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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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Monday, January 11

The Revenant

I’d been looking forward to seeing The Revenant for over six months—with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the mountain man Hugh Glass, a character I’d read about a long time ago in a novel by Frederick Manfred called Lord Grizzly. I at first thought the word “revenant” must have been related to "revenge," but it means, according to the dictionary, “a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living.” And though the main character doesn’t actually die, he certainly rises from his grave to terrorize his enemies. The story centers on an encounter Glass has with a female grizzly in which he is mauled by the bear while fighting it with a knife, a scene that's remarkable even though there are a few moments when the bear seems a little too digitally created. He's abandoned by two of his fellow trappers, Jim Bridger and John Fitzgerald, who assume he will soon die anyway. He doesn’t, and he then crawls back to Fort Kiowa, where he plans to get revenge against the men who left him. Powerful story, powerfully told by director Alejandro González Iñárritu. I was happy with the stunning scenery through which the trappers moved and through which Hugh Glass crawled to get back to Fort Kiowa. But I was unhappy with the many liberties the movie took with the facts of the story.
The scenery was wondrous but nothing at all like where the story actually took place, prairie country from northwest South Dakota to about 200 miles southeast to the fort on the banks of the Missouri River. The scenery in the movie, like much else in the story, had a dream-like quality, beautiful but unreal, with snow-covered mountains soaring overhead, rushing streams and rivers the party of trappers wade through, towering trees often shown from camera angles looking straight up. First, there are no such mountains or trees anywhere near the story’s actual location, no such rivers and streams exist anywhere in the world, and any wading in the footwear the men would have available at the time (1823) would result in frozen feet. Many scenes showed campfires, burning unrealistically bright, as though with natural gas and not wood. At one point, Glass falls into a rushing river and doesn’t drown, even though he’s suffering from near-fatal bear wounds and wearing a huge buffalo robe that would have taken him to the bottom like a stone. At another point, while under attack from Native Americans (never clear which tribe), he shoots with a pistol and kills an attacker and then immediately shoots another. I didn’t think in 1823 they had pistols that fired more than one shot at a time. Picky, picky. But the mixture of reality and fantasy sort of clouded the film’s effectiveness. There were flashbacks that didn’t make sense. Or were they really only reflections of Glass’s fevered mind? Was it necessary for him to remove all his clothes before climbing inside the body of his dead horse to stay warm or was it simply an added detail to the death-rebirth image when he climbed out the next morning? Iñárritu's attention to realistic detail was noteworthy, especially the depiction of Fort Kiowa.
Then there’s Leo, who has risen from his beginnings as Johnny Depp’s younger brother in the 1993 What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, making his way across the Atlantic in Titanic, howling at the moon in The Wolf of Wall Street, and now growling and crawling for vengeance in The Revenant. He’s become one of Hollywood’s best actors. If only to see him do his Hugh Glass thing, this movie would have been worth it.

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