20th Century Fox
Our contempt for The Revenant knows no limits, and it pains us to have to direct any of it at the preternaturally gifted Emmanuel Lubezki, as close to a lock to win this award as he was the last two years. And not because you’re reading this entry on a blog that garnered much of its popularity in its nascent days as an appreciation of The New World. If the Terrence Malick film carefully bolsters its humane embrace of otherness through its richly textured and specific sense of place and past, then The Revenant is content to prop otherness up—and sometimes literally so—as a caricature. And that sort of noxiousness cannot be achieved without the use of color and light, natural and otherwise. (The upcoming Knight of Cups is, among many things, a reminder of how Lubezki’s voluminous and fragmented camerawork functions in sublime lockstep with Malick’s propensity for speculative associations.) If anything is surprising about Lubezki’s work for The Revenant, it’s how it exists only as, per Richard Brody, “pictorial ornament[s] to [Alejandro González Iñárritu’s] bland theatrical stagings.” Which is to say that it’s the sort of ornamental imagery that, not unlike the Native American woman one never believes Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass ever had a relationship to, simply floats on the surface and at a distance, signifying nothing so much as the look that $135 million can buy a director.