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Award Nominees // Silence & Hell or High Water

SILENCE 

  • Jun Lee

Silence is an incredible work of art: in addition to its gorgeous cinematography and excellent acting, it’s the type of sensory experience that stays with an audience long after it’s over by presenting philosophical questions and ideas for the moviegoers to piece together on their own.

Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece is about Portuguese missionaries in 17th century Japan, a time when Christians were being persecuted by the Tokugawa shogunate. Two Jesuits arrive in Japan intending to spread their faith and find their teacher, Cristóvão Ferreira, a real-life missionary who gave up Christianity after being tortured by Japanese authorities. Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) himself ends up captured, tortured, and confronted with questions for God that are only answered in silence.

This is also an adaptation of Shūsaku Endō’s novel, which is considered his magnum opus. While adaptations are not perfect replicas of originals, Silence does a decent job capturing the same theme of theodicy, conviction, and morality.

Sure, the presence of religious overtones is less subtle than Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings, but never to the point that they’re preachy—a problem that many religious films tend to have. This isn’t a movie about battles between good and evil, and much is left for the audience’s interpretation. As spiritual as Silence could have been, the movie is strongly grounded in earth; it focuses on people and their internal and external conflicts.

Consequently, every character has a strong amount of depth to them. Rodrigues’ doubt in his faith humanizes him, and the struggles and endurance of Japanese Christians cast them more than pawns on a chessboard. The film even devotes time to explain the perspective of the Japanese inquisition in an understanding matter.

That being said, this isn’t a recommendable flick to everyone. Its length and graphic violence may turn away a number of viewers, but the subject matter itself requires a bit of open-mindedness to appreciate it as a work of art rather than as a statement on religion. For cinema enthusiasts and fans of Scorsese, this is a must-watch film full of passion and creativity—despite its snubs down the board of the Academy Awards. It had a stronger presence at previous award shows, but to the shock of film critics everywhere, Silence was only nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar.

HELL OR HIGH WATER 

  • Morgan Mackey

Just when it seemed that the Western genre has slipped into the oblivion of film history, Hell or High Water arrived to add new depth to the struggle of the wild wild west.

Nominated for the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Motion Picture Drama comes a story of family, law, and money. Two brothers, Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster), go on a bank robbing spree after the Texas Midland Bank issued a loan to Toby and Tanner’s mother—a loan the bank knew she could never afford to pay off. After she passes away, the brothers have only a few days to get the $40,000 they need to get the house out of foreclosure, and they know it sits on millions of dollars of crude oil.

While the brothers embark on their robberies, the local authorizes are catching on to their plan. Texas Rangers Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) follow the brothers through each robbery. Throughout the film the relationship of the two rangers parallel the relationship of Toby and Tanner.

As audiences are taken on this thrilling ride, they are torn between complexities of right and wrong presented in the film. It was wrong for the bank to issue an impossible loan, but stealing money is a crime. Audiences will root for both the Texas Rangers, and Toby and Tanner gaining back the home that was once theirs.

The cinematography is stunning and captures the desolation of the town that Tanner and Toby live in with long panning shots of abandoned buildings. The film’s strongest element comes from the dialouge between the two Rangers, while they discuss their lives, culture, and work in law enforcement.

Chris Pine delivers one of his best career performances, and proves that he is more than just the character of Prince Charming. He was snubbed for the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Drama. Jeff Bridges was nominated for Best Supporting Lead in a Drama, Taylor Sheridan was nominated for Best Screenplay, and the film is nominated Best Motion Picture Drama for both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.

Hell or High Water didn’t receive any Golden Globes, and despite the various Academy Award nominations, the film will be up against fierce competition with films like Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight, and La La Land. The recognition this film deserves, from the story to the acting to the cinematography, will be lost in the rush of an inspired awards season.

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