Major Question About Oscar's Best Picture

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Epiphany's Avatar
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How does a movie get Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematographer and still not get Best Picture? Not to disparage Spotlight, it did win Best Original Screen Play, but movies are predominantly a visual experience. Any one have a clear explanation as to why Revenant got slighted?



How does a movie get Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematographer and still not get Best Picture? Not to disparage Spotlight, it did win Best Original Screen Play, but movies are predominantly a visual experience. Any one have a clear explanation as to why Revenant got slighted?
First off movies are not predominately a visual experience.
Visual is HALF the experience. The other half is SOUND.

Secondly a movie is about the story first and foremost.
Directing, acting, cinematography, it all is in service to the story.

It makes total sense that the best original screenplay could win best story/picture.



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Foster, agree to disagree. Motion Pictures = Visual! Story and sound are components that enhance the visual experience but the visual is the main premise of motion pictures. When they started, they started without sound and the story was relayed through actors' performance, as there was no talking.



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How does a movie get Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematographer and still not get Best Picture? Not to disparage Spotlight, it did win Best Original Screen Play, but movies are predominantly a visual experience. Any one have a clear explanation as to why Revenant got slighted?
Because it sucks.

But seriously, foster's answer is pretty much correct. Movies require more than to just be a stunning visual experience to be the best overall movie. Besides which, there's also various complications in the forms of both Academy members' preferences and the preferential voting process, which muddy the waters a bit.
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Foster, agree to disagree. Motion Pictures = Visual! Story and sound are components that enhance the visual experience but the visual is the main premise of motion pictures.
So in your opinion what percentage of the mad max experience would you say sound is?
What about a musical like Pitch Perfect, is sound 50% of the experience then? Maybe more than 50%?

To say story enhances the visual.. is literally the exact opposite of how things go.
It's the visuals that enhance the story.

When they started, they started without sound and the story was relayed through actors' performance, as there was no talking.
That's patently not true. Movies have ALWAYS had sound.
It used to be that the technology was not there to seamlessly integrate the two - and so theaters would be given sheet music and then hire a local band to provide the sound as a live companionship to the moving picture. Even with sound effects!

It's a misnomer to think of old movies as being truly silent because no one ever watched them in silence!



Here is a list of the sound department from Mad Max Fury Road
Spoiler alert.. it's over 100 people

Yulia Akerholt ... supervising dialogue editor
Brendan-John Allen ... boom operator
Ian Arrow ... boom operator: second unit
Christopher S. Aud ... sound designer
Phil Barrie ... sound effects editor
Beth Bezzina ... assistant sound editor
Daniel Brown ... adr recordist
Glenn Butler ... re-recording engineer
Cate Cahill ... sound effects editor
Charlie Campagna ... sound effects librarian
Nigel Christensen ... sound effects editor
Paradox Delilah ... boom operator
Jared Dwyer ... sound effects editor
Gareth Evans ... sound assistant
James Ezra ... adr recordist
Jay Fisher ... adr mixer
Greg P. Fitzgerald ... sound re-recording mixer (as Greg Fitzgerald)
Mark Franken ... supervising dialog editor
Mario Gabrieli ... sound effects editor
Sam Hayward ... re-recording engineer
Scott Hecker ... supervising sound editor
Justin Herman ... dolby atmos engineer
Chris Jenkins ... sound re-recording mixer
Dan Johnston ... foley artist
Sonal Joshi ... dialogue editor
Nick Kray ... adr mixer
Rick Lisle ... sound effects editor
Oliver Machin ... sound department coordinator / sound recordist: vehicle effects
Michael Magill ... adr editor
Mark A. Mangini ... supervising sound editor
Derek Mansvelt ... sound mixer: action unit
Steve Maslow ... sound re-recording mixer
Duncan McAllister ... foley recordist
Duncan McRae ... re-recording engineer
Chuck Michael ... sound designer
Andrew Miller ... sound effects editor
Emma Mitchell ... sound effects editor
Michael W. Mitchell ... sound effects editor
Carlos Moreno Jr. ... adr looping
Stuart Morton ... sound effects editor
Ryan Murphy ... mix technician
Thomas J. O'Connell ... adr mixer
Jason Oliver ... adr mixer
Ben Osmo ... production sound mixer
Wayne Pashley ... additional sound re-recording mixer / supervising sound editor
Derryn Pasquill ... assistant to sound editing supervisor
Tony Pilkington ... mix stage engineer
Peter Purcell ... sound re-recording mixer
Ines Richter ... dialogue editor
Kira Roessler ... supervising dialogue editor
Gregg Rudloff ... sound re-recording mixer
Diego Ruiz ... adr recordist: Soundfirm Sydney
Pernell L. Salinas ... assistant sound editor
Fabian Sanjurjo ... sound effects editor
Curt Schulkey ... dialogue editor
Sam Sergi ... RF Sound Engineer
Andrew Simmons ... foley editor
John Simpson ... foley artist
Blair Slater ... foley editor / foley mixer
Julian Slater ... sound designer
Alicia Slusarski ... sound effects editor
Ryan Squires ... foley editor / foley mixer
Andy Stallabrass ... adr mixer
Mia Stewart ... assistant sound editor
Mario Vaccaro ... foley artist
Chris Ward ... sound editor / sound recordist: crowd
Mark J. Wasiutak ... boom operator
Tara Webb ... assistant sound editor
David White ... sound designer
Danielle Wiessner ... dialogue editor
Dave Wilson ... adr mixer
Andy Wright ... adr recordist: Soundfirm Sydney
Ryan D. Young ... adr recordist
Damian Candusso ... sound effects (uncredited)
Bob Badami ... music wrangler
Craig Beckett ... assistant music editor
Elaine Beckett ... score coordinator
Emad Borjian ... orchestrator
Daniel Brown ... digital score recordist
Nick D'Angiolillo ... music coordinator
Sam Estes ... sample instrument design
James Ezra ... stage manager
Alex Gibson ... music editor
Geri Green ... music copyist
Kim Green ... music licensing
Alex Henery ... orchestra contractor
Alessio Nanni ... composer: additional music
Stephen Perone ... additional music programmer
Ryan Rubin ... music editor
Katrina Schiller ... music editor
Robin Stout ... trailer score by (as Superhuman)
Superhuman ... trailer score by
Christian Vorlander ... composer: additional music (as Christian Vorlšnder)
Jessica Wells ... copyist / orchestrator
Liam Westbrook ... trailer score by (as Superhuman)
Nick Zinner ... musician: additional guitars
Bobby Gumm ... music consultant (uncredited)



Since you asked, to answer from an Oscar history perspective...

First off, Director, Actor, and Cinematography are an odd, kinda random triumvirate. "The Big Five" awards, the most coveted, are Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and one of the two Screenplays. There have only been three films in Oscar history to win those five: It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), and Silence of the Lambs (1991). There are another four that won four of the five: Gone with the Wind, Mrs. Miniver, Annie Hall, and American Beauty. Not to diminish Best Director and Best Actor when bound together with Best Cinematography (one of my personal favorite categories and aspects of filmmaking), but it isn't the holiest of holies.

For one thing, the Cinematographers Branch of the Academy, who do the nominating, are prone to make choices wide afield of what may be in serious contention for Best Picture among their five spots. Just in the past ten years they have nominated blockbusters like The Dark Knight, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Inception, and Skyfall, dark genre efforts such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Sicario and Prisoners, and foreign language films including Ida, The White Ribbon, The Grandmaster, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and Pan's Labyrinth (Pan's actually won the Oscar). What all of those diverse movies have in common, besides being well shot, is that none of them were up for Best Picture. In 2006, none of the Cinematography nominees were up for Best Picture (Pan's Labyrinth, The Black Dahlia, Children of Men, The Illusionist, and The Prestige).



Not that Best Picture winners don't ever win Best Cinematography. They do. It just happened last year with Birdman. But the only other one to win in the 21st century is Slumdog Millionaire. Going back to 1967, which is the year cinematography became a single category with five nominees (before that it had been divided for decades between black & white and color, back when black & white was still a common format), since then the winner of the Best Cinematography Oscar has also been the Best Picture only eleven times. From 1967 it didn't happen at all until Gandhi (1982), then two more in the '80s with Out of Africa (1985) and The Last Emperor (1987), six times in the '90s with Dances with Wolves (1990), Schindler's List (1993), Braveheart (1995), The English Patient (1996), Titanic (1997), and American Beauty (1999), and then just those two since 2000 with Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Birdman (2014). The 1990s are the anomaly.

Since 1967, the Best Picture winner didn't even get a nomination in the Best Cinematography category eighteen times: In the Heat of the Night, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Rocky, Annie Hall, Ordinary People, Terms of Endearment, Driving Miss Daisy, Silence of the Lambs, A Beautiful Mind, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Million Dollar Baby, Crash, The Departed, Argo, 12 Years a Slave, and this year with Spotlight. Some of those movies had extremely strong or stylized visuals, others were less spectacular or inventive, but for a variety of reasons they didn't get one of the five nominee slots.



All of that is to say that even when a movie has clearly the Best Cinematography of the year, as I agree The Revenant did this year, it does not AT ALL correlate to winning or in many years even being nominated for Best Picture.

I talk about Best Picture/Best Director splits a lot in regards to the Academy Awards, because it is a fascinating distinction that one film may be determined to have the best direction but then not also be Best Picture. But it happens. This was the third split in the last four years....though to be fair it isn't usually THAT frequent. But it does happen.

As for Best Actor, I mean all four of the acting categories are often different than the Best Picture winner. Leaving Best Director and Best Cinematography out of the equation, just going back to 2000 the only Best Actor winners to come in the Best Picture were Jean Dujardin in The Artist, Colin Firth in The King's Speech, and Russell Crowe in Gladiator. Three in the past sixteen Oscars. That's it.

So your righteous indignation that a movie could manage to win those three specific awards and yet somehow not win Best Picture just doesn't hold water. There have been seven movies in all of Oscar history that won Best Director, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Picture. The most recent was American Beauty, and before that it was Gandhi as the only two to do so since 1967. The other five are A Man for All Seasons, My Fair Lady, Ben-Hur, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and On the Waterfront. This year's ceremony was the eighty-eighth Academy Awards, and that odd quartet of awards have been won only seven times.




But taking all the Oscar history out of it, even though it was you who invoked it, the core question is a version of how could something as relatively straightforward as Spotlight be chosen over something that took as much effort as The Revenant? It ain't the first time, and it won't be the last. But does anybody, outside of maybe Harvey Weinstein, need a Best Picture Oscar to validate their love and respect for a movie? If you like The Revenant more than Spotlight, good on ya! Does the outcome of the frippin' Oscars lessen that in any way?

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Direct answer: the voting system favors films that are consistently on ballots. The Revenant was kind of divisive. A lot of people loved it, but some people refused to vote for it because it was too pretentious or violent or self indulgent. Spotlight was a pretty agreeable very good movie. It almost certainley was listed on more ballots than any of the other film. Because a single movie getting half of the #1 votes will probably never happen, being well liked by all is better than being loved by some.



Epiphany's Avatar
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Thank you for your very comprehensive answer Holden Pike. Just out of curiosity, how many pictures are there in Oscar history that managed to win the specific trio: Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography but did not win Best Picture?



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Am I seriously the only one who saw Spotlight as overrated?

It's a great film and definetley deserved the nominations it got, but not the win.
The story, though very well woven and told, is to driven and repetitive. It's like 12 Years a Slave, a very well made film that is driven solely on the fact that what's happening is bad, the shock value, and I view that as a bit of a set back. And I just kind of felt that I was watching just 2 hours worth of people saying, hey guess what, sexually abusing children is a bad thing, no f*cking way.



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Am I seriously the only one who saw Spotlight as overrated?

It's a great film and definetley deserved the nominations it got, but not the win.
The story, though very well woven and told, is to driven and repetitive. It's like 12 Years a Slave, a very well made film that is driven solely on the fact that what's happening is bad, the shock value, and I view that as a bit of a set back. And I just kind of felt that I was watching just 2 hours worth of people saying, hey guess what, sexually abusing children is a bad thing, no f*cking way.
I think there's slightly more depth to it than that. Spotlight doesn't employ shock tactics to nearly the same extent that 12 Years A Slave does - while 12 Years featured multiple scenes of graphic violence and general degradation, Spotlight shows much more restraint by limiting any depiction of abuse to a few brief verbal accounts. To say that its message is nothing more than "sexually abusing children is a bad thing" does seem to be oversimplifying it. Spotlight is concerned with that, sure, but it's also focused on examining institutions in general and how they can either be corrupted from within (like the Church) or end up stagnating (as is the case with the Boston Globe). The journalists in Spotlight itself are the closest thing the film has to heroes, but they're shown to be fallible for reasons that both have to do with their personal lives and their place within not just the ranks of the Globe but also within Boston itself. As is noted by Stanley Tucci's character, it takes an outsider to point out the problems that people within the institution have grown accustomed to in one way or another. As a result, it provides a decidedly more layered approach than to simply show Spotlight as a group of righteous crusaders against evil priests.

That being said, if I were to arrange the Best Picture nominees from favourite to least, I'd probably put Mad Max: Fury Road and Room ahead of it.



Thank you for your very comprehensive answer Holden Pike. Just out of curiosity, how many pictures are there in Oscar history that managed to win the specific trio: Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography but did not win Best Picture?
No others.

To win even two of those is unusual. As I explained, Best Cinematography is an odd category that doesn't often link up with the Big Five. So in addition to the seven instance I listed above where Picture, Director, Actor, and Cinematography were all won by the same film, apart from The Revenant there are only two others that won Cinematography and then even one of the other two without winning Best Picture. There Will Be Blood won Best Actor and Best Cinematography, as the only two of its eight nominations that it won (The Coen Brothers and No Country for Old Men won Director and Picture), and Reds won Best Director and Best Cinematographer but the only of the other ten nominations it won was for Best Supporting Actress (Chariots of Fire won Best Picture while Henry Fonda won Best Actor for On Golden Pond). Hitchcock's Rebecca oddly won Best Picture and Best Cinematography but not Actor or Director, nor any of the seven other Oscars it was up for.



There are others that won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography but not Best Actor, but yes, The Revenant is the only film to win those three specific Oscars and nothing else.



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I think there's slightly more depth to it than that. Spotlight doesn't employ shock tactics to nearly the same extent that 12 Years A Slave does - while 12 Years featured multiple scenes of graphic violence and general degradation, Spotlight shows much more restraint by limiting any depiction of abuse to a few brief verbal accounts. To say that its message is nothing more than "sexually abusing children is a bad thing" does seem to be oversimplifying it. Spotlight is concerned with that, sure, but it's also focused on examining institutions in general and how they can either be corrupted from within (like the Church) or end up stagnating (as is the case with the Boston Globe). The journalists in Spotlight itself are the closest thing the film has to heroes, but they're shown to be fallible for reasons that both have to do with their personal lives and their place within not just the ranks of the Globe but also within Boston itself. As is noted by Stanley Tucci's character, it takes an outsider to point out the problems that people within the institution have grown accustomed to in one way or another. As a result, it provides a decidedly more layered approach than to simply show Spotlight as a group of righteous crusaders against evil priests.

That being said, if I were to arrange the Best Picture nominees from favourite to least, I'd probably put Mad Max: Fury Road and Room ahead of it.
Very well said, but even with everything that you just said, I still view it as a movie telling me things that I already know, and not in a new way. While I do like this film a lot, I stand by my opinion that while it deserved the nomination, it didn't deserve the win.



Please hold your applause till after the me.
Interesting that you bring up Mad Max: Fury Road as an example, foster, immediately after saying movies are first and foremost about their story.
Okay, a lot of people bring this up and I just want to say this.
Does Fury Road have much story, no, but does the small story say a lot, absolutely. Fury Road manages to say so much with so little, that's why I think it is a worthy contender for best picture.



Epiphany's Avatar
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No others.

There are others that won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography but not Best Actor, but yes, The Revenant is the only film to win those three specific Oscars and nothing else.
And that's precisely why I asked the question. The presumption was that having won all those 3 other specific ones most important to film making, that the Best Picture would be awarded as well.



Okay, a lot of people bring this up and I just want to say this.
Does Fury Road have much story, no, but does the small story say a lot, absolutely. Fury Road manages to say so much with so little,
But let's not confuse the point: Fury Road isn't popular for it's story. I certainly don't credit Fury Road's story as the biggest reason why I like it, and it's not alone in that. Movie's should be judged as visual experiences, not simply stories.
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