3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri 5 out of 5 Stars

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Not since 1986 have I applauded out loud, in a packed cinema, for a movie that blew me away with the dynamic force of its female lead and its nuanced emotional and moral rollercoaster, of great cinematic story.

Published by Go Movie Reviews and shared for you here on my blog.

8 years ago, English/Irish, playwright/filmmaker, Martin McDonagh, wrote Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in one single draft.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is McDonagh’s third film, following the slow burning cult success of In Bruges and his darkly twisted, Seven Psychopaths.

Taut, confronting, tragic and pathos rich, the narrative tightrope of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is strung between tragedy and cathartic humour.

The story opens with Mildred (Frances McDormand), her terrible grief has no tears left as she stands beneath three newly pasted billboards, billboards she has hired, billboards that witnessed the rape, murder and torching of Angela her teenage daughter, seven months earlier.

Since then there have been no arrests and the local police department have no leads.

There is no word in the English language for the place that Mildred is left as the parent of a dead child.  When a child loses a parent, they are an orphan, when a parent loses a child, they lose identity, their face becomes edgeless without definition – there is no word for this place.

In this place, Mildred’s relentless rage, tears apart the small town, minding-everyone’s-business, complicit charm of Ebbing Missouri.

Unable to accept the paralysis of her grief and fueled by fury, Mildred embodies the fight or die quality of a lone cowboy making a last stand against the local police and emblazons what must be the largest victim of violence impact statement and directs its lethal force at the town’s much loved, Chief of Police, Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson).

Raped while dying

And still no arrests?

How come Chief Willoughby?

 

To arm the isolation and combative fury of her on screen performance, McDormand kept herself isolated from all rehearsals, cast and crew, only seeing the cast at final shooting. And it worked.

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McDormand is simply outstanding in this role. Simply dressed in one commando-like-overall with barely no facial expression, her seething and impact are latent and volatile and you just know that her lethal cocktail of fury, grief and a sense that justice has not been served, will suffer no prisoners.

 Injected with unforgettable-quote-worthy dialogue, humour and darkness straddle the tension in each scene.

Mildred strides into the Police Station – her town popularity at the bottom of the heap. Oblivious to a herd of police mulling about, Mildred confronts Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), –  a cop we’ve sized up already as the worst kind of cop. A cop that is stupid, racist and armed.

‘Hey fuckhead!’says Mildred.

‘What?’ says Dixon.

‘Don’t say what, Dixon, when she comes in calling you fuckhead’ says a watching Policeman, shaking his head.

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McDonagh’s script is ripe with racial taboos, social taboos and humanity. His characters, flawed, imperfect, dark in pathos, humour and humanity.

As a master storyteller, McDonagh’s  serves us lashings of unexpected and transformative humour, cathartic after scenes heavy in tragic sadness.

Dixon tells Mildred, they don’t do “n—-r torturing” no more but “persons-of-color torturing”. 

In a packed cinema we gasp together in horror, at Dixon’s racism and in a packed cinema we laugh out loud, together, at his stupidity.

The power of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is in its straightforward truths. There are no ambiguous wonderings.

McDonagh serves a plate full of raw humanity and we love it.

We recognize the familiarity of our shared humanity, the shades of our despair, our common rage and tragedy but ultimately our ability to use humour from that dark place to release tenderness, hope and redemption.

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Martin McDonagh – Director, Producer, Writer, Playwright, Filmmaker.

Written and Directed by     Martin McDonagh

Produced by             Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Martin McDonagh

Executive Producers     Bergen Swanson, Diarmuid McKeown, Rose Garnett, David Kosse, Daniel Battsek

Starring    Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes, Caleb Landry Jones, Sandy Martin

All images with thanks to Pinterest

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Body shaming, plus-size and grace in action with cake.

An inspirational mum, Carrie Strongman is a woman who’s attitude embodies an unapologetic confidence in being a beautiful plus size woman.

She also happens to be my mum.

My mum is plus size and has always shown me how beautiful her curves are.

If as a child, my raised eyebrows teased her as she sashayed past, she would tackle me with kisses until I surrendered out loud just how beautiful she was.

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My mum pictured above with my two daughters Saskia and Scarlett

I love these memories of my mum, from them my mum taught me how to love boldly, with strength and out loud.

My mum is incredibly independent, fearless, creative and intelligent. My mum with all her strength is also one of the funniest and wittiest people I know.

But I remember one moment wishing I could be her strength when two Parnell Village fashion-retail sales-women tried to shame my mother because of her plus size.

Parnell Village in one of Auckland’s most affluent suburbs with historic, cobblestone- paved charm, remains one of my favourite places in Auckland.

My mother grew up on her father’s sprawling Waitakaruru dairy farm before moving by herself at the age of 13 to the city of Auckland to study and board at New Zealand’s prestigious all girl’s Queen Victoria School. Situated in the equally affluent suburb of Remuera, a 30-minute walk from Parnell Village.

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My mum in her Queen Victoria day uniform

In my teenage years, my mum and I would travel from our home in the Coromandel Peninsula, for special mum and daughter days out in Auckland city. Together we would shop, lunch, visit family and visit sites from her teenage years like the Auckland Art Gallery, a favourite.

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The beautiful Coromandel Coast where my mum and I grew up X

My mum would then take me to one of her favourite cafes in Parnell Village for hot chocolate and cake.

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The nostalgic charm of Parnell Village, Parnell, Auckland.

The first and last time I saw my mother experience body shaming we were about to get hot chocolates in Parnell Village. I remember this detail because I didn’t want a hot chocolate after our encounter with two-fashion retail sales woman. I wanted to leave and hold my mum.

The doorway into their store was abnormally narrow, I glided in and then mum confronted by the fact that she could not fit easily through the door turned herself sideways and shimmied inside.

My mum smiled and looked up at the two women, I smiled too.

Then mum said, 

‘gosh that was a tight squeeze, I almost couldn’t fit in’.

The sales woman from behind her counter said,

‘well perhaps people like you shouldn’t squeeze themselves in here. There is nothing for your size in here.’

They turned and grinned at one another and smiled without any warmth in their eyes.

 

I still have feelings of sadness in my heart recounting this. I remember being so unprepared for their raw and unmasked meanness, I couldn’t believe that well perfumed and well-dressed people would say such mean things out loud.

For a moment, I saw a vulnerability in my mother that made me want to come back one day and buy that shop and fire those women. I was 14 years old and I just wanted to protect my mum.

I don’t remember what my mum said but I remember the proud carriage of her posture as we left.

I wanted to leave Parnell Village but mum hushed me and sat me down in the café directly in front of their store and ordered my hot chocolate, her coffee and two French pastries.

We sat and my mother told me to enjoy our lovely waiter, our lovely steaming drinks, our pastries and the beautiful day.

A powerful lesson I learned that day from my mum.

Their meanness did not define us or how we enjoyed our day.

The meanness of the two fashion sales women was their problem and not ours.

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My mum and step dad pictured here together in their hometown of Coromandel

I love my mum out loud.

#family #growingup #prejudice #bodyimage #women #writing #nonfiction

I am blessed and grateful to be the daughter of a woman who has taught me how to remember to love myself fearlessly and out loud.

And to remember most importantly that with all the energy and strength I give to others to remember to love myself first.

I love my mum.

A Melbourne Bladesmith’s one-of-a-kind love at first Slice.

Melbourne bladesmith, Aidan Mackinnon loves nothing more than dedicating 15 hours or more to transforming a raw hunk of steel and a block of wood into a one-of-a-kind, high performance, heirloom knife.

And creating a one-of-a-kind, high performance knife is what fuels his dedication and uncompromising creativity for his craft.

Cut Throat Knives was founded in 2014, after Aidan fascinated with the ancient craft tried his hand at making a knife. It was love at first slice.Resin Knives

   When I started, I immediately knew this is what I wanted to do. It just made sense to me, it combined my interest of food with design, with working with my hands and then elements of art as well.

   I was hooked from day 1.

Each of Aidan’s hand sculpted knives are bought to life in his fingers and it is this collaboration between the raw materials – Aidan likes to work with Australian materials – and his own humanity that Aidan believes makes each piece flesh alive in quality and function.

In our long-distance interview, I caught up with Aidan as he was training with some Master bladesmiths in the United States whilst I was here in Melbourne.

I admit as an interviewee he couldn’t have been more generous with his time and personable with intimate details of Cut Throat Knives and a craft that he loves.

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1.Hi Aidan, you are currently in training with some bladesmiths in the United States, what so far has been the best learning you have received there?

Hi Simmon, the best thing that I’ve learnt is that I’ve demystified some of the aura around the celebrity knife makers. It can be easy when you work in a certain field to put people on pedestals and the knife making community is no different.

 It has been fantastic learning from some of the thought leaders in my field but also realizing that they are just makers like the rest of us.

2.Where did your fascination with knife making first begin?

 I’ve always been into food and through that you gain an appreciation for well-made tools. When I first moved out of home I bought a Global Knife and then slowly just kept on upgrading through the various factory made options.

Then about 5 years ago I came across the work of Cut Brooklyn and Blok Knives and just found the concept fascinating, that there were these guys making beautiful tools by hand.

After a little bit, I decided to learn how to make a knife and did a course in Australia and I really fell for the craft. Within 7 months I had launched Cut Throat Knives.

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3. At the beginning, tell me about the first knife you ever made?

The first Chef Knife I ever made was with Tharwa Valley Forge in Canberra, they are a blacksmithing and bladesmithing school.

 I hammered out a piece of steel under the tutelage and glued on a handle and shaped it. By anybody’s standards it was rough, even my own but I saw it as a stepping point. I still have it in my workshop acting as a reminder of how far I’ve come.

4. You believe the human element of crafting a handmade knife is of the utmost importance in creating the fine detail of a bespoke blade, how so?

Every element of a handmade knife is about attention to detail.

The lines of the blade are a little more refined, the blades are ground very thin, and often have complex compound grinds. The heat treatment is done to the highest standard possible (something that is difficult when factories are bulk heat treating blades).

 Finally, the choice of the materials in the handle and the contouring of the handle.
These improvements however slight stack up and produce a better end result.

As a knife maker, we have to be about pushing the envelope, getting the most out of the materials so that it is a lifetime purchase.

craftsman5. Will you share your design philosophy behind the crafting of your beautiful knives?

First and foremost, they are about function, if they don’t excel where they need to everything else is moot. Beyond that my goal is to create a kitchen heirloom, in that sense I’m trying to create an object that has an emotional connection to it.


For example I did a collaboration with a florist, where we lasered peonies onto the blade and had a handle that was resin cast that contained a single flower. Not only will it perform well, but for a florist this is a tool that takes their work passion and embodies it in a kitchen object.

6. What plans do you have for the future of Cut Throat Knives?

We are about to launch our own range of Damascus and San Mai blades. These will be complete bespoke custom work where we work with the customer to create a truly individual piece.

Leather and Knife

We are also revamping our leather range to include a greater selection of options.

We have some other projects in the works but for now they will remain a secret

7. And for all the budding bladesmiths, home chefs and others you have knife making classes starting soon. Very exciting, please tell me about them.

Knife making classes will be starting shortly.

They will be run as a two-day course where we teach the basics of knife making and sharpening with a heavy focus on kitchen knives.

8. The food industry is ever evolving and ever inspiring, from whom do you draw inspiration from?

 Within my own field; Blok Knives, Cut Brooklyn, Maumasi Fire Arts, David Lisch

Outside of my craft; the Dapper Dead, Sauer and Steiner, Kylie Kwong, Grafa Garden, Brooklyn Copper, Borough Furnace, Black Tide Tattoo, North St Botanical (the list is long)

Within the culinary world (this list is very, very long); Adam Perry Lang, Kenji Lopez Alt, Josh Niland, Dan Barber to name just a few.

 9. Why should people buy a handmade knife as opposed to a commercially made one?

 I would encourage people to enhance their cooking experience through good produce and good tools. Maybe that means buying one of my knives or maybe it is the cheap Santoku that you bought when you lived in Japan and every time you use it, it reminds you of your time there.

I think that there is something special about holding a well-made tool and knowing that there is a person and a story behind that object. If that connects with you and enhances your cooking, then absolutely I encourage you to give me a call.

Wow knife

  1. And finally, what is the best way I can take care of one of your beautifully made Cut Throat Knives?


There are a few elements to taking care of a well-made knife,

  1. Take care of the tip and the rest takes care of itself.
    When sharpening get it professionally sharpened, or use whetstones. Never use those pull through sharpeners, they are terrible.
  2. Store on a magnetic knife block or in a wooden knife block with the edge facing up (don’t rest the edge on the wood).
  3. Never just throw it in the draw.
  4. Hand wash only. It takes 5 seconds to clean the blade and dry it.

As Cut Throat Knives says on their website’https://www.cutthroatknives.com.au/

Quality has no substitute; throwaway culture deserves disposal; and time-honored skills are worthy of recognition.

Thanks Aidan!

Look forward to your return to Melbourne!

With images courtesy of Cut Throat Knives and Aidan Mackinnon.

#cutthroatknives #handcraftedknives #melbourneknifemaker #handmadeknives #artisan #melbourneartisan

Our loneliness kills( fast fiction, a 1 minute read)

In this carriage between platforms, how far will you travel not to return?

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Nobody looks on a subway train. In a carriage you stand packed with your loneliness, where you jostle and touch without introduction. Each one of you escaping hello.

Nobody looks on a subway train  – you look up and then look down.

For if you looked on a subway train you would see me then, my hunger waiting. 

Nobody looks for the beaded cling film above my lips, or the tell of the subway-sulphur-stench, the acrid miasma of a predator in waiting.

Beads of sweat stream from my ears to my tongue, an inherited trait not unlike that of your desert lizards. Theirs built for survival against the searing heat and a desert lack of moisture. 

As Is mine. But as you shiver blue lipped before me, I rejoice. For I feast in times of plenty and that time is now.

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But it’s your belief that you are a worthy opponent that entices me. All your awkward shivering a guise, you think. Your smile cleaves a path towards me, armed from a lifetime of exceeding the parochial aspirations of others. Tears undress the beat up pretty from your face, but your smile – your armoury – your smile hurts people.

     ”Ten thousand, hes’s dead”, you say.

You expect my retreat and I stay.

To survive you must retreat, but you stay.

monica

 ‘I smell weird’ you say.

My tongue worms from side to side, then smothers my lips thickening in my throat.

I am these things and more” I say. 

There’s weird and there’s smell weird and there are many freaks in here, and I am all these things and more, I say.

 

 

Thanks for reading X

All images with many thanks to Pinterest.

The Friend. Fiction/Thriller/love story

Ta da’  said Connie as she smacked the bouquet the size of a mini haystack into Elvi’s nose. Monkish heads bound in black tissue jostled, their fragrance bruised, brutal, raw like the choice to leave a lover  too-hard-to-let-go.

 Oriental lilies, Elvi’s favourites -Elvi hated them on sight

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‘Thank you’, Elvi said ‘they’re gorgeous.’

How the hell did Connie find her.

Elvi’s lips jutted forward and kissed Connie, twice – a life skill over developed.

Twice, one kiss on each side of her face, keep your friends close and your enemy’s closer flickered beneath Elvi’s lashes.

‘ You shouldn’t have,’ said Elvi.

Connie drew a shallow breath, then another.

‘To be honest, I didn’t,’ she said.

 I had to give them to you,’ she said, ‘you looked like a Christmas puppy all eager and fluffy waiting to be loved’.

‘They were here on your doorstep’.

 

‘They were on your doorstep’, the flowers quivered fresh.
Elvi pushed past Connie and squinted into the blazing sun,down the ocean road and back into town … ‘Fluffy and eager,’ she and Connie were never going to be friends.

The road was littered with the ant-trail pageantry of gleaming black 4WD’s. Expensive 4WD’s, driven by the dishevelled Nike branded army of kids who surfed every day and ate with double jointed credit cards.

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Who am I kidding, I’m looking for one 4WD, I’m looking for him.

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Elvi dragged her glazed eyes from the sunset – looking for him hurt.

Connie stood before her with narrowing eyes shutting the light retaining every detail of Elvi’s pain and escape.

Connie’s grin widened to the footsteps Elvi heard approaching behind her.

‘Jeff, long time no see stranger’,  said Connie. And she brushed past Elvi into Jeff’s arms.

‘I saw these flowers’ said Connie as her fingers danced across Elvi’s wrist and down towards the quivering stems. ‘I saw these flowers’ said Connie – the monk headed bouquet froze ‘well I told your wife here they were for her but you know I bought them for you.’ she said as she reached up and kissed him.

Jeff laughed, “Come in Connie, we’ve missed you.’ he said  Elvi felt the tenderness of his hand and turned from the shame of his love.

“Come ladies, let me fix us something sparkling’ he said.

Images from Pinterest and my picture gallery

A NAKED WOMAN IN PARIS.

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In Paris, alone, five stories’ high, naked and taut, she perched like a still life gargoyle come to life.

From across the street, behind a curtain, I watched her.

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In the shadows behind her a homicidal love nest of tossed bed sheets, knotted promises and abandoned clothing.

The spoils of a front line, where she the victor had prowled like a predator and won.

She swung from the rail of black wrought iron, a gothic mistress cloaked in night and cocked her head off centre, to survey the unsuspecting street walkers of the Marais. five balconies below.

Come to the edge, Life said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, Life said.
They came. It pushed them…
And they flew.”

― Guilliame Apollinaire French Poet

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Hidden, with my face caressed behind my silk curtain, I watched.

A finger of smoke drifted from her balcony, dragging me forward. I stepped forward from the darkness.

I could have stepped back, but I didn’t.

I was in Paris with my now ex husband and my darling daughter, both were asleep as I stepped out onto that balcony. 

I needed to stay.

In Paris alone on my balcony I watched her.

I could say my feet led me forward, but it was my fear.

The naked woman in Paris, her eyes unguarded, welcomed me and she waved.

I waved back.

The naked woman on the balcony unearthed me-parts I had lost.  Me-parts that in trying to conform had been broken.

I needed to wake up and reclaim myself, I needed some time to be disheveled, naked and alone.

 

Her smile licked across her face, her arms purred into a stretch above her head and with them lifted still, hands clasped together, she padded back to her bed and sunk beneath the folds of pillows and sheets.

Above the street, an amber light and ocean darkness slipped from her room and following her lead, I too turned and sunk deep into bed.

The naked woman on her Paris balcony undid me – glorious, naked and real – a woman unfurnished and open to her own freedom.

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The gentle roll of my now ex-husband’s snore and the vulnerable trust of my daughter’s love slept.

I knew I may no longer stay in my marriage.

It’s a true thing, once you have tasted the freedom of a truth, you can no longer pretend or accept it doesn’t exist.

Timing is everything when you have plans to reclaim yourself and exhausted like the naked woman in her room, I fell asleep.

My life was about to change again and I needed rest to be ready.

DCF 1.0
DCF 1.0

The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before- ALBERT EINSTEIN

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