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.


Dunkirk. It is tremendous. Couldn’t look away for even a sliver of a moment. Out of all of Christopher Nolan movies I’ve seen, I’d rank this at the top. One thing that did him a favor is that the dialogue is so minimal. A trim, direct story so he can focus on the construction. I love the layered stories – the boat scenes being my favorites – that are racing to meet at the end, which we know with hindsight is only a beginning.

I haven’t updated my Christopher Nolan power rankings in a while, so…

  1. Dunkirk
  2. Interstellar
  3. Memento
  4. The Prestige
  5. The Dark Knight
  6. The Dark Knight Rises
  7. Batman Begins
  8. Insomnia
  9. Following
  10. Inception

That feels right for now.

The Revenant

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.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road. Ridiculously fun, and so refreshing. I do wish the dialogue were more intelligible. I would have killed for some subtitles or something in the first 10-15 minutes. Sneaky side-effect, though, is that it makes you dial in a bit more, and pay attention. On the other other hand, it doesn’t matter too much, though, as it’s a (very extended) chase film where the details don’t matter too much. (Made me think of Apocalypto in its relentlessness.) Furiosa joins a long, storied line of shaven-head heroines like Ripley, Lt. Ilia, LUH-3417, what’s-her-face in V for Vendetta, et al. Filed under: road movies.


Locke. I really liked this movie. Two things it reminded me of: Arbitrage, because he’s in a really crappy position and he’s trying to make do. And Bronson, because it’s Tom Hardy putting on a one-man show and just nailing it. About 99% of it is watching him on phone calls while he’s driving. I love it when movies play with constraints like this. So good.


Bronson. It’s an oddball comedy-horror character portrait, goofier and more stylized than I expected, e.g. the frequent juxtaposed opera in the soundtrack. My respect for Tom Hardy keeps growing. Refn really has a thing for these violent loner types. Hunger is a very, very different look at a UK prison experience that’s worth seeing.


Warrior. I’ve raved about this movie before. A few things I appreciate on third viewing… 1. The efficiency of the startup. A few bits of dialogue, usually barbs hinting at old wounds. Some are too vague to be effective (“That shit you pulled”), but some are so wincingly perfect for character and delivery (“Must be tough to find a girl who could take a punch nowadays.”) 2. Shot, reverse-shot. Sports movies have to deliver on dialogue when you’re not at the relevant events. This is why you care about Rocky or Rudy. Style-wise, these shots reminds me of Michael Mann, peering over the shoulder. 3. Obstructing the shots. I’m thinking of the husband-wife conversation in the bathroom and the father-son scene in the hotel room. Doorways and bodies block the view, so you instinctively want to tilt your head a bit. It also works in the fight scenes cage, where you’re trying to peek through the fence to get closer to the action. In a way, those shots feel more like you’re “there” in the arena than when you get the clean close-ups. 4. This movie is now 3-for-3.

Star Trek: Nemesis

Star Trek: Nemesis. I can see why they put the brakes on the movies for a while. This one might be too blockbuster for it’s own good. It lost some Trekkiness. A very safe film. Definitely better than Insurrection, though, and I think the better production values are a big part of it. As you might suspect from the title, there’s some identity issues explored here. The Picard/Shinzon relationship feels a bit portentous (although one of the saving graces is that young Tom Hardy shows he’s had that incredible screen presence all along, even though his villain is one we’ve seen before: smart, pale, bald, leather.); it’s the relationship between Data and B4 that’s really cool. It’s sort of a Ship of Theseus problem–if you give a physically identical android the same memories, is it the same android? Brent Spiner is a life-saver for all the TNG movies, which seem like they give their supporting cast a lot more screen time. I admit that I enjoyed the dune buggies.

And that’s that. I’ve seen every Star Trek film. Here’s how I rank them:

  1. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  3. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  4. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  5. Star Trek: First Contact
  6. Star Trek
  7. Star Trek: Nemesis
  8. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
  9. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
  10. Star Trek: Generations
  11. Star Trek: Insurrection


Warrior. Some plot points are about subtle as a kick to the head, but the power is there, too. Much, much better than I expected, thanks to a great cast (A.O. Scott: “These are tough guys, but you can only care about them if you believe that they can break.”) and a great pace. Ebert:

This is a rare fight movie in which we don’t want to see either fighter lose. That brings such complexity to the final showdown that hardly anything could top it — but something does.