The movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” was filmed in and around the Jackson County town of Sylva, NC.
The movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” was filmed in and around the Jackson County town of Sylva, NC.

Entertainment

Oscar nominations are out, and films with NC connections will be at the big dance

By David Menconi

dmenconi@newsobserver.com

January 23, 2018 10:17 AM

The “Three Billboards” award-season juggernaut continues, with an impressive showing in Academy Award nominations announced Tuesday morning.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which was filmed in and around Sylva and other parts of western North Carolina in 2016, rang up a total of seven Oscar nominations, including best picture.

Meanwhile, Emily V. Gordon, a Winston-Salem native and alumnus of UNC-Greensboro, was nominated for best original screenplay for co-writing “The Big Sick” with husband Kumail Nanjiani. The film has been a critical darling since it was released, telling the true story about how Gordon and Nanjiani encountered her unexpected illness in the early days of their relationship.

The screenplay nod is the only one for the film.

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“My Nephew Emmett,” created by Kevin Wilson Jr., a New York filmmaker with Durham roots, is nominated for Live Action Short Film. Wilson is a graduate of Hillside High School and N.C. A&T University.

Kumail Nanjiani, left, kisses Emily V. Gordon, a Winston-Salem native, as they accept the award for best comedy for “The Big Sick” at the 23rd annual Critics’ Choice Awards Jan. 11, 2018, in Santa Monica, Calif. Both are nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Chris Pizzello Invision/AP

As for “Three Billboards,” which has continued to rack up other awards wins, the film’s nominations tally includes:

▪ Best picture

▪ Frances McDormand for best actress

▪ Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell for best supporting actors

▪ Martin McDonagh for best original screenplay

▪ Carter Burwell for best original score

▪ Jon Gregory for film editing

The Oscars will be presented March 4, with Jimmy Kimmel hosting.

About the only negative surprise for “Three Billboards” was that McDonagh did not get a director nod to go with his screenwriting nomination.

It’s also unusual for the same film to yield multiple acting nominations in the same category. Harrelson and Rockwell are both nominated for supporting actor in “Three Billboards,” which might hurt their chances by splitting the vote.

Overall, “The Shape of Water” led the field with 13 nominations, including best picture, Guillermo Del Toro for director, Sally Hawkins for lead actress, Richard Jenkins for supporting actor, Octavia Spencer for supporting actress and numerous technical categories.

“Get Out” also picked up four nominations including best picture, Jordan Peele as director and Daniel Kaluuya as leading actor.

Daniel Kaluuya in a scene from, “Get Out.” Kaluuya was nominated for an Oscar for best actor on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. The 90th Oscars will air live on ABC on Sunday, March 4.
Universal Pictures AP

McDormand has swept most of the awards this season for leading actress. The leading-actress Oscar should be an intriguing battle between her, “The Post” star Meryl Streep and Sally Hawkins from “The Shape of Water.”

While not nominated directly, a number of alumni from UNC School of the Arts are part of various nominated films – most notably Lucas Hedges, who appeared in two best picture nominees, “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards.” Hedges also shared in the Screen Actors Guild Award that “Three Billboards” picked up Sunday night.

Stephen McKinley Henderson, another UNCSA alumnus, also appeared in “Lady Bird.” Natalia Cordova-Buckley voiced a character in “Coco,” nominated for best animated feature. Dylan Arnold appeared in “Mudbound,” which is nominated in four categories, including adapted screenplay.

Given the film’s awards-season performance leading up to the Oscars, “Three Billboards” looked like a heavy Academy Award favorite. After picking up multiple wins at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards earlier this month, it won three Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday night.

Inevitably, that success has led to something of a critical backlash over its racial politics, or lack thereof.

The film is about a mother’s quest (McDormand) to push law enforcement to investigate her daughter’s rape murder case. A blunt message to the police chief is painted on three billboards.

Twitter has been full of naysayers taking issue with its racial politics (or lack thereof) as “the movie whose awards success is seen as emblematic of America’s various ills.”

I'm actually thrilled Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won the Golden Globe for best picture because it gives us an excellent opportunity to remember that there is no justice in this world and most people are dumb sheep with trash opinions.

— Jake Weisman (@weismanjake) January 8, 2018

All the same, “Three Billboards” has been a boost for North Carolina’s film industry. A $3.2 million state grant helped lure the filmmakers to Jackson and Buncombe County, resulting in more than 350 jobs, according to the North Carolina Film Office.

After the Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday, a billboard went up in Sylva that read, “THIS BILLBOARD DESERVES AN OSCAR.”

“Three Billboards” billboard in Sylva.
Photo by Gary Ayers

Made for an estimated $15 million, “Three Billboards” has grossed more than $53 million worldwide, according to the Internet Movie Database.

Based on attention from the film, Visit North Carolina recently put together a three-day trip planner for visitors to “explore authentic locations from ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” It includes spots in Sylva, Dillsboro, Black Mountain, Asheville and Maggie Valley where various scenes were filmed.

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi