One of the most important aspects of making engaging, relevant and compelling movies in modern culture is when the filmmakers aren’t afraid to approach groundbreaking and daring stories. Not only do awards, most notably the film community’s top honor, the Oscar, serve as an engaging way to reward filmmakers’ work and dedication, but also highlight the significance and power of storytelling. The 88th Academy Awards, which aired live on ABC from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood last night, intriguingly captured and held audiences’ attention by not only celebrating historical winners, but also choosing a multitude of movies that weren’t all predicted to be honored.

The 2016 Oscar ceremony, which was hosted by returning moderator Chris Rock, who previously emceed in 2005, perhaps garnered the most celebration among its audience when Leonardo DiCaprio was awarded his first Best Actor trophy. The performer, who was previously nominated four times for an acting trophy since 1993, humbly accepted his much deserved honor. DiCaprio was awarded for his portrayal of experienced guide Hugh Glass in the survival thriller, ‘The Revenant.’ The actor’s long overdue and triumphant Oscar win topped off an advantageous awards season for him, as he also won a multitude of other awards for his dedicated performance, including the British Academy Film Award (BAFTA), the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, the Golden Globe Award and the Screen Actors Guild Award.

‘The Revenant’ also made history when its helmer, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, was recognized as Best Director. The filmmaker, who also contributed to the thriller’s screenplay with Mark L. Strong, is the first Mexican director to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, when he entered the Oscar race for his 2006 drama, ‘Babel.’ Iñárritu is also the third helmer to win back to back directing Oscars, following John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz; he won his first Academy Award last year for his work on the satirical black comedy-drama, ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).’

Emmanuel Lubezki continued ‘The Revenant’s winning streak when he was awarded the Best Cinematography trophy. The Mexican cinematographer became the first Director of Photography in history to win three consecutive Oscars. He first won for his work on ‘Gravity’ at the 2014 ceremony, before he also recongized for his prior collaboration with Iñárritu on ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’ last year.

Director-producer-co-writer George Miller’s fourth installment in his acclaimed ‘Mad Max’ franchise, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ also gratifyingly won six out of its ten nominations, the most out of any movie at the ceremony. It is the first film of the ‘Mad Max’ franchise to receive Academy Award recognition, and one of the few sequels to be nominated for Best Picture. The post apocalyptic dystopian action film was mainly recognized for its visuals and sound, having won the trophies for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’s triumphant night shows that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which selects the Oscar winners, is becoming more accepting of genre films.

Director Tom McCarthy’s captivating biopic, ‘Spotlight,’ was also one of the biggest, albeit surprising, winners of the ceremony, as it beat frontrunner ‘The Revenant’ to win Best Picture. The crime drama, which was also honored with the Best Original Screenplay trophy for writers McCarthy and Josh Singer, enthrallingly chronicled the harrowing struggle of The Boston Globe’s title investigative journalism team. The writers’ investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests in the early 2000s awarded them the the 2003 Pulitzer Prize.

The drama’s Best Picture honor was a surprise, as it wasn’t recognized by some of the earlier award ceremonies that often predict the Oscar winners, such as the BAFTAs, the Directors Guild of America Awards, the Golden Globe Awards and the Producers Guild of America Awards. However, it was recognized by such notable ceremonies as the SAG Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards, which helped draw significant attention to the film’s important message that leaders should be held responsible for their actions. ‘Spotlight’s glorious win of the Oscar’s top award was a meaningful and endearing ending to a night of historical wins that truly captured the filmmaking spirit.

Historical Wins Lead Powerful 88th Academy Awards Ceremony
(L-R) Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro G. Inarritu pose in the press room with their awards at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Written by: Karen Benardello

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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