THE REVENANT directed by Alejandro G.Iñárritu (US, 2015)
In which an A-list vegetarian actor is forced to eat buffalo liver, raw fish and to pick meat off the bones of long dead animal carcasses.
These are only part of what Leonardo Di Caprio, as Hugh Glass, has to endure after being left for dead in an unforgiving snowy wilderness with a constant threat from roving tribes of Native Indians. Though set at the end of the 19th Century, this is a modern day western in the raw, gritty spirit of Cormac McCarthy.
Emmanuel Lubezki’s landscape photography is astonishing and it come as no surprise to discover that he has also worked with Terrence Malick. It justifies the director’s decision to use natural lighting and to reject the easy option of computer-generated imagery.
The special effects are equally breathtaking. A fight with a grizzly bear is amazingly realistic. Never has the ‘no animal has been harmed during the making of this film’ message been so necessary.
Stripped to the rawest elements, this is a tale of survival and revenge against all odds. The tagline ‘Blood lost – life found’ can also serve as a plot summary. Complaints in some quarters about the movie being merely a celebration of machismo are akin to complaining of lack of affirmative female roles in a war movie.
Tom Hardy plays the ruthless Fitzgerald, Glass’s uncompromising adversary. Hardy is an actor who seems to inhabit his characters while I generally find it harder to separate DiCaprio from his offscreen persona. I will concede, however, that DiCaprio gives an impressive no holds barred performance here, one which should finally earn him the long-awaited Academy Award.
In a state of exhaustion and barely alive, his stony stare into the camera at the end of the movie should come with the caption: NOW can I have an Oscar, pleeeeeeaaaase!
THE MASTER directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (USA, 2012)
I was prematurely dismissive about There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous movie. I only really appreciated its quality and power on second viewing. I strongly suspect that the same will be true of The Master and certainly feel inclined to reserve final judgement until I’ve had chance to see it again.
The film’s opacity and lack of plot mean that there is a temptation to dismiss the universal critical acclaim it has garnered as hype and it is clear that,beyond the smart press, it has already divided ‘ordinary’ punters. It has been branded as a Marmite movie, something you’ll either love or hate.
If asked the question ‘what is it about?’, the most typical reply would be that it is a veiled study/satire of the birth of scientology but this seems a bit reductive to me. As it raises philosophical issues about the nature of madness, rationalism and existentialism, dismissing it on the grounds that there’s no narrative arc seems to me to be a superficial reading. Continue reading
I have now seen all nine films nominated for best picture at this year’s Oscars. You can read individual reviews of each of them on this blog and, ahead of the forthcoming razzmatazz of the awards ceremony, here are my final thoughts on the contenders.
The three best movies are by directors who understand the visual grammar of cinema to the point that images speak louder than words.
In the case of The Artist there is no dialogue at all, unless you count the title cards. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is so memorable because of the amazing production design that brings the automaton and Parisian station to life. This supports the pseudo-religious view expressed by the young protagonist that we are all part of one enormous mechanism .
Both movies pay affectionate homage to silent movies in recognition of cinema as a painterly and visionary medium.
The other truly great film on the short list is Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life,. It too is visually stunning but the lack of linear narrative makes it the type of movie that wins more supporters at artier festivals like Venice, Berlin or Cannes.
I personally expect The Artist to triumph but would like to see Scorsese or Malick win as best director. Continue reading
I had fun compiling a list of best British cult movies but putting together a year’s best of list is a taller order as I don’t actually go the cinema that much these days.
I tend to be a little over dependent on DVDs and downloads which often means I miss stuff or see things late.
I just about managed to put together a top ten, however, although keen-eyed buffs will note that some of these were actually released in 2010.
1. Tree of Life.
Terrence Malick’s epic was panned by some and booed at Cannes but for ambition, scope and sheer beauty movie experiences don’t come much better than this. Continue reading