The Revenant is a gorgeous slog. From the opening panorama to the final close-up, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s frontier survivalist epic confronts the viewer with this discord. This tension colors the film completely, elbowing out more nuanced analyses of character arcs or thematic material upon first glance. But to claim, as some critics have, that The Revenant is a pretty film devoid of meaning is an absurdity. The harrowing cinematic experience certainly offers visual splendor up front and is heavily fettered in a masochistic cloak, but underneath it all, the insights into the human condition are many and varied. Besides marveling at the strength of the human spirit or the futility of revenge, themes of spiritual rebirth, everlasting love, betrayal, racism, and even the importance of friendship and connection with another human being in this vast, cold world.
Earlier today, the nominees for the 88th annual Oscars were announced, and this is the first time Plot and Theme has existed during an Oscar season, so I am going spout my nonsense preferences and commentary for all who wish to read. Before we get started, it is important to understand that these are not the films that I think will win the award, but the films that I think deserve to win. It is a slight difference, and if anyone cares about predicting the actual winners, I may do that on the eve of the ceremony (or, I could even live Tweet as the Oscars are happening).