Consider this a follow-up to yesterday’s piece on the Oscars Best Picture nominations. After some additional film-watching, here are a few more short reviews.
So, I watched Get Out. It was good. I was thoroughly entertained for an hour and forty minutes. But I was right in my view that horror films aren’t Best Picture material. Yes, Get Out was as suspenseful as one could ask for–my eyes were glued to the screen for its entirety. But the plot was, quite literally, a white family brainwashing black men and women into slavery, and the intensity was derived from (spoiler) Chris’ (the protagonist) murder of the family and subsequent escape from their estate. Plain and simple, I watch horrors with different expectations than those with which I watch dramas. And as a horror, this film delivered: I’d give it an A- and say that it is, without doubt, the best horror I’ve seen since The Conjuring. But the argument for Get Out to win Best Picture is an emotional one—that its racial commentary, which relies on hyperbole of white insensitivity and violence, propels this film above the grandiose visual qualities of Dunkirk and the emotional realism of Lady Bird. Best film of the year? I don’t see it.
I bought into the hype surrounding Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. Its critical reception was outstanding and it is currently considered a front-runner to win Best Picture. Yet throughout my watch, I grew increasingly confused as to its purpose. Though it’s labelled a “Southern dark comedy,” I struggle to recall a time that it brought me to laughter in the same way O Brother, Where Art Thou? or Little Miss Sunshine did. Despite its all-star cast, I could not emotionally attach myself to any particular character. The protagonist, Mildred Hayes, is driven by revenge against a police force which failed to identify the rapist and murderer of her daughter. Mildred’s husband is an abusive alcoholic who arrives at pivotal moments of the story only to curse, beat and blame Mildred for their daughter’s death. Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), the most favorable of the bunch, commits suicide around the film’s halfway mark. Are we expected to attach ourselves to the redemption arc of officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), known for his aggression against the townspeople and his particular violence against black men and women? I guess that’s what the film’s director, Martin McDonagh, had in mind.
What’s more, the redemption arcs go unfulfilled! By Three Billboard’s conclusion, Mildred is no closer to identifying her daughter’s murderer than she is when the movie begins. Does Officer Dixon, whose arc is set in motion by Willoughby’s dying wish that he (Dixon) expresses empathy to become the police officer of which he is capable, redeem his character by initiating a bar fight and then traveling to Idaho to (probably) murder a man who’s not guilty of murdering Mildred’s daughter? Not for me. Moreover, neither Mildred nor Dixon is redeemed spiritually or psychologically; rather, they arrive at a newfound respect toward each other constituted by a collective desire for vengeance and affinity for violence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for revenge-driven violence—I mean, Tarantino is a top-three director, for me. But the violence in this movie is contrived: rarely does it lead to meaningful transitions or understanding so much as it exacerbates the characters’ internal conflicts.
I was unsatisfied after the first half-hour. I was unsatisfied at the halfway point. And I was unsatisfied with the ending. I’m really not a fan of this movie. I hope that it doesn’t win Best Picture.
-Admin Tam (@tomhall2323)