The Academy Awards came and went – a bit later than usual – and with an ever-shrinking audience. Thankfully, the quality of filmmaking was a little bit better than last year (it couldn’t really get much worse), but the fact that the main highlight of the show was a slap shows just how forgettable of an event it was. Despite that, there were quite a few surprises – at least if you judge by the pre-event betting odds. Here are 5 things that surprised us, without any reference to Chris Rock and Will Smith.
1. CODA winning Best Picture with only 3 nominations
The early frontrunner for Best Picture was Belfast, and then The Power of the Dog took the mantle later on. However, CODA was never one of the favourites – I even failed to include it in my 5 Films That Could Win the Best Picture Oscar article a few months back, which I had judged primarily on odds potential. The fact that it had only received three nominations only served to further its unlikely candidate title – as no film since 1932’s Grand Hotel had won Best Picture with fewer than 4 nominations. And yet, it did.
2. Kenneth Branagh winning Best Original Screenplay
Licorice Pizza was widely expected to win the Best Original Screenplay category – instead, it went to Kenneth Branagh in a very well-deserved fashion, for his excellent project, Belfast. After decades without an Oscar, despite having 8 nominations across 7 different categories – a record in itself – Branagh finally won his first Academy Award. In fitting fashion, it is for a project close to his heart, as Belfast serves as an autobiography of sorts.
3. Paul Thomas Anderson losing after 11 nominations
While Licorice Pizza’s chances to win Best Picture seemed to have taken a dip in the weeks following up to the event, it was still the frontrunner for the Best Original Screenplay category – which, if you just read the previous point, you’ll know that it was won by Belfast. So, while Kenneth Branagh finally broke his negative record, Paul Thomas Anderson’s still remains. Since he got his first nomination for Boogie Nights at the 1998 Academy Awards, he now has a total of 11 straight nominations without a win. Given his excellent writing and directing skills, it is hopefully just a matter of time until he gets his well-deserved statuette.
4. Netflix is now behind Apple TV in major honours
It’s not entirely a surprise that the Oscars don’t really favour Netflix – just look at The Irishman going back home empty handed a few years back – but this string of bad luck seemed to finally be over when The Power of the Dog was the nailed-on favourite to win Best Picture this year. However, it didn’t – winning just the Best Director award – while Apple TV’s CODA won all of its 3 nominations, including Best Picture. So, despite Netflix’s early mover advantage, it got beaten to the Best Picture award by its streaming rival.
5. Zack Snyder won two ‘awards’, but zero Oscars
Zack Snyder is not a name normally associated with fine cinema, or high quality projects. However, his name was on two winning categories at the Oscars! The catch is – there must be a catch, right? – that he didn’t win Oscars per se, but fan awards for two categories: the fan-favourite movie for Army of the Dead, and the ‘most cheer worthy moment’ (whatever that means) for Justice League. As they were both decided via Twitter polls, it’s perhaps no surprise that the best organised click farm will win the award – but it still is a surprise in its own right.