Editor’s note: Disco Biscuit is a frequent contributor to the site. She is reviewing all the Oscar nominated pictures. Follow her on Twitter @discobiscuit127
By DISCO BISCUIT
Today we’ll look at Arrival, Fences, and Hacksaw Ridge. If by now you don’t know there are spoilers, then go back and read part 1 and part 2. Write ups on La La Land and a gambling guide coming Saturday.
By the time I saw Arrival I’d already had my mind set on my Best Picture winner, and while thought provoking and worth seeing more than once, it did not change my mind. Someone in the Twittersphere said it was “The Tree of Life” for dumb people. Well I didn’t see the Tree of Life, but I am dumb sooo maybe. Masquerading as an alien movie, Arrival is really a story about the human condition and the eternal question – if you knew exactly what was going to happen in your life for the rest of your life, would you do things any differently?
The beginning scene shows Amy Adams talking about memories while we see her life with her daughter from baby until the daughter dies of cancer as a teenager. Yep, that’s right – this movie comes in hot with a kid death less than five minutes in. I seriously considered turning off the movie. I cannot do kid deaths anymore, I simply can’t. BUT I have a commitment to the people, so I powered through.Next thing we see is the arrival of twelve spaceships around the world, they kind of look like Twitter eggs from the front – causing me to hypothesize that they may be filled with trolls – ZING!! Louise (Amy Adams) is a world renowned linguistics professor and the Army has tapped her and some physics guy named Ian (Jeremy Renner) to try and communicate with the aliens. Now that I think about it, what the hell was Ian doing there? He literally did no physics work – he spent the entire movie coasting on Louise’s linguistic coattails. When the Army is trying to recruit Louise they play her a clip of the aliens talking in clicks and ominous noises and ask her if she knows what it’s saying. What a ludicrous way to introduce yourself, what’s she supposed to do? Consult her Alien to English handbook real quick? (She actually writes a Heptopod to English handbook at the end).
Then there is a 10 minute scene of them going into the spaceship wearing heavy duty space suits and the only sound you hear is Louise heavily breathing into the damn suit. Barely any dialogue – just her panting and like maybe about to cry. I almost threw my TV out the window. Eventually she and Ian begin to do what they think is teaching the aliens – “Heptopods” – English while Louise keeps seeing flashbacks to her kid. To us, the flashbacks signify relevance to her past life and how that’s shaping how she interacts with the Heptopods and guiding her “teaching.”But then she asks them “who is this child you keep showing me?” Oh my god, the dead kid at the beginning is actually her FUTURE not her past. We just got timeline cucked, folks. From here everything starts to click. Basically, while everyone was freaking out about the aliens attacking us, they’re actually here to share their language with Earth, because once you understand their language, you can begin to perceive time the way they do, non-linearly. So basically, once you can speak alien you can see the future. Why did they come here to give us this gift? Well, the Heptopods know that in 3,000 years they will need our help – which is why they give us the gift of their language. You gave me a gift I didn’t even want so that I can help you in 3,000 years? That’s like a man giving his wife lingerie – this gift isn’t for me, it’s for you. The movie ends with flashbacks of Louise telling her daughter that her dad (which turns out to be Ian) left because she told him something he didn’t want to hear. We basically are left to believe that she tells him that she knows their daughter will die before she is an adult, and Ian is upset that she still chose to have a child. Would you continue to make choices knowing the outcome is going to be painful? Do you try to change the future or do you embrace the painful parts and cherish the parts that are joyful? I’m still thinking about this movie.
Viola Davis and Denzel are Troy and Rose, a married couple in 1950’s Pittsburgh. Denzel used to be a robber when he was younger and spent time in prison after he murdered a man during a robbery. After prison he played baseball in the Negro League but was too old to play when the Major Leagues integrated. He’s an angry man, who takes his failures in life out on his son and wife. But he’s also hard working, and he does love them deeply. Unlike Moonlight, which I wrote about yesterday, Fences relies heavily on dialogue as Troy and Rose talk to each other and the various other people in their lives, including their son Corey, his older son, best friend Bono, and his brother Gabriel who sustained a head injury in WWII which has handicapped him mentally. Troy admits that when Gabriel was injured Troy used the payout money from the government to buy the house he lives in. This, accompanied with his other perceived life failures has caused him internal strife and drives a wedge between himself and his family. He steadfastly refuses to allow his son Corey to meet with a football recruiter – a decision that costs him the opportunity to attend college. Eventually Troy earns a position as a truck driver – making him the first black truck driver in Pittsburgh – and a position that gives him purpose where he didn’t feel he had any before. He has an affair younger woman, who he admits makes him forget about his problems. When she gets pregnant he must admit the affair to Rose, who shuns him. When his mistress dies in childbirth he and Rose take care of the child, but she refuses to reconcile with him. Fences also is adapted from a play, which is clear from the fact that the entire film takes place in two settings – Troy and Rose’s house and the street outside Troy’s work. Fences feels like a film about a man who feels forgotten by society struggling to understand where he fits into everything.
I don’t think Fences wins the Academy Award this year because the field is so strong but it was one of my favorites of the year. I loved the acting, and the chemistry between Viola Davis and Denzel. I don’t recall Denzel playing a character so pitifully flawed and he portrays it beautifully. Viola Davis is one of my dark horses to win Supporting Actress. Rose is a strong woman, who is able to tame Troy, but she’s so vulnerable also – only admitting how much she truly loved Troy even through all of his faults after he dies.
How was this movie nominated for a Best Picture Oscar? It’s awful. I know that big budget actions films are really popular, but they’re not really my cup of tea. If you like gratuitous war violence, predictable plots, and cheesy love stories, it might be for you. Hacksaw Ridge was so campy it was honestly painful to watch. Two things I hate in movies are: 1) sappy love stories injected into action films and 2) predictability. This movie had both. The movie tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector during WWII who actually voluntarily enlists as a medic but refuses to carry a gun because he will not murder a man. The movie actually starts with a flashback of him and his brother fighting when they are kids, he hits his brother in the head with a brick and his brother becomes unresponsive. At this point I thought we had another Walk Hard, the Dewey Cox Story situation on our hands and I was all in, but alas no. His brother survives and Desmond, seeing an illustration of the 10 commandments on the wall vows to never hurt anyone again. We flash forward 15 years where he meets a cute nurse and tries to give blood twice so he can hit her with a vicious pick up line that she actually falls for. Then they kiss three times and he proposes. When he joins the Army, his refusal to carry a weapon is perceived as cowardice and he’s beaten by the other soldiers and eventually arrested on the day of his wedding and court martialed for refusing to obey orders and hold the gun. He’s acquitted and he and Dorothy are married. Then they do sex stuff – in the “sex scene” she’s wearing 3 solid layers of clothes but we get a nice close up of Andrew Garfield’s chiseled abs. I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life than I am about the fact that they used a body double for this ab scene. They kiss and cue fade to the next scene. During the major battle, when the Americans retreat to restock on supplies and men, Desmond stays and successfully saves soldiers lives all night. Everyone realizes he’s actually the bravest among them and everyone loves him again. OK, there’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, awesome true story – and I get wanting to make a movie out of the guy. But how does Mel Gibson keep getting work? He’s a terrible director. There was a three minute scene in this movie during the main battle where the camera just focuses on the top of a machine gun as it fires off rounds and dead bodies kind of creep along below it. At one point, Desmond is lowering wounded soldiers down the ridge while the Japanese are sleeping. The camera focuses on the two Americans keeping watch and in the background you just see this lifeless body kind of creeping down from the top of the shot. I laughed so hard that I cried. Then at the end they take Desmond to get medical attention because he’s worked all night saving lives and they just dump water over his head while he thrusts his body forward like a merman from The Little Mermaid. This part was so stupid I honestly stopped paying attention for the rest of the movie. And the gore, oh the gore. I know war movies rely heavily on realistic images of war. But this was too much. Call me soft, but I felt like I could really get the gist of the movie without seeing rats and maggots eating a guys face, or just a pile of intestines in a hole. That served no purpose but to make me regret the sushi I ate beforehand. Hacksaw Ridge is garbage, sorry someone had to say it. If this movie wins Best Picture I will set something on fire. Also, Andrew Garfield’s Virginia accent was an atrocity.
Check back tomorrow for La La Land and the gambling guide – also please don’t take the guide too seriously, this is an awards show.