Thank God the journey to watch all the nominees this year is almost over. Just got to see Mirai tonight and you’ll get a review of that plus Never Look Away tomorrow. I don’t want to leave my Oscar Catch Up series on a dire note (hint: I’ve already seen Never Look Away and loved it), so for the penultimate review I am going to talk about two films that I absolutely hated and that should not have gotten nominated whatsoever:
BORDER (Nominated For Best Makeup and Hairstyling)
This film is about trolls and baby raping. I shit you not. It’s sort of a realistic fucked up adult fairy tale with dour mistreatment of infants that I could barely stomach. Do not watch this film if you have a newborn, or if you get depressed really easily. The movie is nominated mainly for the two leads and their facial prosthetics around their face, and also probably for the make up on the “non-living troll embryos,” don’t fucking ask. It is nominated with two other films, Vice and Mary Queen of Scots. I can literally think of any other film that could’ve been nominated instead of Border, such as all the cool make up and hairstyling from any one in Wakanda in Black Panther or Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, where they used Xenu Scientology like make up to keep Tom Cruise from aging…
The film starts out promising enough: a weird looking woman, who works as a airport border patrol agent has a unique talent, she can sniff out the ‘wrong’ in people. One day, she sniffs out a SD card hidden in the back of the cell phone that contains child pornography. This leads to higher ups wanting her to help them find this porn ring and put a stop to it. So there is Plot Point B. Plot Point A is that a weird looking guy, that almost looks just like her, happens to come through customs soon after that. She smells something wrong on him too, although they don’t find really anything on him (except that he has female and not male parts ((again, don’t fucking ask)). They end up together and starting a relationship, and he reveals their true origins.
I’m going to get into a minor spoiler here (not going to say exactly what it is), but one thing I didn’t like the film is that Plot Point B happens to overlap someway into Plot Point A, where the whole story felt forced and too coincidental. And then the rest of the film hints at child abduction, baby raping, trolls growing appendages and fucking each other…and a bunch more things I just couldn’t get into. The film was just too weird and dragged on in parts. I think though I would’ve like the whole ‘sniffing what is wrong with people’ detective scenario quite a bit…if it was done righteously in a different movie.
HALE COUNTY, THIS MORNING THIS EVENING (Nominated for Best Documentary)
So when watching all of these documentaries, I was trying to pin point the exact movie that shouldn’t have been nominated over the greatly snubbed and much better Won’t You Be My Neighbor? documentary on Fred Rogers. After watching RBG, Free Solo, Of Fathers and Sons, and Minding The Gap…I was like, oh shit, maybe it was snubbed for a good reason. Nope. Hale County, This Morning This Evening is one of the worst documentaries I have ever seen. It has absolutely no message, no linear narrative, and no emotional weight (except for one tiny scene that I thought was going to dive deeper into the film in the halfway point ((deals with SIDS)), but nope, just moves on without any explanation or general thought on the event really).
In fact, the doc has several scenes that last 5 to 10 minutes each where NOTHING FUCKING HAPPENS. It’s either a POV shot of a car driving down the road with no dialogue, or people talking in the background where you can even hear what they are talking about (putting on subtitles does no good as it reads ‘people talking indiscernible in background’) while a child runs around the room, or a static shot of a basketball team in a locker room, all talking over each other and neither you or the subtitle feature can make out whatever the fuck they are saying.
Critics and a couple of others are praising the nonlinear documentary for being nonlinear and that it is ‘pure cinematic poetry’, and I just can’t understand why. The film is supposed to be about a black community that lives in Hale County in Alabama’s black belt. But to me it wasn’t really about anything. There no message on poverty, or racism, or really any hardships of any kind save for a child dying of SIDS. To me, this documentary had no purpose, it was avant-garde film student film making at its most experimentally worst. Documentaries, in my opinion, always need to have some kind of structure. Trying to do something other than that seems risky of losing your audiences attention span. I had to wash dishes and clean baby bottles while watching it just to get through it.