Plenty of talk gets thrown around this time each year about what type of stories are "Oscar favorites," by which people mean "likely to win you an Academy Award if you tell them in a film." Historical biography? Absolutely. Debilitating (but not attractiveness-depleting) illness? Sure. Mental or physical handicap? Always. "Acting challenge" involving weight-gain, weight-loss or acting through elaborate makeup? Tends to work. Achieving, overcoming or coming to terms? Check, check and... check! But the most beloved Oscar Story by a wide margin has always been "Beloved hard-working movie star finally wins The Big Prize," which is the narrative almost everyone is expecting to play out this year for the Academy Awards' perpetual runner-up, Leonardo DiCaprio.
Now, the actor's long road to his (hoped for) Best Actor statue has been immortalized in a wholly unexpected way: A retro-style video game titled Leo's Red Carpet Rampage.
Rendered using pixel-animation mimicking the classical aesthetic of a 16-bit side-scroller, the game puts players in control of a pint-sized version of the celebrated Titanic and Gangs of New York leading man on a mad-dash through gauntlet of paparazzi, reporters, fellow celebrities and other hazards in pursuit of an elusive hovering Oscar. Players run, jump and power-dash through the game platformer-style, but there are also minigame evenets at hand in the style of arcade-style "Test Your Might" bonus rounds. One of these recreates the quaalude-overdose scene from The Wolf of Wall Street while another entreats players to "Act Harder!" Film site Dark Horizons also reports on a "surprise" bonus round satirizing the #OscarSoWhite protest, called "Find The Black Nominee."
BAFTAs, MTV Awards, Golden Globes and other "warm-up" acting prizes can be grabbed for extra points along the way a'la coins in the Super Mario Bros games or Sonic The Hedgehog's gold rings, while players are warned to avoid moving-obstacles in the form of Lady Gaga (a reference to the pair awkwardly bumping into one-another at the Golden Globes). More hazardous still: DiCaprio can be challenged in his pursuit of the prize by real-life Best Actor rivals Matt Damon, Michael Fassbender, Bryan Cranston and Eddie Redmayne. The game's official site also hints at the ominous appearance of perhaps DiCaprio's greatest foe: Icebergs.
Red Carpet Rampage is, to be certain, a quick comedic lark of a thing from developer The Line; but it handily illustrates how much the discussion of the 2016 Oscars has become bigger than the films themselves in terms of "narratives" in the media (both social and traditional) about cultural politics and the career legacy of various stars. DiCaprio is technically nominated for his grueling endurance-test performance in the ultra-violent survival epic The Revenant (itself also up for Best Picture and Best Director prizes) but there's a noteworthy lack of pretense in the air about Best Actor likely being his to lose being much more a referendum on his storied career than this this one individual performance.
The game is available to be played on its own site. At this time, there has been no statement from DiCaprio, the other celebrities or The Academy on how they feel about this particular parody.
The 88th Academy Awards Ceremony will be telecast on Sunday, February 28th, 2016, by the ABC Television Network starting at 7 p.m. ET.