Thursday, February 25, 2016

Art: reminding us of Life

I've seen a lot of movies in the last several months. I assumed by the time the Oscars came around, I'd have seen most of the ones that matter.

Not so though. The Oscars will be handed out this coming weekend and even though they nominate more films than they used to, I still fall short.

Of the eight films nominated for best picture, I've seen three.

The eight are:

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies


Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant



The three are:



And The Big Short

I'm not sure any of it matters any more as The Revenent is, apparently, going to clean up.

I didn't see The Revenent by choice. I had read and heard too much about it. It's grisly; it's brutal, unflinching, raw. It didn't sound as if it were made for me.

One of the most powerful pieces I read about it was written by an Indigenous woman, Sasha LaPointe, Coast Salish/Nooksack, and was titled ‘Bring Me The Girl’: Why ‘The Revenant’ was Hard for My Friends and Me.

Powaqa’s face is empty as she is violated, as the French captain stands behind her, as she is shoved against the tree. Her face is wiped of any emotion. I have goosebumps and feel lightheaded when I think of it, the absence of fantasy. There is no Hollywood, choreographed rape scene. No big fight, no shrieking, no scratching, no scrambling to get free. There is only the reality of that expression. Those dead and empty eyes. The face of a woman taken over, defeated, if only for a moment.

I hope The Revenent is worthy as it seems likely it will win best picture, best actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), best director (Alejandro G. Iñárritu), best cinematography, costumes, hair-styling and makeup, production design. . . (I'm just going through the list of everything it's nominated for.)

And if it does win everything in sight, I hope everyone who goes to see it will begin to see the world in a different way. That's one of the purposes of Art.

Her face reminds us that there is a highway in Canada known as the Highway of Tears, named after the many disappearances of women (mostly indigenous) reported along its vast expanse. It reminds us of the large numbers, the cases of assault against Native women. It is facing generations of surviving, of historical trauma, of memory distilled into a short scene and watching it release from within our bodies and float out into the world.

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