‘Hacksaw Ridge’: Will new Mel Gibson epic be latest war film to win Best Picture?

When Edwin Starr asked his eternal question, “War, what is it good for?” one answer is resoundingly: Oscars. It’s no secret that those steak-eaters of the motion picture academy have a soft spot for films about war, with countless being nominated over the years and some even conquering the coveted Best Picture race. Will Mel Gibson‘s new epic “Hacksaw Ridge” about a fish-out-of-water World War II medic (Andrew Garfield) who refused to touch a weapon be the next in a long line of war-themed Best Picture champs?

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In its favor is something you don’t necessarily see in a lot of films about war: love. The first third of “Hacksaw Ridge” is a sweet love story between Garfield’s Desmond Doss and Teresa Palmer‘s Nurse Dorothy, which helps ground the film in rich characterization before the battles begin. And oh, what battles they are. At the academy’s red carpet premiere screening Monday night in Beverly Hills, audience members were audibly gasping and shielding their eyes during the realistic war sequences. Be prepared: Gibson depicts the Battle of Okinawa as a bloody mess of bullets and bombs, lost limbs and guts, holding absolutely nothing back.

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Besides Garfield and Palmer, other scene-stealing cast members include Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington as Desmond’s superior officers, Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths as his parents, and a plethora of young actors playing the parts of his fellow World War II soldiers. In particular, Vaughn showcases a range of acting — humanity, warmth, silliness — that we’ve never seen from the comic actor. Could he shock Oscar pundits by earning a Best Supporting Actor nomination this year just like Robert Downey Jr. did for a similar role in “Tropic Thunder” (2008)?

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If “Hacksaw Ridge” were to claim Best Picture at the Oscars, it would join a prestigious list of war-themed recipients including the first-ever champ “Wings” (1927/28), former Gibson flick “Braveheart” (1995), and the most recent such winner “The Hurt Locker” (2009), to name just three. In fact, war movies are such awards bait that Ricky Gervais once joked on his HBO comedy series “Extras” (2005) that if Kate Winslet ever wanted to win an Oscar she would need to star in a Holocaust movie. In 2008 Winslet starred in such a film, “The Reader,” and wound up winning the Oscar for Best Actress.

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Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How do you think “Hacksaw Ridge” will do with academy voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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