FENCES – to separate, to divide, to protect!

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in FENCES

If you are a Denzel Washington fan as I am, you’ll appreciate the excellence of his directing and acting in Fences. Washington as Troy and Viola Davis as his loving wife Rose, also played those parts in this Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play by August White. Fences was written as an intimate play, which is probably why from beginning to end, I felt I was experiencing a stage play or better, observing over a fence.

Troy is a workingman, trying to make ends meet. When he learns that his son, Cory (Jovan Adepo) has the opportunity for a college scholarship for his football skills, he squelches those dreams just as his once were. Rose becomes perturbed, but not nearly as distressed as she reacts soon afterwards to Troy’s news. (No spoilers here.)

Viola Davis and Denzel Washington receive Tony Awards, 2010, as Rose and Troy in FENCES.

Washington and Davis deliver award-winning performances that easily elevate this “play” to the best film category. The story itself is pure and timeless in the back yard conversations.

From Troy’s argument with death: All right . . . Mr. Death. See now . . . I’m gonna tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna take and build me a fence around this yard. See? I’m gonna build me a fence around what belongs to me. And then I want you to stay on the other side.” 

Fences could well be an anthropological lesson of a culture some may prefer to deny was grueling and for others continues to be arduous.

La La Land delivers in romance and chutzpah!

Waiting on a 4-hour car repair, husband Mike and I shuttled to see La La Land. From the opening traffic jam (reminiscent of Two Weeks Notice) drivers burst from their cars into song and dance. The film immediately had my attention. What? A real musical starring Emma Stone as Mia and Ryan Gosling as Sebastian made me lean back, take a deep breath and know that I was on a virtual romantic romp.

 

Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) showed that he has more guts than a Christmas turkey this time directing an original musical with Gosling singing and dancing! Mike couldn’t get past it and I loved it. Thanks to catching a Kevin McCarthy TV review of the film I knew that Gosling also did his own piano scenes. Yup, that’s his voice, his legs and those are his hands on the keys.

 

The romance between Mia and Sebastian was believable. Tenacity becomes a virtue that begs support from a mom, friend, or most of all, a sweetheart. They understood their passions and the risks that call for courage. I felt the spark and the tension between them as they sang and danced their way through setbacks and mistakes.

 

I can’t wait to see La La Land again. Chazelle deserves an award for engaging audiences everywhere to an estranged genre. I anticipate the Academy will reward this film accordingly.

“Please Lord, help me get one more.”

Hacksaw Ridge: Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss in the Battle of Okinawa

Hacksaw Ridge: Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss in the Battle of Okinawa

 

 

 

Not since Olympic runner Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire refused to run on Sunday, has there been a film of such extraordinary conviction as Hacksaw Ridge. Mel Gibson powerfully directs the true story of U.S. Army Corporal Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a conscientious objector who saved 75 men in Okinawa. Des’s father is an alcoholic WWI veteran who beats his wife and sons and doesn’t want them going off to war after Pearl Harbor. In spite of his father’s objection, Des decides to enlist with no intention of bearing arms.

Saving a man’s life brings him to a hospital and the beginning of a romance with a beautiful

Teresa Palmer as Dorothy Schutte marries Desmond Doss.

Teresa Palmer as Dorothy Schutte marries Desmond Doss.

nurse, Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), reminiscent of the young lovers in “Notebook.” Des learns about medicine from her work and decides to serve as a medic. While at Fort Jackson, his wedding plans are deterred by Des’s arrest for insubordination for refusing to compromise his beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist, neither to carry a rifle nor to train on Saturdays. Surprisingly, his father intervenes, the charges are dropped, and he and Dorothy are married.

vince-vaughn-hacksaw-ridge-618x375Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and the soldiers torment Des because of his religious beliefs. Yet no amount of suffering succeeds in deterring the young soldier from serving as a medic on the front lines. The harassing continues even in the Battle of Okinawa while taking on the Japanese forces stationed there. Vaughn and his troops were convincing in their roles as jerks.

As the battle ensues, Howell and others from Des’s squad are injured and abandoned on the battlefield. Des spends day and night carrying wounded soldiers to the cliff face of the Maeda Escarpment (Hacksaw Ridge). By rappelling them down on a rope, he is able to rescue over 75 soldiers. His prayer was a simple one: “Please, Lord, help me get one more.”

Gibson did not hold back showing the gruesomeness of the battlefield. The footage was not spared of men with their legs or heads blown off. Truly this is not a film for the faint-of-heart. The battle is won and Des’s courage noted. He was the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

President Harry S. Truman awards Desmond Doss the Medal of Honor.

President Harry S. Truman awards Desmond Doss the Medal of Honor.

Before the credits roll, Desmond Doss appears in an interview before his death in 2006 saying that what kept him going was prayer. Who knows that Gibson’s delivery of this story may just change the course of some who are tempted to abandon their convictions?