Remember last December when Leonardo DiCaprio was spotted leaving a Miami club with 20 models? He was on leave from The Revenant. Now, having watched it, I get why he went hog wild. I'd rather see a dramedy about his wild Florida night: I picture him soused and grouchy, surrounded by anonymous beanpoles while dreading the horror, the horror of returning to Iñárritu, the Colonel Kurtz of Canada.
I found The Revenant unbearably silly—my podcast co-host Devin Faraci called it “a prestige episode of Jackass.” Iñárritu and his masochistic star kept drumming their chests like gorillas, trying to impress us with their machismo even when it made DiCaprio’s character look stupid. Yes, DiCaprio might win an Oscar for gobbling both a raw fish and a raw bison liver. But in both of those scenes, his Hugh Glass was just 10 feet from a fire. He couldn’t wait five minutes to cook his food? And don’t get me started on those scenes when DiCaprio and Tom Hardy—both playing expert trackers—can’t find each other when they’re yards apart in ankle-deep snow. Um, look down at the footprints? I rolled my eyes so hard at The Revenant that I hallucinated I was sitting next to Mad Max’s Imperator Furiosa, who’d take one glance at these goofballs and sneer, “You wanna get through this? Do as I say.”
In this fine Movie Club crew, I’m the goofball who didn’t adore Carol. You’re all bear wrestling over who’s the biggest fan, but I merely admired it, though I worshipped Todd Haynes’ previous feature, the slippery and cerebral Bob Dylan anti-biopic I’m Not There. Yet, to me Carol felt airless. It was all chilly good taste, as impeccable as Cate Blanchett’s closet. Dana, which outfit was your fave? I’d trade my whole wardrobe for her steel-blue suit with salmon scarf and fur coat, even though I’d look like a real weirdo at the grocery store.
The problem could just be that I feel like Rooney Mara hasn’t shaken off the shackles of David Fincher. He gave her a great cameo as a normal, real world girl in The Social Network. And then he bleached her eyebrows, pierced her nipples, and drained her blood for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. His unrecognizable creation slouched across red carpets like a goth Barbie doll, and ever since she’s conflated acting with dressing up and looking blank.
For my money, she’s out-acted by Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg in any scene in American Ultra, another movie about true love in a treacherous world. (Ducks to avoid David’s spitball.) Their stoner CIA action-comedy shouldn’t work. It’s the tonal opposite of Carol: bright, messy, sweaty, and loud. Stewart and Eisenberg are surrounded by chaos. They’re hunted, gassed, strangled, stabbed, and stun gunned. But their romance radiates off the screen, especially in the quiet moments where Stewart curls next to Eisenberg in bed like they’ve spooned for a thousand nights. Even better, they’re dimensional characters who accept each other’s weaknesses. Stewart knows he’s self-sabotaging and lazy, and she still wants to fight for their future. So did I. David dismissed it as “Pineapple Express without the laughs and The Bourne Ultimatum without the thrills.” I think it’s a love story first, and I’ll flat-out say it’s the best love story of the year.
Since I hear the schick-schick of David sharpening his knives—c’mon, at least cook me first!—let’s keep talking about the best use of violence.
This year’s most ghastly deaths weren’t in The Hateful Eight. They were in PG-13 blockbusters like Jurassic World, which murdered a babysitter for a punch line. We’re supposed to laugh when she’s swallowed by a mosasaur, because her character is a pain. In The Avengers: Age of Ultron, armies of aliens are laser-blasted for thrills. No wonder Ultron concludes that the best way to save the planet is eliminate all the humans. “Yippee!” we hoot when Iron Man and Hulk smash up a city center. But what about the civilians cowering in the shrapnel? The drivers of the cars that get flung around like Nerf footballs? Hollywood seems to shrug, “No blood, no foul,” but death isn’t a romp. Bloodless CGI casualties are numbing, and that mentality is starting to feel increasingly dangerous.
At least when Quentin Tarantino cold-cocks Jennifer Jason Leigh, he wants us to squirm. His bruises hurt. Mark and David are right to argue that Tarantino has a conscience. I’d even say that extends to his use of the N-word in Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight. A Civil War–era movie where white racists didn’t use the word would be as sanitized as a Marvel massacre. Like his physical blows, Tarantino means us to feel it.
Of course, I get the skepticism. Tarantino’s been obsessed with that word for two decades, often incorrectly. Remember in Pulp Fiction when the character he played groaned that his house wasn’t “dead [N-word] storage,” a bad line made worse because he said it himself? He’s grown up since then, and I’d rather give him the space to bushwhack through America’s racial angst—and maybe even make mistakes—than reward tidy, safe spectacles that simply pretend that everything’s fine.
OK, enough death and politics. Let’s get dumb. David, we both stuck up for Ted 2 and Zac Efron’s DJ bromance We Are Your Friends, two summer flicks that were as fun and fleeting as an afternoon beer. Why wasn’t anyone willing to give them a break? What does Ted have to do to get a little respect—maul Leonardo DiCaprio?
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