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My Favorite Moments in the Best Picture Nominees: Hacksaw Ridge

This has become an annual tradition the day before the Oscars. In order move away all the subjectivity and negativity that happens when figuring out what should win and what’s going to win (especially this year, where the backlash is in full effect), I get away from all of that stuff and celebrate the films that are nominated for Best Picture.

We take this day to look at them as masterworks of cinema and not as films competing for a trophy. All of that other stuff — the analysis, the opinions — that’s all done with. Today, we take a minute, we stop, and we appreciate the films themselves. I count down my five favorite moments (or elements) of each of them.

When you take away all the awards, all the competition, and all the arbitrary decisions about what film is better than the others, what we’re left with is great cinema. That’s what we’re celebrating.

Our next nominee is Hacksaw Ridge.

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5. The romance

I know, a lot of people think it’s corny. But I think it’s sweet. I’m mostly conflating the “first half” of the movie into this entry. Because yeah, it’s very traditional. And I like that. It’s a throwback to those 50s war movies. And while the second half is clearly the better half of the film, I liked the first half. I’ve seen a lot of movies of the 40s and 50s that this was harkening back to, and I really love those films. So while to others, the first half of this movie might seem filled with cliches (and I’ll admit, there are times when even I feel that way), I think it does a great job setting up the last half. I think it works wonderfully.

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4. The stance

I liked that his stance against violence wasn’t just a simple “it’s against my religion.” They actively showed you why he’s against violence and made it so that he’s perfectly willing to do anything except carry a gun. The scene with him and the army psychiatrist was played for logic and not for faith. And I appreciate that this movie, while clearly of a certain faith and with a certain religious mindset, didn’t beat you over the head with any of it. He didn’t stand for violence but wanted to help his country. He could do his duty without having to carry a gun. Simple as that. It’s the fact that it doesn’t get up on a high horse that makes this movie and this story work as well as it does. He’s not better than the others. He’s his own person with his own beliefs. And he wants to make it through the way as best he can without giving up those beliefs. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

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3. WAR MOVIE

Somebody made a war movie. You know how few good war movies are made now? All the great genres are basically gone. Quick, name me five great or even good war movies of the past five years.

Zero Dark Thirty — is that a war movie or a drama?

War Horse? Unbroken? American Sniper? Lone Survivor?

I have Fury. And then this. That’s about it. The rest are just varying degrees of okay. So major respect for a really good war movie coming out in an era where those don’t get made.

You’re gonna tell me the last half of this movie wasn’t as good as all the Marvel movies combined? Stop it.

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2. Mel

Say what you will — the man can direct a hell of a movie. He’s made five movies now. Most haven’t seen his first one, but the other four are great. Braveheart. Passion of the Christ. Apocalypto. Hacksaw Ridge. The man can direct. And I think this movie is a perfect example of who Mel Gibson is as a Hollywood persona. You gotta take the good with the bad. Sure, some parts of this movie I have problems with, but parts of this movie are incredible. Nobody’s perfect, and no film is truly perfect (though we’d all like to make exceptions there), and you have to take them as they are. And he’s just a first class director.

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1. Those battle scenes, though.

These are the most visceral battle scenes we’ve seen in almost twenty years. The knock is that they’re too graphic, but this is war. I don’t have a problem with being graphic. They’re absolutely riveting, and the last half of this movie is the most riveting hour I’ve seen in cinema in 2016.

More war films, please.

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