Clenching the Nomination - The Revenant - Can't Stop the Movies
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Clenching the Nomination – The Revenant

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Ryan discusses the scene in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's The Revenant that he thinks secured the film's Best Picture nomination. You can check out all of our overall guesses on the major Oscar categories for 2016 here.

Clenching The RevenantYesterday, I talked about Brooklyn and how the ending had to work to make the whole film successful.  With The Revenant, I am taking the opposite approach, and the scene that sealed the Best Picture nomination was from the beginning. The first long uncut shot of the fur trappers being attacked by the Native American tribe really set the table for the film. It showed the harsh world these people live in, show the stakes of Hugh Glass’ life (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and screamed to everyone that it was going to be a hell of a movie to look at.

Now I am making this much harder for myself by picking this scene because the one everyone talks about is the bear attack scene.  It is the centerpiece of the movie, sets the story into motion, and is technical marvel where it's hard to see the where the CG is used.  Yet, the scene was just the payoff to the first moments in the movie.  By the time that bear attacks, we already know that the environment that the characters are in is not a place that any sane person would not want to be within miles of and this is set up in the beginning.

At the 6 minute mark in the film we have seen the characters and the environment they are in.  The trappers are joking with each other until the camera notices a man hobbling in the distance with the sun against his back.  He falls over dead from something that audience does not know.  That second, one of the trappers starts to order for help when an arrow whizzes by and embeds in his neck, killing him.  Here the ambient sound is heightened by a drum beat playing over and over, louder and louder adding tension to the scene. After a quick jump to show where Hugh and his son is, we go back to the camp.  All of the men in the fur company are in shadows surrounded by the woods.  All that is on the soundtrack is screams, the whooshing of arrows and some war cries.  The first man goes out of the trees into the sun and is instantly killed by the (still) unseen forces.  We then get a tight pan into the leader of the company and finally a shot of the Native American tribe for behind riding their horses.

When Hugh meets up with the rest of his men, the film switches to the uncut shot.  Everything in the frame is in focus and somehow the director and his two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki keep everything easy to follow.  We see the fur traders make their way to the boats with the Native American’s in pursuit and the camera pans up and down, left and right to take in all the crazy action happening. The use of the sun peeking through the trees during this part of the film also helps add to the otherworldly feel of this moment.  While everything is horrifying and gruesome, the photography capturing nature is somehow still beautiful to gaze at in the moment.

After Hugh shoots someone out of the tree, the long take is cut by a close up of a man getting shot in the eye and then a wonderful tracking shot of one of the elder tribesmen riding through the forest until he is killed by Tom Hardy’s character. This leads to a frantic scramble for the boats where all sounds drops out of the film except for a score in all minor chords.  The audience sees horrible actions taking place on-screen (including the shooting of a horse) without hearing the screams and other sounds that go with the violence. Finally, the scene ends with the camera swooping in towards the Native American’s and gives the audience the one and only moment to see the attackers and their numbers.

With the camera, sound design, choreography and acting this scene showcases everything that Oscar voters get excited about and decides to do it within the first 20 minutes of the film.  The scene also sets up the type of movie this is going to be where everyone and everything is trying to kill the star of the film.  With this moment I can say, once and for all, that I am so glad that I was not born in the 1800’s.

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Posted by Andrew

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