Unique Stories Told With Exuberance Delightfully Dominate 2018 Oscars


The big thing about this year’s Oscar movies is their individuality – the way they have taken sometimes obvious themes and done something quite unique and extraordinary with them.


When I first saw an interview with director/writer Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths), Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell on the now disgraced Charlie Rose show, I knew this gloriously named movie, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was going to be a movie to watch.

South Africans who haven’t caught a streamed version yet, will have the chance to see it now and glory in everything this movie manages to capture – from innovation to creativity to acting excellence. It’s something to revel in.

Take McDormand in two of her biggest roles, Fargo and Olive Kitteridge, two completely different women both perfectly portrayed by this amazing actress who just gets the idiosyncrasies of her characters. And she does it again with this fierce and forceful woman who is not going to stand on the side-lines while the bumbling police force try and catch her daughter’s rapist-killer.

It’s her little girl and she will get her day in court, it’s the only way she knows how to deal with her grief. It’s the time for women and this film is feverishly pitched even though it came into being before the Weinstein fiasco exploded like a tsunami around the world.

Bolster McDormand’s performance with that of Sam Rockwell, Woody Harreslon and Caleb Landry Jones as well as a full cast of delicious minor characters and you’ve hit pay dirt.

McDonagh has already proved he is someone special and once again he shows that he tells unusual stories in unexpected fashion completely in touch with the zeitgeist. How could you not truimph with this story and these actors? It’s almost a no-brainer and fortunately worked out that way. The uniquely voiced McDonagh knows how to pull it all together magnificently.

That’s true about a whole clutch of movies marching to the Oscars with loud and amazing fanfare this year.

Such a pity that Sally Hawkins is matched with McDormand this particular year. Guillermo del Toro has created a fantastically fey female for this appealing actress with eyes that speak volumes – and they have to in this one. What perfect casting!

It’s also a perfect match teamed as she is with Octavia Spencer, the fiery protector of her whimsical colleague. This all plays out in a setting that the visionary director has masterfully carved out in colours that slip out of a storybook.

It has a monster, magic and a musical sequence that truly sings as does most of the movie in memory mode á la Del Torro who is finally receiving the credit he is supposed to. If you want to be transported into another world and time far away and beyond, don’t miss The Shape of Water.

Get Out

Paying tribute to horror movies but with a specific message in mind, Jordan Peele’s Get Out cleverly and with cunning finds a way to get the masses going to the movies for a sharp critique on racism. They did this without broadcasting it – and once they’re in the cinemas, it’s too late to get out!

It’s masterful with a great performance by the latest young, black lead Daniel Kaluuya (he with the eyes to match those of Hawkins). He innocently marches into a swamp of whiteness that has found its own methods to completely enslave those who are unwilling. It’s smart stuff as it plays with a world in denial even when confronted with #BlackLivesMatter.

Lady Bird

And while I didn’t think Lady Bird has quite the smarts that Juno had a few years back – it plays it a little safer –  it has opened the door for the well-deserved Greta Gerwig. She should approach it more boldly the next time now that she has been given the keys.

This is a homage to her hometown and a time viewed with nostalgia. Kudos to Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf who know how to tell the story of the wilful daughter and determined mother who attempt to allay each other’s fears of stepping into new lives.

I, Tonia is another unexpected take as you are invited to recall the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan tale of competitive ice skating gone terribly wrong. Instead you’re confronted with a story of class and how certain people are not allowed through the door when they live on the wrong side of the track.

Not only was Harding the first woman to complete a triple axel in competition (something we understand now with the Winter Olympics in full swing), she was also a skater with individual flair precisely because she didn’t have all the normal accoutrements so part of this icy world. Figure skating was not meant to be for this young girl, it didn’t matter how good she was.

Margot Robbie as Tanya Harding and Allison Janney as her chilling mother have both received Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, which are well deserved. It is the way they tell the story of the two people who most ruffle the feathers of those who reign supreme in the ice rink.

These are but a few of the best examples of how movies compete with what is currently out there. At no time previously has the scope of those watching been this extravagant and exuberant and if you want to find an audience in today’s noisy entertainment space, it had better have a strong hook.

Stories still matter and the way they are told is what has the most impact and will find an audience. Check these out whether they’re Oscar winners or not.

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri opens at Ster Kinekor today while I, Tonya, Shape of Water and Lady Bird are all still playing in their cinemas.

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