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Can't Stop the Movies

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

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The police of Ebbing, Missouri drag their feet on the investigation into the rape and murder of Mildred's daughter.  Tired of waiting on them to give her any information, she rents three billboards guaranteed to draw attention just where the police don't want it.  Martin McDonagh wrote the screenplay for and directs Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell.

The McDonagh brothers are agonizing and brilliant, sometimes flipping between these modes from one scene to the next.  John Michael McDonagh annoyed me with The Guard, then created a powerful testament to faith in CalvaryMartin McDonagh, who wrote the screenplay for and directed Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (shortening to Three Billboards moving on), crafted a gorgeous ode to Bruges with In Bruges then plastered Seven Psychopaths with just enough meta-awareness to be infuriating.  "Too clever by half" doesn't cut it with the McDonaghs as they've got the skill to back up their writing, but it's not far from the sometimes exhausting experience watching their work.

Three Billboards is often too clever.  There's one moment Penelope (Samara Weaving) walks in on a domestic violence situation and starts rambling about how she needs to use the bathroom but the moment looks, "inconvenient," only to talk more about how she's looking after the, "disabled's horses" since she lost her job.  This highlights two big concerns about Three Billboards.  The first is that Martin's often funny dialogue cuts against the emotional core of some scenes in a way that distracts from their power.  The second is how Martin's cavalier approach to disability and race as he stretches too far to make clever use of still-damaging slurs (heavy shades of brother John's The Guard here.)


Little Red Lie (2017)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

What was the last lie you told?  Mine was, "I'm okay."  Combination of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and codependence made it difficult to discuss the chronic kidney stones, bleeding hemorrhoids, ulcer, and bizarre issue where ear wax coated my sinuses (don't ask for an elaboration, my doctor sure as heck didn't have any suggestions.)  I was clearly not okay, hence the lie, but is there a sincerity in my commitment to make sure no one was burdened by my problems that made it true?

These are the kinds of questions I asked about myself, and the characters, of Will O'Neill's Little Red Lie.  It's the first videogame I've touched that gave me a cognitive headache trying to piece together what each of the characters lies about.  These aren't simple lies, like when my mom used to tell me, "Don't sit so close to the television or you'll go blind."  The two main characters, Arthur Fox and Sarah Stone, lie about themselves, their surroundings, the people in their lives - just about everything there is to lie about, they will at some point.


Changing Reels S2 Episode 2 – Straight Outta Compton

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This week we revisit F. Gary Gray’s 2015 film Straight Outta Compton.  The film recounts the rise of the group N.W.A. whose music revolutionized Hip Hop culture and inspired a generation in the process.  For our short film spotlight, we discuss Melville by James M. Johnston and Missy Elliott’s Work It by Dave Meyers.

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The Post (2018)

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The United States government has kept its people in the dark about the long-term disaster of the Vietnam War.  Because of one conscientious citizen, The Washington Post is in a unique position to expose the years of deception if the paper's leaders can work through the road blocks of government officials and financiers alike.  Steven Spielberg directs The Post, with the screenplay written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, and stars Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, and Bob Odenkirk.

One peril of historical dramas is how the storytellers choose to ignore, or incorporate, perspective on the events portrayed.  Our relationship with media - newspapers in particular - has shifted dramatically since the events of The Post took place.  The power of one story no longer (if it ever did) has the effect of making or breaking someone's career.  We need only go back to the 2016 election to see our confirmation bias in action, or look at the current "Me Too" wave of women bringing down men who were able to keep their victims silent for too long.

I am suspicious bordering on hostile toward the rosy, arguably old-fashioned, approach to media Steven Spielberg takes with The Post.  His direction is completely sincere, which is part of the problem.  There's no winking at or hinting toward how the moneyed interests that prove to be stumbling blocks in The Washington Post's plan to publish the Pentagon Papers are the same forces that helped Donald Trump limp over the electoral finish line.  Instead, Spielberg presents the power behind the money as an annoyance, with the true enemy the boorish man in the White House who will go on to win a second term in a historic landslide.


Night in the Woods (2017)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

We are the generation of trauma and Youtube.  Your path through this hell may be different - but I see you.  I see you when you post a dog or kitten video that gives you life, or rage against another person dying too young because the richest nation in the world can't see fit to take care of any of us.  How anyone can have an imagination, or hope for the future, is almost beyond me these days.  My country has been at war my entire adult life, the public school systems that were supposed to protect me failed, I gradually wasted away to self-hatred working in insurance for over a decade, and now struggle to make even minimum wage writing these words.  This is what I know, this is what I do, and I can't find a spot in this world able to accept and support that.

Night in the Woods sees us.  It sees us in our pain and our optimism.  It offers small glimpses into my kind of hell, the one of endless calls and corporate metrics where something as deadly as smoking serves as a momentary break where I was free to dream.  You might not see them, or stop to listen to them, but that's okay.  I've got my peace to work toward and the seemingly futile efforts of one background character to find happiness outside their micromanaged professional world might not be where you want to stop.  But I had to - I had to stop and listen, read, simply exist in the moment where at least this one character was slowly able to work themselves up and out of their hell.