Movie Review: The Revenant

Warning: there are some spoilers here, so proceed with caution. I tried not to give away anything huge, but I do discuss the ending!

The plot of The Revenant might be as simple as it gets–after a man serving as a guide gets attacked by a bear, a few of the men he’s with and his son stay behind. And one of those men murders his son in front of him while he’s helpless to do anything, including speak, then leaves him for dead.

But I think the simplicity is what makes The Revenant work so well–in a lot of ways, it’s basically a survival story, and for as simple as it is, it’s actually really unpredictable. You don’t know how Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is going to get himself out of the various situations he gets into, or if he will at all. You don’t know where he’s going to end up, how he’s going to get there, and what he’s going to do. And that’s probably my favorite part about the film as a whole. It can be really hard to keep audiences guessing, especially ones who read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies and TV. When you’ve either read or seen it all, you’re almost never surprised, and maybe that’s why The Revenant excels in its simplicity. It also proves that “simple” doesn’t necessarily mean “predictable.”

It’s also a film with a lot of emotion, and it’s very much a revenge film–and that’s probably then only predictable thing about it. Because of course a man who witnesses his son’s murder is gonna want to go after the man who did it. But that motivation isn’t necessarily obvious from the start. Initially, DiCaprio’s will to live seems to stem from, well, being human, but as we see him go along, it becomes abundantly clear he doesn’t care about survival so much as he does getting even. We see him scribbling things in rocks and in snow, and it’s not until later in the film that we see he’s writing, “Fitzgerald killed my son.” I took this as a twofold message. One, he wants to live to go back and make Fitzgerald pay. Two, if he doesn’t, he’s put what happened in writing, and if someone from his original party sees it, they’ll know.

And naturally, all this means it’s a pretty emotionally raw film, too, packed with intensity and grit. It’s graphic, but not excessively or distractingly so–while I complained before about Tarantino’s Hateful Eight feeling gratuitous, The Revenant instead feel realistic. I was cringing because I could imagine how painful it would be to, say, pack a hole in your neck full of gunpowder then ignite it to cauterize the wound.

The acting was all excellent, too, and as amazing as DiCaprio was throughout, some of the best moments were when the group realizes he’s alive and naturally is not too pleased to learn what happened, leading up to a huntdown of Fitzgerald.

The ending seems to be open to interpretation, which I also loved but know some people really hate. Personally? I think DiCaprio died.

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Saturday 9: Don’t You Care?

I found a new meme! I don’t know why I enjoy these so much–I think because they prod me to think and write about things I might not have otherwise. So here it is, another set of weekly questions, courtesy of Saturday 9.

Saturday 9: Don’t You Care? (1967)

 1) What’s something that seems to fascinate everyone else, but you just don’t care about? Celebrity news. I used to be into it and I’ll peek at the occasional article, but I just don’t think other people’s lives are that important that they need to be in the media constantly and followed by paparazzi.

2) The lyrics refer to “the times we cried and laughed.” Which did you do more recently, cry or laugh? Laugh. My fiancé makes me laugh a lot, and beyond that, I don’t really have any reasons to cry!

3) In the song, our hero seems surprised that his girlfriend doesn’t believe him. Are you more believing and trusting, or suspicious and skeptical? In general, more believing and trusting, but it does depend on the person. We all know people who can’t really be trusted.

4) This song is just over two minutes long, which seems short for a song but awful long when Sam is waiting for her chicken soup to heat in the microwave. What’s the last thing you heated in a microwave? A cookie. I was hoping to reinvigorate it because it had gotten a little stale, but no dice.

5) This week’s band, The Buckinghams, was one of the first acts to perform at Chicago’s premiere summer festival, The Taste of Chicago. Let’s think ahead: Have you made any plans for Summer 2016? No! We were talking about taking a vacation, but since we’re engaged now, I’ve considered putting that on hold to save money and possibly visit friends and family who’ve moved away recently or will be moving away soon–we’ll have one of his sisters in Erie, my best friend’s in Norfolk now, I have a cousin in El Paso–so I figured we could use our paid vacation time, get away from home for a bit, and crash with friends and family so our money is being spent on travel and whatever fun stuff we decide to do.

6) In 1967, when this song was popular, Rolling Stone magazine published its first issue. What magazines do you subscribe to? Do they arrive in the mail, or do you read them online? I don’t have any actual subscriptions, but I somehow receive like three magazines that go to my parents’ house and I have no idea how I got them. But I do keep up with the ones I like online, mostly music–Rolling Stone is one, plus SPIN.

7) Country star/American Idol judge Keith Urban was born in 1967. Are you watching the final season of American IdolNo. I only watched American Idol a handful of times, and mostly only when it was the first season and I was vacationing with family in New Hampshire and it was on TV.

8) In 1967, the average cost of a movie ticket was $1.25. By 2015, it had risen $8.60. What’s the last movie you saw in a theater? The Danish Girl, last weekend.

9) Random question: Sam’s taking everyone out to dinner and she’s buying. Would you prefer the steak or the lobster? Neither! I’m a vegetarian, but if I’m in situations where I have to eat something, I go for seafood.

Friday Five: Sense

  1. How would you describe your sense of direction? I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s terrible, but it’s definitely not good. Although it has been getting better.
  2. Whose sense of humor is most like yours? Honestly, all of the Craigs had very similar senses of humor in that we were drawn to sort of over-the-top and bizarre things. Where we started to differ was when the group started to tend towards being mean and calling it jokes. These days, Paul and I are pretty similar. We’re both big on sarcasm, and we laugh at a lot of the same things–we’re both Monty Python fans, and we’re going through Bob’s Burgers on Netflix right now. I’d say whatever overlap I don’t have with him I have with Terra. That leans towards self-deprecating  and absurd.
  3. What film’s or novel’s sense of place really impressed you? I can’t think of one really good example, with the exception of a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, where it’s creating a whole place. But I will say the movie I saw most recently was The Danish Girl, and I feel like it did a good job of capturing not just the place but the time. But we’ll talk about that movie some other time.
  4. When did you most recently and accurately sense danger? I don’t know–I’ve had more paranoid false alarms lately than I’ve had an accurate sense.
  5. How would you describe the scent of your car’s interior? Probably just like a typical car, with the occasional whiff of a strawberry air freshener that’s pretty much dead.

On Rape Jokes and Disrespecting Your Own Followers

A while ago, I found this great site that sold some nerd-related apparel that I really, really loved. Naturally, I made it a point to like their Facebook page–a lot of smaller sites like this one will post their coupon codes up their, and coupons are great. Now, the Facebook page also had a healthy dose of memes and the like, but things took a turn over the weekend, to the point the I’ve decided to leave the page and take my business elsewhere.

They posted a brief comic strip in which Neo from The Matrix is told to choose the red pill or blue pill and after choosing wakes up, having been raped by Bill Cosby. How delightful!

When it comes to rape jokes, I tend to lean on the side of no, especially in this case. Jokes made at Bill Cosby’s expense I get, but this was a little more explicit. And naturally, it started a mess of arguments and fighting on the page, the bulk of it being disputes about what is and is not offensive. Women were speaking up and saying the post perpetuated rape culture–which I’m inclined to agree with–men and women were both accusing people of being too sensitive and easily offended, and women claiming to be rape victims themselves were on all ends of the spectrum, from those who were uncomfortable with it to those saying the women who had a problem with it didn’t speak for them. Basically, the usual for an internet disagreement of any type. Swap out the subject matter and it happens on all social media daily.

Thing is the tone os immense disrespect was, quite frankly, astonishing. I’ve said this before, but I think the knee-jerk reaction of “people are too sensitive and easily offended” is unfair at best, dismissive at worst. I think every single one of us has had moments where we’ve been surprised by what offended someone, but we also all have our own soft spots and weaknesses that others might not get. Whenever someone expresses discomfort or hurt at something, even if it’s just an internet meme, we have a responsibility as humans to at the very least take a step back and listen to what they’re saying. If you do that and disagree, fine, but it’s better than invalidating someone’s feelings.

And the thing with rape jokes–especially one so visual and explicit–is that it’s not a simple matter of offense. It was an image that certainly could’ve and I’m sure did remind some women of their own rapes. Maybe it triggered a flashback or panic attack. These are the kinds of things we have to keep in mind, and that’s why one of the biggest offenses I saw in the comments was a man who reposted the comic every single time someone took issue with it, which to me reeks of immature, careless, and ignorance. Again, this isn’t merely an issue of someone disliking the content, it’s an issue of some women being forced to relive a traumatic experience because someone thought it was funny, and I can’t imagine how that must feel. When I was discussing this whole thing with a friend who’s been raped, she asked me to show her the comic, and it was rough enough even to me that I felt the need to warn her before I sent it to her. It should be a red flag as to the kind of content it is when people feel the need to warn each other before viewing it, especially considering it’s something that’s meant to be funny.

At the same time, I get where women are coming from when they say, “I’m a rape survivor, I find this funny, and you don’t speak for me.” True enough. But the women speaking out do speak for someone, even if it’s just themselves. Everyone handles things differently, and power to the women who are able to laugh at such a comic and move on–I mean that sincerely. But not all women can do that, and it’s not fair to ignore their thoughts on the matter or suggest they’re somehow in the wrong for what bothers them and for choosing to say something about it.

It would be one thing if that was the extent of it–and if it was, I probably wouldn’t have cared enough to post about it. But the thing is, the page admins/business owners themselves got in on the discussion, and I was amazed and disgusted by what I saw play out.

I watched these admins publicly shame, insult, make fun of, and disrespect almost anyone who dared take issue with the post. I understand defending your stance, but the extreme to which they took it just seemed so childish and downright nasty. It almost would’ve been better for them to say nothing if they wanted to stand by the post rather than defend it in such a mean, immature way. Their attitude about the whole thing is one of the reasons I’ve decided not to name the page or business–they seemed to thrive off of people telling them they were leaving the page, and they painted them as rude partypoopers and praised the people who were on their side. I felt that should they see this post, I’d become another person to openly mock on their page and they’d take my dissent as a kind of badge of honor.

What surprises me the most is that this is coming from a business–people looking to make money off the very people they’d just offended and insulted to the point of driving them elsewhere. And that was what bothered me more than anything. I may not have liked the fact that they posed the comic in the first place, but that alone didn’t lead me to spend my money elsewhere. Nope, it was the disrespect shown to their own page’s followers, to people disagreeing with them and rather respectfully explaining why. The immaturity shown in turning that dissent into a joke. The carelessness of all of it.

I might’ve even let it slide if not for the fact that this is not the first time I’ve seen this happen on this page. I can’t remember the exact circumstances at this point, but there was an incident where a transgender individual took issue with some word choice. And rather than listen and make amends, nicely defended themselves, or respectfully disagree, they did something very similar to what happened over the weekend–they made fun of the person publicly on the page, let the page’s followers join in, and completely dragged them through the mud.

I believe in a “three strikes” type policy in a lot of areas of life, but I was so disgusted my this second offense that I didn’t want to sit around and watch strike three happen. There’s no need for that kind of behavior, there’s no excuse for it, and I’m certainly not going to reward them for it by giving them my money.

I also wasn’t the only person put off by this. I noticed a few comments sarcastically wishing them luck with business, and I interacted directly with another woman who shared my views almost exactly and went so far as to say she questions what their customer service must be like if that’s they way they treat people.

Take heed, businesses–you don’t have to agree with every single person you interact with online, but you should still be respectful. How you treat people sends a message, and when you treat people poorly, it’ll lose you business.

Hope you enjoyed mine while it lasted.

Movie Review: The Hateful Eight

Full disclosure: I haven’t actually seen all of Tarantino’s other movies. Of the ones I have seen, Reservoir Dogs is my favorite.

Hateful Eight opens with bounty hunter John Ruth and his bounty, Daisy, crossing paths with fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren. They’re all headed to the same town to claim their bounties–Warren with some dead bounties, Ruth with his alive so as to get the pleasure of her being hanged–when they run into the alleged sheriff of the town they’re off to. In the middle of a blizzard, they stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery, where four other men are already hunkered down, and then Tarantino’s fun begins.

Warren notices something is off pretty quick–for one, Minnie, her husband, and the rest of the haberdashery staff aren’t there. A man claiming he’s been put in charge explains that they’re out visiting Minnie’s family, but Warren isn’t buying it. And as the film progresses, we see Warren notice some things that are a little off and express his suspicions and his reasons for them pretty openly, and before long, it becomes pretty clear that people aren’t quite who they say they are.

And this is where my love of Reservoir Dogs comes in–while the plot itself is pretty different, some of the major themes and conflicts are the same. People are lying about who they are and what they’re doing, and by the end, the film turns into a bit of a whodunnit. It’s fun and interesting, complete with some plot twists, but something about it just falls flat. For me, I think part of it is structure and narrative device. The film is split into “chapters,” which actually work really well. The catch is that in the middle of the movie, Tarantino decides to backtrack a bit and show the audience something that was happening in the midst of a graphic monologue from Warren (we’ll come back to that later). And this is accompanied by a voice-over narration that hasn’t been employed in the movie elsewhere until this point, and I think it’s unnecessary. This setup could’ve been done a totally different way, sans narration, and still be incredibly effective. In fact, I’d argue leaving out the narration and spelling out what happened would’ve made for a more shocking, more interesting twist. I mean, as an audience, exactly what happened would’ve become pretty obvious one way or another later.

And what’s surprising about this is that Tarantino generally isn’t the type to spell things out for his audience, nor is he the type to tone things down. The closer the movie gets to its ending and climax, the more gore Tarantino gives us. And while I don’t have a problem with gore per se, there were times when it felt gratuitous. That monologue of Warren’s that I mentioned? Although it’s pretty clearly a setup to piss off another character and didn’t really contain anything horrible for a 2016 moviegoer, I found it distracting. It felt like something tossed in mostly for shock value–same with most of the visual gore and violence. I even joked that it’s like Tarantino gets a nasty, violent, graphic scene in his head and builds a plot around it, although that does minimize the writing and plot of this a bit because it’s not at all poorly written or plotted. It just feels like Tarantino really, really wants to make a mess, and maybe make people uncomfortable in the process. That said, this is kind of to be expected from Tarantino, and between the gore and the plot twists and the somewhat nonlinear storytelling, it’s typical Tarantino. It just doesn’t quite get on the level of a lot of his past work.

But the cast does. Everyone is excellent, and a lot of Tarantino regulars are back. Warren is played wonderfully by Samuel L. Jackson, and Jennifer Jason Leigh was an impressive Daisy. My favorite, though–and here comes Reservoir Dogs again–was Tim Roth. I love him, and I’m glad to see him in a film again.

Bottom line: liked it but didn’t love it. It’s worth going to see, especially if you’re a Tarantino fan because you like to see blood everywhere.

Friday Five: Balance

  1. When opposing forces in your life pull you in different directions, how do you recenter yourself and find balance? I think by just being true to myself and paying attention to my personal wants and needs. I always take time to decompress–I don’t tackle any important tasks after work until I’ve taken time to, say, dick around on the Internet, unless I have a writing deadline to meet or something.
  2. What are often the greatest threats to your overall balance? People who are toxic, or people who have a way of shaking me back into bad habits and unhealthy thinking. Such things have a way of being disruptive and not quite undoing progress I’ve made on myself, but they set me back a little and get me thinking in ways that maybe I generally don’t anymore.
  3. If you could add just a little more of one thing to your life and have a little less of another, what would they be? I want more of the same thing almost all of us want more of–time and money. Honestly, I don’t know what I could do with less of. There’s not a lot of negativity around me lately, so there’s not much to purge. Maybe less frustration in my renewed hunt for a new job.
  4. What are pluses and minuses of hanging out with mercurial people, and what are pluses and minuses of hanging out with even-keeled people? Which tend to populate your social groups most? I’d say mercurial people can bring a little excitement, albeit not necessarily always in a good way. Things can get chaotic and toxic with them. Even-keeled people–and I consider myself one–on the other could be considered boring, but the advantage is things are more peaceful. Despite some past issues with my social groups, I think everyone tended to be more even-keeled.
  5. What’s your greatest challenge in maintaining a balanced diet? For me, balancing it at all. I’m a vegetarian whose favorite food is pasta. When I first started living on my own, I probably ate some form of pasta almost every day of the week, and with the exception of when I go out, it’s down to about once a week, which is huge for me. There’s also that fun balance of trying to integrate fresh ingredients and using them before they go bad.

Life is back to normal now that the holidays are over–Paul had two weeks off from work, so we’re both back at the grind full-time. I’ve been adjusting to life as an engaged lady, which basically means gradually becoming less paranoid when wearing my ring. And slowly starting to plan a wedding.

I’m going in 2016 having to remember not only that it’s 2016, but that my boyfriend is now my fiancé. And remembering to write “2016” on my checks has so far been easier.

With weekend plans rare now, we’ve taken to mostly staying it and then catching a movie at some point. So we saw Hateful Eight two weeks ago, The Revenant last weekend. I’m debating maybe doing short reviews for each. I will say that of the two, I preferred The Revenant. I’m hoping to catch another movie this weekend, if we’re not snowed in, and I’d like it to be something that’s been out a little longer. Because we generally make it to the movies kind of infrequently, I like to see whatever’s been out the longest so we can knock it out and save something newer for another weekend, but I conceded these past two trips and saw movies Paul and I both wanted to see.

Last Friday, the furnace went out. I woke up thinking it felt pretty cold in the apartment, and when I went to turn the heat up, I saw that the thermostat was in the 60s, despite being set to the 70s. I thought maybe it was just acting up and turned the thermostat up, but the heat didn’t kick on the way it normally would. I turned it off, turned it back on, and tried again, and while it did click on, it didn’t go through its usual cycle. The furnace wasn’t igniting, and then I smelled gas. So I woke Paul up and he took a look at it while I showered, and when he couldn’t get it fixed, he decided he’d call off work and I’d still go in and just make the necessary calls from work. There was just one problem–the apartment was a damn disaster. Mess and chaos everywhere, and since it was a Friday, I wanted to make sure the furnace got fixed in case maintenance is out all weekend. So I asked him if he was sure he didn’t want to call off and help him clean up, and he changed his mind.

So I got a three-day weekend, but I spent a long time cleaning the apartment. And we did a damn good job–we just have some clutter left that’s mostly boxes of Paul’s books we can’t put anywhere else because our bookshelves are packed.

As it was getting to be afternoon, maintenance still hadn’t shown up, so I went up to the office. I had this fear that something wouldn’t get passed along, and I was right–I’d called the management company’s main office, in part because the wrong number was listed and in part because someone gets in there an hour before my own building management–and my building manager never got word that my furnace was out. So 20 minutes before the poor maintenance guys are set to go home, they get sent over to my place to fix my furnace no one told them about. It was frustrating for me that it could’ve gotten fixed hours before, and I’m sure they weren’t happy about getting the call. Fortunately, it was a really quick, easy fix, and despite coming to do it right at the end of the day, they still managed to get out of work on time. Bam. Paul joked as they were leaving to go quick before they got another call. I did feel bad for them. Paul and I both know how it feels to get stuck at work late, and I can imagine what a pain it was to have 20 minutes left in the workday and get sent out somewhere. But I was really grateful, and I hope that came across.

I’m also grateful that it happened on the one weird warm day of the week and not the typical cold winter day. We managed to crank a space heater all day and keep the apartment at a normal temperature. Way better than single-digit heatless winters we had as a kid when the furnace crapped out on us.