Review: Richard Jewell

In 1996 I was 16 years old living in the city that was hosting the world for the Centennial Olympiad. This is the greatest sports spectacle the world sees only every four years. I was in the famed Centennial Park the night before the bombing took place. As much as the city was enamored with the games themselves, after the bombing the manhunt and subsequent trial by media of security guard Richard Jewell.

Clint Eastwood’s latest film looks at that fateful night and the FBI’s awful attempt to turn a hero into a villain. Richard Jewell was an awkward man who lived with his mother and desperately wanted to be a member of law enforcement. He took his desire a bit too seriously at times and tended to make those around him feel uncomfortable. Jewell soon landed a security job during the Olympic games at Centennial Park when one fateful night he noticed an unattended backpack and followed all the protocol despite those around him telling him he was being over ambitious.

On July 27, 1996 the bomb Jewell discovered detonated killing one woman and injuring 111 people. Had Jewell not done what he felt was best those numbers would have been drastically worse. For 3 days Jewell was a national hero and all over the media until a desperate FBI investigation team began looking at him as the suspect instead of the one man who did what was right. When ambitious reporter Kathy Scruggs discovers the FBI’s suspicions and writes a few scathing pieces in The Atlanta Journal Constitution the world soon sees an awkward man desperate for attention not the hero he actually was.

It took months of scrutiny and deep investigation until Jewell was exonerated by the FBI, but the damage had already been done to his reputation and all people saw was the man suspected of the bombing. Jewell died at 44 years old from complications of diabetes. Kathy Scruggs, the AJC journalist also had a tumultuous life and died very young from an addiction problem. The strange and troubling lives of these two may be the most fascinating part of the whole story but one that is only known because of one deranged man’s desire for chaos.

The film that Eastwood has made really gives you a palpable feel for the frustration of wrongfully accusing Jewell. It also shows a desperate law enforcement team looking to have a conviction regardless who it is all just to save face. It gives a man his due despite the fact it is more than 20 years overdue. The film shows that some good citizens do exist and sometimes people do the right thing simply because it is the right thing. Jewell did what he did because it was what was supposed to be done not for the notoriety that came with it.

The film is well done with very good acting by the entire cast which includes two Oscar winners and a Golden Globe winner. It may not rack up any awards and just a handful of nominations but it’s an intriguing film that will make you feel sorry for this man and bring sadness for a time when a city was on the world stage and was remembered for this tragedy and not what was one of the greatest Olympic Games ever.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri Review

This was Published on December 29, 2017. Frances McDormand has quietly become one of the most reliable actresses working today. I would dare say her consistency is above even Meryl Streep. She doesn’t churn out movie after movie. She isn’t exactly a marquee draw, but every time she makes a movie she MAKES the film. She has four Oscar nominations to her name and one win for her brilliant turn in Fargo. She is on her way to her fifth nomination and very possibly her second win for her roll in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Despite being married to one of the brilliant Coen brothers and often being in their films, she has no reason to think that is the reason for the respect she receives.

McDormand’s latest film is no exception to her long list of exceptional performance. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an emotional yet tender and look at personal tragedy and loss. McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a mother who lost her daughter to rape and murder just seven months before the start of the film. Fed up with the lack of progress in her daughter’s case by the local police, she rents three billboards on the edge of town and leaves a message for everyone to read and especially Chief of police played by Woody Harrelson.

When the city is somewhat divided into her methods, she is unwavering in pushing things to the limit to get the results she needs for closure. Mildred is still dealing with an abusive ex-husband played by the highly underrated John Hawkes. With a hotheaded police officer played by the ALSO underrated Sam Rockwell, with a tarnished record harassing her at every turn she seems to be fighting everyone to get closure on the death of her daughter. Mildred goes through a series of events that increase the resistance she is facing even from her own son, only to find help from the least likely of people.

Despite its unconventional title, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is a masterfully crafted story lead by its incredible cast and script. The pacing of the movie is only one of its many significant aspects. The humor that accompanies it is not out of place by any means and does not at all diminish the seriousness of the central theme of the story. Writer/Director Martin McDonagh has a history of mixing these qualities well with past films such as In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths ( also with the great Sam Rockwell).

One of the great things about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is seeing a director come into his own and get such top performances out of his cast. Highly overlooked in the cast is Game Of Thrones star Peter Dinklage’s performance. Although a relatively minor role he plays the part of a somewhat outcast just trying to fit in and express to Mildred that he has feelings for her and even understands her anger and bitterness at the world, something she never indeed recognizes in him.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is a movie that demands more than one viewing, not because of missed details but because of the different emotions, one feels during viewing that it takes more than one watch to be able to ingest all of it. The films have already garnered six Golden Globe nominations and be prepared for it to grab just as many Academy Award nominations and don’t at all be surprised to see McDormand and Sam Rockwell accept gold that night.

McDormand will have serious competition from Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie but make no mistake she is as deserving as any one of them to take the prize. At this point the only competition Sam Rockwell faces, in my opinion, is Christopher Plummer for All The Money In The World and Plummer’s ability to pull off what he did in the amount of time that he did is what gives him the advantage. I would love to see Sam Rockwell win and I’d be very curious to see the reception he would get, being as liked and respected as he is. It would make for a beautiful moment for him.

Sam Rockwell Finally Got The Credit He Deserved

I wrote this article over years ago on my old blog,  and it was so nice to see Sam Rockwell finally get the recognition he deserves on Oscar night a few months ago.

Some years ago I remembered having a conversation with a co-worker about who is/was the greatest guitarist ever. He was convinced that the best guitarist was some guy who none of us had ever met and who wasn’t and isn’t famous and never will be. I argued with him on this point but as time has gone by I believe he is right. I think the same may be right for actors. The best actor is probably some man or woman doing small theater in a nowhere town who doesn’t have the confidence to try and make it big. That’s not to say there aren’t some outstanding working actors. It’s also fair to say that some actors, including famous ones, don’t get their due justice.
The focus here is to bring awareness to people who do and do not know who Sam Rockwell is and just how underrated his acting is. In all fairness to Sam, there have been unwise choices, but the great ones outweigh those. There are times that he acts for the love of acting or even for the experience of who he may be working with or for the enjoyment of playing the character he’s encompassing.

Most people first caught a glimpse of Rockwell in the Tom Hanks movie The Green Mile as Wild Bill Wharton. That same year he was in the cult comedy Galaxy Quest as Guy Fleegman. A couple of years later he would make a small appearance in Jon Favreau’s indie hit Made. It may have been a small role, but it was a hilarious and memorable scene as the hotel clerk. After a couple of shorts films and some very indie movies he met George Clooney and eventually won one of his most defining roles. Clooney was about to embark on his first directing project, an adaptation of the Chuck Barris autobiography, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. Rockwell won the prized role of game show host and creator Chuck Barris. He nailed it. With one of the best acting performances of the year, he made you feel like you were watching The Gong Show all over again and played the role of a CIA assassin to perfection.

He next teamed up with Nicolas Cage and Allison Lohman in the con man comedy, Matchstick Men. He career appeared to be on the rise. Then, as happens so many times, taking a role in what would be an epic failure. The highly anticipated adaptation of a beloved sci-fi classic novel and British mini-series, A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. The moved fell to critical and financial dismay. The next couple years would be commercially lean for Rockwell, and he wouldn’t grab notable recognition until he was in the independent western movie, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. He would play Robert Ford’s brother, Charley. The one trouble with the Jesse James film wasn’t critical acclaim or poor box office numbers because it exceeded everyone’s expectations in those areas. Unfortunately for him, Casey Affleck was so good he stole the show from Rockwell and received his first Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. Rockwell was back in the shadows as fast as he came out. Rockwell was every bit as good as Affleck just going unnoticed.
He continued to work and took a smaller but critical role the next year in the critically acclaimed Ron Howard project, Frost/Nixon based on the Broadway play. Once again acting out-shined Rockwell with stellar scenes that are instructional videos on great acting, between Frank Langella and Michael Sheen.

Returning to the indie scene, he tackled his best role and by far his most challenging. The low budget sci-fi thriller, Moon, seemed doomed from the start. With a budget of only 5 million and filmed during the writers strike and at the helm was a first time director, it seemed destined to fail. The pressure weighed all on Rockwell’s shoulders. With at least 95 percent of the scenes being him alone talking to a computer voice only rock-solid performance could save the movie. As far as indie movies go? It was a smash success! Sam had done it. He had made the film without question with a once in a lifetime performance. Sadly again not many knew about Moon nor did the awards committees see fit to honor the significant role he made.

Rockwell has worked steadily including roles in Iron Man 2 and Cowboys and Aliens working with his good friend Jon Favreau. We can only hope that one day Mr. Rockwell will get his due justice, meanwhile keep your eyes open for what could be his next great performance.