Some Bullet Points Concerning The Revenant, the Amazing HTFU Movie of the Year

Since I made a big deal about it when I first saw the trailer back in July, and one of my favorite poets once suggested I looked like I could be in the movie, I figure it’s probably worth my time to write out a few observations now that I’ve seen the film a couple times. Perhaps it will be worth your time to peruse them? If you’ve seen the film as well, I welcome your commentary. There are likely spoilers below, so keep that in mind.

  • If you snarkily refer to the movie as just “the most recent version of Dances With Wolves” or something inane like that, I’m here to tell you you’re a moron and are incapable of having intelligent discourse concerning movies that will likely be talked about for a long time, whether you like it or not.
  • If you’ve heard that the cinematography is mindblowing, or something along those lines, that’s because it is. If you haven’t heard that, let me tell you: the cinematography is mindblowing.
  • There are stretches of incredible excitement, but it is a slow burn of a film. If you don’t like slow movies, it might not be your thing. I like slow movies if they are also gripping, which this one is.
  • Be warned, it’s pretty damn violent too.
  • I don’t think you can really fake the hardships the actors went through and be believable. Which is why director Alejandro G. Iñárritu put them through such a difficult process. If you haven’t heard the stories of how rough the shoot was, work some google magic. Being a hardass was a good decision on Iñárritu’s part, because it makes for a compelling piece of art.
  • This movie truly is art, and it has its weaknesses. I left the theater wondering why I bother to go to shitty blow-everything-up movies, even though they’re (sometimes) fun. Watching and reflecting on The Revenant has made me completely question my approach to my own artistic endeavors, and that’s a good thing.
  • I could accept Tom Hardy winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor over Stallone in Creed, but I’d still be irritated.
  • The movie really isn’t anything at all like Michael Punke’s book. Entirely different scenes, different ending, the works. They are two completely different tellings of roughly the same story.
  • The bear attack scene is arguably the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in a movie.
  • In fact, the entire movie is like a cautionary tale of all the horrifying ways one can die out in the types of landscapes I like to saunter around in, doing the types of things I most love to do.
  • The early fur trade in North America was a brutal, bloody business. Especially for the friggin’ beavers.
  • We take way too much shit for granted these days.
  • People who shrug that DiCaprio’s performance wasn’t that big of a deal because it was “only cold” or whatever have obviously never been outside of a climate-controlled environment for longer than it takes to waddle from the car to indoors. I’ve been cold; I like the cold. But this stuff was COLD, and that shit is terrifying and makes you act like a crazy person. In other words, the distance from “Whatever….” to “Fuck this!” is way, way shorter.
  • Whiners take note: just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Even if he had access to wifi, I doubt Hugh Glass would have dragged up social media and typed, “Wounds still sore, can hardly feel my hands.” Or, “Sigh. ANOTHER travel delay. Indians ran me off a cliff, spending another night out in the woods. Inside the body of my horse. Maybe I’ll get home SOME day.” HTFU, people. Please.
  • The whole subplot with Glass (DiCaprio) having a son isn’t part of the book, and I’m not sure it was necessary to add. Then again, the average movie goer probably wouldn’t buy the theft of a rifle, a knife, and some sundry equipment to be enough motivation to stiff-arm death and seek revenge. But in reality it was. Chalk it up to being one of those things that is too true to be believable as a storytelling frame.
  • The subplot with the kidnapping of the Indian woman, and the subsequent rape scene, etc. was totally unnecessary. In fact in a lesser film it would have been the turning point that made me ultimately give it a thumbs down. Again, I understand why they added it; my guess is it gave the story a reason for a band of Arikara Indians to be hunting white people in the wilderness. Again, different from the book. Cutting all that shit out and shortening the movie by a third probably would have improved it.
  • There were a couple too many dream sequences, but I did like the otherworldliness they created kind of hanging over the entire film, though.
  • The soundtrack is phenomenal too. I’ve been listening to the hell out of it. I’m listening to it now, in fact. I may never listen to rock n’ roll again.
  • I think the actions of all the various factions involved are portrayed honestly and fairly considering how shit was going down, as we know it, back then.
  • There were moments of clunky dialogue here and there, but folks painting it with a broad brush as being all terrible are simply wrong.
  • I liked it better the second time I saw it; I could just sit back and absorb it all without expectations. The first time I was too busy measuring its events against the events of the book. In fact, considering I read Peter Stark‘s fantastic Astoria at around the same time (another frontier book — 100% nonfiction — set in roughly the same time period), I kept getting events from the two books interchanged. Are you one of those people sneering and going all, “Like that could happen!” over The Revenant? I suggest then you read Astoria. The stuff those early people out on the frontier went through makes you wonder how anyone ever survived anything at all. We should all be extinct by now.
  • I’m pretty much in favor in all of us going extinct right now, frankly. It’s an election year, after all.
  • I think there are deeper meanings and symbols in this film that I haven’t mentioned, but that’s for film buffs to debate. I just like good movies. This is one of them, and it’s a good guarantee we don’t have to worry about a sequel.


Reviewing 2015 via Bullet Points

I had big plans to sum up the three areas of popular culture I engage most with — music, movies, and books — into three expansive, individual posts. But who wants to read that? And do I really want to write that? Not really. So I thought I could cover the same ground with just some random bullet points.

  • The first recording worth mentioning is called Ritual Rising, from the band Swamp Ritual. Yeah, my kid is the drummer, but the CD kicks ass and I’m proud of him and Dustin (Fugere, the bass player; the band is a heavy bass/drum duo).
  • John Vaillant and Kim Heacox both wrote novels I really enjoyed (The Jaguar’s Children and Jimmy Bluefeather, respectively), but the one I had the most fun with was probably Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea.
  • If my records are correct, I saw 29 of 2015’s movies. The first one of the year I saw was Selma. The last was The Hateful Eight.
  • I loved staying in the Goat Chalet at the North Fork Hostel in Polebridge not once, but twice.
  • Last fall, Iron Maiden, Slayer, and Motörhead all released new records within weeks of each other and they were all fantastic.
  • I read a total of 101 books in 2015. They weren’t all 2015 releases. 16 were eBooks. 11 were poetry, which is probably more than in all years prior combined. 46 were fiction. 44 were nonfiction.
  • My second favorite movie of the year was Mad Max: Fury Road. The soundtrack is also excellent and has gotten heavy rotation during my periods of writing . . . like right now.
  • I enjoyed having my father-in-law help me stalk Jim Harrison‘s house in Patagonia, Arizona.
  • Bonnie Jo Campbell‘s Mothers, Tell Your Daughters and Matt Pavelich‘s Survivors Said were my favorite short story collections.
  • If my records are correct, I purchased 25 of 2015’s musical releases. The first was Ryan Bingham‘s Fear and Saturday Night. The last was South Broadway Athletic Club by The Bottle Rockets.
  • My favorite movie of the year was Creed (aka Rocky VII). I cried from beginning to end the first time I saw it. I hope Stallone gets a supporting actor Oscar. This movie probably deserves a blog post of its own.
  • I walked out of the theater early during Furious 7 because it was so bad. And as bad as Jupiter Rising was, I think The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II was worse.
  • The best live show I saw was Nikki Lane at The Filling Station in Bozeman. Great band, fun show, and she kissed me on the cheek afterward.
  • Should I mention TV? I suppose. I really only watched three things. The most recent season of Game of Thrones (HBO) nearly jumped the shark for me, but pulled it together by the end. True Detective (HBO) was fun to heckle but probably doesn’t deserve another season. Surprisingly, Daredevil and Jessica Jones were both excellent (and both Netflix originals) and a lot of fun to watch.
  • For poetry, Mary Oliver and her book Felicity gets the nod, while I also dug Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall.
  • In my final year of work travel, it was fun to visit all the monuments in Washington, D.C. at 3 AM.
  • I don’t usually go to horror movies, but It Follows was excellent. And I usually hate comedies, but I laughed my ass off during both Spy and Trainwreck.
  • The closest my head came to exploding this year was when Dita Von Teese posted a picture to her Instagram account of herself holding Grumpy Cat.
  • Chris Stapleton got all the country music industry love for his Traveller record, which is awesome because it’s a great record and it isn’t pop country bullshit, but for countryish music my nod goes to John Moreland and his High On Tulsa Heat record.
  • Documentary films Meru, Cartel Land, and Jumbo Wild were excellent.
  • My favorite listen of the year was Psychic Warfare by Clutch. Honorable mentions go to Dying Surfer Meets His Maker by All Them Witches and Berlin by Kadavar. Which is weird, because I feel like I am losing my interest in rock, but these are all rock records.
  • In the nonfiction category (arguably my favorite overall), I really loved Walking with Abel: Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah by Anna Badkhen, and Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer, the latter not so much because it is an entertaining read as it is one that I think everyone should read.

And that’s probably enough. I hope 2015 was good to everyone; at least we all got through it. Here’s to a fantastic 2016.

Winter Solstice, Missoula
Winter Solstice, Missoula, 2015

The Worst Memory

Meru_PosterThe new mountain climbing movie Meru opens in Missoula tonight, and runs for a week. I strongly urge you to see it. If you don’t live in Missoula, I strongly urge you to find where it’s showing and see it. It’s a human interest story that happens to involve mountain climbers. It’s one of those rare movies I will actually purchase so I can watch whenever I want to. I have a review in the current Indy, which you can check out HERE. An excerpt:

In 2008 Anker assembled a new team, and that is where the film opens. Joined by frequent climbing partner and photographer/filmmaker Jimmy Chin (who codirects the film with his wife, filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi) and hotshot younger climber/filmmaker Renan Ozturk, the three men came the closest yet to actually reaching the summit. Expecting to take a week in the ascent, the climbers were trapped in their portaledge for four days while a storm dumped 10 feet of snow on them. Ultimately they spent 19 days on the wall, rationing their week’s worth of food, before giving up and turning back with the summit a mere 100 meters away.

I’ve been a huge fan of Jimmy Chin for years, and my respect for him is even greater now. His photography is stunning, and he seems to be a very cool guy. I’m just in awe of what these people are able to accomplish. They are world class, best-in-the-world-at-what-they-do types, even if what they do isn’t something most of us can even comprehend as to why they even want to. I love that kind of passion.


Countdown to Christmas

astoriaNobody likes to think about Christmas in July (except maybe my mom), but I can’t wait this year. That’s because that is when the movie The Revenant comes out, based on the book of the same name by Michael Punke. When I saw the trailer my head almost exploded. I bet I’ve watched it twenty times. It’s one of those movies that feels like it was made specifically for me. Trailer linked below, if you dare….

The story is a fictionalization of the true life of mountain man Hugh Glass. I first heard of him in my friend Matt Mayo‘s book Cowboys, Mountain Men, and Grizzly Bears: Fifty Of The Grittiest Moments In The History Of The Wild West. Not a lot is known about his life, but that he was attacked by a grizzly bear, severely mauled, left for dead, and essentially crawled back to “civilization” (a remote fort) where he recovered and lived to roam the wilds again is true.

I’ve also been listening to Peter Stark‘s excellent book Astoria: Astor and Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Tale of Ambition and Survival on the Early American Frontier. It is, as is everything of Stark’s I’ve ever read, excellent. I love all this stuff about the exploration of the frontier back in the day.

When I finally get to go see The Revenant, you know I’ll be wearing this hat my mom got me for Christmas last year, as seen in this photograph from January.


A Must See — The Motel Life

When Julia and I were in Portland last month I was pleased to have had the opportunity to meet and spend a little time hanging out with Willy Vlautin, musician (Richmond Fontaine) and writer of the soon-to-be-out-as-a-movie novel, The Motel Life. He’s a fantastic writer, and The Motel Life is a favorite. Judging from the trailer (and one can never be sure with these things, I know), it looks like they’ve done it justice.

I know Willy has a new book set to come out in early 2014, I believe. In the meantime, definitely read The Motel Life, or either of his other books. He’s one of the good ones.