Movie Connection: Arkansas and Oscar-nominated The Revenant

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If you liked the movie The Revenant and are rooting for it to win in its nominated fields during the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday, Feb. 28, then here are two items at two different Arkansas museums that you will enjoy seeing.

The Revenant is based on true events. “While on a danger-laden journey through the American wilderness in the early 1800s, frontiersman Hugh Glass is badly mauled by a grizzly and abandoned by his fellow trappers. Barely surviving his wounds, Glass is driven by thoughts of his family and a desire for revenge as he endures the frigid winter and pursues the men who left him for dead,” according to the film synopsis. One of the fur trappers in the party is a young man named Jim Bridger.

The Museum of Native American History in Bentonville displays one of Jim Bridger’s rifles (Ca. 1822). It is believed to be Bridger’s first rifle. “He built the rifle when he served as an apprentice to the master gunsmith Phillip Creamer from 1817 to 1822. It was originally a .50 caliber flintlock but was later changed to percussion, as many were. It represent one of the earliest known Plains-style rifles,” according to the museum placard. “Bridger was among the foremost mountain men, trappers, scouts and guides who explored and trapped the western United States during the early 1800’s. As an ally to native tribes he was sometimes called upon to be a mediator between them and encroaching whites.”

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Museum Curator Matt Rowe said “This is the only rifle known to be attributed to Jim Bridger being not just owned by him by made by him when he was a gunsmith. It has Phil Creamer’s mark and it has Jim Bridger’s mark on the bottom side of the barrel. It’s the only one known to exist, so it’s really a special piece.”

“There were a lot of people upset about that movie, The Revenant, because it didn’t portray Jim Bridger in the proper light,” added Rowe.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, also in Bentonville, has a painting hanging in its 17th century gallery that will, no doubt, call the movie, The Revenant, to mind. The oil on canvas by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905) is titled “A Tight Fix – Bear Hunting, Early Winter [The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix].”

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It’s not about Hugh Glass or his hunting party, but it looks like a scene straight from The Revenant. As the museum description details, the painting is interesting for other reasons: “Although Tait’s painting is an icon of American cultural mythology and masculinity, it was controversial when first exhibited. Critics believed Tait botched the representation of the second hunter, making it unclear if he is aiming at the bear. The combatants are at an impasse – neither bear nor man is winning – so a bullet is the only solution to the ‘tight fix.’ If the second hunter’s aim is off, Tait’s narrative has no conclusion.”

I have to admit that I feel disturbed when I look at this painting because the hunter with the gun doesn’t seem to be aiming at the bear and surely the bear will kill the other man. And, I can’t see if there is another threat the man has a right to be aiming at instead of helping the other hunter. The Revenant is no less disturbing in many scenes for worse reasons.

The Revenant is a Best Picture Nominee in this year’s Oscars. The Academy Awards, or “Oscars,” is an annual American awards ceremony hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence in cinematic achievements in the film industry as assessed by the Academy’s voting membership.

Related “The Revenant” nominees include:

Actor in a Leading Role, Leonardo DiCaprio

Cinematography, The Revenant

Directing, The Revenant

Actor in a Supporting Role, Tom Hardy

Costume Design, The Revenant

Sound Editing, The Revenant

Film Editing, The Revenant

Sound Mixing, The Revenant

Production Design, The Revenant

Makeup and Hairstyling, The Revenant

Visual Effects, The Revenant

Whether you see the movie, or watch the Oscars, Crystal Bridges and the Museum of Native American History are worth your time for The Revenant connections and so much more.