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.
The Departed. Third, maybe fourth viewing. Somehow it’s compulsively watchable but I don’t actually like it that much? I like the Japanese original Infernal Affairs more, I think. Filed under: Martin Scorsese.
The Revenant. I still hold to my first reaction:
I wish THE REVENANT were wilder, of all things. Camera makes you feel not like you’re there, but like you’re on an Arctic ride on rails. Or a videogame cut scene? I liked it though. Looked like the most miserable filming experience one could ask for. Also, Tom Hardy has never lost a staring contest.
A bit of a slog. Doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of meat on those bones. Birdman also felt a bit stifling for me. Amazing that this thing got made, though. I wonder if all the PR talk about the filming conditions was sort of an admission/cover that they didn’t quite get what they wanted out of this one.
See also: The Grey and Grizzly Man.
The Aviator. I often struggle with biopics, but I liked this one a lot. I like how the film stock and coloring shifts with the passage of time, the recurring hands imagery, and the sympathy we feel as we see this man changing. “Nothing’s clean, Howard. But we do our best.”
Shutter Island. Better than I thought it would be. Scorsese takes some simple genre stuff to some good creepy heights.
The Wolf of Wall Street. If Scorsese has any one gift, it is making a scene longer than it needs to be, and somehow not ruining it. If he has a second gift, it’s all the filmic energy that he gets out of moving a camera. Repulsive behavior has rarely been so much fun. Much better than Wall Street. Spring Breakers is another good debauched horror story.
Django Unchained. The best way to summarize my experience is that this movie made me excited about what movies can do. And like Compliance, a huge part of the experience is how you share it with a theater full of other viewers. Powerful, thoughtful entertainment that makes you think about why you’re entertained.
Inception. This is a good movie. Worth seeing? Sure. Superlative? No. Interesting ideas and there’s enough ambiguity to puzzle over ‘til the End of Days. Five Ways of Looking at Inception is probably just the tip of the iceberg.
The trouble was that I didn’t care much. My first reaction was “Inception: all muscle and nerves, no heart. Interesting but probably at least 48 minutes too long.” It kinda reminded me of the situation where a writer has an awesome essay and then later writes a book on the same topic. This movie was a book where an essay (i.e. short film) might have been a tighter, more engaging experience.
Other assorted observations:
- I think the dark, corporate angle is legit. The idea of executive-level extraction-resistance training is a nice scifi hypothetical.
- I liked the idea of different levels of dreams operating at different time-speeds. Pretty cool.
- Lots of explanatory dialogue…
- Mediocre score.
- I’d like to see more movies where not everyone is wealthy and skilled.
- I’d like to see action movies with fewer hordes of incompetent gunmen.
- Ski chase. Dead wife reappearing. Zero-gravity fights. Old man dying in a minimalist room. I don’t think this is a bad thing, btw.