Tag Archives: Martin McDonagh

The WWAFA’s 2018: The Best & Worst Films of The Year.

Welcome once again to the Wayward Wolf Annual Film Awards 2018 – (WWAFA’s).

And during a year in which ‘Hollywood’ has seen fit to ramp up its obsession with identity politics and all things diversity to absolutely off-the-chart levels, it’s been difficult not to lose the will at times with the whole cinema-going experience.

Of course not every film-maker is afflicted with this compulsion to pass off ultra utopian views of society as some sort of factual reality, but a year’s total of just 56 cinema visits made by yours truly during 2018 (down a hefty 20 or so on 2017’s total), is certainly representative of my own particular malaise.

A fair few of 2018’s highlights have therefore almost certainly been missed as a result. That’s a shame, but… c’est la vie.

The year has of course not been without some fine films though, and in a rather curtailed set of virtual ‘ceremonies’, here then are this year’s hits and misses as per my own humble opinion.

2018’s WWAFA FOR WORST FILM:

One or two below average films this year – the mis-firing Entebbe and mind-numbingly formulaic Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom spring to mind, for example – but nothing that compared to the appalling The First Purge. This thinly-veiled political propaganda piece was utterly dismal in too many ways to mention and is the clear winner of this year’s WWAFA for WORST FILM.

2018’s WWAFA FOR BEST FILM:

As ever, whittling down the year’s films into some form of a top ten was a tricky business. But after much deliberation here they are in reverse order of preference. My top ten films of 2018:

10. Hereditary

9. First Man

8. Free Solo

7. Leave No Trace

6. Bohemian Rhapsody

5. Funny Cow

4. Loveless

3. Cold War

2. Phantom Thread

And the WWAFA for 2018’s BEST FILM goes to:

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh’s tremendously affecting dark comedy / drama was of such high quality that it successfully saw off all-comers to snatch the 2018 Best Film WWAFA, and deservedly so.

The full and final list (in order of preference):

  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  2. Phantom Thread
  3. Cold War
  4. Loveless
  5. Funny Cow
  6. Bohemian Rhapsody
  7. Leave No Trace
  8. Free Solo
  9. First Man
  10. Hereditary
  11. Darkest Hour
  12. Lucky
  13. You Were Never Really Here
  14. The Happy Prince
  15. The Post
  16. American Animals
  17. I, Tonya
  18. The Old Man & The Gun
  19. Apostasy
  20. Journeyman
  21. Unsane
  22. Dogman
  23. First Reformed
  24. Ghost Stories
  25. Isle of Dogs
  26. Custody (jusqu’ a la grade)
  27. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society
  28. A Fantastic Woman
  29. The Wife
  30. Molly’s Game
  31. All the Money in the World
  32. Undir Trenu
  33. Halloween 2018
  34. Beast
  35. The Islands and the Whales
  36. Rider
  37. The Square
  38. The Shape of Water
  39. Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado
  40. Ready Player One
  41. My Friend Dahmer
  42. The Leisure Seeker
  43. King of Thieves
  44. The Mercy
  45. Mission Impossible (Fallout)
  46. A Quiet Place
  47. Red Sparrow
  48. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  49. Creed II
  50. Wonder Wheel
  51. Downsizing
  52. Ant Man & The Wasp
  53. A Simple Plan
  54. Entebbe
  55. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  56. The First Purge
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THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Four and a half Star Rating

“Sometimes it’s through having a total disregard for political correctness, and indeed not overly concerning oneself with the possibility of causing offence, that the most memorable cinema is created” – Wayward Wolf.

Sometimes it’s through having a total disregard for political correctness, and indeed not overly concerning oneself with the possibility of causing offence, that the most memorable cinema is created.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (Three Billboards from hereon in), is the work of writer and director Martin McDonagh, and is very much a case in point.

Never one to shy away from the controversial, McDonagh’s past work includes the likes of In Bruges and Seven Psycopaths. These two films alone should provide more than a hint of what to expect from this, McDonagh’s latest dark, warts-and-all tale.

Frances McDormand portrays Mildred, a woman consumed with bitterness, living with a prevailing sense of injustice, and understandably so. Her daughter had some time previously been raped, brutally murdered and her body burned, somewhere on the outskirts of town. In Mildred’s eyes the police have made little or no attempt since the incident to bring the perpetrator to justice – whoever that may be.

Driven by her ongoing frustrations, Mildred takes it upon herself to rent three disused billboards on a small stretch of road just outside of town. Emblazoned upon them is a series of hard-hitting provocative messages designed to induce some form of reaction from much respected local Police Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), a man that Mildred, rightly or wrongly, perceives to have neglected his duties.

But this is small town America, and Mildred is fully aware that this is going to open one big can of worms. Not only do her actions agitate the local police force, but unwittingly she has targeted her frustrations at a dying man. It’s water off a duck’s back for thick skinned terminal Cancer patient, Willoughby, but the same cannot be said of his colleagues and the majority of the townsfolk who have been suitably irked by Mildred’s actions. There is a collective opinion that she has been overly callous towards a man that just so happens to be held in rather high esteem ’round them there parts’, and is considered to be the very glue that holds the Ebbing community together.

And so begins something of a war of attrition between Mildred, Willoughby and pretty much the entire town in which she lives.

Being made aware of Willoughby’s state of health you’d think would then be sufficient grounds for Mildred to reconsider her actions and back down gracefully, but it only serves to strengthen her resolve. If nothing else, she is one hell of a stubborn lady.

McDonaugh’s film excels on so many levels, most notably though through the richness and depth of its wonderful characterisation.

McDormand is full of no-nonsense bluster and attitude portraying the film’s splendidly cynical anti-hero, unafraid to give ‘both barrels’ to officers of the law and Catholic priests alike.

Sam Rockwell, whilst cast somewhat to type, is superb in his nuanced portrayal of Dixon, a work-shy, anger-filled bigoted small-town Police Officer, exhibiting all of the psychological traits one would surely associate with a forty-something still living at home with his red-neck mother. Yet despite all of this, Dixon’s life will come to be forever altered when he walks, quite literally, through the fire, on the way to his own Damascene conversion.

And then there’s Woody Harrelson. His portrayal of Willoughby is both weighty and full of charm. This is a man who not only rises to McDormand’s challenge, but more importantly, seems to enjoy the ensuing game that it brings.

The interplay between these and indeed all of the cast members is detailed and convincing, thanks to both the plethora of talent on show and the sheer quality of McDonagh’s writing. His multi-layered screenplay is gritty, witty, profoundly emotional, suitably inappropriate and thoroughly believable, with razor sharp dialogue to boot.

And it goes without saying that be it through deeply awkward scenarios or foul-mouthed rants, the blackest of humour abounds throughout in the director’s trademark style.

Three Billboards is a beautifully judged piece that takes time to consider emotional pain, the idea of retribution, anger, selflessness, sadness and to some extent at least, redemption. It’s also a film concerned very much with the here and now, resisting the temptation to gratuitously portray and dwell upon the heinous crimes of the past. Instead it brilliantly weaves the present day lives, needs, fears and aspirations of an entire community together into one engaging, complex whole.

Martin McDonagh has created a film here in which every act is as important as the last and indeed the next. Nothing here is peripheral. Everything is integral.

Wonderfully provocative, this is an instant classic.