I’d been wanting to watch Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri for some time so was excited it premiered on HBO tonight. After all the attention the movie received around the Oscars, the general premise is likely familiar. Angela Hayes, a teenage girl was raped and murdered, and when several months passed without any arrest in the case, her mother, Mildred, rented three billboards outside their town:
RAPED WHILE DYING
STILL NO ARRESTS?
HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?
The billboards do bring attention to Hayes but also inspire rancor among the townspeople.
I was surprised that the movie was as funny as it was while exploring the cost of rage and resentment. None of the characters were stereotypical or one-dimensional. And the narrative took sime surprising directions.
The movie is worth watching simply for the stellar performances of Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson. However, it is much more than a showcase for these actors’ prodigious talents. It is a difficult and rewarding story of grief, anger, and redemption.
“That day I read the story Holden had wrote for me. It was kinda different from the other ones but kinda the same. It was about a girl who was put upon, whose job is like a prison, and whose life has lost all meaning. Other people don’t get her, especially her husband. One day she meets a boy who is also put upon and they fall in love. After spending their whole lives never getting got, with one look they get each other completely. In the end the girl and the boy run away together into the wilderness, never to be heard from again.”
~Justine (Jennifer Aniston), The Good Girl
I spend a lot of time feeling put upon. But don’t go reading any more into it.
Thanks in part to a free trial subscription to Netflix, we’ve been watching (or rewatching) lots of movies lately:
You can probably guess my favorite genre from the list! The only movie we viewed that I didn’t like was Shutter Island. I thought it was too stylized, too predictable, and too heavy-handed. In fact, to me it felt like watching one of M. Night Shamalyan’s recent films. That said, I did find interesting the final question raised by Leonard DiCaprio’s character, “Would it be better to live as a monster or die as a good man?”
The other movies, I thoroughly enjoyed, though if you watch Outland, released in 1981, realize it is a fun flick but no cinematic masterpiece.
Last week, George and I watched The Town which I wanted to like more than I did. I found the plot predictable and the characters underdeveloped. The bank robbers are very bad men, though Doug, played by Ben Affleck, has a good heart. James (Jeremy Renner) is a wild card, and things go awry when he breaks the unwritten rules of the bank robbing gang’s code by violently beating a bank employee and then kidnapping the bank’s manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall). F.B.I. Agent Frawley has had enough of the flawless robberies perpetrated by the born-to-crime thieves (a la Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive). Meanwhile, Doug gets close to Claire to ensure she doesn’t have information to provide to the F.B.I. Once he sees her allegiance is to Charlestown rather than the law, he falls in love with her and decides to get out. Despite their criminal genius, the gang fails to realize the threat is not the loyal Claire by the addict and woman scorned, Krista (Blake Lively).
The movie was well-acted and the chase scenes, especially, were fun to watch, but the movie presents a difficult to solve dilemma: how to satisfyingly resolve a plot driven by anti-heroes. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that James’ recklessness will lead to his death either by cop or by his own hand, but I wasn’t sure what would happen to Doug. Would he sacrifice himself, but earn the love of Claire (cf. The Crying Game)? Would he escape (cf. The Shawshank Redemption)? Or would he go down fighting?
“Facts can be so misleading, where rumors, true or false, are often revealing.”
–Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa,
Last night, George and I saw Inception. It’s a triumph to get him to the movie theaters these days – he usually says, “Let’s wait until it comes out on video” which means we’ll probably never see it.
But, we did go see Inception. George, who had only heard David Edelstein’s negative review on NPR, had very low expectations of the movie. I was more optimistic (even though I’m one of the few people, it seems, who does not swoon over Leonardo di Caprio). It is my kind of movie – visual, compelling, fast-paced. True, there wasn’t a lot new here. True, some of the dialog was clunky. I don’t think it is the best movie OF ALL TIME. But still… it was fun, it was interesting, and it was complex enough not to be boring or pointless. Some of the dream sequences were so fascinating, particularly when Dom (di Caprio) and Ariadne (Ellen Page) share a dream for the first time. I think the movie is worth seeing simply for the visual landscape.
I believe a fairer, more accurate, review by Lisa Schwartzbaum, appeared in Entertainment Weekly – it certainly reflects my reaction: despite the flaws, “I can’t wait to go back.”
I expect Clint Eastwood’s films to be difficult and dark. With Gran Torino, my expectations were met. I was surprised, though, by how funny the movie was, both in its dialog and its commentary on the character of Walt (maybe Mr. Kowalski, but definitely not Wally).
In future semesters, I may show the scene when Walt first visits Sue and Thao’s house during a celebratory feast to illustrate cultural norms and cross-cultural differences.
The movie is continuing to simmer in my mind – I wonder how Walt’s own family could be so detached and unaware of Walt’s strengths. Also, what allowed Walt to be touched by Thao and Sue when he clearly built so many barriers?
One note that did not ring true to me was the way-too-obvious cross symbolism. Despite that, I cried and cried at the end. Unlike the end of Million Dollar Baby, I also felt hopeful, too.
044.365 Lowly Worm on Friday the 13th
Originally uploaded by aimeedars
On Friday the 13th, we went to see the remake of Friday the 13th. For its genre, the movie was pretty good. Of course, you may not feel I am a reliable source as I watched much of the movie through small slits in my fingers.
George is out of town this weekend…good timing, because I have been very sick all weekend. It might be the antibiotics I am taking or a bug, but I haven’t felt very sociable. I have felt well enough, however, to:
- watch Michael Clayton
- watch Gone, Baby, Gone
- read Obedience by Will Lavender
- make a full Persian chain mail bracelet with colored aluminum rings.
George will be home tomorrow, and it will be nice to have him back!