Wednesday, November 29, 2017


As awards season begins, Oscar contenders like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri get wider releases to reach bigger audiences. If you've been waiting for this one, it opens tomorrow, November 30, in Bloomington-Normal at the Wehrenberg Cinema, if you want the cushy seat experience, or December 1 at The Art in Champaign, if you prefer a more intimate theater.

It's been getting lots of Oscar buzz, and not just for Frances McDormand's fierce performance as a hard-scrabble mother pushing to find justice for her daughter, who was raped and murdered outside their town. The movie itself, plus Martin McDonagh's screenplay and direction and Sam Rockwell's performance as a racist, messed-up cop, are also showing up on awards shortlists and predictions. So far, Three Billboards has three nominations for Film Independent Spirit Awards -- Best Female Lead for McDormand, Best Supporting Male for Rockwell and Best Screenplay for McDonagh -- with awards at a score of international film festivals and 11 nominations and two wins at the British Independent Film Awards.

You may know McDonagh as a playwright, with major work like The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Pillowman to his credit, or as a screenwriter and director of films like In Bruges. Violence, meanness, small towns and a streak of humor laced with cruelty show up frequently in his darkly cynical writing. They're certainly a part of Three Billboards, with critics talking about the rage and pain that fuel McDormand's role and the film as a whole.

For, Brian Tallerico calls Three Billboards "one of those truly rare films that feels both profound and grounded; inspirational without ever manipulatively trying to be so. Very few recent movies have made me laugh and cry in equal measure as much as this one. Very few films recently are this good," while Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post notes its timeliness, "when sexism in its most virulent forms has been revealed in a daily drumbeat of stories recounting unspeakable exploitation and abuse." She concludes: "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is as dark as they come, a pitch-black, often laceratingly funny look at human nature at its most nasty, brutish and dimwitted."

And if you're keeping an Oscar scorecard, you'll definitely want to check off Three Billboards. Dunkirk and The Post may be ahead of it in the Best Picture race, but McDormand and Rockwell are starting to climb in their categories. Don't count out that screenplay, either.

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