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Non-Review Review: Nomadland

Nomadland is essentially two competing and irreconcilable films.

The first, and more successful film, is a character study of its protagonist. Frances McDormand plays Fern, a widow who has embarked on a life on the road following the death of her husband and the destruction of the community in which she lived. Fern is a wanderer, a restless soul who finds herself trapped between the harsh demands of life on the road and the freedom that such a lifestyle affords her. She is a restless soul wandering across the vast open plains of the United States of the America.

Fern From Home.

The second, and irreconcilable, film is a snapshot of a particular class of people that developed in the aftermath of the Great Recession. As jobs were destroyed and houses were repossessed, large numbers of people found themselves dispossessed and force to live an itinerant existence largely dependent upon the gig economy to keep their heads above the ever-rising tide. There is something almost documentarian about this film, drawing as it does from Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book and featuring many actual “nomads” in supporting roles.

Nomadland quite rightly refuses to condescend to the people who have found a way to survive on the margins. However, the decision to focus on a character like Fern robs the movie of a lot of its potential sting and insight. Watching Nomadland, there’s something almost empowering about the way that Fern’s existence plays out, a sense in which Fern is living the way that she always wanted to on some level. This feels rather cynical and calculated in the context of the very real and devastating trauma of the financial crisis and the destruction that it wrought.

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61. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – This Just In (#122)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Stacy Grouden, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

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Non-Review Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

“All this anger. It only begets more anger.”

Ironically enough, given the title, the anger in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri never seems to ebb. Martin McDonagh’s small town black comedy drama is a parable about grief that metastasises into all-consuming rage. Fire is a recurring fixation for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a potent metaphor for both the scorched earth left behind by trauma and the tendency of such anger to swallow up everything in its path. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a cautionary fable.

Reading the signs.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri benefits from a number of different factors. McDonagh’s script is smart and well-constructed, wry in the right places and emotional when it counts, imbuing the characters and their surroundings with an organic and lived-in quality that enriches the story built around them. The locations are atmospheric and effective, creating a sense of place that extends beyond mere geography. The cast is fantastic, particularly supporting turns from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell.

However, Frances McDormand is the engine that drives Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. While the film features several set pieces built around fire, the hottest flame burns at the heart of the central character. As enraged mother Mildred Hayes, McDormand captures the energy and the depth of a woman raging against a system that let her down, an unjust world that denies her closure, and her own sense of guilt and responsibility.

Ebbing and flowing.

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Watch! Trailer for Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land!

Universal Pictures Ireland just sent over this trailer for the upcoming reunion of Matt Damon and Gus Van Sant, Promised Land. The actor and director famously worked together on the Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting, so it’ll be interesting to see if their latest collaboration can match that Oscar-winning gem. Much like Good Will Hunting, Van Sant has surrounded Damon with a powerhouse cast including veterans like Frances McDormand and Hal Holbrook, younger developing talents like John Krasinski and Scoot McNairy, and even familiar faces like Titus Welliver. It’s certainly worth a look.

Win! Moonrise Kingdom T-Shirts!

The lovely folks over at Universal Pictures Ireland have give us ten T-shirts to give away from the latest Wes Anderson release, Moonrise Kingdom. It premiered at Cannes last week, and it opens here on Friday. To be in with a chance to win, answer the question below.

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Why Does Transformers Need John Malkovich and Frances McDormand?

Francis McDormand and John Malkovich have been cast in Transformers 3. Both are fantastic actors. In fairness, Malkovich has fairly low standards when it comes to choosing his movies – he was linked to Spider-Man 4 as the Vulture before it all fell apart and managed to be the best thing about Con Air (okay, second best – but Steve Buscemi is just awesome anyway) – but McDormand is an actress known for being relatively choosy about her roles. She isn’t exactly matinee idol fare. But, as I read the story, I couldn’t help wondering: why does Michael Bay even need actors for Transformers?

Who needs actors when you have explosions?

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Non-Review Review: Burn After Reading

I caught Burn After Reading last night and sat down with my aunt and uncle to watch it. Sure enough, it was as divisive among us as it was among everyone else – my aunt hated it, my uncle enjoyed it and I loved it. My aunt claimed nothing happened and the cast was full of over-actors, my uncle was relatively satisfied with his viewing experience and I was delighted to see the funnest Coen Brothers film since The Big Lebowski.

Artist's interpretation of Darren enjoying this film. Note: Hunkiness may be exaggerated.

Artist's interpretation of Darren enjoying this film. Note: Hunkiness may be exaggerated.

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