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Best Picture Prediction: Hacksaw Ridge vs. La La Land

Life is filled with tough decisions. Each day we wrestle with questions such as, “where should I go to school?” “What career should I pursue?” “Should I go to the gym or binge-watch Netflix instead?” “Which movie do I want to win Best Picture at the Oscars — Hacksaw Ridge or La La Land?” Both movies are immensely impressive in their own ways and because of this, I’m not surprised that they’ve both been nominated. Though each of them undoubtedly deserves it, their duel nomination has caused an inner struggle within me, a tug-of-war if you will. I will now attempt to unravel my conflicted and tormented mind, listing off what I love about each movie, all in the hopes of coming to a conclusion. Here we go!

 

Hacksaw Ridge

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Initially, before seeing La La Land, I would have voted for Hacksaw Ridge without question. Hacksaw is such a truthful representation of what war is like, and true to Mel Gibson style, the movie doesn’t water it down. With a war-heavy movie like Hacksaw, you’d assume that it would rely heavily on CGI, but taking the easy route doesn’t seem to be Gibson’s technique. Many scenes that could have been done easily with CGI were instead done using practical effects  — one of these scenes being an explosion scene. Through the usage of a stunt double, protective suit, flammable powder, and tricky camera angles, it looks as though the explosion is totally engulfing a man who is shooting flames out of a flamethrower. Even more impressive, the scene was done on location, all in one shot. Hats off to Gibson and special effects supervisor, Dan Oliver!

“By showing the broken father, high-spirited Doss brothers, and emotionally worn mother, you feel an instant connection to the characters.”

Not only is Hacksaw Ridge an epic war movie, it also tells a moving story. The very first scene draws you in by showing a bloody battle, then the next jumps straight into beautiful scenery  — a shocking contrast. From the very beginning, you are captivated by what’s happening and are thrown right into the story. By showing the broken father, high-spirited Doss brothers, and emotionally worn mother, you feel an instant connection to the characters. The movie doesn’t waste any time using empty dialogue. Each scene has a distinct purpose in driving the movie forward and because of this, the pacing of the movie is near perfect.

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The beginning is filled with enough humor to cause you to fall in love with Desmond’s character, yet also drops hints of his history without outright explaining everything. The second half is extremely fast-paced, portraying the chaos of war, but with enough pauses in the action so that we don’t lose interest. Another great thing about the movie is how the characters were written. By the end of the movie, each character redeems himself. Smitty, Captain Glover, Sergeant Howell, even Desmond’s father all have a shining moment that makes you say, “Hmm, maybe they aren’t so bad after all.” This movie is wonderfully balanced in showing the realities of war but still leaving you with a feeling of satisfaction at the end.

 

La La Land

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Here, you have a much different, yet equally impressive movie that has made plenty of its own bold moves. Since its release, La La Land has been ranted and raved about plenty, and I have no questions as to why. I went into the movie with high expectations (due to the rave-factor from my fellow film-loving friends) and came out thoroughly impressed.

La La Land pleased every part of me. It had my feet tapping to the music, heart-strings pulled by the characters, and my mind blown by the shots that they used! There were so many remarkable dance scenes that were done or were mostly done, in one shot, as well as using only one camera. The famous, “Lovely Night” scene took place on-location and was shot at golden hour, meaning they had roughly a half-hour window of opportunity. This scene took two different nights to shoot, about five takes each. The timing, dancing — everything about this scene had to be done just perfect because of it being only one take. This meant hours, and hours, and hours, of intense rehearsal and everything had to be completely pre-designed and planned out ahead of time. The choreographer and the director would collaborate during rehearsal and use their phones to test out different shots.

Another reason La La Land is so spectacular is the unique use of camera movement. Camera movement wasn’t used only to cover a scene, it had to align rhythmically with the music. Linus Sandgren, the director of photography said in an interview with Indiewire, “It was like improvisation with jazz. The camera and its movement really were like an instrument working with music and actors dancing.” The music drove how the camera would move and respond to what was happening. This is just one of the many ways La La Land tells a story by using visuals.

The Verdict?

I am still torn about which movie I think deserves Best Picture, but if I had to choose on which side I stand, I would choose Hacksaw Ridge. Though I love both of these movies dearly, Hacksaw won me over that much more. La La Land is aesthetically pleasing and upbeat, but Hacksaw Ridge carries a far deeper, more profound message. That being said, though I am ultimately rooting for Hacksaw, I will not heartbroken if either win. Both of these movies were fantastic in the way they were made and have really set the bar high for future directors.

 


Video production school attendee Evan!Christine Roe is a 20-year-old Digital Marketing apprentice at The Center for Creative Media, who also enjoys editing, photography, and writing. She is from the hockey-loving, maple syrup drinking, ice-cold land of Canada — though ironically hates both hockey and snow. Christine’s long-term goal is to become a missionary and using her gifts and abilities to draw people closer to God.

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