Tag Archives: Leonardo DiCaprio

Inception

Inception, to me, is a near-perfect movie. It’s immersive and cerebral but also stunningly visual. It has some complex concepts but the script is so fine-tuned that it reveals only exactly as much as we can digest at a time so that the world opens up to us like a flower.

It’s about a man, Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) who goes inside people’s dreams to steal or plant ideas. It’s a dangerous world because when you fuck with the mind, screws come loose and there’s just no telling when the whole thing might come apart at the seams. But the money’s good, and Cobb’s got some troubling personal circumstances that make the game worthwhile. Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is his right-hand
man, and often the voice of reason. Eames (Tom Hardy) can impersonate anyone. And Ariadne (Ellen Page) is the architect – she’s the world-builder, the one who buries mazes inside of dreams. They’re hired by Saito (Ken Watanabe) to plant an idea in a business competitor’s mind so that he will sell off the company he’s just inherited from his dead father. Robert (Cillian Murphy) is the mark: he’s the grieving son who’s about to undergo inception – planting an idea so subtly that he’ll never suspect it’s not his own. And Mal (Marion Cotillard) is the one who can bring it all crashing down around them at any moment. Look out for her.

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To pull off this memory heist, they’ll have to build a dream within a dream within a dream – levels that director Christopher Nolan is clearly all to gleeful to construct. In one, rain pours down in sheets: the dreamer has to pee. But just like the dreams themselves, Nolan’s movie is always working on multiple levels. The first is this new world of corporate espionage. But the second is Cobb’s sacrifice. It’s the things he has lost in pursuit of the ultimate theft, and his last shot at redemption.

When Inception becomes about Robert’s dream, there are multiple worlds on the go, so we flip deftly between them. But there’s a catch: each world is experiencing time differently – the further down you go, the slower time moves. There are some very worrying consequences to this. But then there’s also “reality” – though their bodies are sleeping, they have to be somewhere, and someone has to be taking care of them. In fact, someone has to care for sleeping bodies in each dream within a dream for them to be able to access the next level. It’s complicated stuff that Nolan somehow makes feel perfectly reasonable, a true testament to his talent as a writer as well as his precision as a director. He is the audience’s true friend, unwilling to lose us.

My favourite set piece is Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in the hotel. At this point in time, they have lost gravity, so everything is floating around him. Not only is Arthur caring for the bodies of his comatose friends, he’s also coordinating an important and infinitely precise detonation, and he’s fighting off bad guys. I didn’t know it until I saw it, but a zero-gravity fight scene was exactly what I was missing in my life. Nolan prefers practical effects, so you can imagine the lengths he went to in order to breathe awe into the spectacle. JGL performed all but one stunt himself.

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The film has a tantalizingly ambiguous ending. Cobb has a totem, a fool-proof method of testing whether he’s still dreaming, or back in reality. But in the movie, his character walks away – either distracted, or uninterested, or certain of the result. But not the camera. The camera stays with his totem, and it’s the most epic rim shot of all time. Will it or won’t it? Nolan focuses on the totem rather than any human character. Nothing else matters. But it just keeps going and going, never giving us its judgment until – the screen goes black before a conclusion can be reached. I know it drives some people nuts, but I love an ambiguous ending. To me, it’s the ultimate mark of respect for one’s audience, that Nolan has trusted us to participate in his film’s end, to choose our own ending, in effect. And for someone who produced such a tight and specific script, it’s a ballsy move to put the ending in our hands. But that’s what he does. I believe there IS an answer, a right answer, and the movie is littered with clues that should point you in the right direction. But it’s okay not to know. It’s okay to debate it. It makes us collaborators.

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Of course, the whole film is a show of respect for his audience. Inception is possibly the most complicated blockbuster of our time. Nolan is careful and exacting but he doesn’t dumb things down. He introduces concepts about the subconscious mind: the genesis of ideas, the source of pain, the malleability of memory, the vulnerability of reality itself. It’s a lot. And the more we chew on this, the more meaningful the movie becomes. It’s a thriller with higher stakes than anything before it, because Nolan has tapped into something worse than death. But he also makes the movie a game; it can be won, or it can simply be enjoyed. If there are bits of the plot that go over your head that first viewing, it’s okay. Inception is one of Nolan’s airiest and most forgiving pieces. There’s a gracefulness to the way this movie moves through its layers. Even if there’s something you don’t quite grasp, you don’t get stuck on it. It’s fluid…almost suspiciously fluid, as in, plot holes don’t matter. Now why would that be?

Inception is also a capital M Metaphor. As in: to film is to dream. If you inspect Cobb’s team, you’ll see what I mean. Cobb is the director. Arthur is the producer. Ariadne is the production designer. Eames is the actor. Even more than that: Saito is the studio, and Robert is the audience.

We watched Inception recently because I had a dream wherein I was engaged to Prince Harry. We were working on the guest list for our wedding, and I was being all bubbly thinking about how Grandma would be so excited to meet the Queen. Grandma is 96 and a big fan of Elizabeth II, who is nearly her own age. Grandma is sharp as ever, sweet and bright and entertaining, but her mobility has taken a sharp hit recently, and even in my dream I knew that an overseas trip would be a stretch for her – but that the Queen would be quite the motivation. But then I realized: Grandma is not actually MY grandmother, she’s Sean’s. If I’m marrying Prince Harry, I’m not married to Sean and I don’t know Grandma. And the minute I had that thought, my dream started to crumble. Literally, the walls fell over as if they had been the set of a play that was being struck down. I had contradicted myself and shown the dream for what it was: a fiction. I routinely inflict my dreams on Sean while we shower the next morning, and being the disgusting cinephiles that we are, talk naturally turned to Inception (and, in fact, to Inside Out, wherein characters are seen “filming” dreams for the sleeping Riley). Movies and dreams have always mixed, and have always had blurry boundaries. Inception exploits that. Nolan invites us to dream alongside him.

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Method Acting 101

There was a time when “committed” actors swore by method acting for really nailing roles, really living in the skin of the characters they portrayed. It’s a technique wherein the actor aims for total emotional identification with the part, and once they’re in the zone, they don’t leave it. They don’t break character when the director yells cut. If the character is angry and volatile, the actor will be angry and volatile for the whole 4 months. If the character is needy and vulnerable, then so will be the actor. You can understand why it’s difficult to work with such an actor – it must feel like working with a toddler, one who doesn’t take naps and won’t be sent to time out.

Lots of actors have taking method acting so far it makes my eyes roll around in their sockets but it was Jared Leto’s method approach to the Joker in Suicide Squad that led
jaredletojokerhqAngelica Jade Bastien of The Atlantic to declare “Method acting is over.” Thanks to its overuse in Oscar-baity screeners by those actively seeking accolades, the method has lost its appeal, but Leto’s over-the-top zeal revealed the “technique” as more marketing tool than anything else and the prestige is all but gone. Jared Leto sent his fellow costars screwy gifts of used condoms, dead pigs, and live rats, apparently because he felt that’s the kind of thoughtful gesture the Joker would make, or at least that it would play well as an anecdote on Jimmy Kimmell. He also watched footage of brutal crimes online because apparently pretending to be a bad person isn’t enough, one must actually become reprehensible.

Going “method” is really just a new way for an actor to show off; it makes the creation of a character more visible and signals to the Academy “I’d like my Oscar now.” This identity branding is indulged by Hollywood but often divisive if not downright disruptive on set.

Practiced by Hollywood heavyweights like Paul Newman, Montgomery Clift, Dustin Hoffman, and Jack Nicholson, method acting was revolutionary in its time, and idealized in the performances of Marlon Brando. James Franco recently wrote that “Brando’s performances revolutionized American acting precisely because he didn’t seem to be ‘performing,’ in the sense that he wasn’t putting something on as much as he was being.” But Brando never took it to the extremes that we see today.

Leonardo DiCaprio has used method acting to rebrand himself as a “serious actor” after being mistaken for a hearthrob in his early career. His recent Oscar campaign for The the_revenant2Revenant emphasized the grueling ordeal he went through, including eating bison liver (despite being vegetarian), risking hypothermia by striding into freezing rivers, and sleeping in an animal carcass. But doesn’t this sound more like an episode of Fear Factor? Isn’t acting really about pretending? The Revenant isn’t a documentary about frontiersmen. I’m sure it would have played just as well had he shot the scene in a lukewarm stream instead. CGI in some breath clouds and it’s all the same to me.

Christian Bale seems to be a practitioner of the method in order to add machismo to his a99013_christian-600x450work. “I have a very sissy job, where I go to work and get my hair done, and people do my makeup, and I go and say lines and people spoil me rotten. This is just not something to be quite as proud of as many people would have you believe.” So Bale counters this by really losing himself in a role. For The Machinist, he lost 70lbs and got down to a very unhealthy 120 (on a 6′ frame), and then turned around and gained 100lbs to play Batman just 4 months later.He went on to stay in Bruce Wayne’s American accent not just for the duration of the filming, but for all the press as well.

Shia LaBeouf went 4 months without washing on the set of Fury, where he played a soldier in the trenches (this got him banished to a bed and breakfast far away from the hotel where the other cast and crew stayed). He also cut his own face with a knife, and pulled his own tooth. His co-star, Brad Pitt, non-Method, injects roles with his natural charisma rather than stunts and overly-studied contrivances. Whose performances do you prefer?

Daniel Day-Lewis may be the most over-the-top Method actor of his time. While filming My Left Foot, he refused to get out of his wheelchair, forcing crew to carry him around, and spoon-feed him dinner. He lived in the wild while shooting Last of the Mohicans, and ate only what he shot himself. He insisted that everyone address him as “Mr President” on the set of Lincoln, and forbade people from speaking to him unless it was in language (and accents) from the time period. He refused a winter coat on the set of Gangs of New York, and when he inevitably caught pneumonia, he refused “modern day” medical treatment.

DeNiro got a real cab license while filming Taxi Driver, and picked up fares around NYC 100-male-film-oliviergngk-thumb-500x250-153952between takes. Pacino made an actual citizen’s arrest while filming Serpico. Adrien Brody starved himself and sold his apartment to feel “lost” while playing a Holocaust survivor in The Pianist. If you’re getting the feeling that this so-called Method is about ego more than art, you’re not alone. And I wonder if you’re seeing the other pattern here…that all the names on this list are men.

There are plenty of Method actresses as well: Marilyn Monroe, Ellyn Burstyne, and Jane Fonda all studied the technique. They just never adopted the crazy stunts. Gena Rowlands is probably the best Method actor you’ll ever come across, but she does it without resorting to tricks. Sadly, when we hear a woman is “immersed” in a role, it almost always means she’s altered her physical appearance. So it’s pretty obvious that not only is method acting obnoxious and ridiculous, it’s also pretty sexist. But what else is new?

 

Before The Flood

I learned two major things watching Before The Flood:

  1. Leonardo DiCaprio’s parents really should have sprung for an interior decorator for his nursery.
  2. (North) Americans are goddamned hypocrites.

We all know the Earth is dying, and we’re the murderers. This is pre-meditated, Murder One, capital stuff. There won’t be any plea-bargaining at the end of the world because we’re guilty as sin.

We’ve seen this coming for 20 years or more. Unfortunately, climate change is accelerating at a greater rate than even predicted. We have very real, very frightening present-day consequences as it is. But we’re still not making changes. Oh sure we’re willing to do the small stuff, like recycling, or using lower-watt light bulbs, or bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. But the big stuff? Oh man. Don’t ask us to change our lifestyles! We’re very attached to those.

I’m attached to it. I’ll admit it. I treasure my back yard, which is why I live nearly 40km away from my work, so my car guzzles gas to make that daily round trip. I also live away from my family and my in-laws, so we’re either travelling 272km or 840km roundtrip to visit them – or 2646km if it’s my baby sister. And that doesn’t begin to include the 3 or 4 trips I take every year by air. It feels almost commonplace now to be able to get on a plane and land anywhere in the world, but it’s a luxury in how absolutely wasteful it is, how much energy we consume to travel long-distance. I know this. I feel guilty about it. But I’m still going to Hawaii in 3 weeks.

As privileged North Americans, we create 13 times as much ecological damage as someone in Brazil. One American consumes as many resources as 35 Indians, and 53 times more goods and services than someone from China. The sad fact is, we depend on the poor staying poor. If the people of India, China, and Africa caught up to our before-the-flood-leonardo-dicaprio-imageconsumption rates, the Earth would already be dead, and so would we. “Luckily”, poverty has stopped them from even accessing the kinds of resources that we have at our fingertips. If everyone had a light bulb in their home, a washing machine, a car in the driveway, a heat source for cooking…well, we’d be doomed. But the thing about developing nations is that they are in fact developing. They are making headway. They’re getting closer and closer to attaining our level of lifestyle everyday, and we’re PANICKING. We know it spells our demise. So we plead with them: don’t bother with coal or fossil fuels, go straight to solar power, India! Hey Kenya – why not go solar? Why not? Well, because those things cost more. Which is why we still haven’t adopted them ourselves. We’re the wealthiest countries and the most able to absorb those costs, but we haven’t.  We do not practice what we preach.

Fisher Stevens directs an urgent but humble documentary that keeps climate change advocate Leonardo DiCaprio front and centre, even as he questions his own credentials, and laments his carbon footprint.

Just a decade ago we saw America start a war over oil. In a not very distant future, those same wars could be fought over water. We’re already seeing climate change refugees – people forced to leave their homes because flooding or other “natural” disasters prompted by global warming. This won’t just be about the environment. This will quickly become an issue for national security.

There is hope. There are things we could and should be doing. You and I share a responsibility to lead by example. We need to start making wiser choices now, because we will be judged by future generations, and we need to decide whether we want to be lauded by them, or vilified.

 

Catch Me If You Can

My first encounter with the life of Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. was accidental.  I was about 5 or 6, poking around the house, when I came across a book cover that instantly imprinted on me:Catch Me

I didn’t read it then, because I couldn’t read a 50 page book before my short little attention span made me want to “look at” ants through a magnifying glass or something similarly fun.  And I never ended up reading it at any time in the next three decades.  It’s probably still sitting in my parents’ bookshelf, and as a kid I would have read it ten times over if I had just read a different page every time I picked it up instead of just looking at the creepy faceless man on the cover over and over again.  But really, the cover was enough for me to draw my own conclusions about how this “amazing true story” turned out.  And it was not until this week that I learned how wrong I was all these years.

My biggest mistake was thinking that this story centred around the fact that this guy actually had no face and that’s why he needed the pilot mask. Symbolism was lost on me then (and probably still is to this day).  It turns out that this guy had a normal face, wrote a lot of bad cheques, and for some reason the key to his scheme was pretending to be a pilot.

I found that part of the story absolutely amazing.  Most of all because I feel like it’s probably true.  Pilots in the 1960s were gods among men.  They were the paragon of success and reliability.  So much so that a pilot’s uniform changed Frank Jr.’s cheque scams from fruitless endeavours to an avalanche of other peoples’ money.  Can you imagine this happening today?  It seems as likely as an apparently successful model taking a cheque in exchange for turning tricks.  Which, as I learned, also happened in this true story.

Incidentally, that successful model was played by Jennifer Garner.  Catch Me If You Can is full of soon-to-be-stars making cameos, including Amy Adams, Elizabeth Banks and Ellen Pompeo.  Add Christopher Walken, Tom Hanks, Martin Sheen, and Leonardo DiCaprio, and you’ve got a pretty impressive cast.  And the director, Steven Spielberg, is no slouch either.

Maybe all these young faces are the reason that watching Catch Me If You Can felt doubly nostalgic.  As only a movie set in the good old days can, the movie puts a bright sunny face on $2.5 million worth of cheque fraud, where if you go big enough then inevitably the FBI will negotiate your release from prison so they can offer you a job.  And those good old days now seem to be either the 1960s, when this movie is set, or the early 2000s, pre-financial crisis, when this movie was made.

Catch Me If You Can is an entertaining movie that remains enjoyable mainly because it fully embraces its ludicrous premise.  If it took itself more seriously, it may still have worked in those good old days but by now probably would have lost its luster, as I think we are now too jaded to be charmed by ultra-rich assholes who think the rules don’t apply to them (with Donald Trump being an obvious and unfortunate exception).

But Spielberg and DiCaprio didn’t ask me to like Abagnale.  Instead, they gave me a kid who figured out how to do one thing really well but who was terrible at every other aspect of life, a guy I almost felt sorry for, and that was a brilliant choice.  Add Tom Hanks as an opponent/father figure who by the end of the movie sees right through Abagnale, and you get a movie I should have watched long before now, especially when it has been sitting on our DVD shelf since Jay and I moved in together.  Things might have been different if the DVD cover had a man with no face – because then I would undoubtedly have picked it up long ago.  That was Dreamworks’ one misstep.

Catch Me If You Can gets a score of nine giddy stewardesses out of ten.

SAG Surprises

rs_300x300-160130182244-600-idris-elba--accepting-sag-awards2016Idris Elba took home the trophy for best supporting actor. Sylvester Stallone, considered the front-runner in the same Oscar category, wasn’t even nominated at the SAG awards, perhaps because the Creed momentum didn’t really pick up until after their nomination ballots were in. Or maybe it’s just because he’s crap and he’s never acted a day in his life.

Last weekend The Big Short took home the top prize at the Producers Guild awards, but it was Spotlight proving they’re still neck in neck, taking home the top SAG award (outstanding performance by a cast) and

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 30: (L-R) Actors Billy Crudup, Brian d'arcy James, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Michael Keaton and Liev Schreiber, winners of the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for "Spotlight," pose in the press room during The 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 30, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. 25650_015 (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Turner)

boosting their success rate to about 10/20 now. Next weekend the Directors Guild will add their considerable voice to the tally, and they tend to be better predictors than almost anybody.  Either way I’m angry – neither of these was the best thing I saw last year, and neither would probably breech my top 10.

jacob-tremblay-brie-larsonOtherwise it was pretty standard: Leo won. Brie Larson won. Alicia Vikander won over Kate Winslet for supporting work in a role that is clearly anything but (she’s great in The Danish Girl, but that’s a lead role if we’re being honest, which apparently we aren’t).

Mad Max: Fury Road was justifiably honoured for outstanding action performance by an ensemble.

And the stuff that really matters: who looked pretty.

SAG loser but style winner Helen Mirren

SAG loser but style winner Helen Mirren

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Damn. Kate Winslet, born to vamp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oscar Nominations 2016

Matt and I are super excited to present this year’s list of Oscar Nominees. I’m still recovering from back surgery but between a special little seat cushion and some good drugs, I think we’re down for some good discussion. Please join in the comments!

73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals

I thought Brie Larson looked beautiful in gold at The Golden Globes – kind of like an Oscar statuette. I know she’s down for a nomination today. Who else are we feeling good about?

Best Picture:

Best Directing:

  • Adam McKay, The Big Short
  • George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant
  • Lenny Abrahamson, Room
  • Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Best Actress in a Lead Role:

  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Brie Larson, Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Best Actor in a Lead Role:

Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Christian Bale, The Big Short
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
  • Tom Hardy, The Revenant
  • Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
  • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Best Animated Feature Film

Cinematography:

  • Carol (Edward Lachman)
  • The Hateful Eight (Robert Richardson)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (John Seale)
  • The Revenant (Emmanuel Lubezki)
  • Sicario (Roger Deakins)

Costume Design:

  • Carol
  • The Danish Girl
  • Cinderella
  • The Revenant
  • Mad Max: Fury Road

Documentary Feature

  • Amy
  • Cartel Land
  • What Happened, Miss Simone?
  • Winter On Fire: Ukraine: Fight For Freedom
  • The Look of Silence

Film Editing:

Foreign Language Film:

  • A War
  • Son of Saul
  • Embrace of the Serpent
  • Theeb
  • Mustang

Makeup & Hair Styling:

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out A Window and Disappeared
  • The Revenant

Music, Original Song

Original Score:

  • Bridge of Spies (Thomas Newman)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (John Williams)
  • Carol (Carter Burwell)
  • The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone)
  • Sicario (Johann Johannson)

Production Design:

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Danish Girl
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant

Sound Editing:

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Sicario
  • Star Wars: The Forst Awakens
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant

Sound Mixing:

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant

Visual Effects:

  • Ex Machina
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant

Writing, Adapted Screenplay

  • Brooklyn, Nick Hornby
  • Carol, Phyllis Nagy
  • Room, Emma Donoghue
  • The Big Short, Charles Randolph & Adam McKay
  • The Martian, Drew Goddard

Writing, Original Screenplay

  • Bridge of Spies, Matt Charman & Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • Ex Machina, Alex Garland
  • Inside Out, Pete Doctor & Meg LeFauve & Josh Cooley
  • Spotlight, Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
  • Straight Outta Compton, Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus

Best Documentary Short Subject

  • Body Team 12
  • Chau, Beyond the Lines
  • Claude Lanzmann: Spctres of Shoah
  • A Girl in the River Last Day of Freedom

Best Live Action Short

  • Ave Maria
  • Day One
  • Everything Will Be Okay
  • Shok Stutterer

Best Animated Short

  • Bear Story
  • Prologue
  • Sanjay’s Super Team
  • We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
  • World of Tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Revenant

Jay: Zohmyfucking god have I ever been waiting a long time to see this movie.

Sean: It’s been a very long wait.  This has been one I’ve been looking forward to all year, and the wait has increased my expectations, which were already sky-high!

Jay: The premise of this movie is pretty simple: a bunch of frontiersmen are out in the frigid north, hunting pelts. Native Americans attack. Everyone flees behind Hugh Glass (Leo), The Guy Who Knows The Land. 2FA41A5E00000578-0-image-a-1_1451264937734Except Glass gets half-eaten by a bear. So then the men have a difficult choice to make: carry a stretcher over torturous, snowy terrain but retain their navigator (when he’s conscious), or put him out of his misery, lighten their load, but risk getting lost or wandering straight into enemy territory. Glass’s son is understandably on #TeamGlass but John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is more #TeamFuckHim. But don’t underestimate DiCaprio: he’ll get his revenge, even if has to crawl on broken legs and light his own neck on fire to do it.

Sean: I was on my own team: #TeamHolyShitThisIsAwesome!  And I was all in.

Jay: This movie is balls-to-the-wall intense. It’s so relentlessly brutal, for more than two and a half hours, that it wasn’t until the 3 hour mark that I began to ask myself if it was good.

Sean: The momentum of The Revenant is absolutely unstoppable.  It sweeps you up in its frenzy so that you don’t even get to think “big picture” until it’s over.  It’s like a bear attack that way!

Jay: Well I can tell you right now: it’s beautiful. Stupid gorgeous. The vistas that they found in both Alberta and British Columbia are worth the crappy, harsh conditions the crew endured for the shoot. And these sweeping, stunning backdrops are a genius juxtaposition to the utter bleakness that is going on for the characters. It’s like heaven and hell on the screen at the same time.

Sean: I was struck by the beauty of the vistas as well and felt the same way as you did about them.  They provide such a wonderful contrast between the bleakness facing Leo in his journey from worse, to even worse, to absolute hell.  There was a quiet and peace about the wilderness that restores us, paces us, and upon reflection, ties into Leo’s story more than I realized at first glance.  Is this peace and calm perhaps coming from Leo’s soulmate?  At any rate, there’s something spiritual about the connection between the land and our protagonist, and I am still trying to unpack all that we saw.  It all felt so god damned meaningful and important.

Jay: Whoa. Did you just italicize meaningful and important? This from the guy who dumped on Star Wars but praised Will Farrell’s new movie Daddy’s Home? Anyway. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki decided to shoot this movie entirely in natural light, which sometimes results in a picture dripping in golden sunshine, other times awash in the stark reflection of sun on snow, sometimes just a very small flame casting shadows on Leo’s busted face. It was a bold decision that meant very short shooting days (the sun takes forever to rise and sets so damn early during our Canadian winters) and an extended shooting schedule that forced Tom Hardy to lose out on Suicide Squad, and it caused Inarritu to forfeit film and shoot on digital since the former just couldn’t handle dim lighting. But it was worth it. Lubezki has won back to back Oscars for his work (Gravity, Birdman): can he threepeat? Can he not? This movie’s just soaked in glorious authenticity that made it difficult for me to breathe for 156 long minutes. It’s striking to me how different those three movies are from each other – Gravity, Birdman, The Revenant – and what flexibility and mastery Lubezki must have to have painted each world so beautifully and precisely.

Sean: The differences between this and Birdman were on my mind as well.  This is not the movie I expected and it’s a completely different feel than either Gravity or Birdman.  It’s night and day.  The imagery in all three is incredible and what is most amazing to me is that these are not at all similar – they are each their own masterpiece.  Inarritu gives us something new, again, and I wasn’t expecting that he could possibly be capable of that.  I may not have connected with Birdman as much as you did, but it was such a unique piece of filmmaking that I did not think Inarritu would be able to come back with something that feels this fresh and unique.

Jay: Well I do remember us fighting about Birdman last year (I guess Star Wars is this year’s Birdman) but at any rate I’m glad we both fell in love with this one. It’s so awkward when we don’t.

Inarritu’s direction is amazing. From the very first attack scene (that makes the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan feel like a pillow fight), the camera swirls around the way a panicked eye would, taking in surroundings choppily, and a little too quickly. It ratchets up the anxiety in us: where is the danger? Where’s in coming from? Where is safety? Where is the enemy? How do we get out? The wide lenses make this shit immersive, so like it or not, you’re getting dragged into the fray (and thank you, Inarritu, for not making me wear 3D glasses to get this effect). But the camera can also be quite intimate: sometimes just Leo’s anguished face, the hand-held camera so close it gets condensation from his breath. But it’s this intimacy which also makes the movie’s craziest scene, the bear attack, its most interesting, and its most ballsy. Our mind knows we should never be this close to a bear, and definitely not a bear as angry as this one. We see Leo’s blood on her teeth and how many inches of claw get sunk into his flesh. Both of them are sweating. The three of us are sweating! It’s the most brutal thing, unrelenting thing I’ve seen in a long time and I couldn’t look away (warning: the audio alone is nightmare-inducing).

Sean: When we are dragged into this world, we see and feel the terror that the characters are dealing with.  The Revenant is such a visceral experience from beginning to end.  The camera work sucks the viewer in so much I was short of breath at times.  The bear attack in particular is just spectacular in its intimacy.  You are right there with Leo, you are shouting at him to stay down.  Literally, Jay, you were shouting!  And how could you not when it feels so real?

Jay: Yes, I was shouting. Sorry, Ottawa. But seriously, Leo should learn to take my advice. Remember that, Sean: I was right. But let’s talk about what really matters: will Cinderella finally find her glass slipper? Leo’s been invited to the ball 5 times, but has never taken home a statue come Oscar night. Will this finally be his year? Leo’s as ferocious as the bear, and maybe more so, in this role. He’s committed, and you can see it in his darting bloodshot eyes and his flaking, chapped lips. I can’t shut out Tom Hardy, because he’s stellar also; reunited again since appearing in Inception, Leo begged and convinced Hardy to take the role and though they may be friends and respect each other as colleagues in real life, in this movie there is a fascinating hatred between them that reminded me of Leo and Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York. Hardy looks dodgy and cornered every bit of the way. But this is undeniably Leo’s film – it’s his bloody trail we’re following. Since he takes a bear to the throat early on in the film, a good portion of the film is nearly dialogue-free, just grunts and bellows and silent agony. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen before from him (and I’m not even talking about the bear rape rumour). If he gets the Oscar, it won’t be a “sorry we missed you last time” make-up award, it’ll be legit. He’s earning it on every frame.

Sean: Leo has to get the Oscar.  HAS TO.  He’s masterful.  He doesn’t even need words here.  Tom Hardy better be nominated for supporting actor as well.  Give him something!  He’s had an incredible year and he’s another guy who is so versatile, so absorbed in this role that I would not have recognized him unless I was looking for him.  He’s a force of nature in this movie.  Both of them are and the anticipation of their final showdown builds to a point where it can’t possibly live up to what you are expecting, and then it does!

Jay: Did I love this movie? Yes I did. Did I nearly die from a heart attack watching it? Yes I did. Is it perfect? No it is not.

Sean: The Revenant isn’t perfect but it’s so forceful and committed, I didn’t care.  I still don’t.  It exceeded my expectations, I loved every minute and I’m still trying to digest it all.  It’s such a tough movie to take but I think that’s what I liked best about it.

Jay: You interrupted me, dear. I wasn’t finished. I think the problem that I had with the movie is that it was straight revenge saga. And I get that this is the wild, wild west where punishment is doled out swiftly, savagely, without the law or due process. But Glass was a husband and a father and something of maverick. Was there really nothing to him but revenge lust? Actually, Inarritu’s attempt at spirituality, if I may call it that, with the ghostly visitations and whatnot, was my least favourite part. The movie is so grounded and real that those apparitions felt jarring and unnecessary.

But that’s in retrospect. And you’ll need retrospect up the wazoo in order to come to terms with the movie. While watching, you’re just holding on for dear life, and all that desperate grasping for survival on-screen makes your life seem all the more dear when it’s over.

“Pew, made it!” I said as the credits rolled.

“Who did?” Sean asked.

“I did!” I said. Yes, I did.