‘Hacksaw Ridge’ vs. ‘Silence’: Why has one religious epic risen this award season while the other struggles?

“I pray, but I’m lost,” laments Andrew Garfield in “Silence.” “Am I just praying to silence?” He could be saying that to awards voters. On paper, an epic, literary period film directed by Martin Scorsese should be a slam-dunk awards contender. It’s well reviewed (79 on MetaCritic, 85% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes) and features respected actors like Liam Neeson and Adam Driver. So what gives?

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“Silence” tells the story of Jesuit priests searching for their mentor and wrestling with their faith in 17th century Japan, but while it has struggled to gain traction on the awards circuit another film with religious themes — and coincidentally also starring Andrew Garfield — has risen. “Hacksaw Ridge” earned Best Picture and Best Director (Mel Gibson) nominations at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards, in addition to two SAG nominations and five BAFTA bids, including Best Actor noms for Garfield at each event.

“Hacksaw” tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a pacifist who enlisted in the army during World War II as a combat medic but refused to carry a weapon due to his Christian beliefs. War films have always been popular on the awards scene, and with its November 4 release date voters had more time to see it than they had for “Silence,” which didn’t screen until early December and didn’t open until December 23.

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But the awards season isn’t over yet. Oscar voting ends on January 13, and it wouldn’t be the first time the motion picture academy has embraced a film that under-performed at earlier events. What do you think? Read some of our forum posters comments below, and join the discussion here.

mafro987: “The release date is the main reason. Films with a darker (albeit not necessarily religious) tone have attracted far more attention than ‘Silence’ has, and its not like ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is any better overall than ‘Silence.’ There’s always a big release or two that get shut out and this year it’s ‘Silence.'”

DGA nominations: Damien Chazelle, Barry Jenkins in, Martin Scorsese bumped by Garth Davis

Roney Moore: “There will always be an audience in the industry for straightforward war dramas like ‘Hacksaw Ridge.’ ‘Silence’ was more experimental. It also probably doesn’t help that the artsy crowd this film is trying to reach and should play the best with, isn’t very interested in stories about religion as others.”

AnDres Gtz: “Lately, there’s always an artsy slot in BP at the Oscars. ‘Silence’ seems like the most possible to take that place. Even without much guild acclaim.”

PJ Edwards: “I bet if ‘Silence’ was released in Cannes or Venice, it would have had a much better awards trajectory. From all accounts, it seems to be a long, rote, meditative film that needs time or multiple viewings to fully digest. That is just not conducive to awards success as a late-stage release. Meanwhile ‘Hacksaw’ is mainstream red-meat entertainment. Easy in and easy out. It also has Mel Gibson comeback narrative. It also had a great awards release date.”

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Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How do you think “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Silence” 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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