January 17, 2017

Lost Reviews Part 2: Fences and Hidden Figures

As promised here's my last two lost reviews combined in one post.  No more outside scheduling attempts for me.
For your perusal my take on Fences and Hidden Figures
Every now and then you'll watch a preview and know that is going to be a powerful must see movie.  I made sure to tell my son to check this movie out after I first saw the preview; it became our must see movie when he was home on leave.  
Fences was originally a play, in fact it won 4 awards at the 1987 Tonys  for Best Play, Best Actor (James Earl Jones), Best Featured Actress (Mary Alice), and Best Director (Llyod Richards). I was glad to hear that Ms E read the play in high school. 
 You know within a few moments that what you're watching has been adapted from the stage for the big screen.  I don't mean that in a negative way at all, it's just that the characters are such strong central figures it wouldn't matter if the locations and other settings were live or a backdrop.  Plus there's no extra background noise filling the silences distracting you from what you've heard.
Denzel Washington not only stars in this drama but directed it as well.  He truly understands how to get great performances out of his actors as the other two movies he directed, Antwone Fisher (2002) and The Great Debators (2007) were nominated for numerous awards. Fences has been nominated at every major award program so far.
Troy and Rose Maxson (Viola Davis) are doing the best they can in 1950's Pittsburgh.  Troy brings home his pay every Friday, hangs out with his friend Bono, looks after his disabled veteran brother Gabriel, watches the games at the neighborhood bar and is building his wife Rose a fence. A star in the Negro Leagues Troy missed out on a Major League Baseball career because he was too old when they started accepting black players.  Over twenty years this lost dream has created a hole in him that his pride and stubbornness help maintain.  Rose gives all she has to him yet learns that this wasn't enough as he's had an affair and is going to be a father.  Furious he's done this to her family, that his three children only share one parent yet she has to love them all; especially since that is one thing he can't give any of them.  Troy's relationships with his two sons are custodial at best, doing all he can to antagonize them when possible. When the mother of his new daughter dies, Rose takes her in quoting the adage: You can't visit the sins of the father on the child.  Rose is now taking a different role as head of this family.
I found myself hanging on every word Denzel was speaking, he filled the screen with his presence.  However in the few scenes he wasn't in Viola Davis didn't allow any empty space.  These two powerful actors gave performances that left nothing behind.  I wonder how exhausting this play must have been for James and Mary every night;  Denzel and Viola did them proud.
5/5 Crowns


Hidden Figures

Another great movie based on true events. We all know the space story, USA had to be the first to get a
 man on the moon.  Well we had to get him into space first and Russia had already done that.  The stories of the brave men who gave their lives for this scientific achievement have been told in books, televisions series and many movies.  The story of how they got there, the people behind it, the fact that there were women involved that story is rarely told.  Now we get to see how despite everything going on in the 1960s there were women, incredibly brave, intelligent women, who were willing to break through race and sex boundaries to provide their very best to get us into space.
This is a movie I think schools need to add to their curriculum as soon as possible.   While every "Based on True Story" movie takes license, such as Kevin Costner's character, this movie can do nothing but inspire a generation to look beyond any barrier standing in their way to achieve all they can and contribute to something greater than themselves. (BTW check out this site it compares History and Hollywood)
Octavia Spencer is just one of my favorites, I'll go see anything just because she's in it.  Then add Kevin Costner and Jim Parsons and I'm going to be hard to disappoint.  I didn't realize that I've been watching Taraji P. Henson for years (Benjamin Button, Larry Crowne) ~ now I'm going to be looking for her.  Rounding out the three main characters is recording artist Janelle Monae trust me acting isn't just her hobby.
Katherine Johnson(Henson), Dorothy Vaughn(Spencer),and Mary Jackson(Monae) were part of a team known as human computers.  They were the ones performing and checking the equations generated by the engineers at NASA.  Unfair pay scales, segregated bathrooms and lunchrooms are just some of the hurdles that should diminish their abilities yet their commitment to the success of the projects are what drives them.  Despite the inevitability of losing their jobs to computers (we see IBMs being installed), not being able to obtain the required degree for advancement and the sexual as well as racial discrimination these woman kept pushing boundaries.  They refused to accept the limitations others put on them.  
This movie is going to earn nominations but sadly I don't see any of the big awards going home with this incredible cast/crew.
5/5 Crowns

Up next:
I'm screening the movie
A Dog's Purpose

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