Fences, directed by and starring Denzel Washington and based on August Wilson’s landmark play, this is a nearly three hours showcase of the highest calibre of acting. Washington and Viola Davis who plays his wife give sustained master classes in the art, within a claustrophobic domestic drama about a Baltimore garbage man and his family. The overbearing patriarch says he’s trying to shape his son into a winner, so he won’t have “my life”. But instead, he imposes his will on his son hard enough to crush his spirit. His son is intimidated and fearful and no wonder. His father strikes out at him constantly letting him know he isn’t good enough. Meanwhile Davis’ character uses her wits every single day to stay safe, rein him in, to stop the domestic violence and inspire her son. They both know what they’re up against but in the fifties, the male dominant status quo ruled. The father’s ideals are allegedly high and noble but you can’t tell that from his behaviour. He claims he wants is what’s best for his son, but its total BS. He is his whipping boy, the recipient of his own disappointments and failures. It’s hard to watch but you can’t look away from the performances. These are two actors at their peaks. The film’s a bit stagey as it takes place in a tiny house and backyard and the mindset restrained by the father figure. The play won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play and is part of Wilson’s ten-part Pittsburgh cycle on the lives of ordinary African Americans.
People are salivating over the delightfully kitsch musical La La Land and with good reason. It’s effervescently whimsical, sexy, entertaining and irresistibly uplifting. All of that and more, its gentle, sweet, colourful and joyous. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are twin souls from other places struggling to make it in Hollywood, she as an actor and he a singer when they “meet cute” and begin an affair. But as with A Star is Born; career problems create love problems. It’s a thin story, but an eyeful and heart -full. Gosling mastered jazz piano and both learned the dances of the great musical era to pull off this delicate confection. It’s as good as they say and old-fashioned as it gets and a real rarity. The sweetness is balanced just so with flashes of humour and attitude. You can tell that the actors are wholly into this fragment of a time past, set in the now, and they have lovingly created a crowd-pleaser. Director Damien Chazelle gave us Whiplash so that’s the range he’s mastered! The opening dance number in which the company takes over the busiest highway in Los Angeles is heart stopping. How did they do it? And beauty of beauties, it’s shot on film.
Why Him? is a showcase for James Franco’s more annoying persona, the brash, no boundaries, self-indulgent James Franco. The gist of it is that a privileged young girl (Zoey Deutch) invites her family (Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally) to her new boyfriend’s home. He’s a “tech zillionaire” with impulse issues, a wise-ass and manipulative. It’s rare that Franco doesn’t play a super confident veering on obnoxious child-man – more’s the pity because he as terrific in the one man film 127 Hours and the Quebec film Everything Will Be Fine. So I went into the screening ready to dislike the film with a dash of poison and lo and behold, and I don’t say this with any kind of pride – laughed my socks off. It is everything crude, lewd, mad, bad and dangerous to know but it’s entertaining. A bit distracted by Franco’s constant mugging but at least the film wasn’t deadly. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0290556/?ref_=nv_sr_1
Legion is coming to FX in February. It’s a dark comedy that’s startling and bizarre and why not – it’s a joint venture between Fargo creator and writer Noah Hawley and Marvel so look out! Dan Stevens, the beloved but ill-fated Matthew on Downton Abbey is an American with multiple personalities and some kind of mental super power. We aren’t sure what is going on because we see things from his point of view and his reality shifts hard. He may be under interrogation by government agents, or perhaps he’s in a psychiatric care hospital in love with a fellow patient, or he is that woman of his dreams, or he’s living in his sister’s basement looking for the roots of his condition. Or maybe he’s in prison for murdering a woman and walling her up in one of those places. Many cast members of Fargo Season 2 are here including Jean Smart!! Think of a Fargo crossed with Twin Peaks and baked in Marvel and youre close. I’ll remind you again in February when to watch for it.
Streaming fans take note! The Amazon Fire TV Stick, which I do not have YET, is a USB drive “on steroids” according to reports. It accesses Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime and more platforms. The Fire TV Stick (with Alexa voice control) is available for Canada from Amazon allegedly for $39.99 but some sellers are asking ten times that amount. Do your research!
Netflix has created a series of New Year’s Eve Countdowns aimed at global families hooked on the service as they “celebrate the best ten seconds of 2016 on their own terms”. It is aimed at kids; this year’s 10 new on-demand countdowns can be watched at any time so the kids don’t have to stay up. What a great idea.