Lights, Camera, Little Action

My wife and I watched four movies over the past couple of days:

Moonlight: This won the Oscar for best picture, and I wouldn’t even recommend watching it on a 16-hour plane ride unless you needed help sleeping. It’s unbearably slow, trounces its point into the ground, and is acted and directed with a sloth-like, glacial speed. Vastly overrated, I’m sorry I spent the time. It’s about an African-American kid with an addicted mother and no father and his homosexuality, so the trendy topics I guess made people guilty about not liking it. But topical doesn’t trounce excellence.

La La Land: Okay, I thought, this was everyone’s favorite. Well, not really, it’s Hollywood’s favorite because….wait for it….it’s about Hollywood! Two thin voices, barely passable dancing, some good but not great jazz, and a story line that was old when Noah had no idea he’d become a ship builder. Self-indulgence on parade. Remember when kids refused to listen to you by putting their hands over their ears and shouting, “LALALALALALALALALA”? Welcome to La La Land.

Hacksaw Ridge: This was captivating. The true story of a conscientious objector who won the Medal of Honor, despite the expectable prejudice originally cast his way stereotypically handled in the film, Mel Gibson knows how to direct action. This movie cedes nothing in terms of vividly depicting the gory horror of battle, and I admire its honesty. It’s not about George C. Scott or John Wayne leading tanks and paratroopers, it’s about scared youth acting as bold as they can while colleagues are butchered. This one was soul-searing.

Arrival: Surprisingly, my wife agreed to watch a science fiction movie, and we were rewarded with a solid drama that happened to involve alien visitors. Far from the ubiquitous enslavers, these were octopus-like beings with whom we had to learn to communicate. Despite the quite complex plot (it involves shifting views of time), the acting is first rate, the special effects are totally convincing, and the end isn’t all that perfect, which leaves you with a feeling far beyond “We beat those monsters!”

The fact that the two hot movies at the various award ceremonies were so awful in my opinion is a commentary on the self-absorption of the industry. We’ll be checking out The Lion, Hidden Figures, and others to see if they rose above the average.

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