End of December means a few things: Christmas, taking back unwanted Christmas presents, and late Oscar entrants. I saw 2 of them and here’s what I thought.
3 Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri is one of those films that the title does all of the explaining for you. Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a mother whose daughter was raped while dying and justice has not been served. So she pays for, you guessed it, 3 billboards calling out the local sheriff’s lack of progress. It of course, stirs up a shitstorm with the town folk and especially the sheriff, aptly played by Woody Harrelson. Let’s just take a moment to acknowledge Woody. He has fun with the role while giving it gravitas, as he’s suffering from cancer. Woody has had one hell of a resume, he’s run the gamut of roles. He’s insanely under appreciated but I think he may get an Oscar nod for supporting actor.
Here’s why this film is deserving the hype it’s received. This is more than just a mother hellbent on getting revenge. There are MANY layers to the story like the aforementioned Harrelson as well as Sam Rockwell playing a racist cop who lives with his mother. The townsfolk bullying Mildred; including Mildred’s ex-husband who comes back to torment her while bringing his much younger but dopey girlfriend. And of course, Mildred’s son as well as her employer dealing with Mildred’s actions. Rockwell brings home the goods as the cop who has the quintessential, “seen the light” moment and goes to right his wrongs.
But let’s talk about the real star, McDormand. She absolutely destroys this role and you not only feel non-stop compassion for her but you’ll enjoy her smart ass quips when the townies attempt to apply pressure to her. There’s zero doubt that she’s winning the Oscar for best actress. Is this film solid? Absolutely. Do you need to see it in the theater? No but you definitely won’t walk out questioning your purchase. This film is solid and I’ll give it an 8.
The second film I saw was “Darkest Hour” and this is the story of how Churchill comes to power after Chamberlain was asked to step down. Churchill said he’s been waiting since the nursery to become prime minister of England and you can tell that if this screenplay was true to history, that indeed he was born for the role. Europe is being dominated by Hitler and Churchill is first to say that attempts with peace is not in the cards for a madman like Hitler. King George Vi, Chamberlain, and Halifax are all working against Churchill as they want peace, not war. So you get an idea of how difficult it was for not only Winston to attempt to save Britain from Nazi domination but doing so while being road blocked by his own government and cabinet. And they do get into the Dunkirk story again in this film.
Churchill is a larger than life persona and his rookie typist, played by Lily James (Baby Driver), learns quickly how to adapt to his nuances and eventually gains his trust where he takes her to the military intelligence hub to show her what’s REALLY happening. Kristen Scott Thomas plays Clementine, Churchill’s wife who gives ZERO fucks and does not cow tow to his attempts to bull doze his preferences. And god, do I love hearing Oldman drop his many memorable quotes throughout the film. My favorite: “Those who do not change their mind don’t change much at all.” He’s INSANELY quick with the tongue and Oldman pulls off the role with such ease but then again, when doesn’t he?
When I saw, “Dunkirk,” (overrated) they showed a preview for this film and after 30 seconds, I said that Gary Oldman is winning best actor. Now that I saw the film, I’m looking for a bookie who will take odds so I can bet this. Oldman is another guy who has been, “under the radar” amazing for so long. Dracula, the pimp in True Romance, Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK, and hell, Commissioner Gordon in Batman. This film is great and flies through it’s 2:05 running time. They end it at the exact right time, although I could’ve easily sat through another 30-45 minutes of Churchill history.
This film gets an 8 out of 10 from me.