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by: Mike Reistetter

Two star-studded, ensemble casts. Two “based on true story” films: one rich with investigative dialogue, the other rich with a heavily breathing-filled trek across the western frontier. Tasteful acting verses over-acting. Cerebral symbolism verses visual existentialism. 21st century informative responsibility of media gatekeeping verses a revenge tale told against the backdrop of unethical Post-Civil War treachery across Native American reservations. Innaritu vs. McCarthy.  “Spotlight” vs. “The Revenant.”

“Spotlight” is the nominee most reminiscent of a former winner like 2012’s “Argo.” Only this time, none of the central plot was fabricated within the context of actual events. The true story of the Boston Globe’s award winning investigative journalism staff, which single-handedly commenced the cracking down on sexual abuse offenders within the Catholic Church, played out like a dramatized documentary, with little-to-no-hang-ups or instances of dragged boredom. The film covered a very sensitive subject matter in a way that not only heightens the amount of respect which should be given to the Boston Globe, but also to the courageousness of those victims who spoke up, and to the countless others who sadly still remained silent.

Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, and John Slattery emit such laudable chemistry as the “Spotlight” team who boldly starts pointing their fingers at Boston-area priests. It was through determination and professionalism, their real-life counterparts were able to permeate past all the red tape thrown up by apparently swift secularization, which had once left the Catholic Church immune to prosecution. Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight” has all the elements of a Best Picture winner. In fact, it’s near-flawlessness almost goes against it to some degree, as many have deemed it the obvious winner, given its status as a modest box-office performer and non-fictional critical darling.

Then there’s “The Revenant.” The polarizing epic mass audiences have universally accepted as Leonardo Dicaprio’s long-deserved entrance into Academy Award-Winning recognition. While Dicaprio’s heart-wrenching performance as the beaten and bloodied, left for dead fur trapper Hugh Glass was surely representative of his absurdly overlooked skill-set and range. There seemed to be a painfully stretched out middle act where DiCaprio channels the all-is-lost, every man for himself formula to evoke his desperation. These two films are widely understood to be the heavy frontrunners for Best Picture at this year’s academy awards, to be held on Feb. 28. A pre-presidential election primaries race of sorts. With “The Revenant” and “Spotlight” each representing the Democratic and Republican parties, and “Room” as the third party potentially stealing a large percentage of votes from the other two. Who shall be guaranteed the win, is still not set in stone. But do not be surprised if both films take home multiple Oscars, yet somehow still fail to secure the top prize. The Academy has certainly been known to shock and throw off audiences in the past.