“Done so many evil things in the name of love, it’s a crying shame
I never did see no fire that could put out a flame.
Pull your hat down, baby, pull the wool down over your eyes
Keep a-talking, baby, ’til you run right out of alibis.
Someday you’ll account for all the deeds that you done
Well, there ain’t no man righteous, no not one.” – Bob Dylan

Ghosts haunt Alejandro G. Inarritu’s poetic, splendid rendering of the moment Europeans had a choice to pull back, or to forge ahead in their conquest of North America. There was no way our species would have stopped. Not with all of that virgin landscape to plow through – we’d already spread out over most of the land masses, killing nearly 75% of large mammal populations in our endless quest for more. More meat. More territory. While native populations were mostly living in self-sustaining environments – nature pushed back hard against them, the settlers weren’t going to have any of it. There was a moment. We had a choice. The Revenant is about that choice.

Inarritu’s bold approach — to capture the lush landscape of the wilderness in real time, with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki chasing his dreams around with a camera like a butterfly net, so fluidly the line between reality and cinema disappears — is the kind of thing you don’t see very often in a big studio movie, if ever. The confounding mystery of a world at once so beautiful and deadly defines the natural world before the Europeans tamed it into submission.

The Revenant’s story is mostly true. A fur trader named Hugh Glass earned legendary folklore status when he survived a grizzly attack and was left for dead in the deep winter, scarred and bloodied. Glass, in real life, eventually went to live with a Native American tribe and even helped lobby for their rights. In Inarritu’s version, Glass is caught somewhere between a dream and a nightmare as he fights for survival and is haunted by those he loved, revenants both of the country’s once pristine past, and his own.

DiCaprio as Glass spends much of the film either speaking the Pawnee language or unable to speak at all. It is his humanity that ultimately carries The Revenant. He has become such a great actor, one taken too much for granted, but he acts this thing from his heart. Even if you feel ready to abandon any sympathy for the human race (I’m almost there), DiCaprio’s Glass is a reminder that we are driven and obligated by our relationships to others, those we love. If humans are ultimately driven by greed and entitlement, we are very nearly redeemed by love.

Inarritu is not painting a picture of graphic, bloody imagery for the fun of it. It is a necessary part of that time, of a species ruled by selfishness, driven to kill. Inarritu’s film is a big, bold impressionistic take of our arrogant beginnings on this continent.

At the same time, The Revenant’s story is deceptively simple. A man is mauled by a mama grizzly bear protecting her two cubs, and left for dead by his greedy team of fur trappers who have been promised money if they stand vigil with his mangled body until he (supposedly) dies. They leave him to a fate that seems inevitable, so when against all odds he lives he must then avenge the death of someone he loved, murdered by those who abandoned him.. That’s the basic story but The Revenant is really not about that at all.

Where the Revenant takes you will depend on how willing you are to give up a need for a traditional narrative. It mystifies, confounds, horrifies and shocks the shit out of you. It is an epic, visceral cinematic ride that isn’t made for the disposable way we often consume our entertainment these days.

There are many ways all life on earth could be wiped out. The planet could be hit with an asteroid or a monster series of volcanoes could erupt. But the reality is, we are causing the sixth mass extinction. We will eventually wipe out most life on earth, including perhaps our own. At this rate, believe me, everything we’ve built — every last Starbucks cup of coffee we’ve drunk, every pig we’ve tortured in gestation crates so we can buy and consume bacon bowls from Walmart — will be just another whiff of the ghosts of humans who once dominated planet earth for what amounts to the last embarrassing days of a species that really was just a blip. A spectacular blip, perhaps, but a blip nonetheless.

While The Revenant never spells it out that explicitly, it conveys its message with symbols and imagery left to the viewer to interpret. It nonetheless communicates the urgency to correctly translate and interpret our true history so that our worst mistakes might not be repeated, so that maybe we can find a way to save what’s left before it’s all gone. Communicating an idea this big is no easy feat. For all of the violence offered up in so many films this year depicting the horrors of humans in almost every aspect of our involvement with one another– the bigger horror is not who we’re killing but where we’re headed.

The Revenant, like the best films ever made, can’t be gotten in one go. Maybe most won’t go back for a second look. Maybe they will stumble out of the theater, not having been told precisely what they’re supposed to think and feel, reach for their phones and start the constant input and output of user data we fill our lives with.

Maybe their feet will touch the concrete and they’ll look out onto the street with so many cars carrying a single person, living out their preordained destiny as a consumer-driven Americans, raised to believe that they should be able to have whatever they want, whenever they want it, no matter what the eventual cost.

We complain about the traffic. We complain about the climate changing. We complain about gun violence. We wonder why our American Dream was never delivered as promised. Some of us who watch The Revenant will connect those complaints backwards in time when there was a choice. The film deliberately leaves us at a crossroads of fate — two potential endings offered up, two different fates for Hugh Glass — and the choice is still ours to make.

The Revenant is about the ghosts of the past, and a harbinger of things to come. It’s about our past, our present and our future. It is also about filmmaking. It is about everything that Birdman lamented — the loss of artistic risk in the face of Hollywood economics in the age of narcissism. Far surpassing Birdman in every aspect, The Revenant was a risk worth taking, a film worth making, and one of the most beautiful and breathtakingly rendered works cinematic art of the year.

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  • Feli Mejía

    Great review Sasha, Thanks! I Can’t wait to see this movie now. Based on your review, I think I’ll be (profoundly) moved as well. Love leaving the cinema feeling in that state.

  • Rodrigo

    It’s time for Tom Hardy to be nominated and for DiCaprio to win. So excited for this movie!

  • Joebaggins

    Sounds like another masterpiece from agi.

  • Velimir Petkov

    Yet another amazing piece from the brilliant writer Sasha Stone! Bravo!

  • RossoVeneziano

    Beautiful review. It’s not going to win Best Picture but who cares. Art is an end in itself.

  • Lexie Grey

    This review is amazing.

  • “They leave him to a fate that seems inevitable” Did they not see the “Bring out your dead” scene from Monty Python?

    “The Revenant, like the best films ever made, can’t be gotten in one go.” I continue to not agree with this. Every time I read something like that it makes me think the film is defective and you want to give it a second chance, like a crappy boyfriend.

    “The film deliberately leaves us at a crossroads of fate — two potential endings offered up, two different fates for Hugh Glass — and the choice is still ours to make.” Sounds like THE MATRIX RELOADED. I liked the philospohy of that and since we are in vicious circle of repeat mistakes, it makes all the sense in the word that the description of a world at the brink, ours and the one in the film, would remind me of that.

    It sounds like something I’ll like but I do like the more imaginative epics. Not sure about the Academy types. You should definitely get to “The Wiz Live” if you’re down on mankind. The twitter world was so joyous last night. In fact, you should live tweet more. Most people just want to hang out and crack jokes. It’s a handful of bad guys who are ruining everything. Same as it ever was.

  • mdf60

    Looks like a “must see.”

  • On my way to Central America to catch up on all the reselases for The Review. Flight to Managua is boring as fuck any gay fiction or essential new sci fi novel recommendations to get on kindle before boarding?

  • jason

    wow, what a beautifully written, inspiring review. can’t wait to see it.

  • Jeremy Carrier

    wow, reading that for a minute I forgot I hated everything this fraud of a director has done.

  • Ryan Adams

    “You should definitely get to “The Wiz Live” if you’re down on mankind. The twitter world was so joyous last night. In fact, you should live tweet more. Most people just want to hang out and crack jokes. It’s a handful of bad guys who are ruining everything. Same as it ever was.”

    I never like when we disgree, Antoinette, because the swipes you take are always fairly light-hearted and good-natured, and it’s no fun for me to frown about the playful things you say.

    Sasha is certainly not saying that she thinks mankind is predominantly hateful or deliberately destructive. Not at all.

    Look at it this way. I agree with you: it’s just a relatively small handful of bad guys who are ruining everything in pursuit of increasing their own wealth and power.

    And I agree with you about this too: while that handful of bad guys is busy pillaging the planet, on the verge of causing irreparable damage, there are millions and millions of other people who are doing nothing at all to stop the bad guys — because they’re too busy watching The Wiz and can’t be bothered to give a shit.

    Just because everything was fun for millions of people on twitter last night, enjoying a colorful fantasy, maybe once in a while look at the dark looming reality that’s not being sufficiently explained to everyone every night: and pause to think about the literally billions of people already suffering in unimaginable ways, people who don’t have a twitter account or a TV to watch NBC.

    So here’s how I feel: people who don’t think this lax attitude is a problem humanity needs to address and work to rectify are not any less selfish than the billionaires raping the planet. The only real difference is those 750 million comfy people who don’t think mankind is on a path to disaster are content to watch a TV show and buy all the wasteful shit the commercials for that TV show are selling — so the 1000 billionaires worldwide can live like obscene royalty.

    No, it’s not “the same as it ever was.” Do you never read the news about how much worse the environmental crisis and income inequality are now than these things were just 50 years ago? and how much faster things are getting worse?

    Yes, The Wiz was a lot of fun. No, The Wiz doesn’t sedate and pacify me into thinking the mankind is doing just fine.

    If some people want to believe we would all be happier if we just watch more musicals and quit worrying so much, then that’s their prerogative. I’m not trying to scold you or anyone else into feeling any differently.

    And the only reason I’m responding right now is because I’d appreciate you not mocking and trivializing the concerns other people might have about the planet — and not portray us as gloomy Debbie Downers just because we’re more acutely aware about three things: the evil of a fraction of mankind, the cavalier borderline lazy apathy of a much bigger segment of mankind, and the abject suffering and dire plight of the actual vast majority of mankind, alright?

  • Ryan Adams

    The Revenant, like the best films ever made, can’t be gotten in one go.”
    I continue to not agree with this. Every time I read something like that it makes me think the film is defective and you want to give it a second chance, like a crappy boyfriend.”

    Just a simple non-confrontational question: Are you saying you never get anything more out of a complex movie when you revisit it than you got from the first viewing?

    All Sasha is saying is that there are some movies we watch once and we can catch a lot of what they are trying to say. But the best movies, for many of us, are those that keep revealing more and more important layers, deeper and deeper meanings, each time we watch them.

    My idea of a truly crappy boyfriend is a guy who’s so shallow that you never get any more from him that you got from the first simpleminded superficial date.

  • Velimir Petkov

    Did you get everything from Apocalypse Now the first time you saw it? Probably not. And it’s a masterpiece.

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  • jay

    Go, Leo, Go!

  • She said it can’t be gotten in one go. She’s said that many times in the past and I disagree with that idea. I almost never change what I think about a movie the second, third, hundredth time I’ve seen it. There are times when I miss dialogue or need to watch a complicated part over again, but it doesn’t change what I “got” from the movie. I’ve said more than once that there’s only one movie in my history of watching movies that I reversed on. I pay attention the first time. I don’t chew popcorn or go to the bathroom unless it’s an emergency. lol

    And to your other example, no, I’ve never changed my mind about people either. I’m a great judge of character. Maybe that’s my special purpose.

  • I’ve watched it several times and I don’t remember “getting” anything I didn’t the first time. I know we’re not talking about simply understanding the plot. I got everything I was going to get the first time. Like in school, when you don’t get something so you have to study it. I was never like that. I get it the first time, or I don’t. Everyone is a special snowflake. We don’t all perceive things the same way.

  • “And the only reason I’m responding right now is because I’d appreciate you not mocking and trivializing the concerns other people might have about the planet — and not portray us as gloomy Debbie Downers just because we’re more acutely aware about three things: the evil of a fraction of mankind, the cavalier borderline lazy apathy of a much bigger segment of mankind, and the abject suffering and dire plight of the actual vast majority of mankind, alright?”

    You got all that shit out of what I said? I was trying to basically say, “Don’t feel so bad about things, Sasha”. How in the fuck is that trivializing what she said? For your information I told Sasha on twitter last night that she should turn it on because it was so great. Everyone was happy for a minute instead of feeling bad about mass shootings every freaking day. So stop taking what I said and going on some diatribe about how I’m stupid enough to think we should just watch musicals and not do anything. I never said that. You don’t know me. And you don’t know what I spend my time on when I’m not on the internet talking directly to you. How dare you scold me and belittle me when all I was trying to do was cheer someone up.

  • Ryan Adams

    ok, sunshine.

    “Most people just want to hang out and crack jokes.”

    Most people on Twitter, maybe.
    (in fact, more like 35% of people on twitter are only on twitter to be pleasant and lovable. At least half the people on Twitter are shockingly full of viciousness and hate.)

    anyway, I’m thinking about 6 billion other people. and the 1000 billionaires who are sucking the planet dry as if their measly 80 years here is all that matters for the rest of eternity.

  • Chris Price

    Decidedly NOT a masterpiece, in my opinion. Innaritu is waaaaayyyyyy too indulgent at this point. Lubezki is still the greatest DP on the planet, and Leo is very, very good. But that movie only worked for me as a pulpy, gritty revenge flick set in the wilderness. I’m glad you read that much into the film based on what was on the screen, Sasha, but to me, damn near everything in that movie that wasn’t purely utilitarian plot stuff (in layman’s terms, the arty stuff) continuously called attention to itself in an attempt to indicate “poetry” or “depth”. I thought none of that stuff you mentioned about our current world and the state of things when I watched that movie, and I blame Innaritu for distracting me with his “genius”. But honestly, what the hell do I know? I’m probably just a simpleton. None of this is meant to be sarcastic, for the record. I’m being totally sincere in my comments. I genuinely am glad that you could glean some meaning from this. I’m just on the sideline wishing the movie just stayed pulpy and didn’t try to pretend it was something more than that.

  • Movie Lover

    Now this is a well written review. I haven’t been able to convince any of my friends to watch The Revenant with me. The movie is expensive and competition is fierce. I do wonder if it can find an audience outside of film snobs.

    Hardy may finally become somewhat mainstream if he gets a nomination. Most people just remember him as Banebut he’s been consistently good.

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  • Bunny

    Slippery slope review, especially third and fourth paragragh from the end. Basically positing if somebody doesn’t like the movie but doesn’t go back for a second try they’re a head up their ass consumer. I haven’t seen THE REVENANT. I will. But a suggestion that unless I learn to admire it I’ve failed a character test is a real turn off. Inarritu’s movies are often impressed by themselves. I’m trying to stay open to the idea this one is different – BIRDMAN worked for me – but this kind of pretension is not a good sign.

  • othermike1

    im a brit so all these movies arent opening soon enough. but this makes me want to see it, and some of the score i have heard. i want to see this, force awakens, joy, creed and hateful 8.

  • fishnets

    You’re not a simpleton. Most interesting movies that age well are those that can be interpreted differently. You see a simple revenge flick and you are right. Sasha sees much more than that and she is right. That gets talking going. Not “we all see the same, therefore nothing to debate”.

  • fishnets

    “I continue to not agree with this.”

    Agreed. I don’t like that argument either. Like, if you don’t appreciate the movie it’s your fault. Nay. I’d say that people revisit movies that they didn’t like first time around if they feel that there’s something worth revisiting. I didn’t like Moulin Rouge first time around but there was something about it that nudged me to see it again. It took several viewings for me to make it one of my all-time favorites but it all wouldn’t be possible without “there’s something about it that I need to explore” factor. And that factor isn’t the same for every person and every movie. Some will revisit The Revenant because they feel there’s something worth revisiting, some won’t. And the latter won’t be in the wrong because different things appeal to different people.

    I feel the same about “you should have read the source first to appreciate the movie” argument, which is typical for franchise movies derived from popular books/comic books. No. Movie should stand alone. If it isn’t possible to follow it without knowing the source material than the fault is with film-makers not with the viewer. There are many movies that are based on a source that people never heard of and they have no problem following the movie. So if your movie feels off without previous knowledge of the source than it’s because you made an off movie. Audience isn’t off, that’s for sure.

  • Cameron Harvey

    Iñárritu is one of those directors I’ve been watching since their first film, hoping that the potential apparent in their early work will eventually become fully realized in their latter-day endeavors, but thus far I’ve been underwhelmed. I thought Birdman was going to amount to more than it did and for some reason I’m hoping The Revenant is the one that delivers. But I’m not holding my breath either.

  • Fantastic on the money review Sasha. One thing that struck me as I walked out of the movie is something you mentioned- the gun issue today is most definitely linked to our bloody, Wild West past.

    The movie is about many themes but the rape and pillage of the Native peoples of America is definitely there as a theme even if it’s not the main theme.

    The guns we brought with us to the West were what we needed to conquer these peoples, who were better at taming nature than we were. So guns became cemented into the ethos of how we protected ourselves.

    So, in some ways, guns are the perpetual curse placed upon us by these murdered people, the price that successive generations have had to pay for the transgressions of their forbearers in a way.

    The film also has a subtle comment about the injustice against the native people of America
    more generally. We know how Inarritu feels about the treatment of immigrants in America and in The Revenant he’s reminding us who the real immigrant criminals were.

    It’s subtle, but I do think it’s there

  • That’s an overly defensive misinterpretation of what I said. I didn’t say you aren’t a good person if you didn’t get it the first time. The truth is, there’s nothing really to get. What I said was how much you get out of it will depend on how much you care about the bigger picture – the environment, our place in it, what we’re doing to it. And honestly Bunny? I don’t care whether I convince you or not. That was not my goal. I can’t even convince people to stop eating bacon to help save the pigs – believe me, I shrug when I hear stuff like this. It’s there for you if you want it. Otherwise, there are plenty of movies that aren’t debatable as to how they impact you or your viewing experience.

  • I don’t even deny that all of these complaints are true. It is indulgent. But I don’t really need movies to be ALL GOOD THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE. For me, this movie is the first and so far the only one that has directly confronted the thoughts that consume me on a daily basis. I don’t expect everyone to feel that way. I also think we’ve all been conditioned to be way too rigid when writing about and observing not just a movie but our take on that movie. We walk out asking ourselves how we “felt” without thinking it through. I was a little more on your side of things after my first viewing but I found it to be a movie I couldn’t shake. I kept thinking about it and those thoughts bought me deeper into the movie and at some point I realized I was wrong. The same thing happened, by the way, with Titanic. A movie I still can’t watch without thinking the script is terrible. But that movie clung to me in a way no movie really has and I had to go back and watch it again. I still don’t know what it is about it but there is more there – and more here – than meets the eye upon first viewing.

  • I want to chime in and say that I too love Joy and hope it gets in.

  • Ryan Adams

    That’s not what those 2 paragraphs are saying. I would suggest you go back and read them again but I don’t want you think I’m saying you missed the point. (Although, yeah, you missed the point.)

    There will undoubtedly be people who watch The Revenant and shug it off as meaningless. There will be others who find it rich and thought provoking.

    There will be people who don’t get this review. Others will.

    If you think Sasha is telling you: “No! you have to go back and kept watching The Revenant over and over until you understand it. Watch it 2 or 3 times until you understand why I love it.” If that’s what got from those paragraphs then there is something really wrong with your ability to grasp the written word.

    Maybe you’ll have better luck with the movie. Who knows. Who cares. See it once. See it 5 times. Sasha doesn’t care how many times you see it. I don’t care whether you understand the movie or this review, either one.

    I don’t care whether or not you get the same insights from the movie that I do. I don’t care whether you understand those paragraphs or not either. I’m just telling you: those sentences don’t say what you think they say.

    Those two paragraphs have nothing to do with “testing your character.” It’s simply a stone cold fact that some people are going to be moved by The Revenant and others won’t. Some of those who don’t like it will be shallow people when they buy a ticket and they will be the same shallow people when the credits roll. That’s a fact. Other people who buy a ticket might be otherwise sensitive souls but the movie just doesn’t touch them for one reason or another. Maybe a second viewing will get it’s message across or maybe it won’t. Who really cares? Not me.

    But here’s another stone cold fact: Some people will watch The Revenant multiple times because they love it and they will find more and more things to appreciate about it on each subsequent viewing. They will find it thought-provoking and it might even be a sensational life-altering experience for many people.

    If you’re not one of those people, it’s no reflection on your “character,” so calm down. Nobody cares whether you like this movie or not, trust me.

    It’s just very weird to me that you can read some heartfelt words expressing Sasha’s despair about the state of the planet and you can twist that in your head to mean : “You need to watch The Revenant over and over until you admire it.” Thats nuts.

    See what happens when I rephrase your concerns in crude terms? That’s the same that happens when you rephrase Sasha’s review in crude terms.

    So relax. You’re not failing a character test. Just a reading test. And even at that, it’s just a failure to understand those two paragraphs that you have latched onto as as personal attack on your character and you preemptively take personally.

    You’re taking umbrage over something that isn’t even about you. I suggest again: relax. Nobody is putting any pressure on you to like this movie.

    If you want to grade your own comprehension of what Sasha wrote, you can look around to see if other people reading this review are getting offended the way you did. If they’re not, then maybe they get what Sasha means and you didnt. Simple as that.

    No big deal. Nobody is judging you. But I’m tellin you straightup: you have misunderstood.

    Good luck with the movie. Hope you like it. If not, *shrug*, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid. Relax.

  • fishnets

    But not for BP win and especially BD win, c’mon! No to Russell sorry but no! Not when Scott and Tarantino (whose movie you didn’t like) are much more due. DOR is overrated.Also, Joy stans are so annoying I want it to under-perform with awards to see all that annoying OTT emoting wiped off.

  • Well that isn’t exactly true. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being alive and being human. But trust me, we’re in this muck together. And most of us only really care about our worlds. I’m one of those. Overall, though, the human race has been the single most destructive living force on this planet to other life forms We’ve managed to wipe out species who were millions of years old. We’re headed for our own demise. We ARE the sixth mass extinction. And no one cares about that because no one believes it. That said, I do think it’s cool and fun and yay Twitter! So what if the planet can’t sustain 11 billion people – we have Twitter and The Wiz and it’s fun. Yay! The Revenant is an expression of this fundamental contradiction of human progress. Beautiful, ugly, epic, tragic, ultimately a total fail (unless science and our capacity for sympathy/kindness can get us out of the mess – frankly, I’m doubtful).

  • I still find almost a different movie every time I watch it.

  • That’s right. There are plenty of films suited to your kind of mind. In fact, almost all of them.

  • “I almost never change what I think about a movie the second, third, hundredth time I’ve seen it.” That’s mind blowing to me. How a person responds to any work of art should change and evolve as they evolve. Watching Jaws at 10 years old is different from watching Jaws at 50. Movies become a permanent fixture in my life – like a book you take with you everywhere you go. I revisit them often – except the ones that you can get all in one go. Those I never watch again and they bore me to tears. The Big Short and Anomalisa are two complex films you have to watch over and over. All of David Fincher’s are.

  • Honestly, Sasha that’s not what I said. I didn’t say we have musicals so forget all that other stuff. I didn’t. I don’t mind if people hate me for what I actually say but when people add things I never said that’s not my fault.

  • Velimir Petkov

    A movie like that for me is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. What a masterpiece! There are so many things you can discover upon rewatching it. Especially the tragedy of Robert Ford – someone who was admiring Jesse only to be mocked by his idol. I can relate to that.

  • I am satisfied with how my mind works. There’s nothing wrong with it. I disagreed. I never said you were wrong. Different people see things differently. I don’t understand why anyone would take offense to that.

  • That’s an insult for no reason. I didn’t decide things about your mind based on what you think about a film. A film I said it sounds like I’ll like it when I see it in January. I don’t understand where this comes from.

  • fishnets

    Great example.

  • Ryan Adams

    I’m going to concede that I got too riled up and probably misinterpreted a comment that was made here last night.

    I should have just said how I felt, and explained how the process of watching movies, for me personally, is an experience of continual evolution and expansion as the meaning of movies bloom in my own head, but instead I chose to make a fist and get defensive.

    But (CherryValance/Antoinette, do I really need to call you CherryValance on Disqus now? It’s a hard thing, because we’ve known you here as Antoinette for a decade, and it makes it even harder to disagree with CherryValance because I keep thinking in the back of my mind that I want to get to second base with you, so that”s awkward) …but here’s how I feel, in terms that don’t take your first comment and oversimplify your friendly intent.

    Just in my own terms, ok?

    Any competent movie designed for mass audiences is going to have a surface layer of fairly easily accessible entertainment value. For example, anyone can watch Carpenter’s The Thing and “get it” on the first go round. Same with Citizen Kane and Apocalypse Now and even a Bergman movie. Just about anybody can watch any mainstream movie and follow what’s happening as well as glean some top-layer of message from it. But all those movies — all those classics have so much more to offer us than the fun they are to watch.

    Most movies are not made with the purpose of trying to perplex and confound and mystify audiences. There’s no money in that. Movies — the really great and widely beloved movies like The Godfather or Silence of the Lambs — are all constructed to have a top level layer of signs and meaning and significance that can be “got” on first viewing. It’s wrong to even call that layer “superficial” (although that is precisely what the word means) because people take offense (obviously) when they hear someone say their grasp of something is superficial.

    But it’s certainly a sad silly shallow work of art that does not have anything but a top layer of fun to offer, or even a secondary and tertiary level of ”hidden” meaning. Although god knows MOST movies we get at the multiplex are exactly that: sad silly and shallow.

    So it’s astonishing to me that someone as smart you, Antoinette, (and as cute as you are, CherryValance) can say that you never feel any differently about a truly deep rich movie after the 3rd or 4th go-round as you did the first time you saw it.

    It’s as if you’re telling us one of two things. Either you’re saying that you’re able to plumb the depths and process all the rich resonant labyrinths of significance of a movie like Rashomon or Fight Club on the first pass — in which case you must have some truly brainiac IQ of movie speed-reading analytical skills that most film scholars like David Bordwell or Stanley Cavell or Michael Wood would envy. Or else you are telling us that you are perfectly happy skimming the icing off a cake and licking that same spoon over and over, and you’re saying you’re never curious about cutting into the cake itself to see what deeper ingredients or possibly fruitcake are at the core to savor.

    And if it’s the latter, then maybe that’s a habit acquired by your notably and familiar tendency to prefer movies that are wildly entertaining. Not that there’s anything wrong with entertaining — because all the great movies I’ve named above are all rollercoasters of emotion-plucking thrills.

    But all we’re saying is this: Fine, you love Fury Road and Sicario and Creed and Beasts of No Nation on a first-view basis. And that’s great. So do we all. But I guarantee you that there are going to be book-length analyses of movies like Fury Road and Beasts of No Nation. Books and PhD theses are going to be written about these films.

    So you’re essentially saying: “there’s nothing in ANY of those books that I didn’t perceive the first time I saw those movies. Nothing more for me to appreciate that anybody else saw that I could have possibly missed. Nothing I can ever learn or reassess from a 2nd or 3rd viewing, because I’m satisfied that I got all there is to offer from those movies during the first 2 hours when I first saw it.”

    And ok, this much is trueL Those movies are great and meaningful and loaded with deep themes right there on the very top layer. But it’s unfathomable to me that someone who loves movies as much as you do has never changed the way you feel about a movie from the first time you saw it.

    I mean just on basic level of maturity…. how old were you when you first saw Apocalypse Now? 20? You don’t think your own evolution and growth and perceptions of the world have changed since the time you were 20? Seriously?

    I like you Antoinette, and always have. I apologize for taking your cheery words about “hey, perk up, The Wiz is a blast, take a moment to enjoy the fun and high-spirited artistic glee the world has to offer” and then I crudely turned that into “Just watch more musicals and quit your bitchin”

    — that was wrong of me. I hate hate HATE it when someone takes my words or Sasha’s posts and tried to dumb them down so we sound stupid. And I should not have done that to you.

    But I can’t see how you expect us take it seriously when you tell us — seemingly proudly proclaim — that your opinion of a masterpiece hasn’t evolved one iota since the time you were 20 years old.

    This is why I like Antoinette better than CherryValance. CherryValance never grew up and never will. .

  • Chris Price

    I get that, and I’ve admittedly only seen it once. Perhaps at some point it’ll take hold for me as well. I don’t doubt that as a possibility.

  • Chris Price

    I can say now that on a second viewing I’ll have your writing about the film floating around in my head. Which will probably make the movie better by default! 🙂

  • Chris Price

    Joy not my champ. I prefer Hateful Eight and Inside Out.

  • fishnets


  • Ryan Adams

    “She said it can’t be gotten in one go.”

    I’d like you remind you, Antoinette, that Sasha wrote this review after seeing The Revenant one time. So no, this post does not say that a lot that movies have to offer can’t be gotten in one go.

    Every thought, feeling and sensation you read here that Sasha wrote, she got all that in one go.

    In this review Sasha is saying, “I urge people who like this kind of movie to watch this kind of movie more than once, because you will be rewarded by exploring bigger ideas than most people are able to catch at first glance — especially when we all like to be swept up in a thrilling story and let it transport us into a dream-state of heightened consciousness. So, by all means, see The Revenant for the dreamlike awe it will induce, and then if you’re so inclined, return to it after your heart stops pounding and see what else these genius filmmakers might be trying to say.”

    This review is not written in Pawnee. It’s in crystalline English. It wears me out to have to translate and straighten out misinterpretations of writing this lucid, and it bores me if I see people picking sentences apart to be petty or pouty or butthurt about something so fundamental and elegantly expressed.

  • Cameron Harvey

    Pauline Kael never watched a film more than once and I don’t see people clamoring to discredit her legacy.

  • lincolnwuzrobd

    I’m not trying to discredit her legacy, but her insistence on not watching a movie more than once was a major weakness in her criticism. Is anyone the same person at 20 as they are at 40 or 60? I mean why not re-view films by such directors as Douglas Sirk or Sergio Leone, for example, who were so completely misunderstood when their films were first released? I know my own opinions of 2001: A Space Odyssey (neutral to wildly enthusiastic) and Bonnie and Clyde (very enthusiastic to very dubious), to take just two personal examples, changed. Which opinion is “right”? My initial reaction? My reconsideration? Maybe both? Maybe my next, if I ever see them again. I think seeing a movie more than once and collating the different opinions is a very enriching way to watch movies

  • Cameron Harvey

    I agree with you there but I also think that perhaps one person is more equipped to handle reviewing a film after a single viewing than another. Nothing against the style of either, they’re just different.

  • I’m seeing this here in Nicaragua. People love Leo here so I imagine it will quite the experience. Is this film political?

  • superkk

    rarely do i ever get involved in ryan/sasha discussions haha but when i fist saw no country of old men when it first came out i was like this is sooo boring. i was young and i didnt get the hype. watched it last week for the 2nd time and i was like wow..this is really freaking good, i can see why it won so many awards etc etc… what was i thinking back then…. just had to give my two cents. i grew up and i appreciated it much more on the 2nd viewing.

  • Ryan Adams

    “rarely do i ever get involved in ryan/sasha discussions haha”

    Sasha and I both approach Sasha/Ryan discussions with the same caution.

  • Ryan Adams

    “That’s an insult for no reason.”

    Antoinette, let’s all chill and dial this down, can we? You love movies that a lot of people love. So does Sasha. You love many many movies that are appealing to the widest segment of the population. So do I. You are proud of your populist preferences and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be, and there’s no reason for any of us to look askance at each other’s taste in movies.

    Your 4 favorite movies of the year so far are Sicario, The Martian, The Gift, and Straight Outta Compton. Most everyone here admires all those movies. You have Beasts of No Nation, Creed, Mr Holmes, Inside Out in your Top 10. Who here is going to scoff at any of those? Nobody.

    You like movies that can be enjoyed on many levels by all kinds of people who have all manner of desires and expectations from the movies they choose to see. You say you enjoy these movies on all the levels that anyone else can perceive — whether it be a teenager or a film professor — so that’s that. You’re happy. I’m happy. Sasha is happy.

    Smile for me. The Wiz encore is tonight.

  • fishnets

    Something about that white people don’t know s*** about respecting/living with nature and all its creatures (including humans both white and non-white).

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  • Gregory

    I admire everything you and Sasha are saying here. For what it’s worth, in response to this particular post of yours, I personally think you’re sugar coating a little. I think some movies should be watched over and over again whether one is inclined to do so or not. I hate the notion that some people have that since they disliked a movie they’ll never return to it. I believe if someone dislikes a movie then that is all the more reason to watch it again, just in case. I know many would respond that there’s not enough time in the world, and that’s fine for some films. But the very thought that some people just go off their first opinion in the face of all the praise or criticism some films get without actually wanting to investigate further is very irksome to me, especially considering that some films really are misunderstood at first by the majority and only later grow into the classics. The term “ahead of its time” exists for a reason. So, thank you for your posts here.

  • Paddy Mulholland

    See, Sasha, I know reviews aren’t the kind of thing you’re keen on making a career out of, but if you devoted yourself to writing nothing but this kind of shit, I wouldn’t complain! Cos it’s fucking excellent writing.

  • Claudiu Cristian Dobre

    This is obviously a very long, interesting and complicated discussion… All I’ll say is this: I change my opinion of movies all the time. Sometimes (less often – I’m a bit like Antoinette in this respect) because I get new things about them on repeat viewings, and sometimes (most often) because I see certain aspects in a new light. However, it IS rare that I change my opinion DRASTICALLY about a movie – which is perhaps what Antoinette is also talking about. I’ve never come to truly love a movie I didn’t at least like the first time I saw it, no matter how many new layers I’ve discovered, whether on my own or through the help of reading material in-between viewings, because if there’s no connection the first time, if I’m not genuinely invested in the more basic things it’s saying, the more hidden meanings I might have missed the first time simply won’t be enough for me to love it. It’s probably because I find those extra layers to be too questionable, too subjective, too dependent on who’s interpreting the movie than on what’s actually in it, which makes me trust them less as actual things the movie is trying to say. But, if I get them (the less obvious meanings, or at least some of them) the first time, and actually care about them, then I form an attachment to the movie’s point of view, and that sticks for good. That’s obviously subjective, but there it is… that’s my shoddy attempt at an explanation. 🙂

    And I’ll certainly never end up hating a movie I absolutely loved the first time around. At least these two things haven’t happened to me yet… But I do change between liking and loving, disliking and tolerating, and so on, quite a lot, in varying degrees. For all sorts of reasons.

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  • goodvibe61

    Just got around to seeing this review. Well done Sasha.

    The whole conversation in the comments really hit me because of my own recent experiences with The Hateful Eight. I understand that’s a film that wasn’t liked very much here, and that’s cool.

    When I watched that film the first time, there were a few sequences in the first half of the picture that I had a feeling were saying some pretty significant things to me about race in America, and I knew the whole Lincoln Letter thing was also adding something to that aspect of an undercurrent roiling along under the story. But I couldn’t quite get at it on that first go around, which was okay, because the visuals and the score alone, combined with the feeling of tension being ratcheted up were more than enough for me to be entertained.

    It was only on the second viewing that I realized what I’d missed that first time around with that film. And yeah, there was some stuff there that really speaks to me about race in America, and you can see and feel it in this Tarantino movie, and its big and its brave and its kind of scary to see it. It made the second viewing quite different from the first, and the second viewing, all the way to that final line of dialogue, really put the hook in me. I never would’ve gotten some of that stuff on a single viewing. Hell, it’s not even necessary to just enjoy it as a story, as story telling (that music!). But it might as well be a completely different movie for me now.

    I’m finally getting up to town this week to see The Revenant. Really looking forward to it. I’m a big fan of Inarritu since Love’s a Bitch, and I can’t wait to finally get to see this.

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