Tag Archives: denzel washington

Denzel Washington Hits A New High With Fences

fences_teaser-posterWhen the discussion arises about the best actors who are working, nine times out of 10 the name Denzel Washington will be brought up. He has been loved ever since he came into American families homes on the series St. Elsewhere as Dr. Philip Chandler. His Star only continued to climb as he made the transition into films. St. Elsewhere ran from 1982-1988 and before the series ended Washington already had been nominated for his first Oscar and a year after the series ended he would have his first win. I could ramble on and on about Denzel and his place on the Mount Rushmore of acting, but I’m going to solely focus on his latest film in which he stars and directs.

Fences is adapted from the play which debuted in 1983 and won the7uoir0twclbi Pulitzer and Tony award in 1987. It is the story of time, place, and culture I have no experience or much knowledge about. Set in the 1950’s it is about a working class African American man and his life while raising a family and dealing with lost chances in his life. Denzel plays Troy Manson, a hard-working husband, and father who has only one mission in his life and that is to provide everything his family needs to survive and to make their way in the world. A former convict and Negro league baseball player, Troy has experienced first hand all that racial injustice can give to one man, and he is determined not to let that happen to his family, especially his son Cory. Cory is a high school student who has dreams of playing college football. Troy doesn’t want any part of Cory associated with sports because he feels his race will hold him back from being able to be successful. Because of this, he is afraid he will miss out on getting the education and skills he needs to get through and be a good man. Cory, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to feel some small sense of love from his father, and to make him proud. Showing love is something Troy doesn’t feel is necessary and that giving him what he needs physically is where his responsibility ends.

fences-f-01ne-galleryThere is a unique relationship between Troy and every character in the film from his wife to his disabled brother to his best friend Bono, wonderfully played by Stephen Henderson. Troy is a man who is slightly disgruntled at the world and wants it to be different but sees only the futility in trying to make that change even in himself.

There have been plans for years to adapt the play Fences into a feature film, in fact, the script for this project was written over ten years ago by the original author August Wilson even though he passed away in 2005. Fences is without question one of Denzel’s biggest passion projects he’s ever had, and it shows. From the perfect delivery of every line of dialogue to the feelings towards each character that the viewer feels. Each performance is pitch perfect on all fronts, and while Denzel is front and center on and off screen, it’s Viola Davis who breathes life into the picture. Viola has been an active force in film and now TV for quite some time now, but Fences is going to cement her place amongst Hollywoods elite. Look for Davis to receive her third Oscar nomination as well as collect her first win.

While it took so long for this film to get made, it needed Denzel Washington and this cast at this time to make it great. The complexity of the character needed Washington at 62 years old not 45; it was a perfect storm that brought this film out. While he may be more than worthy of a third Academy Award for his acting in Fences, it’s only because of the powerhouse performance of Casey Affleck that is keeping him from winning. Don’t count him out of the best director race either. Awards buzz aside this should be the film mentioned when talking about Washington and Davis deep into their careers.

The Magnificent Seven Ride Once Again

the-magnificent-sevenI have not been vague or unclear in my opinions of remaking films, let alone highly regarded and classic films. There is a very fine line that one walks when filming a remake. You leave the audience satisfied, or you risk making a complete joke of the entire final product.

Remakes and reboots have become all too familiar in recent years and, in my opinion, have too often left a bitter aftertaste. I do not get particularly excited when I see the retelling of a movie is in production and I usually have adamant opinions before ever even seeing the film. This year has been no different. Two Hollywood classics received the makeover treatment and views were flying about both before they were even released. The first was the Cecil B. DeMille epic, Ben-Hur which I have not seen and have no immediate plans to see for reasons of which I could never stop listing. The second remake is a remake of a remake, The Magnificent Seven.

62 years ago Akira Kurosawa released his masterpiece, Seven Samurai, the story of an eclectic bunch of samurai in 1586 who are hired to help save a village which is under attack. Seven Samurai is considered the blueprint for all action movies that have followed since. It changed the way classic hero/villain stories are told, filmed and presented. You have to figure that making an Americanized version would prove to be a relatively tall order. Six years after Seven Samurai was the release of the now western classic, The Magnificent Seven starring some of the biggest stars in movies with names like Yul Brenner, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Steve McQueen.

Fast forward 56 years later, and Antoine Fuqua takes on the magnificent-seven-2016-reviewsdaunting task of remaking a classic western which is a retelling of a masterpiece film. If Fuqua was looking to challenge himself, he chose the right project. He called upon two stars that he had worked with in the past with success. Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke team up again for the second time. They previously starred in Fuqua’s Training Day in which they both were nominated for an Academy Award and Washington won.

the-magnificent-seven-bartholomewThe town of Rose Creek is under the thumb of a wealthy and sinister industrialist, Bartholomew Bogue, with a small army of enforcers on his payroll. The residents of the town unable to make a living and have lost control of their city. Bogue flexes his muscle to try and force the town to sell their land. When they hold a meeting inside the town church to seek to see what can be done to stop him, Bogue then burns the church and kills the man who stands up to him, Matthew Cullen. Cullen’s widow heads out of town to look for help to force Bogue out. She stumbles across a skilled gunman named Sam Chisolm whom she witnesses take out a series of men, single-handedly. When she makes her case to Chisolm, he quickly turns her down. The widow Cullen continues to plead, and once Chisolm hears the name of Bogue, he then agrees to help her out. Chisolm travels the territory to put together the right team of outlaws, gunfighters, bounty hunters and other rag tags, that are just crazy enough to pull off such a challenge.

The crew arrive in town and begin helping the citizens to prepare for the fight of their life. Knowing casualties will occur, they are ready for the fight, knowing that the result will be worth the sacrifice. Before long, Bogue and his men arrive back in town prepared to push the residents of Rose Creek out and take their land. Soon a bloody battle of survival ensues that Bogue and his men thought they were ready for but soon realize that it will not be as easy as they anticipated.

The best way to look at this version of The Magnificent Seven is not the-magnificent-seven-18to take it too seriously and just enjoy it on its own. It is a well-made action western with all the elements that make it enjoyable. There is plenty of humor provided by Chris Pratt and a strong lead that Denzel Washington is well known. Ethan Hawke as the mysterious and troubled gunslinger provides depth to the characters.

If you cannot help but hold it up against the original Magnificent Seven or even worse hold it up against Seven Samurai, then you will no doubt be left severely disappointed. I choose to look at the fact that it took a good base of a story and told it in its way and a greater sense. It was able to do visually that the others just didn’t have the ability to. The gun shots are louder; the explosions are bigger, and the landscape is wider than in the previous films. All this said it does not compare to the first two films in its lineage and it would be unfair to do so. Just enjoy it as a fun blockbuster with all the right pieces.

2008’s A True Year Of Diversity And No Genre?

Any fan of movies new that it was just a matter of time before the visionaries that are the Coen brothers would one night rule the Oscar party and in 2008 (movies made in 2007) they did just that, taking best director(s) and best picture and best adapted screenplay all for No Country For Old Men. It truly was master Coen brothers movie, blending their sharp yet dark humor with fine acting and dialogue with characters not to soon be forgotten. So we examine was it the best movie of the year?

One thing is for sure, it was a banner year for nominations. In fact it was one of the years that may have lead to the expansion of the category.

One of the most visually stunning and at times harrowing films was Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of the Upton Sinclair novel Oil! With a lead role that solidified Daniel Day-Lewis as possibly this generations most talented actor. It had one of the most unique musical scores in recent memory which gave the movie a haunting quality and lead to a fear of Day-Lewis’ character. It’s truly a love it or hate it movie but it was without question well directed and acted therefore leading to it’s nomination.

Keeping in theme with the diversity of the movies on the list next is the legal thriller Michael Clayton with multiple nominations including best supporting actress winner Tilda Swinton. The twisting thriller surrounding corporate law firm Kenner, Bach and Ledeen features Tom Wilkenson as manic depressive attorney who turns on his own client in an effort to expose their greedy yet deadly practices while fellow attorney Michael Clayton played by George Clooney attempts to clean up yet another mess dumped on the partners while he can’t keep the aspects of his life in order. Featuring one of the last and great performances of Sydney Pollocks extensive and diverse career, it was an engrossing movie with razor sharp dialogue and confrontation scenes that left you enthralled from the first minute.

As always there is usually a great surprise and a movie that in a way is honored just by having it nominated. The light hearted story of Juno Macguff was this movie. with a heartfelt script of an all too common dilemma faced by too many young women today in the form of teenage pregnancy and that not everyone let’s it ruin their life and how it can become the joy of another’s. A breakthrough role for young Ellen Page and fine night for first time screen writer Diablo Cody.

As per usual the finely acted British film made it’s way in with the WWII love story, Atonement based on the best selling book. With a unique look at love it won the hearts of many women but not the Academy on that night.

Still many others didn’t receive the recognition they so justly deserved. Most notable was the Sean Penn helmed Into The Wild based on the true story and book by John Krakhauer. With a dynamite soundtrack exclusively by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder it tell about a man who gives up all earthly possessions to live in the Alaskan wild to leave off the land and truly be a happy person in nature.

Also of honorable mention was the directing debut of Ben Affleck who directed his brother in the movie based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, Gone Baby Gone. Back to a root he knows, south Boston, he showed the tough living and tough life of the locals as they rally around a local missing child.

Ridley Scott again teamed up with Russell Crowe in American Gangster alongside Denzel Washington as longtime Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas and Crowe as the detective who stumbles upon him and his massive operation and then becomes his attorney.

Also left to at least be mentioned was the Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Whalberg in We Own The Night about police and their fight on drugs in NYC in the early 80’s. Charlie Wilson’s War told the story of a playboy congressman who single handedly fought the Russian communist in a covert way to help the Afghan’s defeat them. Last was Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck in the western story The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford based on the novel which had elements of truth to it with a very visually engrossing and beautiful picture of the American west.

So what was the best? No doubt a case could be made for almost all these movies. With the diversity and quality in this year it seems only fitting that the duo that is the Coen brother’s would win since their movies are the most diverse and have been called a genre of their own. The biggest misstep by the Academy was not giving former bad boy, Sean Penn more recognition. If not a best picture nomination most deserving of a best director nod. It is a year rife with debate possibilities only the fans could decide the best for this year.