Film Review: Hacksaw Ridge (dir by Mel Gibson)


hacksaw_ridge_poster

To be honest, Hacksaw Ridge is probably not the type of film that I would usually watch.  I’m not a huge fan of war movies and the trailer really didn’t inspire much enthusiasm within me.  However, ever since the film was released last Friday, it’s been the subject of some Oscar buzz and … well, you know me and the Oscars.  There’s no easier way to get me to take a chance on a movie than to tell me that it might be nominated for an Oscar.  I’m a completist, after all.  If they’re going to nominate 8 to 10 movies for best picture, you better believe I’m going to make sure that I’ve seen all of them.

So, after voting yesterday, I saw Hacksaw Ridge and all I can say is, “Wow!”  Hacksaw Ridge left me with tears in my eyes and feeling totally exhausted.  This is one of those films that kind of sneaks up on you.  I spent the first half of the film thinking to myself, “Okay, this is good and all but I still don’t see what the big deal is.”  And then suddenly, that second half started and soon, I was totally struggling to catch my breath.

I’ll just say this right now: Hacksaw Ridge is one of the most powerful anti-war films that I’ve ever seen.  It’s also an incredibly violent film, one that will leave non-veterans amazed at the number of ways that soldiers can be shot, stabbed, blown up, and set on fire.  But, despite all the visceral action that plays out across the screen, Hacksaw Ridge never glorifies combat.  It never glamorizes the destructive power of war.  We may be happy when we see a certain soldier somehow manage to survive but we never find ourselves cheering.  Instead, often times, we worry what awaits that soldier after the war.  The combat in Hacksaw Ridge is so brutal and so terrifying that you find yourself wondering not only how anyone could survive but also how anyone could ever go on with “normal” life after seeing the horrors of war.

Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who served, as a combat medic, in the U.S. Army during World War II.  As a Seventh Day Adventist, Doss both refused to carry a rife and refused to train on the Sabbath.  Despite all the efforts of both his sergeant and his captain to convince Doss to leave the service, Doss stayed in the Army, served in combat despite refusing to carry a rifle, and became the first C.O. to be awarded the Medal of Honor.  In the film, Doss is played by Andrew Garfield, who is one of those extremely talented actors who has been miscast in several films.  Fortunately, he’s perfect for Hacksaw Ridge.  Though his rural accent occasionally slips, Garfield is convincing as both a relatively naive farmboy and a man of such strong convictions that he’s willing to risk being court martialed to uphold them.  If Hacksaw Ridge is about Doss proving himself to his fellow soldiers, it’s also a film about Andrew Garfield, who is still perhaps best known for being awkwardly cast as Spiderman, proving himself as a unique and interesting actor.

Garfield pretty much dominates the film but a few of the supporting performers do manage to make an impression.  Vince Vaughn is surprisingly effective as the tough and no-nonsense sergeant and Teresa Palmer is sympathetic as Doss’s wife.  Hugo Weaving plays Doss’s alcoholic father, a man who is still haunted by what he saw during the first world war and he does a great job.

I know that some people are going to be hesitant about Hacksaw Ridge because it was directed by Mel Gibson but you know what?   You may not expect Mel Gibson to direct one of the most searing anti-war films of the past decade but that’s exactly what he managed to do.  It’s an important film, one that reminds us that war is neither fun nor an adventure.  It’s a film that shows what our combat veterans had to deal with (and when we countless men lost their legs as the result of a Japanese rocket, it’s hard not to make the connection to the countless vets who have lost limbs in the Middle East) and, in its way, chastises a society that would abandon them after the war is over.  If Doss, working on his own, was willing to put his life at risk to save 75 wounded soldiers, how can we, as a society, justify not taking care of our wounded veterans?   Hacksaw Ridge is a film that works both as a tribute to our veterans and a reminder that the costs of war are all too real.

It’s a good and important film.  I recommend the Hell out of it.

Film Review: Eddie the Eagle (dir by Dexter Fletcher)


 

eddie_the_eagle_poster

Hi, everyone!

So. I’m guessing, after what happened last night, some of our readers might need something to cheer them up.  If you’re a regular reader of this site, I’m going to imagine that you love movies.  And, in your moment of uncertainty or whatever, you might want to watch a movie.  And, of course, you’re asking yourself, “What does Lisa think I should watch?”

Well, I’ll be honest.  My cinematic tastes tend to be rather dark.  I like horror movies.  I like movies with sad endings.  I love brutal satire.  I love movies that attack their audience and that dare you to look away.  So, I might not be the best person to ask…

But you know what?

There actually is a movie that I can recommend to anyone who needs to be cheered up this week.  Eddie the Eagle, which came out way back in February, is exactly the type of movie that you would expect an arthouse snob like me to dismiss.  It’s a feel-good sports movie, one that is based on a true story but which also features a lot of composite characters and manufactured drama.  No, Eddie the Eagle is perhaps not the type of film that you would expect me to enjoy but, when I finally got around to watching it a few days ago, I absolutely loved it!

Eddie the Eagle tells the story of Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton), a somewhat eccentric Englishman who dreams of competing in the Winter Olympics, despite the fact that he’s not all that athletically inclined.  When he’s turned down for a spot on the Olympic skiing team, Eddie decides to try to go to the Olympics as a ski jumper.  Working to Eddie’s advantage is the fact that there are no other English ski jumpers.  (We’re told that it’s been over 60 years since the UK even sent a ski jumper to the Olympics.)  In theory, Eddie should be able to qualify for the Olympic team just by showing up.  Working to Eddie’s disadvantage is the fact that the snooty British Olympic officials don’t want him to represent the UK in the Olympics.

Of course, there’s also the fact that Eddie has no experience as a ski jumper and only a few months to learn how to do it.  And, if Eddie makes any mistakes during one of his jumps, he could easily be severely injured or perhaps even die.

Most people would probably just give up and find something practical to do with their life but not Eddie!  Eddie has a dream and he’s going to achieve it, no matter what.  Fortunately, Eddie finds a coach.  Alcoholic Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) used to be a champion ski jumper but he’s spent the last few years drinking and being bitter.  At first, Bronson doesn’t want anything to do with Eddie but eventually, Eddie wins him over with his sincerity and his refusal to give up.  As Eddie explains to Bronson, he doesn’t care whether or not he wins a medal.  He just wants to compete…

And really, it shouldn’t work.  I should be complaining about how shamelessly manipulative this movie is.  I should be making fun of the fact that it features almost every sports film cliché imaginable.  But dammit, it’s such a sweet movie!  Director Dexter Fletcher does a great job filming Eddie’s jumps (often times from his point of view) and Taron Egerton is so charmingly odd in the role that you can’t help but cheer whenever Eddie manages to land without crippling himself.  Meanwhile, Hugh Jackman does a good job of grounding the movie in reality (which makes it all the more ironic that, unlike Egerton, Jackman is playing a fictional character).  Add to that, this film features a somewhat random Christopher Walken cameo!  Seriously, you’re sitting there and you’re thinking, “This is a good movie but I just wish Christopher Walken was here…” and then suddenly …. THERE’S CHRISTOPHER WALKEN!

Eddie the Eagle is a sweet and sincere burst of positivity.  It’s the perfect antidote to 2016!

Music Video of the Day: The Warrior by Scandal (1984, dir. David Hahn)


Happy Birthday, Lisa!

I first saw this back in the early-2000s when it was played on VH1 Classic. I was hooked instantly. It seemed to take forever to end up on YouTube. It is near the top as one of my favorite bizarre 80s music videos. Patty Smyth on the other hand was not happy with it, saying in the book I Want My MTV:

“When I saw the video, I was crestfallen…I had no idea it would look like an off-Broadway production of Cats.”

I am glad she didn’t realize it would look the way it does. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t see Patty Smyth in ridiculous hair and make-up, move in to do battle with a guy who has just fought off dancers in post-apocalyptic costumes, including appearing to have snapped a woman’s back in half. Seriously, is that what happened to the lady in pink? The music video sure makes it look like it. Even Smyth reacts like it happened. It wouldn’t be the strangest thing I have noticed while re-watching an 80s music video. If you pay close attention to the one for Karma Chameleon by Culture Club, then you’ll notice there is a split second where two guys appear to be stuffing a corpse into a wicker basket.

There are even crazier music videos featuring dance–*cough* Bonnie Tyler *cough*–but I hope this will do. It was also shot by Daniel Pearl, who others might not know by now, seems to have shot every music video under the sun, as well as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).

It was directed by David Hahn who appears to have directed this music video, and nothing else. Did Patty Smyth blackball him? I highly doubt it, but I wouldn’t have put it past her. You might not know this, but before Van Halen went to Sammy Hagar, they asked her to front the band. You can read about that here. I get why she didn’t take the job. Among other things, she said, “If I had done that, I never would have written ‘Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.'” Still, I can hear her in my head belting out songs like Why Can’t This Be Love? and Humans Being.

Ken Walz produced it, who you might recall producing I Know What Boys Like by The Waitresses.

That’s it! I hope you have a great birthday, Lisa.