Oscar Race Begins, Without Front-Runners for a Change


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Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant.”

Credit
20th Century Fox

Americans love campaigns, right? Why else would they let the presidential ones drag on for nearly two years? Thus it must be with great appreciation that readers can welcome back the Carpetbagger, The New York Times’s chronicler of the joys, heartbreaks and hubris that make up the ever-growing minefield that is the Oscars race.

For some, the season kicks off in mid-November with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards. For others, it begins with the late-summer film festivals in Telluride, Colo., and Toronto. Here in Bagger Land, we start with the IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards on Monday, because they’re in our backyard and are as good a starting point as any. The Gothams — see details of this year’s candidates here — can be early predictors of Oscar nominees, as can forthcoming awards like those doled out by the mysterious National Board of Review, which will announce its winners on Tuesday.

But it won’t be until the mighty, if not almighty, industry guilds — the actors’, producers’ and directors’ groups — unveil their top picks in weeks to come that we will get a definitive picture of the strongest candidates.

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Matt Damon in a scene from “The Martian.”

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Aidan Monaghan/20th Century Fox

This year’s race is notable for not having a clear front-runner, unlike seasons past, when we saw “Boyhood” face off against “Birdman” and “Gravity” against “12 Years a Slave.” There is no runaway contender yet for 2016’s top prize, best picture. Prognosticators are currently pitting “Spotlight” against “The Martian” and “The Revenant,” though the first might prove too modest, the second too genre-y, and the third too grim for the Academy’s tastes.

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A scene from “Spotlight.”

Credit
Kerry Hayes/Films

Though for once the actress bench is refreshingly deeper than usual, the acting prizes are a bit of an unknown, too — with the probable exception of best actor. In “The Revenant,” Leonardo DiCaprio suffers Christlike on screen for more than two hours, proving himself to be so much of a masochist it would be almost sadistic for the Academy to slight him again.

Carpetbagger is also adopting a different and (blessedly) less frenetic format this year, abandoning the blog — so late aughts! — for a meatier and, we hope, newsier online report, along with the weekly print column. Onward!



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