In our new coffee + film column, Sprudge pop culture writer Eric J. Grimm sneaks tasty coffee into New York City's movie theaters, and gives us his unfiltered opinion (lol) on Hollywood's most dazzling films. Up first, “The Revenant”, which he did not care for very much at all.
Oscar season becomes more of a slog every year. December and January feel like an endless stream of tasteful prestige flicks whose eyes are on as many prizes as possible, often with running times exceeding two-and-a-half hours and no intermission. These films are best enjoyed with a cup of coffee to keep the viewer alert in hopes of winning their Oscar pool, but New York City's movie theaters are mostly disappointing—sticky floors, bad sound, small screens—and none of them have good coffee. As a lifelong expert at sneaking cheap candy, booze, and whole fried chicken dinners into theaters without detection, it only made sense to start bringing my own.
For the most part, it’s easy to walk into a New York movie theater with a cup of coffee and not receive comment from an usher. That said, I walked into an afternoon showing of The Revenant at Williamsburg Cinemas with a travel mug of coffee craftily hidden inside my tote bag. The theater does have a bag check policy but they did not detect the offending liquid, a drip coffee I had purchased from Sweetleaf on Kent Street, just a short walk away. Once I settled into the cozy theater, I popped out the cup of El Corazon from Colombia, which was roasted at Sweetleaf’s Greenpoint cafe-roastery. After a seemingly endless barrage of comic book movie trailers, the coffee had cooled enough to enjoy as Alejandro G. Inarritu’s revenge drama began.
My coffee was all straightforward sweetness, hitting me with brown sugar and chocolate flavors that proved much-needed given the bleakness of the proceedings. This film follows the torturous exploits of trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he endures a wave of frontier violence from animals and men in the 1820s. Glass is an expert tracker who attempts to lead his companions out of danger after a devastating attack from an Arikara tribe. He has an unfortunate incident with a grizzly bear which leads to the murder of his son and him being left for dead by the cruel fellow trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). After a miraculous recovery, Glass sets out to seek revenge.
Inarritu and DiCaprio are hellbent on making you feel Glass’s misery. The movie was shot under nearly unbearable circumstances in Canada, the United States, and Argentina. Leo appears to have completely gone for it in capturing Glass’s hardships. He really freezes. He really aches. He really eats the raw bison liver. This Vice Guide to Period Filmmaking is clearly very concerned with authenticity; an additional gimmick manifests in the film having only been shot with natural light. The actual suffering and natural light are all well and good, but become jarring when juxtaposed with the obviously computer generated animals—that fake bear is far too distracting to make the mauling seem like anything other than movie trickery.
Much of the film's dialogue is out of sync, as famed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki delivers his most artificial and self-plagiarizing work yet. As much as I might want to play “The Tree of Life: The Video Game”, watching it unfold feels like a chore.
I slowly sipped my coffee, which had cooled into a pleasing caramel tonic as the film propelled to its expectedly violent finish. I wish I’d brought something to spike it with, as booze would have helped me endure Tom Hardy’s cartoonish arch villainy and mock-Jeff Bridges grizzled countryman accent, quite obviously recorded in postproduction. By the end I had even grown weary of Leo, much to my disappointment. I’m not sure you can call what he does “acting”. It’s more like highly emotive endurance. Given his output in the last three years with roles he clearly relished, there was no joy in watching him survive and be reborn time and time again for nearly three hours.
As the phony spiritual conclusion, a staple of Inarritu’s consistently pretentious works, gave way to the credits, I was ready to go grab a vanilla latte and queue up the quaalude scene from The Wolf of Wall Street in order to get my soul back.
“The Revenant” Cupping Score: 75
Flavor notes: Acrid, sour aromatics, with meaty, brothy notes (because Leo's still a hunk).