From Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply‘s 12.3 N.Y. Times piece about the Oscar race, which isn’t so much about how the “Best Picture Race Puts Fox In A Tough Spot” as a general review of the players and their chances: “The Revenant, which has a SWAT team of publicists and awards consultants working on its behalf, is a visually arresting film that some Oscar forecasters have compared to The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick’s critically adored 2011 drama. Despite the gore in Mr. Inarritu’s movie — a horse is disemboweled, among other bloody sequences — New Regency sees “The Revenant as an audience pleaser, attracting multiplex crowds of men and women alike.”

HE to Barnes/Cieply: The Revenant is beautiful and immersive — you don’t watch it as much as thrill and stagger around and suffer-by-proxy in your seat. But it’s no one’s idea of an audience-pleasing movie…unless you’re talking about an audience full of hardcore, Chivo-worshipping film nerds. If you ask me it’s not so much like The Tree of Life as Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining. Which is to say it doesn’t tell that much of an involving story as much as smother you with rugged atmosphere and adrenalin and a kind of damp, sinewy blanket with burrs and thorns. Make what you will of it, but it stays with you. You can smell the snow, the campfire smoke, the sweat, the dread and the guts of the dead horse. It’s no picnic, but it’s something else.

“For the moment, Oscar prospects for David O Russell’s Joy are murkier [than The Revenant‘s]. Mr. Russell is known for some of the best-received films in recent years, including The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. So he is in some ways competing against his own very strong track record. How does Joy stack up? Only finished recently after heavy re-editing (test audiences did not like the initial third act), the feel-good Joy has been receiving good-but-not-quite-great tastemaker buzz.

“The film’s chances may ultimately rest on good will for Jennifer Lawrence, who won a Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook. Because of its story, Joy may also resonate strongly with female voters. At a recent screening for awards voters, Ms. Lawrence said the film acknowledges ‘women who are the unsung heroes of their households.'”