Friday, July 17, 2015

The First Trailer for "The Revenant" Has Inarritu Fighting Another Oscar Season

Leonardo DiCaprio
It was only a few months ago that director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu walked away with the Best Picture for his latest film Birdman. With its jabs at superhero culture and the actor's ego, it was a film that left audiences divided as they either found it enjoyable or pretentious. It isn't taking the stylized director long to get back into the Oscar season. Today marks the release of the first trailer for his film The Revenant, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. From what I gather in this trailer, it isn't anything like Birdman, for better or worse, and that may be why it is one of the most exciting Oscar season trailers to come out so far.

The precedent for back-to-back wins for a director and Best Picture is very rare. The closest that the category has come to receiving this honor is for David O. Selznick in 1939 and 1940 respectively with Gone with the Wind and Rebecca. Even then, he is merely a producer. The average track record shows that at best, directors can get nominated year after year. With a strong year that already shows hard hitters like Suffragette, Joy, The Hateful Eight, Snowden and Jobs, I am doubtful that Inarritu is capable of pulling it off.

This isn't to say that The Revenant looks bad. After the director pulled off an impressive technical trick of editing together Birdman to look like a continuous take, I am curious to see if he will do anything else challenging as a director. From the images alone, The Revenant looks to be tonally different. Everything is dark and ominous, as if taking the comedic elements of Birdman out. Maybe it will make for a better movie, or just one that's more conventional. However, with DiCaprio headlining and Hardy having a stellar year thanks to Mad Max: Fury Road, I can hope that it is at very least an exciting movie.

Check out the trailer below:

Looks really good. Here's the plot description according to IMDb:
The frontiersman, Hugh Glass, who in the 1820s set out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling.
Here is where I become a little skeptical. While I recognize that it is only a teaser, it does seem very action-heavy. While there is room to be disproved, I personally don't think that The Academy will recognize action films. The one benefit is that the names attached to it will add a level of prestige. Still, my predictions are that it is going to be a more insane and kinetic film that will leave voters cold. It will probably be a lot more fun than Birdman, but the trailer doesn't offer up anything to me other than a tale of survival akin to The Grey. Again, I would love to be proven wrong.

That doesn't excuse that the trailer is still phenomenally cut. It seems interesting that most Oscar season trailers this year are very well put together. Joy and Suffragette had especially strong outings. In this case, just hearing DiCaprio breathe heavily over scenery manages to amplify the visceral impact of the images, which themselves are beautiful thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki. This trailer definitely does its job of getting me excited. It looks enjoyable beyond belief and DiCaprio looks to be just as good as ever.

Since I have the platform, I want to address something. While I run an Oscars blog, I personally choose not to participate in the meme culture that is formed around DiCaprio. Has he deserved the acclaim? Yes. The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street are great performances worthy of every sentiment. However, I do not feel that anything is gained by joking about his desperation to finally win an Oscar (he has been nominated five times, tied with fellow "deserves an Oscar" candidate Amy Adams). I may openly admit, given the performance, that I think he should win, but it will not be stemmed into the meme culture. While I doubt it will become problematic, I would like everyone to respectfully not encourage the behavior.

The Revenant looks great either way. I may be waning on Birdman, but I appreciate it from a technical standpoint. The way that it tells a story and uses time is especially bold and interesting. The script may be a little uneven, but it still has plenty of good moments. I am hoping that this project will be more of the ambitious Inarritu who made us like Birdman last year and not some strange, experimental film that falls into the Oscar curse of a winner producing an abysmal effort. For now, we have a pretty great trailer that suggests the odd reality that I am totally fine listening to DiCaprio breathe heavily off screen for minutes on end.

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