How Many Oscars to Put Up a Billboard?

DATELINE:  Ebbing Tide!


Two major Oscars went to the star actors of Three Billboards Near Hibbing, Minnesota, or was it Ebbing, Missouri?

We think the ridiculous title seemed laughable at first, but becomes seriously apt by the end.

Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell play borderline sociopathic and violent characters who are held in check by the small-town sheriff played by Woody Harrelson.

Audiences have been deeply bothered by a racist cop (who may be latently gay) and vindictive mother of a murdered girl who become, weirdly, sympathetic, owing to the brilliant performances of Oscar winners Rockwell and McDormand.

The audience faces a story wherein characters repent and try to mend their nasty ways. It’s not looked upon with much favor. It becomes far worse if they turn into outright vigilantes, leaving us with complete moral and ethical ambiguity. We seem to forget Bruce Willis has just released his remake of Death Wish, the ultimate film about taking the law into one’s hands, just to entertain us.

The Oscar winners are surrounded by other tour de force actors, playing small-town Missourians to the hilt. And, there were likely no other stars who could have played the leads: we doubt that Meryl Streep or Tom Cruise could have pulled it off with such aplomb or lack of glamour.

The story has absurdist elements that make for that most deplorable of all genres: dramedy or black comedy, with fewer and fewer laughs along the way.

Perhaps life is not so black and white as good guys and bad after all, but our movies usually refuse to reflect this. This film challenges its audience to live with moral ambiguity in their art, as well as in life.

This is the first movie in quite some time in which characters mention Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde in the same scene, among other quirks, making this the most intriguing film of the year.





Psychopathia Sexualis as Comedy

DATELINE: Movie Psychos

You could call it a shaggy dog story, but the movie is not a dog at all. We found it one of the most strikingly original movies from a major studio that we have seen.

All your favorite movie bad guys have lined up to lend a bit of the psycho ear, eyes, and nose to this warped comedy.

Seven Psychopaths outdoes one Psycho with the humor Hitchcock intended for his first psycho. This tale centers around a film writer (Colin Farrell) whose best friend Billy Bickle of the Travis Bickle family (Sam Rockwell). Farrell is writing a movie titled Seven Psychopaths, and their collaborative insider tales make up some of the story.

Of course, the term appropriate to the killers is sociopathic, not psychopathic, but who’s slicing, dicing and parsing words in this movie?

The real lynchpin of the movie is an adorable shih tzu owned by a psycho mobster (Woody Harrelson, of course) who goes berserk when the little doggy is dognapped. Billy Bickle and his collaborator (Christopher Walken) kidnap dogs of the rich and famous and return them several days later for large rewards.

This time the cute dog is the love of Harrelson’s life—and it’s mano-a-mano psychopath warfare when a real life serial killer of serial killers joins the mix to stir up the blood and guts.

The violence is clever and horrifyingly amusing with cameos by some notable actors as victims and perps.

We generally avoid movies about writers having writer’s block, but love movies about Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes shenanigans. In this stew, director (Martin McDonagh) puts the ingredients into a large crockpot and lets simmer.