They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don’t They?
The Revenant, The Big Short, Star Wars and Oscar
By J. Don Birnam
December 23, 2015
The Revenant, Joy, and The Hateful Eight are the last major movies to open this year that are looking to make noise in the Oscar race. And other late breakers, from The Big Short, to Chi-Raq, and even the hyper-successful Star Wars, also promise to make a December move. Today we look at these movies and their respective odds of finding a stage at the podium at the 88th Academy Awards. As usual. check out Twitter for more thoughts.
The Revenant: DiCaprio’s Year, Finally?
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman swept the Oscars last year, so that alone makes it improbable that his picture will make it all the way to the top again. But The Revenant is a movie that is at least as great as Birdman, even if it does not have the Academy-appealing story about the challenges of show business in the modern world.
The Revenant tells the story of a frontiersman who is savagely attacked by a bear and left for dead by one in his party. The story follows up with the grueling quest for revenge that the frontiersman embarks upon as a consequence. Somber, sweeping, and beautiful, The Revenant is a relevant story today despite it being set two centuries ago. Iñárritu explores, however subtly, the roots of modern American problems, including guns, race relations, immigration and racism. As violent as it is visually stunning, The Revenant takes place almost entirely in the icy tundra of the mountainous West, and in conditions that must have been nearly impossible to film in.
Stealing the movie, as you likely know by now, is Leonardo DiCaprio’s physically demanding and entrancing performance. At times, he is alone on screen for minutes without dialogue. The physical transformation he suffers, from the attack by the bear to the death-defying revenge rampage, is captivating, and certainly the type that has wowed Academy voters in the past. They love it when pretty boys uglify themselves, so they say. DiCaprio does it, as he usually does, masterfully, and he really makes you sympathize with the plight of his otherwise violent and even obsessive character. Interspersed with his trajectory are delirious, dreamlike moments that tell of his relationship with a Native American woman, with whom he had a child, and the way his love for her has made him appreciate both the beauty of the native American lands and peoples, but also the savagery of the colonizers. Unless Bryan Cranston’s goodwill in Hollywood propels him over DiCaprio for Best Actor, Leo has a more than even chance of finally winning an Oscar.
Also noteworthy is the stunning and gorgeous cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezski, two years running an Oscar winner for his Gravity and Birdman camerawork. Lubezski’s lens completes the love story to nature that is The Revenant, the return to the roots epopee that the movie conveys, by showing the beauty of the landscape contrasted with the savagery of the humans that have occupied it.
In any other year, the masterful Revenant would have a better than even chance of winning it all - it has the tech and the poignancy to support it - but one wonders whether the Academy will want to reward the same individuals two years in a row.
Oscar hopes: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor (Hardy), Editing, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Make-Up, Art Direction