Friday, January 22, 2016

The Revenant - 12 nominations

Best Picture, Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent and Keith Redmon, Producers
Actor in a Leading Role, Leonardo DiCaprio
Cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezki
Directing, Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Actor in a Supporting Role, Tom Hardy
Costume Design, Jacqueline West
Sound Editing, Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender
Film Editing, Stephen Mirrione
Sound Mixing, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek
Production Design, Jack Fisk (Production Design); Hamish Purdy (Set Decoration)
Makeup and Hairstyling, Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini
Visual Effects, Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer

To understand the film The Revenant, we simply have to start by explaining the term.  A revenant is a visible ghost, an animated corpse, or a person who has come back from the dead.  With that definition in mind, there is likely no example more appropriate than Leonardo DiCaprio's character in this picture.  While serving as a tracker for a fur trading expedition, he survives an attack by local Native Americans, a bear, a homicide attempt by someone who is meant to be protecting him, and attacks from rivals in the area.  He metaphorically survives the loss of his wife, the murder of his son, and the affront of the near impossible surrounding elements and weather.  If there ever is a person who is truly "the walking dead," it is this man.  When he resolves to seek vengeance for the murder of his son, his body revives, even if his soul doesn't completely return.

While the film is extremely engaging, I still can't quite wrap my arms around whether or not I enjoyed it.  It has all the right elements - a clear good guy, a clear bad guy, continuing to fight against all odds - I could go on and on.  But I still keep coming back around to the question of what purpose this film serves in the world, and why it is such an awards darling this season.

There is no question that all of the elements that make up the film are good and period pieces often get Oscar love, particularly in the makeup/hairstyling and costume categories.  In fact, 13 of the winners in the costume category since the year 2000 won for period pieces and the other two were sci-fi films.  With all the fight scenes, sound and editing and effects are clearly outstanding.

But let's focus on the one category that seems to already have it in the bag, and that's Leonardo DiCaprio for his role as the lead actor.  People are certainly calling for him to win because of his body of work, but one can't ignore what he had to endure to execute this part, so we shouldn't overlook his incredible performance in this movie.  However, when they read the little envelope and say his name, I hope they say, "Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant.  Also for What's Eating Gilbert Grape since most people thought that he was actually a special needs kid who did a great job learning to act for that film." (For the record, Tommy Lee Jones got it for The Fugitive; huh???)

I suppose I also have to mention Tom Hardy, whose supporting role has been recognized here.  I guess if we're going to keep nominating Meryl Streep every time she learns an accent, we're going to have to do the same for Tom Hardy.  For some reason, I just don't connect with Hardy's character in this film, and that could be because he is drawn with such one-note dialogue that I find him hard to believe.  He can thank overall Revenant momentum for his nomination, and though I believe him to be an excellent actor, this is not the role for which he should be recognized.

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