by Doward Wildon,
Sarah A. Peterson-Camacho,
& Camille Minichino
The 2017 Oscars are nearly here! They will be airing on ABC on February 26 at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time. To celebrate, we are reviewing some of the movies nominated for Best Picture. Learn more about this year’s nominees on the Academy Awards website.
Review by Doward Wilson
Hacksaw Ridge takes place during World War II at the Battle of Okinawa. Starring Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss, the movie has six Academy Award Nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Mel Gibson and Best Actor, Garfield. Doss was a staunch Seventh Day Adventist whose religious beliefs prevented him from carrying or using any type of weapon. He served in World War II as a combat medic who refused to surrender his beliefs no matter what obstacles were placed in his way.
During his basic training, Doss is subjected to every possible verbal and physical abuse that his commanding officers and fellow soldiers can mete out, including a beating that is meant to convince him to leave on his own accord. After basic training is completed, the squad is released on leave. Doss is planning to marry his sweetheart but instead is arrested and put on trial for insubordination. Before a sentence can be handed down, his father intervenes with a letter from his former commanding officer, who is now a General, that states that his son’s refusal to carry a firearm is protected by an Act of Congress.
Doss and his squad are sent to the Pacific and serve in the Battle of Okinawa. With the Japanese deeply entrenched in hidden tunnels on Hacksaw Ridge, the squad is able to take it overnight, but are beaten back the next morning by waves of Japanese suicidal fighters. The battlefield is strewn with the dead and wounded as the Japanese push their advantage.
Instead of leaving with the remaining members of his squad, Doss stays and during the rest of that day and night rescues every living man that he can by rappelling them down the side of the cliff to other members of the squad who are still below, leaving himself and one other to the very end. Inspired by his heroic behavior the squad retakes the ridge the next day. Doss is wounded when he throws enemy grenades back with his bare hands but the ridge is won and he survives. President Harry S. Truman awarded him the Medal of Honor for saving more than 75 lives. This was a history making first for a conscientious objector.
This was one of the most awe inspiring movies that I have ever seen! The scenes where Doss was subjected to the worse that his fellow squad members could hand out will leave you cringing and not believing that something that vile could be done to someone who was only trying to serve his country.
This a extremely graphic film in that it shows every wound and injury that can happen during a war, in vivid, no holds barred, up in your face graphic detail. The hazing and bullying will leave you in shock and denial. However, this is still a powerful and moving film about real people and events, that should be seen by everyone who can handle the grit and harsh reality!
Hell or High Water
Review by Doward Wilson
Hell Or High Water comes to the 89th Academy Awards with four nominations including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor, Jeff Bridges. Starring Chris Pine as divorced father, Toby Howard, and Ben Foster as his ex-con brother, Tanner Howard, the movie is set in West Texas.
Along with the recent death of their mother, comes the news that oil has been discovered on their ranch and that Texas Midlands Bank holds a reverse mortgage on the property and are going to foreclose in a few days. Toby is determined to save the ranch for his sons financial future and devises a plan to rob the small outlaying branches of the bank to do so.
Two Texas Rangers, Marcus Hamilton–played by Jeff Bridges and Alberto Parker played by Gil Birmingham–are on the case. Close to retirement, Marcus figures out the brothers plans and sets out to stop them. After Tanner does an unplanned robbery of a branch while Toby is eating at a cafe next door, they take the money and head to an Indian Casino in Oklahoma.
Exchanging the cash for chips and gambling some of them, they then exchange the chips for a cashier’s check made out to Midlands Bank to pay off the mortgage. The cash was untraceable as it was all in small bills. Gambling explains where they got the funds for the bank payoff and everything is “clean.” The brothers plan one last robbery, but the branch is full of customers and a security guard when the brothers arrive. In the ensuing mess, a gun wielding customer and the guard are killed by Tanner. While escaping, the brothers cross paths with the Rangers and end up in a bloody shootout.
This was a highly entertaining film that highlights some of the financial ills that big banks have put their small customers thru. With the failure of ranches and farms due to high production costs and low prices for their livestock and crops, the banks swooped in and foreclosed on anyone who was behind on their mortgages. You see what a father will do to provide for his family and the despair that comes when an ex-con tries to return to the outside world. The acting and directing were both superb.
A gritty and compelling look at part of the real world that you should watch. This was a very memorable film in a thriller/western style that entertains on all levels.
Manchester by the Sea
Review by Sarah A. Peterson-Camacho
In Kenneth Lonergan’s third feature film Manchester by the Sea, after 2000s You Can Count on Me and 2011s Margaret, Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler hides a tragic past behind a carefully constructed façade of indifference. But the wall he has built around himself is about to be bulldozed.
He ekes out a living as a janitor in a Boston walkup, sleeping in a basement, and picking fights at seedy bars in his off hours. But when he gets word that his older brother Joe (played by Kyle Chandler in flashbacks) has died rather suddenly, off he goes to his seaside hometown of Manchester, Massachusetts, to make funeral arrangements and tend to Joe’s teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges).
Affleck gives a powerfully raw performance as an emotionally damaged man desperate to keep himself from unraveling in the wake of fresh grief. The appearance of his ex-wife Randi (played with an intense vulnerability by Michelle Williams) brings long-buried memories to the surface, proving that both are still reeling from the tragic accident that drove them apart, even though Randi appears to have moved on with a new husband and baby.
Writer-director Lonergan deftly weaves together both past and present as Lee is hit with another whammy: his late brother’s will has named him guardian of his nephew.
Hedges plays Patrick as a well-rounded kid clinging to normalcy after his father’s death; he juggles two girlfriends, a mediocre basement band, and a spot on his high school’s hockey team. But he, too, finds it increasingly difficult to mask his pain, as his efforts to reconnect with his recovered drug addict mother (Gretchen Mol) are met with resistance by Lee, who can’t forgive her for abandoning her family.
Granted, the twin themes of guilt and grief run deep through the veins of this seemingly somber film, but it is also surprisingly funny. Affleck and Hedges, as Lee and Patrick, have an easy-going camaraderie dating back to Patrick’s childhood, and their rapport strengthens as they come together to sort through the aftermath of Joe’s untimely death. Indeed, the biting sarcasm and comedic timing of both actors inject the film with much of its heart and humanity.
Manchester by the Sea is a film both epic and ordinary, a vivid slice-of-life feature that tackles issues timeless and universal in scope, with characters as flawed, as recognizable, as real, as anyone you’ve ever known.
Review by Camille Minichino
I’m always suspicious of biopics. What facts are they twisting for dramatic purposes? What important facets of history are they leaving out as excess baggage?
I was lured to Hidden Figures by the promise of STEM matter. Movies that promise Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics usually don’t deliver, focusing more on romantic entanglements than on those of a quantum nature. Hidden Figures the movie, is the exception, drawing me in from the start.
A student of math and science, how did I not know the story of these three brilliant African-American women? They crossed the lines of gender and race to become the force behind NASA’s Friendship 7 mission, which launched John Glenn into space, and went on to play vital roles in future missions.
Hidden Figures plays a bit with the timeline, being set in 1961 when many of the offending racist policies had been corrected at NASA. The movie is also replete with anachronisms having to do with car models, electric typewriters, license plate design as well as technical issues. However, these are small matters compared to the accuracy with which the women’s contributions are depicted.
The actresses who played these determined professionals served them well. Taraji P. Henson, of TV’s Person of Interest, took on Katherine Gobel Johnson, aka the Human Computer, the mathematician whose trajectory calculations her supervisor came to depend on. Even John Glenn, who, we might say, had the most to lose, insisted on Johnson’s final check of the numbers for re-entry. In real life, Johnson, now 99 years old, received the Medal of Freedom in 2015.
Janelle Monae, also a musical recording artist, lends her great energy to the role of Mary Jackson, NASA’s first black female engineer, who fought for the right to enroll in classes meant only for whites. Jackson died in 2005.
Octavia Spencer, the versatile actress and Oscar winner for her role in The Help, plays Dorothy Vaughn, my personal favorite. Was I the only one excited to see FORTRAN come to life in her hands? Vaughn was NASA’s first black female supervisor. Vaughn died in 2008.
Throughout the movie, we get glimpses of these professionals in their lives as wives, mothers and women of faith, determined to be of service. In the background we get not only a great lesson in the race to conquer space, but also a look at the early history of computers.
Hidden Figures is informative, entertaining, and inspirational. What more can you ask of a movie?
A final note–no spoilers here–keep your eyes on the coffee!
Share with us in the comment section about your favorite Oscar nominated movie!