories are only slightly more intriguing: will it be Rocky Balboa - I mean Sylvester Stallone (Creed) or Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), multiple nominee (and Best Actress winner for The Reader) Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) or first-time nominee Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)?
Four decades after being nominated in the Best Actor category and a Best Picture win (for Rocky), Stallone is in line to win an award for playing the same character - which must be some kind of record.
Finally, spare a thought for Tom Hardy, performing with distinction in The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road - and playing opposite himself as the Kray twins in Legend.
All in all, it's been a pretty good year to go to the cinema, with diversity (that D-word again) among the Best Picture nominees and not a dud among them. It's fitting then that the final award handed out this weekend is also the most competitive of the major categories. And now, the envelopes please ...