The Revenant

The Revenant. Second viewing (the first). I appreciate it so much more this time around. Jumping out this time were the recurring trees that save his life or support him throughout. (“The wind cannot defeat a tree with strong roots. If you look at its branches, you swear it will fall. But if you watch the trunk, you see its stability.”) Like when he uses a branch as a cane. Or when injured, he’s hauled on a pallet of branches. When leaving his son for the last time, he turns away and props himself on a tree trunk. When escaping downriver, he floats on a log. He’s sheltered by an impromptu branch hut during a storm, a tree breaks his fall from a cliff, a tree branch makes a decoy when trying to lure Fitzgerald out of hiding. I also liked the nature interludes – elk crossing a river, buffalo stampede, avalanche – that make this epic tale seem so small, and nature indifferent.

Seeing What Is There

This past Saturday, I woke up early and went hiking. The day started gloomy like the photo above, then misty, then drizzly, and the weather got worse and worse as the morning went on.

Toward mid-day, the rain was coming down pretty steady. I came around a bend on the trail, walking up to a lookout point. A man and woman were standing there with their ponchos on, looking out at the wall of rain and fog and the dark fuzzy outlines of the ridge beyond.

I started a little small talk. “Not much of a view today!”

The guy smiled and laughed and gently corrected me: “Well… it’s different.”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I liked it, overall, and it had just enough small things to drive me a little nuts. Snoke is a misfire (just call Ed Harris! You have the budget!), and so were the various little animals. That one ship’s jump to light speed was sublime. And very good space debris throughout. I like our time with Rey and Kylo, and Poe’s debacles. Finn was wasted, unfortunately. Benicio Del Toro is the best, but I wish they could have found him some other way. The space chase could and should have been gut-wrenching, but something about the cuts and pacing made it just sort of… there. I wonder how I’ll feel whenever I rewatch it again. Of the latest batch, this ranks behind Rogue One. Filed under: Star Wars.

Green

I spent a few hours at my favorite nearby park today. Heavy rains had the creek running high in the banks. Chilly air still had some snap to it, a different damp, one that makes your cheeks flush but makes you more eager to set out rather than bundle up. Walk along the creek, look out into the forest, and see the flora feeling the same way – branches blushing green, let’s get started, stretching out from the greys and browns of the last few months. Buds to unlayer and blossom soon enough. Just you wait. A few weeks ago I spent a week volunteering in Saguaro National Park, which was mostly grey and brown. I learned all about the cactus, succulents, flowers, trees, and more than I thought there was to know about grasses. It rained a bit before my arrival there, and there too I got to the first greens of the season peeking out. It was a preview of a preview, a hint of spring before spring. I came back home craving the first greens and what comes after. And out today, I think I see the plants craving it, too. Following through on their own promise. Just you wait. We’ll make it through the grey and brown and step out again.

The Girl With All the Gifts

The Girl With All the Gifts. Has anyone written about how in movies, if a child is portrayed to be courteous and well-behaved with adults, we think they’re creepy? There’s just something off about a kid who cares a little too much about adults. I like the fine line this one walks, betraying our sense of what a happy ending should be. I think my favorite parts of zombie movies are when they have to sneak by them. This one has a couple good scenes like that, and they made me remember and appreciate similar ones in Shaun of the Dead, Train to Busan, and World War Z.

The Gift

The Gift. Second viewing (the first). Very nicely done. Love the characterization through costume. Edgerton’s character consistently has something in the wardrobe that’s on the border of “uncool” and “unsettling”. Love how it shows people wrestling with intuition vs. manners, protection vs. politeness.

Annihilation

Annihilation. I dig it. Interesting to see scifi that leans so much on biology. One of those slower exploratory scifi movies that later gets crossed with some truly horrific gore (Stalker meets The Thing?). Great score, especially the climactic scenes. The music was so… three-dimensional. It felt novel somehow to have a discernible rhythm in there, not a long fermata.

Art Moments

When the portraits of the Obamas were revealed today, I mentioned that seeing Kehinde Wiley‘s work was one of the big Art Moments in my life. I started thinking about a few other peak experiences and wanted to jot’em down.

First, Wiley. I saw an exhibition in Phoenix, and just drooled. I love the large painted portraits, but it was the stained glass that really won me over:

The first time I ever saw Out of the Past, I almost couldn’t believe it was happening. At that moment, it was a pinnacle combination of zippy script, glamour, camerawork, noir, tragedy. Just dumbfounded and grateful that I’d found it.

As a teen I got kinda lost in the Louvre and then I came around some the corner, I saw Winged Victory, and I couldn’t move. When the spell wore off a little bit, I didn’t want to leave.

In college I went to see the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra play Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with a buddy of mine. At this point it was one of my favorite works for orchestra, one I’d listened to a million times, and I lucked into one of those edge-of-your-seat performances where everyone was locked in. It’s all great and then we come to the close of the third movement, just a few minutes remaining, where the pianist is racing through a closing bit of fireworks (32:18 or so), and where there’s a pause (32:33) – it’s just a second, but at this point we’re just dying to hear the orchestra re-enter – we can hear the pianist and the composer both take a deep breath and lunge into action and boooooom we’re back with timpani and strings and big chunky chords and we’re all losing our minds. Lordy.

Lastly (for now) I went to Chicago a few years back and wandered around the Art Institute. I had some time to kill so I figured why not wander to the bottom floor and see about that Ethel Stein exhibit they had tucked away. I’d seen plenty of woven stuff before but this was one that made me really appreciate how high the ceiling can be.

I know I’m missing a bunch, and that’s fine. These are the ones that stick out for now. Here’s to many more.

Wind River

Wind River. Man, this was great. I’ve been catching up on 2017 movies, and when I see ones like this and The Lost City of Z and Good Time, I start to wonder why we weren’t talking about them all year long. Wind River sits with its pain, a steady undercurrent of mourning, and explores how we accept loss, or find ourselves in some other endless form of pursuit, resignation, denial. Native American mistreatment is also a big theme, shown with visuals – contrast modest homes vs. trailer parks – or just ignorance, like when our well-meaning FBI agent bumbles through an interview with a victim’s family. At times the script feels more written than spoken, but that’s not so bad when the words are great. Director Taylor Sheridan also wrote the excellent Sicario and Hell or High Water.