So yes, I’m doing Oscar!Watch again this year. And The Revenant – along with The Hateful Eight — was a film I really didn’t want to go see. For many reasons. Number one, I’m not a huge fan of Leonardo DiCaprio. Second, the idea of watching a man stumble through a Canadian wilderness for two and a half hours in a pageant of violence really doesn’t appeal to me. Third, Leonardo apparently got raped by a bear – ain’t no one wants to sit through that, no matter how inaccurate that statement actually is!
When it comes down to it, the biggest problem I had with not wanting to see this movie was the Leo Factor. I don’t have anything against Leo; I’m just not a fan girl. After the hype wore off, the second time I went to see Titanic, I was the jackass in the back rooting for the iceberg. I didn’t watch Romeo + Juliet until I was well into my twenties – also, I know how that play ends, and it’s not romantic in any sense of the word. The next thing I saw him in was Catch Me If You Can, where he actually played a human being.
But over the past couple of years – mostly beginning with Inception, probably – something in Leo has forced him to only choose movies where he thinks he’s going to be nominated for something. And with The Revenant, his decision-making process has officially crossed the line from “merely tedious” to “fucking insufferable.”
The entire time I was watching The Revenant, I felt like I was being held hostage. I felt that Leo’s performance – if one can call it that, and I’ll get to that in a second – was him screaming without language, “LOOK AT ME ACT THIS IS ACTING I’M EATING A RAW BISON LIVER THAT BEAR RAPED ME THIS IS ACTING CAN I HAZ OSCAR NOW PLZ”
Fucking insufferable. Yeah, Leo, you acted cold. Guess what? It was cold where you were! Good job pretending to be cold while you were actually cold! Oh, and you were wet, too! Forgot about that river scene. Good job pretending to be wet and cold while both things were actually happening to you!
Because look, the character of Hugh Glass wasn’t really a character. Or, rather, he was a character in a movie; that doesn’t mean he had characterization. He was a role. He was a body. He grunted and occasionally said words, mostly in pain. So thank you, Leo, for impressing the audience with your ability to remember when to vocalize pain!
I actually have a lot of the same opinions as A.A. Dowd over at The AV Club – you can read the whole review here, but I do want to quote this bit:
His ageless baby face concealed behind a bushy Grizzly Adams beard, DiCaprio has been hired to endure endless Method-actor torments, to crawl screaming through the mud, to bloodily reenact the tauntaun scene from The Empire Strikes Back. What he hasn’t been hired to do is play much of a character; though The Revenant supplies Glass with plenty of wordless dreams, spiritual visions, and flashbacks to his dead loved ones, his family life remains as abstract as his psychology. He’s more macho concept than man.
Because yes, there was nothing there behind the beard. I maintain that this role wasn’t made up of acting; sure, he wore a costume and had makeup and facial hair, and he was where it was cold and he fucking crawled at one point(*), but it’s not like he brought a personality to life. He was showing us the personification of survival-in-order-to-achieve-revenge, that’s it. Unlike his performance in The Wolf of Wall Street – there, true, he was portraying another person found in history, but Jordan Belfort had a goddamned personality. For better or for worse, like him or lump him, Leo actually had to act in that movie.
*ACTUAL NOTE I WROTE IN MY NOTEBOOK DURING THE FILM:
“Is he really going to crawl the rest of the fucking way? Oh my god, he actually is. He is literally crawling on his hands and knees in hopes of winning his Oscar. F you, Leo.”
I maintain that he probably should have won for The Wolf of Wall Street; it was just Leo’s bad luck that Dallas Buyers Club came out at the same time, and the Academy decided to reward McConaughey for losing a ton of weight. Apparently, Leo didn’t take that in the same stride that a normal person would, and he decided to go all out: “I’m going to find the worst situations to emote in and FINALLY SHOW EVERYONE I’M NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE.” That’s when The Revenant came along, and the rest is history. Fucking insufferable history.
Congratulations, Leo, you succeeded. You held numerous audiences hostage with your “acting,” and look, at this point? Dear Academy, for the love of all that’s holy, please give him the Oscar. Give him his ransom. I don’t think he deserves it, mind you, but maybe if he finally wins the fucking thing, then he can go back to his models and his environment-conscious shit and leave us the fuck alone. Who knows? Maybe he’ll make a comedy next, now that he doesn’t have to try for that stupid gold statue?
ACTUAL NOTE I WROTE IN MY NOTEBOOK DURING THE FILM:
“I hope Leo finally wins his goddamned Oscar for this – he needs to stop acting in these kinds of films. What’s wrong, Leo? Can’t be funny until you bear-rape your way to an Oscar?”
I should stop using the term “bear rape.” But I can’t. I know that’s not what happened, and I know it implies that Leo is victimizing himself in order to win his Oscar. But – well, I guess I’m done talking about that scene and Leo, so I’ll move on and stop talking about it.
The other thing I needed to rant about with this movie: why I didn’t like it. Yeah, Leo was a big part of it, but there was more than that. And I need to talk to a couple of people about why it’s okay that I don’t like it, and dear Those People? It’s not because I’m a girl.
When I heard The Revenant was coming out and the whole situation around the film – Leo’s “performance,” which I maintain isn’t really a performance, just a struggle to survive against nature – it’s a metaphor, not a performance! – I gritted my teeth and groaned, because I knew I was probably going to have to sit through it for Oscar!Watch. Then I heard that the director, Alejandro G. Innaritu, and his cinematographer made the decision that they were only going to film using natural light.
That naturally brought up (heh – “natural” — sorry, everyone) one of my favorite plotlines from Arrested Development, wherein Gob wanted to write a letter and Michael was going to give him the touch lamp, but then Gob fucked Kitty and didn’t get the information Michael wanted, so
Michael: Great. Good, good, good, Gob. Well, you just lost the touch lamp.
Gob: What? No! Mike, come on!
Michael: Yeah, the deal’s off, forget it. I’m gonna use the touch lamp to set the mood in the conjugal trailer —
Michael: — when DAD’S NAILING MOM.
Gob: NO! DON’T, MICHAEL – you are FILTHY.
And then later, Gob is able to write his letter, but because he didn’t have the touch lamp, he had to write his strongly-worded letter lit by nothing but natural light.
Ever since hearing about the cinematography decision, all I could think of was Gob and his selfishness. Innaritu wanted to do something different for his next movie – because one-shot takes are so Birdman, let’s switch things up a bit. Basically, Innaritu decided to make this movie in the most fucking difficult way possible – shooting on location, lit by nothing but natural light. Do you know what that means? It means the shoot was excruciatingly long, because they could only film for about an hour each day – that’s a lot of wasted hours at a remote location. Why would you do that to yourself, to your actors, to your crew, unless you were a severe dick? To me, that is the ultimate in “suffering for art,” but it becomes so fucking insufferable that it circles right around to “martyring for art.”
I mean, you can’t spell “martyr” without “art,” I guess?
Regardless of my selfish need to find a pun between “art” and “martyr,” I can’t think of another way that that shoot could have been more fucked up for such a stupid reason – you can’t tell me that there aren’t other ways to achieve that level of lighting. Basically, they were arting for art’s sake, and while I can appreciate art, to me, that decision just seems dickish. I can’t explain it any other way; it’s just dickish.
So between the filmmaking aspect and Leo’s hostage situation, by the time The Revenant was released, the entire film had a distinct masturbatory sheen to it. Instead of Vaseline, the lens was covered in jizz – the jizz of both Innaritu and Leonardo DiCaprio, all being able to exorcise their demons in a vanity project jack-off for the ages.
Y’know, that actually brings up a good point that I’ll digress from where my tirade’s going for a moment, because this touches upon the big “controversy” within the Academy. I put finger-quotes around controversy up there because that’s the word some outlets are using, but it’s not a controversy; it’s a goddamned systemic problem that needs to be addressed, and that problem is representation. Much was made over the fact that all of the acting nominees were white. I agree that there is a problem when Michael B. Jordan doesn’t get nominated for Creed, but Sylvester Stallone does. (NB: I have not yet seen Creed, but I’ve seen The Expendables. Sylvester Stallone doesn’t deserve an acting Oscar, you fucks.) It’s great that Innaritu was nominated for Best Director, but where are the other Latino nominees? Oh, there aren’t any, because studios don’t really fund or buy films from minorities. What about the women? Where are the women writers, the women directors?
Because here are more ACTUAL NOTES I WROTE IN MY NOTEBOOK DURING THE FILM:
“This whole thing is a vanity project. So was Angelina Jolie’s Beyond the Sea (or whatever it was called). Why is this being rewarded where Beyond the Sea was panned as vain, indulgent, and not good?
Because Angelina Jolie is a woman.”
I had read this article in Rolling Stone, and the article attempts to get to the bottom of why Angelina Jolie-Pitt, a proven filmmaker, is not finding the respect she deserves for her film. Is it because for the first time, she is directing herself? Is it because it also stars her husband, Brad Pitt? Is it because she’s going outside of the studio system and making a movie she wants to make? Is it because she was first labeled as an actress, and now she’s trying to be a director?
Here’s what the author of that article, David Ehrlich, had to say about “vanity projects”:
For example, rather than describing this personal project as “a movie for which Angelina Jolie-Pitt courted embarrassment by exercising the artistic freedom with which our ticket dollars have empowered her over a 20-year span of consciously supporting her career,” you can just say “By the Sea is a vanity project.” How convenient is that?
Using that logic, The Revenant should also be called a vanity project. But it’s not. Vanity projects, when released, are almost always now panned and vilified. But aren’t all films, in some ways, vanity projects? So why does Angelina Jolie-Pitt’s movie, which she directed and starred in, making editorial and cinematic decisions and overall succeeded in manifesting her artistic vision, automatically get put under the title of “vanity project” whereas Innaritu’s movie, which he wrote and directed, made editorial and cinematic decisions and overall succeeded in manifesting his artistic vision, get nominated for awards?
Dicks. That’s why; dicks.
And since we’re talking about gender equality, can I take a moment to talk about one of the lines in the script? So, the plot of The Revenant goes like this: group of fur traders get ambushed by Native Americans (the Ree, but the Pawnee also play a role in the trade relations; and let me tell you, every time I saw Pawnee I expected Leslie Knope to show up and I am severely disappointed); a group of like 10 men manage to get away. While this group is hiking to a fort, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) gets mauled by a bear. The gang try to carry Glass, but it’s the 1830s, there’s no such thing as airlifting. One of the men, Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, who, as of right now, is my personal front-runner for Best Supporting Actor), offers to stay behind with Glass to ensure he gets a proper burial, because there’s no way Glass is going to survive. Also staying behind is Bridger and Glass’s half-Pawnee son, Hawk. Bridger is off getting water and Fitzgerald is getting tired of waiting for Glass to die, so he waits for Glass to blink and then he tries to suffocate him (it’s a whole big thing, I’m not getting into it). Hawk comes upon them and tries to stop Fitzgerald, and Fitzgerald kills Hawk in front of Glass.
Fitzgerald then tells Bridger a yarn about the Ree approaching, so they leave Glass to die, burying him alive. Glass survives, and then treks (according to things I’ve read) like, 200 miles to reach the fort in order to get revenge on Fitzgerald for Hawk’s death.
When Glass and Fitzgerald are in their final battle, Glass explains why he wants revenge:
Glass: You killed my boy.
Fitzgerald: Or maybe you should’a raised a man … instead of some girly little bitch.
And Glass goes beserk and starts chopping Fitzgerald with an axe.
WHY THE FUCK IS THAT LINE IN THERE. There was no previous characterization of Hawk to indicate that he was any more feminine than the rest of the men in the camp. He was younger, and he was “other” in that he was the result of a white-Native American union, but he wasn’t feminine. What was that line trying to show – insensitivity of the 1830s man to different displays of manhood? I just – GOD, that line pissed me off! In short, that line is indicative of such a larger problem society has that I guess I hoped for better in an Oscar-nominated movie? I don’t know, I’m just angry at it.
Speaking of being angry; I don’t have a better segue-way for this, but it needs to be said.
I didn’t want to see The Revenant almost as soon as it got noticed, mostly for the reasons enumerated above. My Dear Friend Sarah saw the movie last weekend, and described it as “a protracted fucking misery.” That only served to reinforce my original opinions, because as we’ve come to see, Sarah’s usually spot-on with movie recommendations. If she thinks something’s a protracted fucking misery, chances are I’m not going to enjoy it either.
But guys, I’m a masochist and a completist. If a movie has been nominated for an Oscar, I am going to make every attempt to go see it, even if I think (or know) I’m not going to like it. I’ve sat through Boyhood, 127 Hours, The Tree of Life, and I wasn’t looking forward to any of those. But I did it. Hell, I paid actual night-time show money to see 127 Hours in the theatre, and I can’t stand James Franco’s choices almost as much as I can’t Leonardo DiCaprio’s choices.
So I was glad that Sarah’s opinion reinforced my own, but it wasn’t going to stop me from seeing it.
And then, I talked to a male friend of mine last Monday. He had also seen The Revenant, but he thought it was very good.
Dude: I thought you were going to the movies.
Me: Yeah, I was going to go see The Revenant, but then I decided not to.
Dude: Oh, it’s really good!
Me: I know, you said. I’m torn, because I trust your opinion, but my friend Sarah, she saw it this weekend, and she hated it, and I trust her opinion as well.
Dude: Well – I don’t want to say this, but – y’know, you’re girls… and … it’s kind of violent.
And I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to that remark at the time — mainly because I was tired. But now that I’m awake, I’m woke as fuck.
How DARE you insult my — and Sarah’s — intelligence by saying that we probably didn’t like The Revenant because we’re girls. You having the magic ‘Y’ chromosome does not give you access to a higher understanding of film and experiences, and the fact that you fucking went there is now retroactively pissing me off.
Because my ovaries and uterine lining have absolutely fuck-all to do with my dislike of the film. The level of violence had no fucking effect on me. You know why? If I didn’t want to see something, I fucking looked away; while Leo was holding us hostage with his “performance,” it’s not like he was sitting behind me holding a gun to my head to force me to watch every blessed second of his screentime. And to be honest? Watching the CGI bear rip Leo to shreds, or watching Leo tear into raw bison liver, or Leo and Tom Hardy fighting to the death by the river at the end of the movie – sure, those were all violent, gory scenes. You know what they didn’t hold a candle to?
FUCKING HANNIBAL, MAN.
I HAVE WATCHED MASON FUCKING VERGER FEED HIS OWN FUCKING NOSE TO WILL GRAHAM’S DOGS. AND THAT SCENE WAS ON NETWORK TELEVISION.
THE REVENANT HAS GOT NOTHING ON DR. HANNIBAL LECTER.
And what the fuck is a “guy movie,” anyway? Die Hard? Oh look, that’s one of my favorite movies. Same with Raiders of the Lost Ark. Same with The Usual Suspects. Look, movies that star only men and deal with great gobs of violence are, at times, my jam. But you know what makes me like them? The storytelling. The arc of the hero versus the villain, whether that villain is nature or an exceptional thief who is moving up to kidnapping or the fucking Nazis – that’s what gets me to like a movie.
Get me involved in the story; make me root for someone. Give the hero some spark of life or personality or, god-fucking-dammit, anything. I got fuck-all from The Revenant in that department.
That’s why I didn’t like The Revenant. That’s why I wrote in my notebook two hours in, “Please God, make it stop. Just end this. Please get me out of here.”
I didn’t like The Revenant because it was boring. I didn’t like The Revenant because it had an aura that reeked of “trying too hard to be arty.” I didn’t like The Revenant because no one had any fun on that movie at any time; judging by the tone, I’ll bet there wasn’t even joking off-screen. There wasn’t a single spot of hope or joy or anything positive in that movie, and that WILL affect my opinion.
So FUCK YOU, DUDE. I can’t wait to see you in person so I can demand an apology from you, because seriously, the only effect my being a girl had on my experience of watching The Revenant was that I could wipe the haze of testosterone from the film and see it for what it actually is: a fucking jizzporium of awfulness.
In conclusion: please, give Leo the Oscar. Free the hostages. Let our people go. Just — make it stop.