Newsletter: Gold Standard: ‘The Revenant’ draws blood in Oscar race

Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that will help guide you through the ins and outs of the awards season, leading up to the Oscars. I’m Glenn Whipp, The Times' awards columnist and your newsletter host. Let's look at what happened this week.

Spirit Awards begin to define the races

Film Independent's Spirit Awards nominees were announced Tuesday. To be eligible, movies must be American productions with a budget of no more than $20 million. That leaves out many contenders, including three of my favorite movies from this year -- "Brooklyn," "Son of Saul" and "45 Years."

The three movies leading the Spirit nominations -- Todd Haynes' romance "Carol," the journalism procedural "Spotlight" and the child-soldier war drama "Beasts of No Nation" -- received boosts heading into the Thanksgiving weekend, when many awards voters catch up on seeing movies.

Also of note: The Spirits, like the Golden Globes, placed "Carol" actress Rooney Mara in the lead category, along with co-star Cate Blanchett. The Weinstein Co. has been campaigning for Mara as a supporting actress. It'll be interesting to see where she lands with Oscar voters.

Michael B. Jordan stars in "Creed." (Warner Bros.)

Can crowd-pleasing 'Creed' find favor with the academy?

It's Thanksgiving weekend and everyone wants a recommendation of a movie they can watch with their entire family. (Yes, even that oddball uncle who hates Hollywood.)

The answer this year: "Creed," Ryan Coogler's "Rocky" spinoff that just opened in theaters. How good is it? Audiences around town have been cheering and applauding during the closing credits.

Will it engage enough academy members to become an Oscar contender? I wrote about that here. Sylvester Stallone, tired, tender, should find votes for his supporting work. (Who doesn't love a comeback?) And Michael B. Jordan absolutely belongs in the lead actor discussion for his empathetic portrait of the troubled title character, a young boxer searching for identity. It's a star-making turn.

Golden Globes predictions

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. will announce its nominations for the Golden Globes on Dec. 10. Figuring out the whims of these 82 voters isn't easy, but I have a go at it here. And I already have the hearty approval of at least one of the potential nominees.  

'The Revenant' a grueling endurance test

Alejandro G. Inarritu's western "The Revenant" had its first screening for awards voters and press this week. My colleague Rebecca Keegan filed this report from watching the 2-hour, 36-minute revenge tale at the academy's Samuel L. Goldwyn Theater. It's bloody, brutal, bold, exhilarating and exhausting. I don't know that it will win Inarritu a second consecutive Oscar following "Birdman" or if it will win Leonardo DiCaprio his first. But I do know cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is a movie god. And he's about to win his third straight Oscar for his stunning work in the film.

Lily Tomlin, left, Charlotte Rampling, Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, Saoirse Ronan and Brie Larson at The Envelope's lead actress roundtable. (Kirk McCoy / Los Angeles Times)

Profiling the contenders

Times staff writer Lorraine Ali sat down with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara to talk about the "secrets, codes and forbidden topics and taboos" in Todd Haynes' lesbian romance "Carol." Blanchett also joined Helen Mirren, Brie Larson, Lily Tomlin, Charlotte Rampling and Saoirse Ronan to talk about the challenges of navigating the machinery of celebrity, among many other topics, at The Times' lead actress roundtable.

"Why are we talking about women like they're aliens?" Larson wondered. "We're talking about them like it's a niche genre. It's like, 'Some zombie movies did good. You think we're gonna be making zombie movies forever?' We're talking about half of human beings."


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