Best Motion Picture of the Year
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
Next up in my Oscar Series is Fences. Fences is a remarkable film adaptation of the play of the same name which was written in 1983 by August Wilson. The story follows Troy Maxon (Denzel Washington) and his wife Rose (Viola Davis) as we gain a glimpse into their 1957 Pittsburgh life. We discover how race, wealth, honour and loyalty play a part in their family dynamic.
Both lead actor and actress are nominated for academy awards (although Viola Davis opted to be entered into the supporting actress category) and I believe they both wholly deserve it. What I find most interesting is that both Washington and Davis played the same (Tony Award winning) parts in the Broadway reprisal performance in 2010. They put on 114 shows in total and I think this adds to why both of their performances in the film are extra special. They play their parts with such a familiarity that would only come from knowing a role as well as they do. This also helped to enhance the feel of an 18 year long marriage.
Washington is outstanding in most of his roles, yet I found this one to be different to any I have seen him in before. We all have known someone in our lives who is infamous for their ability to ramble and ramble on in their conversation. In other words, someone who doesn’t know when to shut up. Washington captures this personality so well that he becomes the forefront of every scene he’s in, as the other characters look at him with as much bemusement as we, as a viewer do. There are only certain actresses that could hold their own in front of a character and actor as strong as Washingnton and Davis certainly does that. The presence that Washington holds on screen is highly matched by Davis who’s character builds and builds consistently until her defining scene half way through the film. Washingtons character has mostly done his developing throughout his life, and his side of the film is more of a reflection. Differently Davis plays a character who is still growing and coming into her own with every scene. I very much think that she deserves the win with this one.
Denzel Washington also takes the director seat with this film & I really enjoyed the way he went about it. There’s nothing too much or too fancy with the cinematography, and rather it does reflect a theatrical performance with the slow moving camera pans, and the quick fire dialogue delivery. No expensive SFX or over the top editing are needed when the whole cast are giving such raw and precise performances. Each actor uses their voice so well that you could close your eyes and listen to it as a radio performance and still be fully captivated by the story.
The supporting cast were a joy to watch also. We have Mr Bono, Troys garbage man colleague whom he met when they were both imprisoned. Troys two sons Cory and Lyons who both add different tones to the dynamic. Finally we have Uncle Gabe, Troys brain damaged brother who is played ever so sweetly by Mykelti Williamson.
The film is built on captivating monologues and honest characterisations of realistic people. August Wilsons writing lends it’s hand to it’s brilliance, yet the cast and director do an incredible job of honouring Wilsons original work. Wilson receives a Posthumous nomination because he finished the screenplay before his death in 2005. His only wish for the film was for it to be directed by an African American. I’m certain that he would be extremely proud of what Washington has done with the adaptation.
image credit: Paramount Pictures