Friday, January 27, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge - 6 nominations

Best Picture - Bill Mechanic and David Permut
Actor in a Leading Role - Andrew Garfield
Directing - Mel Gibson
Film Editing - John Gilbert
Sound Editing - Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
Sound Mixing - Kevin O'Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace

This might be the hardest review I've ever had to write in my history with the Oscars and particularly this blog.  To review the film in a vacuum would simply deny that Mel Gibson has a hateful background (if you don't believe me, look up "Mel Gibson rant" on you tube, see how much you can make it through) having spewed vile language on his ex-girlfriend, at the police (about Jews), and in so many directions that one would expect Hollywood to have abandoned him without any chance for a comeback.  Stephen Colbert nobly gave Gibson space on his late night show to express any regrets about his behavior in the past, and Gibson replied that he has no regrets.  And I believe him. To separate the man from his work is a difficult chore for me, and I struggle to understand how those who work with him accomplish that task.  

It is true that Gibson chooses worthy projects (for the most part) and that he is a very good Director.  He understands storytelling, so if I were reviewing the film with no context, I would have no trouble endorsing Hacksaw Ridge, even if it does get a little "preachy" from a religious perspective.  It's hard to reconcile a main character (and real person, Army Medic Desmond Doss) who has committed his life to peace and only to actions that uplift, knowing that Gibson himself couldn't measure up to a man like Doss in any way.

On to the film... Hacksaw Ridge is the story of a man who voluntarily joins the army as a religious man so that he can serve as an army medic, but who is also a committed pacifist.  He refuses to touch any weapon, and this creates a sense of mistrust and a total disconnection with his fellow soldiers. Vince Vaughan has a small but standout role as Sergeant Howell, who can't endorse a soldier who refuses to fight, and in fact, the army tries to get Doss to take a discharge.  But he is committed to his work as a medic, and over time, he must convince his fellow soldiers that he will not shirk his duty to them, even if he can't engage is war making himself.  Andrew Garfield plays the role ably, though I'm not convinced that it warrants a lead actor nomination.  Honestly, I was rooting for Hugh Grant to be nominated for Florence Foster Jenkins, and this nomination is the one that I would swap for Grant.

As I explained in the Arrival review, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing nominations are very common for war/action films, though I sometimes had trouble making out the dialogue over the action.  This is central to the sound mixer's job, and to my ear, there were parts of the film that weren't perfect sonically.

But to be clear, Hacksaw Ridge is both a sweet film and an exciting one to watch.  If you can get past the real world shadow cast onto it, you may enjoy the watch.

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