“Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater and film critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.
When the Academy Awards nominations came out last week, ‘The Shape of Water’ collected the most nominations, with 13. I reviewed that last week and gave it 4 stars out of 5.
This week I review ‘Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri.’ It’s an incredibly well made film- which isn’t to say it’s always easy to watch.
Frances McDormand. Image: goldderby.com
Among its 7 award nominations are Best Picture, Best Actress- for lead Frances McDormand- and 2 for Best Supporting Actor: for both Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. And it won Best Picture at the Golden Globes.
I can’t argue with any of those honors.
McDormand plays Mildred, a woman whose daughter was raped and murdered, and her performance is one of the finest I’ve ever seen. What’s remarkable, though, is Sam Rockwell- as a racist police officer- also gives one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen. And Woody Harrelson may have delivered his finest job of acting ever here, too. McDormand & Woody Harrelson. Image: dvdreleases.org
Actually, every performance in this film is just terrific. So director Martin McDonagh has to get some credit for that- yet he wasn’t nominated for Best Director… to which I say, “Huh?” At least he did receive one for Best Original Screenplay.
About that story- which could be subtitled, ‘When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Good People Do Bad Things.’
But… then it changes- and gets more complicated. There are surprising acts of kindness that are touching- and even darkly humorous. And some surprising friendships develop- or, at least, alliances.
McDormand isn’t just wrestling with the fact her daughter’s murder is unsolved. She wants revenge- but partly because she feels guilty over the last conversation she had with her.
Since she doesn’t know who the murderer is, she attacks Ebbing’s Police Chief- played by Woody Harrelson. She doesn’t physically attack him. She buys ads on the three billboards of the title that ask why the police chief hasn’t made any arrests.
Sam Rockwell. Image: Screengeek.net
This, naturally, gets the town in an uproar and causes a war between Mildred and the entire police department- mostly personified by Sam Rockwell’s character as he attacks anyone who is a friend of Mildred, including the billboard company owner, who sold the ads to Mildred- and that wonderful performance is by Caleb Landry Jones- who could also have been nominated, as could have Clarke Peters, who plays another police chief- though his part is smaller.
But watching this film- and thinking about it later- I marveled at how well it comes together- both thematically, visually and via the incredible cast’s performances.
‘Three Billboards’ also has a phenomenally on-point score by Carter Burwell- which is so good it is stunning- and, yes, the score was nominated… and well deserved.
At this point I have seen 7 of the 9 Best Picture nominees. Not to kill the suspense but this film may be the Best Picture of the Year.
McDonagh has created a rich story with quirky characters who somehow grow on you as the story progresses and, though the ending doesn’t wrap it all up in a neat little bow (far from it), it really is a good place to end it- when you think about it later. And I kept thinking about it later.
In a year filled with many very good films, I give ‘Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri’ the rare 5 stars out of 5, even though watching it is challenging, disturbing and funny- sometimes all at the same time.
Like this, ‘Darkest Hour’- with Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill- is also an excellent film with an incredible lead actor performance, but ‘Three Billboards’ might be the Best Picture.
Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews.
This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”