Category Archives: Review

The Revenant: Leo’s First Oscar

I’ll make this as plain as I can: Leonardo DiCaprio will win The Academy Award for Best Actor this year. It had been suggested as the “extremely likely” outcome for months but having now seen The Revenant, I’ll guarantee it. It’s the safest bet for all of the Oscars at this very moment.

Preseason, Leo’s only competition came from Fassbender and Redmayne. Universal hurt Fass’ chance when they flubbed the release pattern of Steve Jobs. The Danish Girl just isn’t buzzing enough and the the Academy’s OWM (Old White Men) won’t acknowledge the youth of Redmayne twice in a row.

The rest of the movie? Cinematic excellence any way you dice it. Some might find the pace or length to be a bit trying (sorry, you’re wrong). I was pretty tired when I headed into the theatre for the 157 minute trek and thought I may need to rain-check the whole thing during the trailers. But my eyes didn’t feel heavy for a single moment of the film’s run.

The Revenant is well worth your effort and the price of admission as it offers many things I’d hate to think of seeing on a smaller screen (ew).

Emmanuel Lubezski’s as good as he’s ever been. I found myself counting shot-lengths up to “wtf?” on numerous occasions. Chivo’s  cinematography will undoubtedly win an impressive third Oscar in three years (a feat achieved only by Costume Designer Edith Head from 1949-1951). The composition and execution of the action sequences need to be seen to be believed. Iñárritu will win Best Director for having the balls to pull something like this off with almost entirely natural lighting. Hell, he’d probably get it for blocking alone. This is what genius artistry looks like.

David Lean said that you should be able to cut any frame out of a roll of film, frame it, and hang it on the wall. His sentiment certainly stands true here. While we’re on the subject of Lean, Revenant‘s avalanche shot (I don’t even get to use the word “segment” or “sequence” here) echoes the finale of The Bridge on the River Kwai as an impressive one-off stunt that would have taken days to get a second chance at. Props must be given for doing the real thing. Iñárritu and Lubezski seem to be running out of new challenges.

It seems that Spotlight is currently leading the pack in the Best Pic race. While it may be impeccably executed, it’s basically a by-the-book stage play set in front of a camera. So what The Revenant may lack from a standout screenplay it overcompensates for with bold visual imagery and remarkable performance. It’s simply a more worthwhile cinematic experience than Spotlight.

SPOILER (not really) CONCLUSION:

If by the end of the film an AMPAS voter were to have even the faintest notion that someone other than Leo deserved this year’s Oscar, a final pleading stare straight into the lens will surely convince them otherwise. He’ll probably buy cars for Chivo/Iñárritu afterwards.

Spotlight: Leading the Best Pic Race?

Don’t get me wrong. Spotlight doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: a poignant investigative drama featuring a flawless ensemble performance. Yet it still runs as monochromatic as a newspaper feature.

There are complaints that Steve Jobs took too man creative liberties. Which means Spotlight stands on the opposite side of the spectrum. An audience could believe that the series of events surrounding the 2002 Boston Globe feature played out exactly as depicted on screen. So any sense of shock or discovery I though I might feel had already been spent back when the stories first broke. That doesn’t mean the movie’s boring. It just feels too familiar.

Following the recent less-than-perfect reviews for Revenant (it’s still gonna play hard) and questionable (or bad) reviews for JoySpotlight seems to be out-front in the Best Pic race. But should it be celebrated as the year’s definitive apex of our finest art form? I’d say no. A Best Pic nom? Certainly. And I expect the cast (particularly Ruffalo) and screenplay team to see continued recognition.

I still need to see check out Brooklyn and Carol. And, as mentioned in an earlier feature, I get the sneaking suspicion that Anamolisa could make a late surprise surge (if enough word gets out). But at this point, Steve Jobs and Room are the more vibrant, enthralling, and imaginative prospects to stand atop the best of film in 2015.

Room: Worth a Trip to the Cinema



Room​ will certainly emerge from 2015 as one of the year’s 10 Best Pics. Featuring some marvelous storytelling techniques, this emotional roller coaster plays equal parts discomfort, terror, and warmth. There was a good 7-8-minute stretch where I’m pretty sure I forgot to breathe. Brie Larson would be a shoo-in (if not the front-runner) for Best Actress, but I worry that limited marketing from a minor distributor might get it pushed out of the conversation down the road. Campaigning’s a bitter pill for those that don’t have the spending capabilities of the big studios. That said, it’s hard to imagine that helmer Lenny Abrahamson could have possibly gotten any more out of Larson and young Jacob Tremblay. They deserve any conversation that comes their way.

Well worth the price of a cinematic experience if only to feed your undivided attention. A home-viewing wouldn’t have done it for me in the same way. Do yourself a favor and avoid seeing the full trailer. I didn’t see it until today, and it seems to deal out more than should be necessary to get you in a seat (the teaser embedded here should be plenty for you).

[Edit 11/15/15 7:01PM: “shoo-in”]