Three times the cinema: Three Billboards, The Shape of Water & Black Panther

I went to the cinema three times so far in 2018. I saw three excellent films, all in their own way. Here are my (shortened) thoughts on them, in the order I saw them.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

This film is the third Best Picture Oscar contender I’ve seen (the other two being Dunkirk and The Shape of Water, more on the latter below). There are more contenders that I really want to see, with The Phantom Thread being top of the list. Closely followed by Lady Bird. But yeah. Three Billboards was such a great, intense film. I liked the humanity of it, after all the dark humour and violence and exaggeration, it never tried to oversimply the characters in it. After the great and funny Seven Psychopaths, The Guard and ofcourse In Bruges, this one is both funny and thought-provoking. And Sam Rockwell keeps on growing as an actor. Loved it.

The Shape of Water

This is a lovely film in a whole other way. Like Three Billboards, it combines violent and funny elements with humanity, but it adds elements of fairytale, fantasy and cold war thrillers in the mix. The result is a very nostalgic, colorful experience that nevertheless hooks you in all the right ways. Guillermo Del Toro outputs has been meandering a bit for me, Pacific Rim didn’t do too much for me, Crimson Peak was alright, but this was a fascinating film. Call it escapism, call it a labour of love, I call it brilliant. I loved how the relationships never overtook the politics of the story. And I loved the ending too. Sally Hawkins is an absolute delight and I’d give her the Oscar, though she’s up for a whole lot of competition.

Black Panther

I must say I thought I was pretty much done with the Marvel universe for a while. The recent Netflix series were mostly disappointing after a promising start. I remember watching Doctor Strange and Guardian of the Galaxy 2 in theaters being perfectly entertained, but not that blown away when leaving the cinema. Having not seen Thor: Ragnarok yet (I did hope for this to be an improvement), I went along to see Black Panther and I came away pleasantly surprised. Yes, this is still a Marvel superhero film, but it’s also thoughtful, it has a great villain with an actual thought-provoking mission and statement. So, alongside the great visual trickery and cinematography, there’s an actual absorbing story here. And sympathetic characters. So, yea, if this is the standard from now on, consider me back in, Marvel Studios…

How I got broadcaster RTL5 to broadcast ‘127 Hours’ twice in 50 hours’ time

I say “How I got…” but this really is one of those social media stories. I am writing this down because I know I’ll forget the details in a couple of years and it’s nice to be able to look this up and remember. 

There’s a certain level of nostalgia and warmth to watching a film together on television as it is broadcast. When I was younger my dad and I used to watch all the James Bond films together (and to this day we go to the cinema each time a new one is released). So while I’ve used my iMac to watch tons of films since the arrival of broadband internet, I’m not totally against watching a film on commercial tv. Even if that means I have to endure several commercial breaks per hour and several pop-ups during the film promoting reality TV shows I usually have no interest in. It’s a nice activity to do with my dad and thus when I visit he usually asks me “Are there any good films on tonight?”

Last Saturday night the answer was: “Yes, RTL5 is broadcasting 127 Hours, where a guy gets stuck in the middle of nowhere while canyoneering.” I had wanted to watch this film for a while, but hadn’t got round to it. So I was genuinely excited. And it was good, right up to the point – and I assume this is common knowledge – when THAT scene happened. That scene where Aron, played by James Franco, frees himself by cutting of his right arm. I assume that the fact that this happens is common knowledge, because it caused quite a stir when the film was released. And my tv guide actually announced the “moving and disturbing” scene.

Now I’m not one for gore in movies. I’ve never seen Saw. The only horror flick I ever tried to watch was The Fly 2 when I was a kid and that involved me walking away from the television whenever the (imagined?) gore became too much. But it was my choice to walk or look away. I like to have that choice.


(full disclosure: I did see Cabin in the Woods, but I put the volume down during the scary parts)

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