“Ebbing” and flowing
Frances McDormand won her first and only Academy Award for “Fargo,” playing a police chief in small-town Minnesota. Now she might be in contention to earn her second Oscar for playing a mom at war with a police chief in small-town Missouri — the fictional Ebbing, to be exact.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” will premiere at next month’s Venice Film Festival and, as Variety puts it, might be “a golden ticket” for the actress come awards season. The film, from writer/director Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”), is the tale of Mildred Hayes, who is getting frustrated that her daughter’s murder seven months ago has gone unsolved. So she paints signs leading into town lashing out at the police — in particular the revered chief (Woody Harrelson).
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Other stars include Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage and John Hawkes — who appeared in the Missouri-set “Winter’s Bone.” Nothing was actually filmed in Missouri, however. The area around Asheville, N.C., plays the role of Ebbing.
So many Oscar winners and should’ve-been winners have made their debuts at late-summer film festivals that those premieres have become a preview of the awards season to come. Now that Venice, Toronto and New York film festivals have unveiled lists of their most important movies, here’s a peek at five contenders (in addition to “Ebbing, Missouri”):
▪ “Suburbicon”: Matt Damon is an angry 1950s suburbanite. George Clooney directs the dark comedy from a script by Joel and Ethan Coen.
▪ “Downsizing”: Think “Ant-Man” as social commentary. In Alexander Payne’s drama, Damon (again) is a man who agrees to have himself shrunk to simplify his life.
▪ “The Shape of Water”: In this Guillermo del Toro fantasy, Sally Hawkins is a mute woman who forges a connection with a sea creature.
▪ “Mother!” Darren Aronofsky’s horror feature stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in a twist on “Rosemary’s Baby.”
▪ “The Battle of the Sexes”: Emma Stone is tennis star Billie Jean King, who played that famous match against sexist Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).