Unless you're into seeing the stars, what they're wearing, what they say on stage and the pageantry of the affair, watching the Oscars can be a mundane endurance contest if you're not familiar with at least some of the films nominated for the biggest awards.
I'd been monitoring our pay-per-view movie menu for weeks leading up to this year's Oscars, but the pickings were slim. Then my wife went on a 15-day work trip to the other side of the globe. I checked the PPV menu again and saw that some Oscar-nominated films were starting to pop up. But who wants to watch alone, right?
Well, I do. I relish being able to hit the 10-second rewind button on the remote whenever a scene or moment captivates me. Mostly, though, I prefer watching movies alone so I can preview them for my wife. We have differing tastes in films, you see, and I like to be able to give a movie a once-through to try to figure out if she'll dig it. Will she laugh? Cry? Will she identify with particular characters or be touched by certain scenes? But much of my advanced viewing is for the purposes of scoping out the movie's ending. Will my wife be amazed? Stunned? Will she cry sad tears, or happy ones? Or, and this is what I'm really trying to deduct, will it anger her? Will it leave her exasperated because the movie ends abruptly, leaving a bevy of unanswered questions hanging in thin air as the credits roll?
I appreciate such endings. My wife, she likes her movie endings neat and tidy, and preferably in happy fashion.
So I was going to watch some Oscar-nominated films while she was on her trip. But then she threw a monkey wrench in my plans when she notified me after her flight 13 time zones away that she'd watched three such films on the plane. I had work to do.
After watching some separately and then together upon her return, I've come up with what I'm calling the “2018 Post-Oscar Movie Primer." I'll offer a brief review, and I'll conclude with a rating of the ending on a scale from 1 to 10, with "Mike's Ending Rating" and then "The Wife's Ending Rating."
• The Shape of Water: If you enjoyed director Guillermo del Toro's 2006 film Pan's Labyrinth, you’ll dig this flick. Set during the Cold War, it's a visual stunner, and its cast is full of actors with faces you know but names you don’t. It's the most unique love story you'll see unfold possibly ever.
Mike's Ending Rating: 8
The Wife's Ending Rating: 8.5
• Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri: The actors are on the top of their game here. I'll admit I betrayed my typical movie reaction formula when the plot veered in an unexpected direction near the end – a development I normally revel in – and it kind of threw me off. It left me mildly confused, and somewhat frustrated.
Mike's Ending Rating: 5
The Wife's Ending Rating: 6
• Lady Bird: This one eclipsed my expectations. A story about a struggling family and a head-strong high school senior daughter with big college dreams, I knew my wife would be sucked in. Laurie Metcalf is hardcore as the frazzled mom who loves her daughter plenty, but messes with her head.
Mike's Ending Rating: 8.5
The Wife's Ending Rating: 6.5
• The Florida Project: If you think your life is grim, watching this film will make you appreciate everything you have. A young mom and her young daughter live week to week in a Florida hotel, and while each day brings slivers of hope, everything is down-sliding toward bleak realities and outcomes.
My wife started to watch The Florida Project on her flight home, but stopped about a half-hour in, concluding it wasn’t for her. Considering the final scene, I think she made a wise choice because it would have frustrated her to no end.
Mike's Ending Rating: 9
The Wife's Ending Rating (had she actually seen it): 0.5
• I, Tonya: This retells the story of 1994 Olympic figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, in a pseudo-documentary, satiric style. Even though the story is mostly pathetic, on a weird level it amounts to a semi-pleasant trip down memory lane for the viewer. Tonya's mom, played by Allison Janney, who earned her best supporting actress Oscar, makes Lady Bird's Metcalf mom character look like June Cleaver.
The film remains relatively faithful to the facts, but if one of the dopes responsible for hurting Kerrigan, Shawn Eckhart, was really that dumb and delusional...wow.
The scandal helped usher America into our current tabloid-driven society that’s obsessed with pop culture and revels in the misdeeds, sorrows and tragedies of the famous and infamous. It's notable that just as the Harding/Kerrigan saga was wrapping up, it was unceremoniously thrust into the background by a titillating scandal infinitely larger in size: One of the final scenes shows Eckhart watching a small TV screen, showing a white Ford Bronco being pursued at slow speeds down a California highway.
Mike's Ending Rating: 7
The Wife's Ending Rating: 6
• Downsizing: This film didn't get much Oscar attention, but its premise involving people and entire societies being shrunk to only a few centimeters in size in order to help save the planet raised eyebrows.
But the premise is so ambitious, a two-hour movie doesn't seem like enough to give it the attention it merits, to really explore it. Downsizing would have been better served as a six-part TV event. Then various moral dilemmas and other monumental issues that would undoubtedly arise in such a reality wouldn’t have to be introduced, addressed and resolved in a single scene.
It’s a disappointing film, mostly in the way it underwhelms. The ending is flimsy, shallow, and borderline lazy.
Mike’s Ending Rating: 4
The Wife’s Ending Rating: 7