10D0O #7 – The Revenant (2015)


Welcome to the seventh day of 10 Days of Oscar. It’s been a full week and we’re gearing already towards the end of this series. I might also want to announce that on my twitter @jaimegrijalba this Sunday I shall be tweeting the nominations and winners of my Frank Awards 2015 in exclusive. For those who want to know the results beforehand, I’ll have the final roll-out in a post by next week for sure. So, onto this film that is nominated for the whooping amount of 12 Oscars.

by Jaime Grijalba.

Some disclaimers before I start whatever it is that I’ll end up doing in this review: I liked ‘Birdman’ (2014, Iñárritu), and I liked this film, and it’s my third favorite of the eight films nominated for Best Picture. I also like ‘Birdman’ (2014) more than ‘The Revenant’ (2015), as I personally think that it’s easier to love the Keaton-led picture than this overbearing film of eponymous and epic style that keeps you at the edge every second that passes, but that’s my opinion, but at the time I also had an incredibly reactionary opinion to what ended up being the winner of Best Picture at the time. Not many formal critics, at least in my circle of those I follow, found any value in the Broadway-lived-in film, and not much value in this one either, so my question is, just like it was last year: what’s with the relation between critics and the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu? Is it an issue of not understanding where he’s coming from? His references? Or maybe the fact that they’re paying way too much attention to all the press surrounding the film (which is, admittedly, ridiculous and utterly discouraging coming from practically everyone who worked in this film) and not to the movie and what it might mean in itself? I’m not saying that a film should exist in a vacuum, but let’s leave buzzwords and interviews for journalists, while we take care of the most important element: the craft of the film, and in that sense, it’s profoundly impeccable and without any fault. In fact, I feel that I could copy many of the remarks I did last year regarding ‘Birdman’, just paste them here and see what has changed. In fact, let’s do that, at least, for a while:

Changes on the original text should be obvious enough.

“There is something quite interesting about the fact that so many critics have dissed and even downright hated something as interesting to discuss and even important like ‘THE REVENANT’ (2015). It’s not really the best movie of the year, nor revolutionary in the way that it was filmed, or the themes that it presents aren’t exactly more or less interesting than in any of the other films that are nominated for anything in this year’s Oscars. I really hate to write these kind of things in a defensive manner, because it seems as if I’m the solely defender of “these truths that we hold dear”, and I’m not. I do think that it’s one of the best movies of the year, but I also don’t think that it’s a movie that deserves or even needs any kind of defense, but I feel like the lonely dude in the desert that yells (or tweets): “THE REVENANT was kinda great, why anyone else thinks this way?”, or at least among the crowd of new internet cinephiles that I’d like to be fully adopted by that thinks that this movie is somewhat lame, and not only that, the worst thing that has ever graced our screens. In a turn of events, I’ve found myself in the side of Mike D’Angelo, out of all possible critics, thinking that this movie is good (though he would never call it among the best films of 2015), someone who actually despises ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU, APART FROM ‘BIRDMAN’ (2014), WHICH HE ALSO KINDA LIKED. So, there must be something here that should be taken care of, something that we should pay attention to, because sometimes it’s way too easy for me or for anyone to point at this movie and tell it how “wrong” or “gimmicky” or whatever one superficially think it is. As much as it annoys some people, I think we need to go deeper to understand the true values of something like this latest film of Iñarritu.”

Deja vu.

There was a video making the rounds, about how it seemed that most of ‘The Revenant’ (2015) was lifted, style-wise, from Tarkovsky’s films, and while I’m still not sure of the intention of the video maker, if it was to slam Iñárritu for his lack of originality, or to pinpoint to those ignorant to the fact, the idea of where the Mexican director got some of the images and ideas from. But I must say that the film feels like nothing Tarkovsky would ever do, but that doesn’t mean that he is inherently better or worse than either, one can like a blunt approach while others appreciate something more poetic. Because no matter how elegiac or spiritual some of the images in the DiCaprio led film are, the movie takes a completely brute and blunt approach to its images, he doesn’t need delicateness because he doesn’t strive for that, he wants us to experience the human emotion and suffering as close and as real as it can get, and he has been doing so since the start of his career, so people complaining about how he has changed, I don’t think that witnessing to all the suffering that DiCaprio gets is any different from the agonizing and hurtful performance of Sean Penn in ’21 Grams’ (2003, Iñárritu). Of course, in this film it’s much more brutal, and the bear scene is just excruciating, at both times you want to keep looking but you can’t, the choreography there marred with the special effects has made its mark in how the scene plays and how the bear mauls the DiCaprio character is just harrowing to witness.

That’s not without the help of the hellish performance of Tom Hardy, who here makes his grumbles the subject of his own hatefulness. The cinematography, with its much touted natural lighting, brings us imagery and colors that otherwise we couldn’t have gotten: the dusk and the sunrise in the snowy landscape. The score is beautiful, a shame that it couldn’t be nominated because of reasons, but it truly brings together the whole thing. In a walk, this could win most of the major awards: picture, director, cinematography… and while they are not my favorite picks when it comes to the whole thing, specially considering the presence of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015, Miller), I really can’t be bothered to be awarding a film that made me feel thrills that I haven’t felt in years, and that at the same time is so thematically interesting and well constructed, so that it makes it worth repeating, at least once more, so you can pin down the emotions and just be enraptured once again by the visuals.



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