We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2017 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.
However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.
So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy. 2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.
TLDNW: 1 Word
TLDNW: 20 Words
Ben Foster is underrated. Chris Pine is adequately rated. There is a scene with a waitress that might be the best scene of the year.
TLDNW: 500 Words
Two and a Half out of Four Stars
When I’m listing the best picture nominees Hell or High Water is always the one I forget. That is perhaps an indication of its prowess as a best picture nominee. Okay, I have some weird stuff I want to talk about with best picture nominees. From 1931-1943 there were up to ten best picture nominees and in 1944 they switched over to having only five nominees. This five-picture mentality stuck until 2009 when the academy decided to up the nominees to ten best picture nominees. Now if you’re going to switch things over 2009 is the year to do it. The nominees included: The Hurt Locker, Avatar, District 9, Inglorious Basterds, Precious, Up, Up in the Air (to name the best). Then for a few years there were ten, and then there were nine for a while, and then for the past little while they’ve only nominated eight. I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING. YOU’RE SAYING SPENCER WHY THIS IS BORING. STOP.
Well this is my only platform so shuuuuut up. Here’s my main point. This year the academy switched back to nine nominees- why include this one? What was it about Hell or High Water that made the academy say “this year it’s nine guys!”? It seems a shame that films like Loving or Silence or the foreign masterpiece Elle would be excluded for a deeply forgettable film like Hell or High Water. Why break the trend to include nine, but not a tenth? It seems weird to stretch for this film but not others. I dunno, I’m cranky and they should just make up their minds. Either go down to 5 or nominate ten every year. PICK A NUMBER PEOPLE. Am I rambling? I’m rambling.
Anyway, Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine, Ben Foster) who rob banks or whatever and are followed by an aging/racist police officer (Jeff Bridges), I guess. It’s sort of feels like No Country for Old Man but isn’t nearly as slick. It feels like a weird extension of Crazy Heart but isn’t as heartfelt. It tries to be a bunch of other movies and isn’t very good on its own.
Okay, it has merit. It’s not a mess and it’s a lot more enjoyable than Fences and it’s not nearly as tone deaf as Hacksaw Ridge. It’s really well shot and Ben Foster gives a career best. The bleak Texas backdrop provides ample opportunity for symbolism and is there is a stark quietness to much of the film. There is a particular scene in a diner where a server accosts Jeff Bridges and his partner. It is one of the best scenes of the year. Margaret Bowman steals the whole movie. You can watch this scene here:
As great as this scene is- what does it say about your film when a scene stolen by a bit character outshines the whole thing?
Jeff Bridges does a great job as an old man (I guess the cowboy hat fits). It is strange to me, however, that there is Oscar buzz for him. There is one moving scene that he gives, but other than that it’s a pretty run of the mill performance. If anything Michael Shannon (who plays a very similar character) is closer to dethroning Mahershala Ali than anyone else.
Hell or High Water is not terrible, but it’s not great, and what’s worse is that it is deeply and unceremoniously forgettable. I left the theatre saying, “hey! That was pretty good!” and then immediately forgot about it. Which is one of the worst things a best picture nominee can be.