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Billboards and progress

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I know we've all been waiting for the two-hour-plus grand finale of the Maze Runner trilogy, but the big news is the Oscar nominations are out and the Academy made enough good selections this year that it's almost getting harder to blame them for being so out of touch with how male-white-lopsided the film industry actually is.

The nominations are varied this year, kind of inclusive, and punctuated by four nominations for Get Out and writer-director-producer Jordan Peele. (Granted, Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water got 13 nominations but del Toro kind of operates on his own level so that's not huge news.)

As well, Rachel Morrison (Mudbound) was nominated for Best Cinematographer (first woman ever), The Big Sick, (a half-Muslim romantic comedy) nabbed a Best Screenplay nomination, and first-time filmmaker Greta Gerwig is in the groove with Lady Bird, up for Best Picture and four other categories. The Oscar noms are as varied as ever; even Logan, Wolverine's superhero solo effort, is up for some hardware.

And to help get you hyped for cinema's biggest awards/fashion show, there's a triple-Oscar nominee playing this week at the dependable Whistler Village 8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Frances McDormand (Fargo, Almost Famous) as a supremely pissed off mother who rents three derelict billboards on the road out of town to call out the authorities for her daughter's unsolved murder.

Woody Harrelson (Zombieland, Kingpin) plays the sheriff of the police force in question, with Sam Rockwell (Choke, Moon) as a racist, abusive, hothead officer on the force. This one is a dark thriller with moments of pitch-black comedy, but, perhaps fuelled by its acclaim during awards season, there has been plenty of criticism and backlash against it as well. Some feel that while Irish-born filmmaker Martin McDonagh serves up complex characters and searing drama, his overall story arc misses a lot of the nuances of the longstanding racial imbalances of the Southern United States. Either that or he failed to push his story far enough into a sense of crazy, depraved hyperbole to justify the redemption he goes after in the end. Does redemption count if the villain doesn't do the work? Three Billboards is well worth watching, but it's also worth thinking about where forgiveness should come from in our society and whether or not everyone is given an equal chance to rage against oppression.

As mentioned above, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, the (fingers crossed) final instalment in the young-adult sci-fi series, was better than Divergent but nowhere near as engaging as The Hunger Games. By this time the troop of teenage heroes (some of the actors are in their 30s though) have escaped the titular maze, crossed a Mad Max-y style desert, and are heading into "town" — in this case a gleaming, zombie-infested city reminiscent of the Resident Evil franchise. There are some good action scenes but the overall vibe here is reheated cinematic leftovers, for more than two hours.

On the small screen, there are rumours (and two teaser-trailers) of a secret Crocodile Dundee sequel starring Danny McBride (Hot Rod, Pineapple Express) and Chis Hemsworth (Thor). Insiders at LaineyGossip.com reckon it's a stunt building up for a Superbowl ad (the film's website lists a release date but no distributor). I guess we won't know until they've kicked the last pigskin on Superbowl Sunday (whenever that is), but a fish-out-of-water buddy comedy starring McBride and Hemsworth would actually be pretty awesome. Fingers crossed.

The Stream of the Week is a short ski film from Whistler's own Mike Douglas/Switchback Entertainment called Becoming History, 20 Years of Salomon TenEighty. Built out of the third annual JP Auclair Memorial event held here last April, this film traces the history of the ski that started the freeski revolution and the people who carried the torches. It's a history lesson full of stoke, nostalgia, and genuine love for Auclair, a skiing visionary who perished in an avalanche in 2014.

Whether you ever met him or not, the 20-plus second clip of JP laughing is likely the best thing you'll see this week. Find Becoming History on tv.solomon.com or Youtube.

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