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Sight Seeing in the Wilderness

Today I took a trip out to the theater to see The Revenant (2015). I was actually hoping to make it to an earlier showing of The Big Short but didn't make it in time. I'll have to save that for another day.

"The Revenant 2015 film poster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

I think the voters for the Oscars unknowingly love videogames yet have never played them. It's clear that Alfonso Cuaron and the director of this film Alejandro Inarritu have video game influences in their movies in the long take set pieces where the camera follows the action and has splatter and dirt hit the screen. Some of this might be because these two directors from Mexico City who are in their early to mid fifties have both used the same cinematographer. Emmanuel Lubezki, who is around the same age and from Mexico City.

When I looked Lubezki up I noticed the other director he consistantly works with is Terrence Malick, who is known for being a very visual director, sometimes to the detriment of the story and the actors. This is most notible with Adrian Brody in Thin Red Line where he shot for three months on location, his role was very large in the script, he did press telling people he was one of the stars then when the movie came out he was barely in it, not even an exageration, he only has a couple of lines and mostly looks up at the main characters looking like he wants to say something.

Lubezki continues to work on tracking shots, much like first person shooter videogames with blood splatter on the lens just out of focus in The Revenant. This is something I first noticed in Children of Men which he was the cinematographer and it was directed by Inarritu's friend Alfonso Cuaron. Both directors won best director Oscars for their respective works Cuaron's Gravity (2014 winner), and Inarittu's Birdman or (I wanted a longer title that makes this seem important) (2015 winner) those movies were both lauded for their long steadycam shots. Those shots seem longer than they are because of cuts on objects where the next shot appears to be the same. There was one of these cuts that was a little too noticable in The Revenant where Tom Hardy swings something large in front of the camera seemingly for no reason while he's talking and the shot lingers on the sack he is swinging just too long. This technique is most famous in the Hitchcock movie Rope which was shot to look like it had nearly no cuts but it resulted in actors standing oddly close to each other when they talked because they were not being cut around.

This movie got me thinking about the harshness of the wilderness, especially in the time of fur trappers in northern North America. I kept thinking how glad I was that I did not live during that time period. I have had a little experience being in wilderness areas, mostly from trips to National parks that are very contained to roads, but a little from a trip to Nome, Alaska with my family when I was in middle school. We didn't see as much wildlife as there was in this movie but when we were a hundred mile drive away from Nome, or seeing the Last Train to Nowhere there was the sense of being so far from civilization that it would be more than a day to get back to life that resembles normal, and longer to get to actual comfort of home.

The Last Train to Nowhere trip was especially interesting. We camped on a beach near Nome which is known for being end of the Iditarod dog sled race, and for being the tip of the nose of the old man while looking at a map of Alaska. I was probably in 6th or 7th grade, it was windy and cold and I had to wash dishes one evening and I threw a fit because I felt so cold with my hands in a bucket scrubbing the camp dishes. That night it was so windy the tents for everyone in our family, me, my parents, two sets of aunts, uncles and cousins, were all half collapsed through the howling night. The next day we went to the train which was left by the Russians when they sold Alaska but the tracks had all been pulled up. It was just a large rusted train in a field with no tracks. In other areas around Nome we would find these large gold dredges in shallow ponds that were large grey wooded machines the size of houses. It was hardly the bleakness of The Revenant but it was a reminder that there are places on earth that are so far from anything that it is a struggle through time and energy to get back to the comforts you are used to but along the way there can be amazing scenery.

I realize it's worth trying to fit this in to the best movies of the year with the Oscars coming up so here's a little list for 2015 for me from what I've seen and what I remember:

1. Star Wars

2. Straight Outta Compton

3. Sicario

4. The Martian

5. Hateful Eight

6. The Revenant

7. Mission Impossible

8. What We Do In The Shaddows

9. Avengers: Age of Ultron

10. Top Five

11. The Man From UNCLE

12. Inside Out

13. Steve Jobs

14. Train Wreck

15. Spectre

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