Hacksaw Ridge

Watching CBS Sunday Morning, I saw Rita Braver talking about how she had less than sixty dollars of take-home pay weekly in 1971.  I listened to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me as I did my laundry.  I made my way to the Elmwood Theatre to see “Hacksaw Ridge.”  The recent death of John Hurt reminded me that the first movie I went to see at the Elmwood was “The Elephant Man.”  Despite a Best Picture Oscar nomination, this movie wasn’t a big attraction in this town at this time.  Watching it made me think back on “Saving Private Ryan” and “Gallipoli.”  The star was Andrew Garfield, portraying Desmond Doss, the conscientious objector who went through basic training and went into battle against Japan in World War II without carrying a rifle.  Garfield has worked with some big names in the film business recently.  Garfield wasn’t fully convincing in his performance, and Doss’ awkwardness in pursuing a girl made me wince.  Mel Gibson’s strength as a director isn’t in characterizations.  Hugo Weaving was the father, and he had a strong screen presence, although I found it difficult to accept him in anything outside “The Matrix.”  Vince Vaughn plays a sergeant, and I thought his performance was quite good.  When the movie gets to the war, what we see is more violence, more soldiers getting blown apart, and more soldiers getting shot in the head than in “Saving Private Ryan.”  There was something disturbing in the way the Japanese were shown.  They had nothing much in the way of human qualities or personalities to distinguish one from the other, and they did something quite vicious and despicable when they waved the white flag.  There was a bit of the hard to believe at that moment, though.  At the end, I wondered what Mel Gibson’s motivation for making this movie was.  Did he see himself in Doss, a misunderstood person who changed people’s minds to win a medal for his courage?  Is this some kind of attempt to get Hollywood acceptance, a compromise of war and peace themes?  He’s had a heavy-handed approach to whatever the subject matter of his films has been, going back to “Braveheart.”  I wasn’t very enthusiastic about “Hacksaw Ridge,” even though it did receive positive reviews.  With the positive that you get from Mel Gibson, there comes quite a bit of the negative.  Out of all this year’s Best Picture Oscar nominees, I would rate this one as the weakest.  I left the theatre with questions about what Mel Gibson’s views on the Japanese were.  I made my way home.  I listened to Robert Hilburn’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Times radio program on KCSN.  He played recordings of duet, like John Prine with various women, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.  In the one hour, there were 20 songs, which made for a pretty good hour of listening.  I watched a 60 Minutes report on bicycle race cheating with hidden motors, and then the first half hour of a Columbo episode called “Murder, A Self Portrait,” with Fionnula Flanagan and Vito Scotti.  I was too tired to stay up and watch any more television.  I heard on the news the 49ers’ unusual choice for their new general manager, John Lynch.  I thought I detected the scent of Matt Millen in this choice, and that one didn’t work out at all for the Detroit Lions.  Some of the people who died on January 31 include A.A. Milne (1956), Gil Kane (2000), Moira Shearer (2006), and Molly Ivins (2007).  Today is a birthday for John Lydon (61), Nolan Ryan (70), and Carol Channing (96).

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