Posts tagged ‘films’

Why The Revenant is not so endearing to Indigenous people


Leonardo DiCaprio and Grace Dove in The Revenant.

I’m sorry, readers and movie goers. I really don’t like to rain on anyone’s parade. But The Revenant is just not very endearing to indigenous peoples.

Like many indigenous people, I was so excited to go see The Revenant. Recently, my wife and I had a chance to spend some time with Duane Howard, the hard working Nuu-chah-nulth actor and stuntman who stars in the Oscar-winning film. He spoke about his experiences acting in the movie, and his interactions with mega-star Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio befriended a few First Nations people during it’s filming.

DiCaprio’s shout-out during the Golden Globes was heart-felt and honourable. He said: “I want to share this award with all the First Nations people represented in this film and all the indigenous communities around the world. It is time that we recognized your history and that we protect your indigenous lands from corporate interests and people that are out there to exploit them. It is time that we heard your voice and protected this planet for future generations.”

Finally, we found ourselves an outspoken hero in Hollywood! Someone who can replace the voice and noble action of the Late Marlon Brando, another superstar who was a friend to First Nations people.

The Revenant stars a whole bunch of indigenous actors, including Melaw Nakehk’o, Grace Dove, Isaiah Tootoosis and Forrest Goodluck.  In a year where the Academy Awards was being criticized for it’s lack of inclusion, an indigenous cast like this one was to my liking.

Not to mention, Leo is one of my favourite actors, playing the lead in my favourite movie of all time, Titanic. Needless to say, I had a lot of great expectations and was so excited to see this movie.

The Revenant is beautifully shot. It had incredible acting. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Best Actor Oscar was well earned. As was Tom Hardy’s Oscar nomination. It is a gripping, yet dark story.

But did The Revenant showcase indigenous people and accurately portray our culture? Did it make me proud to be Anishinaabe? I’m afraid not.

The first thing it did was showcase the stereotypical period violence doled out by indigenous people. It showed how eager our people were to wage war against non-native interlopers. There were plenty of arrows, brutal beatings and even some scalping. All in the first ten minutes of the film.

Leo’s character, Hugh Glass, is portrayed as a tortured and weathered guide who brings along his half-Pawnee son on the doomed fur trade adventure. The son, played by Forrest Goodluck, had the best potential for a good role in the film. That is until he is killed in the first third of the movie. But not before Leo’s character slaps the boy around making sure he knows where his place is among the filth around him.

Hugh and his son do speak Pawnee in the film. But not enough for the audience to embrace and appreciate any actual indigenous culture.

I was anxiously awaiting to see the part of Elk Dog, portrayed by Duane Howard. Surely, he would redeem the slow start of this indigenous anthology I was expecting.

Elk Dog is the leader of the band of warriors. Occasionally, he rides up on horseback overseeing the plundering and violence. But I can’t recall if he had any worthwhile dialogue. Apparently, the motivation for his vengeance is the kidnapping of his daughter by another group of fur traders. Alas, these Indians are on the warpath, just like other Indians in many a historical western. There is nothing really for First Nations people to latch onto or be proud of from Elk Dog and his men.

Ironically, my second favourite movie of all time is Dances With Wolves. Costner’s story is also guilty of furthering violent stereotypes. Sure, it’s ripe with the noble, white saviour theme. But it also shows, quite eloquently, the beauty and compassion of Lakota family and culture.

Such is not the case with The Revenant. In fact, there is nothing appreciably redeeming about the motivation of these characters nor their story. This movie is about vengeance and violence, plain and simple.

Between The Revenant, and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, there are 5 hours and 43 minutes of spilling blood and guts. But at least Quentin chose not to portray the spilling of any First Nations blood in his movie.

My Oscar Picks

I’m pretty excited about the Academy Awards this Sunday.  2010 was a pretty good year for movies.  Nothing over-the-top spectacular, but a lot of solid, great movies with great performances and excellent film making.  Here are my top picks:

Best Picture: The King’s Speech.  I’m going with the odds on this one.  It was also my favorite film of the year.  I called this one back in the fall before it was even nominated.

Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech.  Amazing performance that he’ll be remembered by.  It was his acting that sparked in interest in researching the Royal family.  So poised, yet vulnerable.  The consummate actor’s actor.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech.  Christian Bale may very well win this for his role in The Fighter.  But I was moved by Rush’s performance.

Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan.  They often give this category to the “name”.  Still an incredible movie and a brilliant performance.  Can she really dance like that?

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Melissa Leo, The Fighter.  Don’t know much about the other nominees, but I do remember Leo’s performance in The Fighter.  If I remember it, the Academy should remember it as well.

Best Director: Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech.  Best movie of the year, hands down, because of the acting and directing.

Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3.  Didn’t see it, but an educated guess.

Art Direction: Inception.  Incredible movie, moving in and out of different realities.  Well put together.

Cinematography: Black Swan.  Many of us are not ballet aficionados, but the film making and camera work draws us in.

Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland.  Although, The King’s Speech may sweep this category too.

Best Song: We Belong Together, Toy Story 3.  Randy Newman is nominated often enough, but he’s only won once.

Visual Effects: Inception.  This is a no-brainer.  It Inception loses in the category, it will be a shame.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network.  Enjoyed this film and how they were able to adapt the screenplay from the book and court depositions.

Best Original Screenplay: The King’s Speech.  Incredible screenplay should be tops in the writing category.

My Movie Stats for 2010

Noomi Rapace in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I seen 55 of the top 100 movies in 2010 at the movie theatre.  That is 10 more than last year.

  • 17 were dramas.
  • 8 were action or thrillers.
  • 14 were comedies.
  • 9 were children’s movies.  5 were animated.
  • 8 were horror movies.
  • No question, Avatar was my favorite movie I seen in 2010.  However, it doesn’t count as a 2010 movie as it came out in 2009.  But I didn’t see it until the new year.  Hands-down, it’s the best movie I’ve seen since Titanic, another James Cameron epic.

    Of all the 2010 films, The Town was my favorite.  Rivetting and honest, but violently over the top.  I’m not an action movie guy but I enjoyed this one.

    My Top 10:

    1. Avatar
    2. The Town
    3. The Social Network
    4. Inception
    5. Secretariat
    6. The Karate Kid
    7. The Girl Who Played with Fire
    8. Conviction
    9. Unstoppable
    10. How to Train Your Dragon

    Thoroughly enjoyed: The Girl Who Played with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.  It’s not often that we get to see an entire trilogy in one year.  Great acting, excellent plot based on the Stieg Larsson books.  They are making a Hollywood version of the first movie – however, it may not hold up to this version.

    Funniest Movie: Grown-Ups.  Lots of dumb humour.  The critics hated it.  But it’s an Adam Sandler movie.  It’s exactly what I expected.  The funniest scene of the year was definitely after Steve Buscemi gets hurt and put into a full body cast, and can only stand with his arms raised in victory.  I couldn’t stop laughing.

    Scariest movie: Devil.  Not really a great year for scariness, however.  I haven’t need Paranormal Activity 2 though.

    Most bizarre: Black Swan.  It’s not in my personal top 10 but it certainly kept me interested and chuckling at the absurdity at inappropriate times.  Thoroughly enjoyed the Natalie Portman/ Mila Kunis scene.

    Still need to see: The King’s Speech.  The Fighter.

    Movies I’ve likes so much, I seen three times: Avatar

    Movie I wasn’t interested in seeing, and didn’t: Harry Potter… part 30, or whatever part it is.  I wouldn’t be surprised that the final installment of the franchise is divided into two movies.  Aren’t those kids are too old for school now?  Don’t they ever graduate from Hogwarts?  God!

    The world did not end in film in 2010. Although, another zombie virus will probably wipe out civilization beginning with Cedar Rapids, Iowa, surprisingly enough.

    Best Actor: Ben Affleck, The Town

    Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

    Oscar Contenders: The Town, Inception, Black Swan

    I had a long, $11 nap watching: Legend of the Guardians, Cats and Dogs.

    Calories from popcorn, butter and candy eaten at the movies in 2010:  43,300

    Amount of Diet Coke/Coke Zero consumed at a movie theatre in 2010:  63.75 litres

    Approximate amount spent at movie theatres, personally and for my family, in 2009: $2549.58

    My Movies Stats for 2009

    I seen 43 of the top 100 movies in 2009, at the movie theatre.

    I Love You, Man was my favorite. Probably not an Oscar pick, but I laughed my ass off harder than I ever remembered.

    My Top 10:
    1. I Love You, Man
    2. Inglorious Basterds
    3. Twilight Saga: New Moon
    4. Star Trek
    5. District 9
    6. Paranormal Activity
    7. Julie & Julia
    8. Angels and Demons
    9. Law Abiding Citizen
    10. My Sister’s Keeper

    12 were thrillers and dramas

    11 were comedies

    11 were children’s movies.  5 were animated children’s movies, 3 were live action children’s movies, 3 were tween movies

    6 were horror movies: Friday the 13th, Halloween 2, Haunting in Connecticut, Paranormal Activity, The Unborn, Saw 6.

    2 movies, Zombieland and Inglorious Basterds were off-colour, shock comedy.  They were both great.

    Movies I’ve likes so much, I seen twice:  Paranormal Activity, Star Trek, District 9

    Thoroughly enjoyed and was entertained:  Twilight Saga:  New Moon

    Edward or Jacob:  Team Edward

    Still need to see: The Lovely Bones, Avatar

    Best Horror Movie: Paranormal Activity.  The scariest movies I’ve seen in years.

    Unfunny “comedy”: Funny People

    Best Movie I didn’t see in the theatre, and should have: The Orphan

    Movie I wasn’t interested in seeing, and didn’t: Transformers 2

    The world ended once: Knowing

    The world almost ended once: 2012

    Best Actor: Matt Damon, The Informant

    Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

    Oscar Contenders: Inglorious Basterds and District 9

    Movie stars I’d follow if the world was ending: John Cusack and Will Smith

    Movie star I’d want to be with if the world was ending: Raven Symone

    I had a long, $11 nap watching: Where the Wild Things Are, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, G-Force, Planet 51

    Saddest Movie: My Sister’s Keeper

    Calories from popcorn, butter and candy eaten at the movies in 2009: 34,600

    Compared to calories from beer, consumed by the average beer drinker in Canada: 30,100

    Amount of Diet Coke/Coke Zero consumed at a movie theatre in 2009: 46.8 litres

    Approximate amount spent at movie theatres, personally and for my family, in 2009: $1643