When I told Rodrigo that I've watched The Revenant, his first question was: "And? Is it worthy an Oscar?" I promptly said that yes, it is. It does not mean, though, that the last Iñarittu has no problems, as big as this production is by itself.
First, a little explanation about the Oscars. I've been following the awarding ceremony for about 35 years. it is a big event for me, a festive one. I try to cook something nice, have a good drink, put myself in front of the TV throughout not only the show but the red carpet (a courtesy of E! in Brazil). Lots of friends texts during the ceremony, commenting about awards, dresses, people, performances and so. It is indeed a party, one that I wait for every year.
That doesn't imply that I take the awarding seriously though. Every year is the same, people raging about the injustices and let downs. The thing is that I don't expect any coherency from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. See, if even sports are a matter of trade nowadays, what to say about an industry that revolves around such a big amount of money? It is a market, a matter of who is able to enter it or not. It is not able to determine which film or actor is better in any way. So. I'm usually not mad at all the unfairness, because I expect nothing. I cheer the good surprises, curse at the injustices, but nothing too serious. I'm there to have a fun time with friends and myself, in what has become a traditional festive night for me.
This year, the main controversy is the lack of representativeness in the Oscars regarding racial issues. I've read an good article on NYT about what is like to work on Hollywood when you're not straight and white (and, I must add, when you don't fit the beauty model of this crazy world that is Hollywood). So, how to take such a thing seriously? However, as happens with coca-cola and McDonald's, I'm still there. Every year.
About The Revenant? Of course I'm rooting for Mad Max - I'm always expecting the impossible. I won't call it underdog because it is not such a thing in any aspect. Room is an amazing movie, Spotlight too - I was crushed by how strongly heartbreaking both are. And The Big Short is amazing - tied with Mad Max for the main award for me. However, technically, as cinematography, The Revenant is a great achievement for the cinema as whole. And in that sense was my answer to Rodrigo.
Nevertheless, there are big buts in here. The biggest one is that the movie could also be named "I want so desperately be Terence Malick that it even hurts". I don't know what came to Iñarritu's mind during the production. He is an enough strong filmmaker to not need to resource to such a thing. Because Malick is unique, he is not just his cinematography director, Emmanuel Lubezki, he is a way of telling that cannot be reproduced. His images are not just aesthetic, they tell the story, in a non chronological manner. It is so beautiful, his way of filming thoughts and feelings. So, Iñarritu can put a dead Indian woman flying over her dying love and it will mean nothing without the main aspect of Malick's storytelling. It is just unnecessary and does no good to a story that had no use for it at the first place.
This film has a raw quality that is outstanding. It doesn't need anything else but that. The resilience of a human being seeking to survival. It even had no need of the vengeance plot actually. Just fighting to be alive in such an environment and it would be just perfect. But no, a "higher" motive had to be shown, and that's when Iñarritu lost me. Or at least a part, because I was continually amazed by how incredible some scenes are.
A funny fact: I watched it with my mother and niece, in a very comfortable movie theater, with seats that lie down - it is indeed a good way to go through 156 minutes.. The girl was hiding her face with her hair almost the whole time, she thought it was too gross (and was mad about the dead horse). My mother was a bit disappointed. Yes, the scenes are great and so, but she it didn't mean anything to her. That's the problem with a movie that wants to be something else and not only itself: it lacks identity, and the viewers will see it right aways. There's no way to lie in the business, even if there's so many attempts to do that.
Ok, now you are asking: and Dicaprio? He is worth the Oscar? Well, damn the Oscars. He is life and soul in this movie, the truer thing in here. If it is his best performance or not, comparing to other times when he should have won, I don't care. I really don't think that we should measure what he does in this film only by comparison. He carries the movie with him, crawling for survival, seeking revenge against the amazing Tom Hardy (a bit caricatured, but it is a part of his Fitz). How do you measure such an accomplishment with awards? Easy answer: you don't.
In a last note, I hope we'll see more of Domhnall Gleeson, who had an amazing 2015 (with Ex Machina and Star Wars and The Revenant). I just hope that he'll get a role in which he doesn't play neither the good, cute guy or a coward.