In Dances with Wolves (directed by The Bodyguard, himself), Costner plays Union Army lieutenant John J. Dunbar who travels to the American frontier to find a military post after narrowly escaping a leg amputation and a suicide mission. He gets into it with some wolves and some Native Americans and later, befriends them both. Surface level: Wow, I can’t believe I watched that for three hours.
Digging deeper, Wolves was enjoyable, and I dug it for everything it did right and even for its sillier moments, i.e. Costner’s voiceovers. When you’re watching a film where one character is isolated in the middle of nowhere (here, the undeveloped western frontier), hearing a character provide a voiceover is like listening to someone narrate his or her entire day. It can get pretty tiresome, to say the least. He talks about the possibility of other military folk finding his post. He wonders if he’ll stay in the frontier forever. He questions whether he remembered to set the DVR to record The Amazing Race. If Dunbar existed today, he’d be that annoying, oversharing Facebook friend you have (Which one, amiright?).
But throughout the course of the film, we find out that Dunbar is a likable guy. He’s even a lover of animals. We watch Dunbar attempt to feed a wolf. Then he tries again. And again. And then they’re besties. On paper, it sounds horribly boring, but at least his new friend wasn’t a volleyball with a face painted on it, right?
It’s far easier to poke fun at this, so I guess that’s the direction this review is taking. Cue Costner’s ass. If I was alone in the frontier in 1863, you can almost guarantee that I’d be walking around in my birthday suit. Dunbar, I don’t blame ya, pal! I’m just thankful that Costner spared us on the full-frontal – because not everything has to be done “for the art.”
The relationship Dunbar ends up forming with the Sioux Indians is palpable and nice and makes you happy. He learns their language and they learn a little of his. Then he starts shacking up with Stands With A Fist, the white adopted daughter of the tribe who also turns out to be President Roslin from Battlestar Galactica. They’re both white, so they have RELATIONS, naturally.
In all seriousness though, there’s a beauty in Dunbar’s newfound relationships. Definitely with the Native Americans, and less-so with the wolf. But again, the wolf is NOT a volleyball, so I guess I can get down with it.
The lesson here: Be kind to people who are different from you. Get to know something or someone outside of your comfort zone. (But for realsies, I probably wouldn’t try to talk to the wolf that keeps chasing your dog or eating your sheep. It probably won’t go well.)
Let’s talk shop: Dances with Wolves was the first Western film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture since 1931’s Cimarron (still on my list). It was also nominated for a slew of other awards; notably, Costner won for Best Director.
Also, my countdown doesn’t decrease this time! We have crowned a new winner since I last wrote about The Quest. Sadly, I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave yet, so my number remains this time.
Sorry this was long.
Eats With Nutella