Saturday, December 5, 2015

Oscar Update: Where does the Best Picture race stand after the premieres of 'The Revenant', 'Hateful Eight' and 'Joy'?

While the rest of America was celebrating Thanksgiving, Hollywood was busy putting the final touches on the awards season race that will soon kick into high gear. By this point, we've seen most of the major players. Awards season prognosticators and voters alike know that we'll be hearing about films like Spotlight, The Martian, Room, Carol and Brooklyn for a while. But going into the last few weeks, there were three major films that were still unknowns- David O. Russell's Joy, Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight and Alejandro G. Inarritu's The Revenant. Now, all of those films have broken into the open.

Joy screened to a small group of attendees in both New York and Los Angeles simultaneously, and a few reactions managed to slip through the cracks from journalists. Here are the big three that are circulating the web right now (source: Gold Derby).

-Sasha Stone, Awards Daily: "Please Hollywood keep making movies around women like this. They are so worth it."

-Scott Mantz, Access Hollywood: "Echoing both The Godfather and (yes!) Citizen Kane, Joy is SENSATIONAL! Jennifer Lawrence is beyond SUPERB!"

-Jeff Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere: "Joy doesn't quite sing dazzling arias or ascend to stratospheric heights but it's real and direct and very touching and nicely inventive."

Pretty solid reactions around the board. I've seen some other tweets that indicate another screening on Monday, and it's quite possible that more press members will tweet out their reactions afterwards. But the general consensus seems to be that Jennifer Lawrence is brilliant, David O. Russell will get nominated again and the film will be a major contender. Stone has said that she thinks that reviews will mixed, but I can't see Joy not being an Oscar player.

The Revenant premiered on November 23, and sent an immediate impact through Hollywood. Not everybody was on board, but it certainly shook up the race a bit. Here are some of the early reactions (source: Indiewire):

-Jordan Raup, The Film Stage: "The Revenant: classical revenge/survival story buoyed by Lubezki's idyllic touch. Brutality swallows emotion, yet compelling in its excess."

-Anne Thompson, Thompson on Hollywood: "The Revenant is very Malick with minimal dialogue, dreamy voiceovers, and stunning Lubezki visuals plus Sakamoto score. Actors superb."

-Germain Lussier, io9: "The Revenant is intense, gripping and amazingly well made. Not my fave of the year but undoubtedly one of the best. Hardy and Leo own."

-Mike Ryan, Uproxx: "In all serious, The Revenant is gorgeous, but at least three times I caught myself thinking about something else."

-David Ehrlich, Rolling Stone: "THE REVENANT: next time it would be great if Inarritu just murdered his leading man and saved everyone some time. as banal as it is beautiful."

Reviews for The Revenant hit earlier this week, and they were overwhelmingly positive. The film stands at 85% on the Rotten Tomatoes and at 78 on Metacritic. with perfect scores from The Guardian, Hollywood Reporter and Total Film. More reviews will likely be revealed in the coming weeks, but for now, The Revenant is looking like a hit.

Finally, The Hateful Eight has been screening throughout the month, and there is still an embargo on the film. However, that didn't stop some critics from gushing about Quentin Tarantino's latest film. Here's a sample of the tweets about Tarantino's snowy 70MM spectacle.

-Alex Billington, First Showing: "The Hateful Eight- Glorious to see in 70MM, with so much to admire in every frame. Brutal, bloody, crude, but entertaining as hell.

-Kristopher Tapley, Variety: "The Hateful Eight is awesome. Tarantino's full exploration of genre to date. Expert first-half tension explodes into blood and violence."

-Anne Thompson: "Tarantino sets up characters and stakes in post-Civil War race drama The Hateful Eight, a languorously intense 70 mm cinephile's fantasy."

-David Ehrlich: "The Hateful Eight is like The Thing took the form of an early John Ford movie & holy hell is it great. Sam L. Jackson = national treasure."

There's plenty more of those tweets, but this works as an effective sample. However, there was a very interesting thing that happened at the second Los Angeles show for The Hateful Eight. According to many at the screening, the projection was slightly out of focus and the 70MM projection was changed to digital halfway through. But this is a topic for another day, and since I'm tight on time, I'll redirect you to Drew McWeeny, who was there and has a great article over at Hitfix on the topic. Definitely worth a read.

In all honesty, not much at all has changed. From the looks of it, The Revenant, The Hateful Eight and Joy will all get Best Picture nominations, but they didn't emerge as front-runners. The Hateful Eight seems to be a well-liked film and The Revenant is a true cinematic achievement in every sense of the word. Will either win? It's doubtful. And while Joy still hasn't been seen by many important critics, it doesn't seem like the kind of film that wins Best Picture.

This race is still between Spotlight and The Martian. Those are the two films that have the best shot of winning the award at this point. All three of the recent premieres may play spoiler (Creed, Mad Max and Star Wars could factor into the conversation as well), but the crowd-pleasing films that debuted back in October and November will probably be leading the race until the very end. For now, here are my Best Picture predictions:

1. Spotlight
2. The Martian
3. Joy
4. The Revenant
5. Brooklyn
6. Room
7. Inside Out
8. Creed
9. Carol
10. Mad Max: Fury Road

Image Credits: The Guardian, Latino Review, Business Insider, Joblo

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