Tag Archives: Viola Davis

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.

Billy Crystal An “Artist” When It Comes To Oscar Night

Whether your ballots are busted or you were happy to see all the winners, one things for sure The Academy Awards are done and handed out and the opinions are flooding thru every form of media available. With a few surprises as always, the heavy favorites won what most everyone expected.

Billy Crystal looked at home back at the helm of Hollywoods biggest night and he did not disappoint. He gave the show a flow and grace with a few jabs that were very funny and yet no one could be offended. He has just enough clout, class and polish to be the best host since Johnny Carson made it an art form.

The show truly started with a bang when Sasha Barron Cohen graced the red carpet as the dictator, the title character from his forthcoming movie. During his interview he made an uncomfortable reference to his “friend” Saddam Hussein and carried an urn which was supposed to be the ashes of Kim Jung Il which he proceeded to dump all over a shocked Ryan Seacrest. It was a great moment that so many people across America loved seeing. This effectively ended his stint on the red carpet while Seacrest got vacuumed off during a commercial. The comedy wasn’t as controversial for the rest of the show but there were enough good moments, peaking with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifinakis presenting best song in hysterical fashion.

On to the awards! Early on it appeared to be Hugo’s night while it seemed to hoard a lot of the technical awards. The biggest surprise, if you can really call it that, was when Woody Allen collected yet another Oscar for his mantle. Allen was one of the few to beat the artist in a nice win for best original screenplay. The Descendants only walked away with one statue as well winning for best adapted screenplay. Moneyball was totally shutout as was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. the Help won only one award as well when the strong favorite, Octavia Spencer took home best supporting actress.

Christopher Plummer became the oldest actor to take home an Oscar at 82 years old just 2 years younger than Oscar himself as he made reference to in his acceptance speech, for which he also seemed to be given a time leeway.

It was after all of this that The Artist then took over. First on the checklist was Michel Hazanavicius being awarded best director beating out 4 powerful and great film makers by the names of Allen, Scorsese, Malick and Payne. Jean Dujardin then went on to beat Hollywoods virtual “man of the year” in George Clooney for best actor.

The Artist wouldn’t win best actress but most likely only because they didn’t have a nominee. Nearly 30 years since her last Oscar win, Meryl Streep would be back accepting the award over her friend Viola Davis and a, dare I say, disappointed Michelle Williams who, although I’m sure was very happy for Meryl, had a look of disappointment on her face. I must say my heart broke a little for Viola as she poured every ounce she had into her role and it meant so much to her.

The final and most coveted award, not surprisingly went to The Artist. It was the first movie to win best picture in black and white since Schindler’s List. It was very much the type of picture the Academy loves, different, well acted and made with a director with a unique vision. It may not have been the BEST overall movie, but it non the less was very much to Oscar’s liking. It was a fine evening with no real shocking or controversial moments other than, did we see Jennifer Lopez’s nipple? It’s a topic for debate but it was a night truly for Hollywood and whether or not the people who you wanted to win, did or not, it was a great show and that’s what Hollywood does best.

The Artist Steals The Show At The Spirit Awards

Independent film has really become a film and awards season force in the recent years. The Film Independent Spirit Awards for quite some time has been the ANTI Oscars and yet it seems that the Oscars has finally caught up to what independent film fans have known for a long time and that is, money and marquee names don’t necessarily make a great movie. Yesterday the independent got together and honored it’s best and things went as they have for most of the award season with The Artist playing the star.

It’s a night that is what it should be, a big party and celebration. The winners are quick to remember that without independent film most of them wouldn’t have gotten their start.

Best Supporting Actor is one step away from being pretty much a clean sweep for Christopher Plummer in the Beginners but it was non the less nice to see people like John Hawkes get much deserved recognition for their work.

Shailene Woodley took home best supporting actress in a much deserved win for her very powerful role in The Descendants as the daughter who has to help her dad through the most topsy turvy time in his life.

It was so great to see Michelle Williams finally get honored for her incredible portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. It’s been a year where she has had to stand in the shadow of Meryl Streep and Viola Davis when she deserves to be mentioned right next to those women.

The Artist then continued it’s onslaught on award season when Jean Dujardin won best actor over a very under rated and great acting job by Michael Shannon in the very epitome of an independent movie, Take Shelter.

The Artist rolled the rest of the night with Michael Hazanavicius winning best director over the king of independent film and one who continues to be a force in that world, Woody Allen.

And the final award once again went to The Artist which most likely will take the big prize on Sunday.

 

Emma Stone Leads A Powerhouse Cast In The Help

It is without question that Emma Stone is one of Hollywood’s brightest stars on the rise. Her role in the Oscar nominated movie, The Help does nothing but prove that. While she may be overshadowed by the brilliant performances of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, she non the less proves her worth.

She first came to light in the incredibly funny Greg Mottola movie, Superbad alongside Oscar nominee, Jonah Hill. She has since gone on to be nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in the somewhat cheesy teen movie Easy A.

Her ability to choose diverse and unique roles is what has catapulted her to he front of the line. The Help is no doubt her shinning achievement thus far. It was a courageous challenge to take the role in a movie that has brought both high acclaim and scornful criticism.

The Help is the story of an aspiring journalist in 1960’s Mississippi, which was the center of the segregated world at the time, and her mission to tell the story of well to do families maids who at the time were a majority of the african american race. Met with much reluctancy she does convince two of the local maids to help her start telling their story. After a series of events, nearly all the local maids begin to open up and help her tell their stories. After publishing their stories in a book it sets the town a buzzing. Her book is a true success and she is offered a job in NYC but wants to stay in Mississippi but is then convinced she needs to go.

The movie is a reflection on the ignorance and mistreatment that went on at a pivotal time in American history. It is a fictional story that is no less powerful just because it may not be completely true. It in no way is meant to reflect negatively on the black race in any way. It is however a story that needs to be told so that we as a society may never forget the misguided treatment of others and never repeat our horrid mistakes.

However it is a story that can’t be told without striking a nerve on some in a negative way. As with every movie or story, there is no pleasing everyone, people will find a negative view and hold on to it. Some may ask why we need to be reminded of such horrible times and actions and may say that it will only promote others to act that way or have those negative views. This could not be further from the truth. It is the same reason that we learn of these things in school or that Holocaust stories are still told to this day. It is only so that we may not have the unfortunate result of repeating history that we continue to learn.

The Help is a powerful and wonderful film if looked at in the correct and positive way. With a cast that without a doubt is one of the finest acting ensembles in recent memory. With Viola Davis proving she may be the best working actress right now and Octavia Spencer breaking out in her role as Millie, The Help may not win the best picture of the year but there is no doubt it very well is one of the best.

2009 Was A Milliondollar Year!

2008 (awards handed out in 2009) is one of my favorite years in recent memory for motion picture, but that’s just a personal opinion. It saw the loss of a great great talent prematurely and another walked away at his peak because of what he felt was the corruption of Hollywood. It had high spots too, including the ressurection of a one time monster of the cinema. With great movies a even better stories being told there was something for everyone that year.

Taking home the coveted best picture was Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, the heart warming story of a young man’s early life struggles and his desire to have a better life and find the girl he has always loved since he was a young boy. Set in the poverty stricken city of Mumbai, young Jamal is forced to remeber the highs and low’s of his unfortunate childhood while on the Indian version of the game show, Who Want’s To Be A Millionaire. With an ending that manages to be both triumphant and tragic at the same time it moved audiences of all kinds. Truly one of the high points of Danny Boyle’s career who had previously been somewhat of an indie icon. Was it the best picture? Well it had some fierce competition.

As it’s fellow nominees, Slumdog had to compete with the likes of another banner year for Sean Penn with his bio pic Milk and Kate Winslet who finally got her due recognition with a best actress statue for the powerful Holocaust drama, The Reader. Not to mention David Fincher re-teaming with Brad Pitt in an adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Finally Ron Howard returned with thunder with the highly dramatic Frost/Nixon.

But what was left of the list may have been just as good or better! We almost saw  a superhero movie make the list of nominees with the most successful film of the year, Christopher Nolan’s follow up to his re-boot of the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight. No doubt Dark Knight was successful because everyone wanted to catch one last glimpse of the great Heath Ledger who passed away suddenly, shortly after filming. His depiction of The Joker will without question go down as one of the best and most terrifying villain roles and best all around acting performances in the history of cinema. Ledger would win the best supporting actor award posthumously to rousing applause from the audience.

While everyone honored and mourned Ledger that year they without question welcomed back one of the all time bad boys and former great talent and heart throb, Mickey Rourke showed everyone, he still has the talent. He would sadly lose to Sean Penn but The Wrestler is no doubt the feather in the cap of Rourke and will be a film and performance that will transcend time and generation for years to come.It was the moving and raw film from director Darren Arinofsky who made this gem on a show string budget and pulled out acting from it’s three principles not to soon be forgotten. With all due respect to Penn this was and should have been the crescendo to Rourke’s return.

Also left off the list was the incredibley real and well acted, Revolutionary Road. The story of a 1950’s couple struggling to live the life they believe they are expected to and the difficult decisions they are forced to make. This movie was billed as the reunion of DiCaprio and Winslet for the first time since Titanic but it was anything but. The arguing scenes felt so real they could make you almost feel uncomfortable for watching.

That brings us to the religious, controversial Doubt. Based on the play by John Patrick Shanley who rose to fame with his script Moonstruck in 1987. re-written and directed by Shanley powerhouses Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Viola Davis who made everyone turn and take notice for the first time. It was a movie that left you questioning how we judge other’s based on the sins of other’s. Hoffman and Streep showdown in memorable fashion that could even leave one jaw open.

So what was the best picture? Slumdog was a fine movie and no doubt worthy of it’s nomination but it may be a cas of outstanding campaigning on behalf of the studios.

With a low budget, no studio faith and almost no one backing it, The Wrestler had nobody but fans and critics to fight for what was one of the most surprising and moving movies of the year. It may have also been the sort of people who judged the movie before seeing that gave it no hope. This was no wrestling movie it was a story of the human spirit and no matter how much it wants to, it doesn’t always triumph.

I have no problem saying I believe The Wrestler was the best picture of the year but anyone could make a case for any of the fine, near perfect films which is why I prefaced this commentary by mentioning what a great year it was for film.

“Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close” Comes Up Short

It has been almost 10 1/2 years since the devastating attacks on 9/11. In that time stories both fact and fiction, have been in abundance in print, film and by word of mouth. These stories have been told for numerous reasons. They have showed us those who were courageous on that day. They showed us those who lost love ones. They showed us miraculous survivals and so on and so on. Some have been told specifically just to tug at our heart strings and some so that we may never forget the horror of that dark day.

The trouble with “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close” is that it doesn’t really have any of these identities. It does have frequent moments aimed directly at your heart and emotions which give it the feeling that they are there to pull a cry from the audience. From what I observed by the few that were in the theater and what I could hear it was wildly successful at this.

The movie is, at it’s center about a painfully shy boy’s love for his father whom he lost on 9/11and his fear that he will forget and feel further away from his father the longer he has been gone. He discovers a key in a vase and, based on the adventures that he and his late father used to embark on, he feels this is his only chance to continue to feel close to his father. He believes this is the ultimate adventure and that the key will bring him the ultimate reward for his efforts from his father. He befriends an old silent man that is renting a room from his grandmother whom he unwittingly recruits to help with his search.

Without giving too much away the movie has a very empty feeling and ending. With a completely unbelievable story line of a boy of no more than 10 years old spending every weekend exploring the entire NYC area alone without taking public transportation and showing up at complete strangers homes to find out what and if they know anything about his newly found key.

The boy is without question in almost every single frame of film in the movie and features very basic and limited performances from the supporting cast which include Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Max Von Sydow, Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright. The stand out is Academy Award nominee Max Von Sydow who doesn’t utter a word his entire time on screen but it is by far not his best performance of his career. Sandra Bullock does not even come close to her Oscar winning performance from The Blind Side. It’s not completely her fault, with basic lines like, “ A man flew a plane into a building, and I don’t know why!”

Make no mistake it is still a sensitive issue and always will be for those who lived threw it and were in any way affected by it. The trouble is there hasn’t been one, blow your mind, good, movie about September 11th and the ones that have been well done and decent pictures have almost been too disturbing and hard to watch again (See United 93) which is a key factor to making a lasting and great film.

If you have a sensitive disposition and cry fairly easily and are looking for a good cry, then this is the movie for you. It’s everything sentimental that it’s supposed to be without the great substance that one would hope. It’s a 3 star movie disguised as an Oscar contender. It pushed every correct button to garner the nominations that it got. It’s a soft fluffy piece that will appeal to house wives with 2.5 kids but if you are looking for a solid well made movie that will leave a lasting impression this is not for you.