The Revenant: a 21st century telling of a 19th century tale. This film is based on the true story of Hugh Glass, a Mountain Man who was left for dead after being attacked by a Grizzly bear. This is the second telling by Hollywood, the first being Man in the Wilderness, a 1971 movie in which Richard Harris played the Glass character. The Revenant begins in 1823 in the Upper Missouri River region where fur trappers are hunting in Arikara Indian territory. The movie was actually filmed in Canada and Argentina. Glass had been married to a Pawnee woman and has an adolescent son. The bear mugging scene is truly incredible, but there is so much more to this movie. The talents of director Alejandro Inarriu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki are confirmed by the fact that at the end of this movie, I was freezing from watching scene after scene of a bitterly harsh winter. Leonardo DiCapario’s performance is remarkable and he truly deserves to win his first Oscar. The storyline itself is simple. After Glass is mugged by the Grizzly, the leader of the trapping party leaves Glass in the care of two of his men, John Fitzgerald (Tom Handy in an excellent performance) and 19 year old James Bridger (Will Poulter), until “the inevitable” occurs, with instructions to give Glass a proper burial. When Glass fails to succumb, Fitzgerald and Bridger abandon him. The rest of the movie deals with Glass surviving the 200+ mile dead-of-winter journey to Fort Kiowa and his Hollywood interaction with Fitzgerald. I won’t comment further on the film’s conclusion or its link to the factual story; the scenes as presented in the film work. If you want to know more, email me and I’ll follow up with you. At 156 minutes, the film runs a little long. It is violent, but it is depicting violent times about men whose very existence depended on dealing with the harshness of nature and an uncivilized world. The film’s technical work is amazing. I describe this film as a 21st century telling primarily because the Native American characters are accurately portrayed and the dialogue is real. Inarrritu co-wrote the script with Mark Smith. The film is based upon the 2002 novel by Michael Punke, who based his story on Glass’ tales. This film deserves whatever Oscars it is awarded. I would, however, still give the Best Picture Oscar to The Big Short.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Youth: a movie about human emotions set at a luxurious Swiss hotel & spa. The primary story line involves the Michael Caine character, Fred Ballinger, a retired classical music composer and conductor. I’ve been a Caine fan since 1966 when Alfie premiered. Caine, who is 82, has retained all the charm, character and acting ability that were present 50 years ago. As the film unfolds, we learn that Ballinger retired when his wife was no longer able to perform. Part of Ballinger’s past is told through his interaction with his longtime friend and Hollywood filmmaker Mick Boyle, played by Harvey Keitel. Boyle and Ballinger have been meeting at the hotel for many summers. Many of Boyle’s films featured an actress named Brenda Morel. This summer, Boyle has brought a team of young screenwriters to the hotel to assist him in completing his newest screenplay, whose main character is an aging diva, Morel in real life. We also learn about Ballinger’s past through Lena (Rachel Weisz), his daughter and assistant, who also happens to be married to Boyle’s son. Ballinger’s past is also revealed through his interactions with current movie star Jimmy Tree, played by Paul Dano. Two other characters who deserve mention are the hotel’s masseuse, Luna Zimic Mijoviic, a very unusual looking woman, and Roly Serrano for his tennis ball scene. Luca Bigazzi’s cinematography is spectacular. For the male readers, even more spectacular are certain scenes involving Miss Universe, Madalina Ghenea, a truly beautiful woman. This 124 minute film is written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, who presents a certain Fellini culture attitude. If you saw Sorrentino’s Oscar winning film The Great Beauty and liked it, you definitely should see Youth. The opposite is also true, except for the reference to Miss Universe. I think Youth is a better film than The Great Beauty because it dives into the emotions of the individual characters. 60 Minutes had a piece about Youth and Caine, including a lovely scene with Caine sitting in a pasture and conducting. But this film offers so much more than what was conveyed in that brief 60 Minutes piece. Jane Fonda makes a brief appearance as Morel towards the end of the movie. I did not recognize her, and this comment is meant as a compliment. Fonda deserved her Golden Globe best supporting actress nomination. The signature composition discussed throughout this complex movie, Simple Song #3, was composed by David Lang and is beautifully performed in full at the end of the film. Lang deserves his Oscar nomination. It is not easy to present the aging pathos of males. This film does an excellent job with a light comedic touch.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Concussion: not just a football story. This true story focuses on Nigerian trained pathologist, Bennet Omalu, played by Will Smith. In 2002, as a pathologist with the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office, Dr. Omalu is performing an autopsy on the great former Pittsburgh Steelers center, Mike Webster (David Morse). When the standard autopsy fails to reveal the cause of death of an otherwise healthy 50 year old individual, Dr. Omalu, at his own expense, orders additional tests. He eventually discovers a disorder of the brain with characteristics similar to what those in the boxing world referred to as “punch drunk”. This new disorder, caused by repeated blows to the head, is given the name “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” or “CTE”. Dr. Omalu continues to perform autopsies on additional Steelers players. When he publishes his findings on CTE, he is unprepared for the savage attacks unleashed upon him by the NFL. From what I have independently read, this film is kind to the NFL. The portrayal of Dr. Julian Bailes (Alex Baldwin), the Steelers’ former team doctor, shows that some people truly cared about the welfare of the players. Roger Goodell (Luke Wilson) is barely on screen. During the course of the story, a personal relationship develops between Dr. Omalu and Prema Mutiso (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), an immigrant from Kenya. Their relationship and eventual marriage is nicely interwoven into the story. Will Smith does an excellent job and his Nigerian accent is authentic. I enjoyed the scene where he tells us why woodpeckers and rams can absorb head hits while humans cannot. This 122-minute film has some football scenes, but director and writer Peter Landesman’s concentration is on Bennet Omalu and the science of CTE. You don’t have to have a fondness for football to enjoy this movie, however, if you are a football fan, you owe it to yourself to see this film. For the past few years I’ve been saying that players have gotten too big for the game. This film supports my remark and does so while telling a story about an individual seeking knowledge.