This is traditionally the week where I start to get to see the best movies of the year.
I’m not sure why, but the week preceding the Oscars seems to often be the week where I finally get paid legal access to the big award contenders, in my own home. I don’t get to the movies much anymore and I have never in my life illegally downloaded a movie to watch so I tend to exist in a sort of Limbo until I am allowed to see the puppies for myself.
This week, I have seen ‘Lady Bird’ and ‘Three Billboards…’ and I’ve got to tell you that I really liked both of them.
It seems clear to me that I can’t say anything about either of these two film that won’t already have been said a thousand times before. I liked them. They are good. You should see them. See? Nothing new.
What did strike me, having seen both of them in such close proximity, is how thematically close these two films are to each other. To my mind, at least. Perhaps nobody else has said that yet? Oh, I’m sure they have but let me give it a bash anyway. It’s Sunday and I have to be typing something.
Two completely different films but with striking similarities in their concerns.
Both films give us a set of characters, vivid and sensitively drawn, each of whom have the same problem, the same choice to make. Do they choose to love the people they love or do they give in to the almost overwhelming anger and outrage that those people evoke in them?
Love or Anger? Anger or Love?
In ‘Lady Bird’, it’s all about Family. Mother and Daughter. In ‘Three Billboards…’ it’s Community.
I don’t tend to do spoilers and I’m not going to do any here. Suffice it to say, that both films bring laughter and tears to their careful examination of this problem. The ‘turn on a sixpence’ nature of feelings of love and outrage are brilliantly and memorably depicted in both. Particularly in that scene where… but no, I won’t do that. See it yourself.
I will just say (slight spoiler) that, in one of the movies, a wine bottle, carried to a confrontation as a weapon but left there as a gift, is an apt depiction of the struggle.
Martin McDonagh has mined this territory before, in my favourite of his earlier ‘Leenane Trilogy’ plays. In ‘The Lonesome West’ two brothers fight their battles in the little house where they live together. They make a conscious decision to try to treat each other better but will love or anger ultimately prevail?
There are two things evident in each of these love/anger fables. The first is how the conflict invariably dresses itself up as a sort of a game. The parties to the game manoeuvre and play and try to trick each other into action or submission. It is like a fake battle that is in no way fake. The second evident thing is how the persons on the periphery of this battle, who may try to referee or even broker a solution, inevitably become casualties of war. Witness the priest in ‘The Lonesome West’, the Dad in ‘Ladybird, the advertising person or the co-worker in ‘Three Billboards…’
These are two good films and a good play too. ‘The Shape of Water’ seems destined for the Best Picture Oscar but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that ‘Three Billboards…’ may shade it to the post. Martin McDonagh does not have a Best Director nod (though I thought he deserved one for his adept handling of his own material and his luminescent cast). Pictures without Best Director nods don’t win Best Picture very often. Without looking it up, I think it’s only happened about four times in the past. I think it may happen tonight. If not, then this post will be out of date before twenty people will have read it. Such is life.
One other thing that both these movies have in common, for me at least. Both of them were significantly lessened in impact for me by my having viewed the trailers before I saw them. There was lots of material in the films that was not in the trailers but, time and again, I found myself going, ‘Oh, this is the bit where she says that,’ or, ‘this is bit where that must happen’. I can only imagine how much more I would have enjoyed each of these if I could have come to them fresh. We need trailers and such to get anticipation and word-of-mouth going but, man, I just need to leave them alone.