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Relentless

August 2012 119

No shortage of GOOD movies. Big and small, bold and cold, fur trappers and sheep farmers. The Revenant and Rams.

Back from a frenzy of writing—for work, trying to satisfy State demands for ever more info on anyone served by our program, and—for school, trying to become the-writer-of-a-book of which the latest chapter-attempt was messily unsuccessful. Too busy to comment on the movies I’ve been seeing but I have managed to exhaustedly remain in a filmland frenzy of sorts.

I still love movies. And will tomorrow night when watching the red carpet and pretty people and listening to raunchy jokes and the Academy being castigated for its whiteness…which brings me to the point of this post: The Revenant and Rams.

I love movies even when they go on and on with such scenic intensity and repetitive color-contrasting of blood on snow with never a hint of humor that the sheer relentlessness of it all makes you just want to give the Oscar to Leo and get it over with…  Or when the only signs of love and affection are directed at sheep, big and round and fluffy as those pretty Icelandic sheep are…

So I intended to dislike The Revenant thinking my love of ‘westerns’ for the horseflesh had been dulled by the years and my fatigue with our gun culture. But turns out I really couldn’t hate or even dislike it. DiCaprio works just too damn hard; the scenery is in Grand National Geographic style; and boy oh boy that ever-spreading bloody crimson against the icy snow white is too too camera-friendly. It is relentless however. R e l e n t l e s s. Drink coffee before and maybe sneak in a sandwich for during.

I would still want Idris Elba to win the best actor Oscar—if he’d been nominated (Beasts of No Nation) but since whiteness prevails, it probably should be DiCaprio in the snow.

Most of you won’t see Rams since it’s already been at the Guild and there’s too much to stream on Netflix and Amazon in one lifetime in any case…but that is your loss. It has something in common with The Revenant in the coldness of the environment, maybe the coldness of human nature. But Rams is intimate in spite of the sweep of barren, chilly hills of rural Iceland that’s the ever present background. Two brothers who haven’t spoken to each other for 40 years although living on adjacent sheep farms are brought together finally in a tragedy of major proportions for a farming people. Doesn’t sound exciting. Maybe you’ve been seeing too much American blood and guts? Because it is…very…in that quieter (and even darker in a way) Scandinavian film mode.

I’ve been reading a lot from and about the Icelandic Sagas lately and Rams could have existed then, in Viking times. The intimacy of the small farm houses, the closeness to and love of animals, the humanity of the community in all its hates and loves and chuckles and mishaps—it’s straight out of the sagas as far as I can tell.

Rams gets in your personal space in a way The Revenant never can. The final tragic image from the former in its white on white, pallid bodies linked forever against the colorless snow, dead quiet after a storm of relentless proportions will stay with you forever. Leo almost surviving through yet one more blood-against-snow spectacle will only last through tomorrow night’s ceremonies.

But Go Leo—since the aging Icelandic actors weren’t nominated either.

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Beasts of…

So I posted a review of Spotlight which I might have called ‘Beasts of the Church’ but since then I’ve watched The Big Short and Beasts of No Nation. I could have just written one big post called ‘Beasts’ as they are everywhere.

Fantastic flicks. Movies of magnitude. Fabulous films. All of the above. Both of them. But in one there are some bad guys, in the other a bad and complicit society. Or maybe both in both.

Beasts of No Nation is really a powerful moving important film. It has history—contemporary history and politics—think ego-maniacal Trump and religious-fanatic Cruz in a hot climate gathering their minions of poor, displaced, uneducated youth (and grown-ups who should know better) and lots of available weapons and don’t think for a minute it would be any different right here in river city.

I gather the story is based on Sierra Leone’s endless civil/warlord war and maybe on the Lord’s Resistance Army in Ghana. It’s especially horrific because of the use of children as soldiers/killers but as I write this I wonder why that is somehow more horrible than what is happening to the children of Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan as they’re brutalized and starved and left without families or homes or education. The problem is when I start thinking about one hideous miscarriage of justice there are always ten or a hundred more to weigh in on the more-or-less horrible scale.

Focus then on the absolutely tough and brilliant performance by Idris Elba as the commandant with his army of disadvantaged children. Obviously the commandant is a bad guy so how is it Elba makes him bad—very bad—and believable—well that might not be so hard since very bad guys abound—but also sympathetic or do I mean empathetic? I don’t find the commandant unbelievable nor do I believe at heart there’s not a bit of humanity/caring/empathy of his own left. I almost care about him too. Well I do. Some. So that is a performance people. And why Elba isn’t one of the nominees makes me believe the Academy is flawed, a lot, just as so many people are saying. Idris Elba is simply such an amazing actor he could play an insurance salesman that you cared about… There I’ve said it …that’s how good he is.

I think I’ll save The Big Short for an evening think and wine

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