The case for ‘The Revenant’

With his follow-up to last year’s Best Picture winner, Birdman, Alejandro Inarritu has done it again. What was at first assumed to just be a vehicle for Leo to finally win an Oscar (and put an end to all those fucking memes) has quickly turned into a serious contender to sweep the whole damn ceremony. But The Revenant still has some obstacles to overcome, if it wants to follow the path of Birdman. Let’s take a closer look.

For:

The last frontrunner takes it. It’s an almost irrefutable fact the film with the most buzz at the end of the exhaustingly-long awards season takes Best Picture. While the Academy will never admit it, a lot of their members don’t pay particularly close attention to the race and the films involved. Many will simply vote for whatever they hear about most at the end of the season. And many will just vote for the film they’ve overheard will win, merely so they can be on the winning team. As we head into Oscar night that film is The Revenant. Its recent wins at DGA and BAFTA have turned the tide and buzz in its favour, and it now seems the most “likely” winner.

Chance to make history. We know the Academy loves to make history. Breaking records or doing something they’ve never done before is always something that appeals to voters. Awarding The Revenant with Best Picture does that. No director has had their film win two years in a row. Ever. We’ve had people win back-to-back for Director, Actor and plenty of the tech categories, but never two films directed by the same person. It’s a huge record to break and an opportunity that may be too good to pass up.

The ballot effect. There’s a strong chance voters will be awarding The Revenant with at least five or six other categories. This can create what I refer to as the “ballot effect” for choosing what film to give Picture too. A voter ticks The Revenant so many times, it can’t help but continue ticking when it comes to choosing their pick for Best Picture. It’s a simple flow-on way of voting. We haven’t seen it for some time (think LOTR: Return of the King or Slumdog Millionaire), and it didn’t work for Gravity, but it seems like it could for The Revenant.

Against:

History is against it. As much as the Academy likes to make history, they generally shy away from repeating themselves. It’s why no one gave Eddie Redmayne a chance this year. It’s why Russell Crowe lost to Denzel Washington, amongst other reasons. And it’s why they won’t be too keen to award another Inarritu film with Best Picture, after giving it to Birdman last year. No director has ever achieved this. It seems unfathomable to break this record with a director who is still a relative newcomer compared to legendary directors who have never pulled off a back-to-back victory pike this.

It’s too divisive. Of all the films nominated for Best Picture, The Revenant is the worst reviewed. While there’s a lot of love for it, there’s also a lot of hate. It has more negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes than the other nominees. Plenty of Oscar voters will have the same split reaction. You either love it or you hate it. That’s a massive problem when you’re trying to win on a preferential ballot. You need to at least be universally liked to win. If a voter doesn’t give you their #1 spot, you need to be #2 or #3 to benefit from the preferential style of voting. A divisive film like The Revenant will always struggle to achieve this.

No screenplay nomination. This is a big deal for the pure fact we haven’t had a film win Best Picture without a screenplay nom since Titanic, and that was an exception for obvious reasons. While many will argue this is due to the film lacking substantial dialogue, consider this. The Artist, a film with no dialogue, still managed a screenplay nomination. Remember a screenplay is more than just dialogue. It’s the plot and story as well. How can you say a film is the best of the year when you’re not willing to say it’s one of the best written too?

So does the late-breaking divisive Inarritu film have what it takes to make history and win Best Picture? Am I actually predicting it in my final predictions? Find out tomorrow!

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