by Lyle Foster, Unite Contributing Writer
Well the new year is starting off with a great gift for movie fans and for those who just want to see a film every now and then these are two films to see. So if this is a sign of what the new year will be like the movies we care about then this is a good sign. Perhaps one of the nicest aspects of these movies is the cast themselves because they contain no less than what we have to describe as movie royalty.
Fences in the acclaimed story by August Wilson that has been an acclaimed and celebrated play which was on Broadway with no less than the man himself Denzel Washington. It was just a matter of time before the play made its way to the big screen and Denzel became the man to do that as well as he has directed and starred in the film adaptation. This is not a movie if you just want to see a big action adventure or a romantic comedy. Many of you are familiar with the story line of Fences or maybe have seen the play. It is tense and difficult and will leave your emotions raw. I am still trying to decide how I like this aspect of the play on film because with the effects of cinematography you feel like you can’t escape the pain and volatile plot of Fences. It shows the ugly underside of life and has just enough of the bad of life that it tears your humanity. Combine this with the acting chops of Denzel and academy award “How to Get away with Murder” Viola Davis and you have a recipe for perfection. This dynamic duo makes for a phenomenal combination but the story line is just fairly explosive. There are those who are encouraging folks and families to talk about the plot of the movie afterwards. I am not really gonna comment because it takes something out of it …..because it may remind you of the family dynamics that you grew up with which means something that only you can figure out. For the African-American community there is so much that this film opens up beyond the family father son dynamics to the plight of our community as well.
Just a note that the film is very consistent with the play in that the majority of it takes place in the home and backyard. I sometimes like a bit more scenery but this is the way the story was told and Lord knows Denzel and Viola tell it. Also in the cast are Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Stephen Henderson and Jovan Adepo.
The other film Hidden Figures is based on a true story of African American women who were involved in the race to space movement. I’m sure many of us didn’t know that there were any folks of color involved in getting man to the moon. Wonder why? This is one of the top reasons that films like this are good for all of us because we become informed of information that was not widely disseminated. It has special significance for me since the setting for the film is Langley Air Force base which is just a few miles from where I grew up.
The time is right before the famous Mercury-Atlas 6 mission in 1962 and is about a math genius named Katherine Johnson who had an important role in calculating flight trajectories for NASA. The other two women profiled in the film also had significant roles one being the first black female engineer and the other leading black women in the West Area computers division. The women are played by some easily recognizable women in the person of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae. Their acting ability can bring any story to life and the reality that it really happened simply makes it even more powerful.
The film doesn’t hide from the racial and gender climate of the day and with the lead characters being black and female in a male dominated space race and engineering field one can imagine the day to day challenges that they face. The film gives us a good idea of a few of the things that they faced and the small victories they achieved. In some ways each story of victory over discrimination is important but there is a tinge of resentment too as we know too well that 1962 still meets 2017. The chemistry and support between the ladies and the way they encourage each other works very well and in many ways is the glue that holds the film together.
Kevin Costner plays the role of supervisor and as usual plays his part in an inspiring manner.
The film is in limited release on Christmas day and gets to all of the nation right after the new year. I am hoping that seeing these sisters work their magic in mathematics will inspire some young men and women to become engineers and scientists and wildly succeed in technology as well.
The real message of the film might be one for our society still and that is when you are trying to get a man in space you don’t have time and room for prejudice to get in your way. Hopefully we will learn that about everything else in life as well.
Please try to support these incredible films and let me know what you think!
Fences…..93 out of 100
Hidden Figures 92 out of 100