Another two quick reviews of 2018 movies I needed to cross off my Oscar viewing list before the telecast.
MINDING THE GAP (Nominated For Best Documentary)
Not wanting to only see RBG as a documentary nominee, I decided to check out MINDING THE GAP, which is actually a Hulu original, and you can watch for free if you have a Hulu subscription. If RBG doesn’t win for Best Documentary, I nominate this as a very close second. The film is about three young men that bond together after having escaped their violent home life in Rockford, Illinois. We follow Zack, a young 20 something year old who is about to have a child with his girlfriend; Kiere Johnson a later teens African-American who loves to skate (they all skate, hence some of the meaning of the title), and can’t get over his abusive father’s deah, and Bing (actually the director of the doc), who interviews his mom about the abusive relationship they all had with his deceased step father. They are all trying to figure out their way in the world.
The film is quite heartbreaking, some of the paths and stories these young men take will make your jaw drop to the ground and maybe even shed a tear. They all want a better life and all of them try to go down that path, even if they veer off of it time and time again. This movie was made with footage over (and I’m estimating here) around 5 years (I can tell from the growth of Zack’s child) and eventually the young men’s paths veer apart and they don’t have as much contact with each other very much. It is up to you to wonder if the ending is hopeful or bittersweet.
It’s really a simple documentary into the lives of less privileged individuals and the effects of violent home life, and all of the messages are clear even though the doc doesn’t outright tell you what they are. I am usually bored by documentaries and completely ignore the category each year for the Oscars. Seeing this and RBG in a row (and seeing Won’t You Be My Neighbor earlier this year), it is beginning to change my mind and I think I will start seeking them out more regularly in the future. I was expecting to possibly be bored by this one, pausing and taking a break a billion times before finishing it. But I watched it in basically one sitting, and that is saying something.
CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (Nominated For Best Visual Effects)
I was supposed to see CHRISTOPHER ROBIN with my wife in the theater, but then she got sick, we cancelled and never had time to make it before it hit home video. I really like Winnie The Pooh and his friends, and enjoyed the older movies and stories I had read growing up. I had really wanted to see it at first, but then Rotten Tomatoes and some audience reviews told me other wise, and I kind of kept this one at the back burner. It being nominated for Visual Effects and needing to cross it off my Oscar viewing list, I decided to check it out. It absolutely deserves to be nominated for Best Visual Effects. Pooh and his friends look completely real, as real as you can get without being a puppet or muppet. At times, I couldn’t even tell there was even CGI. And some of the CGI imagery to represent an older world was quite breathtaking as well.
The story was a bit…uh…the word I’m looking for is repetitive. It’s been done a million times before the same way. Look at Steven Spielberg’s Hook for instance, it asked us what if Peter Pan grew up? In the movie he ends up being consumed with work and ignoring his kids. Then he gets drawn back to Neverland, where he discovers his inner child again and the importance of the life he now has an adult. This movie is the exact same thing, but instead of Peter Pan, it’s Christopher Robin, and instead of Neverland, it’s the Hundred Acre Woods. But since this is a KIDS film, you have to keep that in mind. And if I’m thinking about that, then the plot is service-able enough for its target audience.
The movie is a moderately short 1hr and 40 minutes, and the time does fly relatively fast enough. I did though think that Christopher Robin’s reunion with all the other animals was a bit short and I would’ve loved to see Ewan McGregor (who is good as always) play with his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood a bit more before continuing with the actual predictable plot. And there were a couple of scenes that I thought might be a little to frightening for some younger children, like images of war, and a possible scary real ‘heffalump.’ But it doesn’t get too scary, basically has the same tone as hook with scary scenes as scary for children when Peter’s kids are initially taken by Captain Hook. All in all it was a fine film, could’ve been much better, but good for its target audience. And it definitely deserved to be nominated for Visual Effects.