Review Four-fecta! Krampus! Revenant! Moomins! Boy and the World!

Adults and children of all ages should check out Boy and the World, a Brazilian animated film that is one of the year’s best, if not THE best. Hand drawn with digital augmentation, it is a marvel of form, color, and audio-visual ballet of imagery – more than once, a particular sequence would mentally have me going, “Holy shit, this is a ride that’s just taking off!” like the super-fast launch on the Mummy roller coaster at Universal. It is a story that can only be told in cinema, as well as an expansion of the kind of story we think cinema can tell.

There is no dialogue beyond unsubtitled mumbling – there is instead music and color, and a lot of it, as we start at what appears to be a sub-atomic level of movement and gradually pull out to a world in which a young boy lives with his parents in the country, and all three are drawn in vaguely Day-of-the-Dead caricature style, albeit with a stick-figure simplification reminiscent of Don Hertzfeldt. The boy’s father leaves them to go to the city, and eventually, tired of being lonely, the boy packs a suitcase and sets off on his own to find Dad, encountering various kindly souls who protect him along the way.

The city he finds is a piece of expressivist fantasy and fear – mountains are built of houses atop one another, while shipping containers that look like sea birds, cart supplies off to futuristic UFOs in the sky that consume all the resources. The people dance, and celebrate, and protest, but encounter their dark polar opposite in the rhythms of the fascist police state’s war apparatus – there’s a touch of Raymond Briggs to these faceless forces and the way the machinery becomes animalistic. (A brief foray into live-action footage of environmental devastation is misjudged by mercifully short.)

I don’t want to spoil the ending, which is as wonderful as everything else, but it hits all the feelz, as we say – a particularly impressive feat in a movie starring characters whose names we don’t even know. Time passes, freedom and fear mingle, and the dance continues – as the Navajo say, the movement of subatomic particles is science proving what they already knew; that everything has a spirit. Director Alê Abreu, an artist, packs every frame with a mini-universe of detail; see this on the biggest screen you can, and wish that THIS were the kind of movie to get an Imax upgrade, rather than whatever new action movie that isn’t enhanced by much in the end.

And now that you’re done skipping over the review of the movie you never heard of (though I hope that’s not the case), I know why you’re really here.

You need to know if Leonardo DiCaprio gets raped by a bear in The Revenant, something Matt Drudge announced a couple of days ago.

I’m sorry to say that the answer is no. But I can see why a moviegoer only paying half-attention might think it. A bear does maul him, a lot. And makes humping motions in the process, while it claws and bites him and makes weird noises and steps on his head. It is, however, not penetrating him. We know this because it is a female bear, protecting her cubs.

You might also have heard that DiCaprio lies inside a horse carcass. That part is true. The Tauntaun belly scene from Empire Strikes Back gets a gritty reboot, as Leo slices open his injured horse, removes all the innards by hand, and then strip[s naked and tucks himself in to a bloody meat blanket to stay warm on a snowy night.

Let’s just cut to the chase and say it – this is the western as Game of Thrones, a worst-case horrific imagining of what that world would be like if everybody were just awful, with rape and murder and betrayals in their hearts at all times.

DiCaprio plays a man named Huge Ass, er, I mean HUGH GLASS (easy mistake to make, c’mon), who has spent time living with the Pawnee Indians, long enough to have fathered a teen son with one of them. Now part of a group of fur trappers, he runs into a string of misfortune when they are all attacked by more hostile Indians, and then that whole bear thing happens, leaving him quite indisposed. Faced with having to travel quickly through hostile territory, his group dumps most of their cargo, and leave Hugh behind with three men to watch over him (one of them his son) and ensure that when he inevitably dies, they will bury him properly and move along.

Problem is, Hugh won’t die easy. And one of the guys left to watch him, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is a real asshole and a crook, with not much patience in him, and a whole lot of violence. A grudge is set in motion, and most of the rest of the movie is an injured Glass trying to regain his strength and make it through harsh winter environments in order to get that sweet, bloody revenge.

Hardy’s performance here is a stark contrast to his Mad Max, and works for him in a way George Miller’s film did not. He’s a method actor, and he disappears inside well-drawn characters – Washington is a complex man drawn from real incidents and a book, and the casual viewer would never imagine this was Bane playing him. Max is a blank slate as a character who demands the personality be brought o him by the actor – Mel Gibson famously got the part because he’d been in a bar brawl the night before, and he put that into the role. Hardy needs more, and The Revenant gives it to him.

Leonardo DiCaprio, on the other hand, has been indulged too much by Martin Scorsese, and too often looks like he’s consciously straining his acting muscles. Not so here. Perhaps by putting him through such obviously physical endurance tests (seriously, dress warm for this movie or you’ll come out having caught a cold just by looking at it), director Alejandro G. Innaritu strips down the pretense, and gets DiCaprio to genuinely react like a real person. Rendered barely able to talk – Glass has a slashed throat from the bare, and can only rasp – the actor has to say a lot with his eyes, and at one point, he stares directly at you, the viewer, as if to make you complicit in his revenge. A revenge that’s fine by movie standards, but would shock and horrify us in real life.

I’m usually no fan of Inarritu, who can be in danger of disappearing up his own ass into pretension heaven, but here, despite his hugest budget ever, he strips down the story to the basics, save a few dreams and hallucinations, one of which is wonderfully debunked. Another blogger got in trouble recently for suggesting this is not a movie for women, but I think it’s fair to say one can easily imagine Al Bundy cheering at the screen, or Tim Allen grunting like a wild hog at some of the battles. It is surely not inaccurate to call it, at least, testosterone heavy.

And if it’s Oscar-nominated, it’ll be the awards horse I back. Before returning again to eat out its insides and clothe myself in its corpse, naturally.

P.S. If one day you try to rent this movie, and you wind up watching a 2009 horror-comedy of the same name by accident, stick with it. That movie’s good too.