This week was a complete departure from last week but in no way is that a negative. Unable to go to the theater I settled for watching movies at home. The Jungle Book is currently available on Netflix while Hell or High Water can be found on DVD. It’s pretty clear after the Golden Globes that neither of these films will win the top honor (an issue I’ll dive into at another time) but both are supremely qualified for a nomination. The Jungle Book, while a traditional “family film,” excels in all technical categories and finds a way to get extraordinary performances from legendary voices. Hell or High Water is the kind of movie that if given the perfect circumstances would be a no-brainer for the Best Picture award, however, factoring in all the politics (and money) that goes into receiving an Oscar, I am sure it will not take home a statue. In the end, this exercise isn’t just about predicting winners and losers, it’s about discovering and appreciating great art.
The Jungle Book
Potential Nominees: Best Pictures, Cinematography, Best Director, Film Editing, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
The Jungle Book is the live action adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling stories, directed by Jon Favreau of Swingers and Iron Man fame, I was shocked when I saw this film coming up over and over again on Oscar lists. Released in April 2016, this film is a rare summer blockbuster that kept momentum into awards season. When the film was initially released, I was intrigued but ultimately not inspired to go watch in theaters because Tom Hiddleston didn’t make the cast. However, that was a mistake on my part. The Jungle Book is a stunningly beautiful film that takes the best of the classic Disney animated film and the original stories that film was based upon. Mowgli is played by a very talented young boy while all of his animal companions (and antagonist) were a combination of live animals, CGI, and voice work by some of the best and most recognizable actors working today. As this is a family film of a very well-known story, it suffers from the audience knowing what will happen and what to expect. What is unexpected, however, is the beauty and mastery of the look of the film.
I don’t expect The Jungle Book to take home any awards beyond the technical categories but I very much recommend viewing this film. Watching it is like reuniting with an old friend who you haven’t seen in a long while. You easily return to your old rhythm but that doesn’t make the interaction any less enjoyable. If you enjoy Disney classics and films that are enjoyable to all ages while being visually appealing and on the cutting edge of technology, The Jungle Book will not disappoint.
Hell or High Water
Potential Nominees: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Soundtrack
Hell or High Water is one of those films that make you pause in the middle to marvel at how amazing it is. It’s immediately apparent that the performances of this cast are on another level, Ben Foster, Chris Pine, and Jeff Bridges are at the top of their game. Hell or High Water is the story of brothers Tanner and Toby Howard who are carrying out early morning bank robberies at Texas Midland Bank. Tanner (Ben Foster) is an ex-con who takes big risks and loves every aspect of their crime spree, Toby (Chris Pine) on the other hand, seems much more hesitant and serious about the crimes they’re committing. Jeff Bridges plays Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton who, along with his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) take on this strange case of small town robberies with a possible bigger motive. Hamilton is close to retirement and unsure about what he’ll do after retirement, he continuously insults his partner about his Indian and Mexican heritage yet there is a palpable sense of affection even in his offensive taunts.
I don’t want to spoil the film but the motive and plan of the Howard brothers becomes clear and Hamilton is close to solving it by the time of the tense standoff and resolution. I will tell you that while watching the film and immediately after I was struck by how wonderful the script and visuals worked together to make a compelling and realistic story.
I loved this film and though I don’t want to compare Oscar favorites against each other, if I had an Academy vote, as of right now this would be the film that got it. It’s smart, understated and like Moonlight tells a specific story that is also relatable. While the David v. Goliath trope has been around since biblical times (obviously) it is rare that it is done with such sincerity and believability, it's no surprise since the screenwriter, Taylor Sheridan, also wrote last year nominee and another personal favorite, Sicario. You understand what would push the Howard brothers into committing these crimes and you also understand what drives Marcus Hamilton to solve the crime even after the case had been closed. If you enjoy westerns, revenge plots and just plain old amazing movies, you will love Hell or High Water, seriously I can't recommend it enough!