WOULDN'T it be funny if Deadpool got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture but Martin Scorsese's 30-year labour-of-love prestige project, Silence, didn't?
It could happen.
So far Silence is unambiguously the biggest flop of Hollywood awards season.
With its heavy subject matter and historical weight, plus the irresistible detail that the completion of the film represents a triumph because it took one of Hollywood's greatest filmmakers 28 years to get it made after the director first read the novel Silence back in the 1980s, Silence had "Oscar contender" written all over it.
In the film, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play Portuguese Jesuit priests searching for a fellow padre (Liam Neeson) who has gone missing in 17th century Japan, where the ruling Buddhists are capturing, torturing and murdering Catholics who refuse to renounce their faith.
In early December, one early reviewer, Roger Friedman of Showbiz 411 said, in a story blasted out to the world via the Drudge Report, that Silence is "a masterwork that is set to ambush the awards race."
But as the film heads into wide release after doing so-so numbers in a limited number of theatres in the US since Christmas Day, it has no momentum whatsoever.
This week, the film got completely left off the list of BAFTA nominations. The Producer's Guild of America didn't give it one of its ten nominations for its equivalent of Best Picture. (Last year seven of the nine PGA nominees went on to Oscar nominations for Best Picture.)
Silence was also shut-out at the SAG awards and the Golden Globes. It got the cold shoulder from the American Cinema editors. It didn't get a screenplay nomination from the Writer's Guild of America. It won zilch from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.
There are hundreds of movie awards being given out this season. But so far the one film that was set to dominate them has captured only a measly Best Adapted Screenplay honour from the National Board of Review.
Could it be that the 160-minute film just isn't working? Even Friedman broached the possibility when he said, "The word out of Los Angeles on Sunday was that Silence was boring or something."
Or something. Some of the less reverent, least fanboyish film critics have been tearing the film to shreds. Women critics especially seem not to find much to love in the film's combination of emotional vacuity and endless repetition of scenes built around whether or not a Catholic can be coerced into stepping on an image of Jesus Christ.
"The torture porn is spectacularly inventive. But its commercial compromises may drive you to distraction ... it is punishingly repetitive and, at nearly three hours, sooooooo, sooooooo long," wrote Deborah Ross in the Spectator (UK).
Even less charitably, Camilla Long of London's Sunday Times wrote, "What is this film actually about? If there is an actor who can persuade me that stamping on an image of Christ is a moment of thrilling drama, it is not Garfield ... It is Scorsese at his most sentimental and his weakest. Halfway into its interminable 161 minutes, I realised that Silence stood for something else as well: the silence of fans and critics, or anyone who might say what a flimsy, tokenistic, ego-driven brainfart it is."
The New York Times' Manohla Dargis derided the film's "crushing lack of urgency" and Kate Taylor of the Globe and Mail said "Without any engaging answer to those questions, the film's emotional tension slackens."
Even the critics who liked the film, such as Peter DeBruge of Variety, admitted that it is "taxing," "punishingly long, frequently boring and woefully unengaging."
Silence, with its $US50 million budget, has little hope of turning a profit, but prestige pictures like this one aren't made to make money. And the Academy Awards could rescue it by throwing it a Best Picture or Best Director nomination on January 25.
But otherwise, Silence looks like one of the biggest disasters of Scorsese's career.
Silence is due to hit Aussie cinemas next month.
This article was originally published on The New York Post.
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