…find the right words

fencesTo say that Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is a man of many words, doesn’t seem to quite do him justice.

The central character of August Wilson’s “Fences” is nothing if not loquacious, but it’s the meaning behind those words and stories (for everything) that really defines him.

Of course, while Troy is talking, there’s plenty to be done—fences to be built (Yes, there’s a literal fence, and a metaphorical one), children to be raised, a brother to be cared for (Mykelti Williamson), and so on and so forth.

Still, he certainly does have a way with words. Whether he’s chumming it up with his friend Mr. Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson), or talking his way into a promotion to garbage truck driver, or bemoaning his unrealized potential for baseball glory.

However, living in 1950s Pittsburgh, Troy knows the deck was and is stacked against him, though his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and son Cory (Jovan Adepo) continually try to show him things are changing, but not fast enough for Troy. And who can blame him? Read the rest of this entry

…Take Off

If the Oscar for Best Picture was chosen by the viewing public, there’s little doubt in my mind over who would win. It would be director Theodore Melfi’s “Hidden Figures,” by a landslide. This amazing film has managed to not only capture the attention of the public and the Academy. It has taken three unknown women from the early days of NASA and turned them into superheroes.

That may seem a tad hyperbolic, but I can’t think of a better word to describe these three brilliant women who overcame insurmountable odds to rise far beyond what seemed possible. Read the rest of this entry

…find home

1485640188Class, language, and hundreds of miles separate young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) from his family in India after he is separated from his brother at a train station. “Lion” is truly an extraordinary story about the (almost) unbelievable journey of young Saroo, and the most astonishing part is that it’s true.

So much of this movie is absolutely heartbreaking to watch: Saroo trapped on an empty train carrying him further and further away from his family, unable to communicate with those he encounters as he doesn’t speak the local language. He is ignored, abused, and nearly captured on several occasions.

Sheer determination, courage, and a lot of luck deliver Saroo to an orphanage where he is adopted by an Australian family (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). Read the rest of this entry

…Make Contact

From the outside, director Denis Villenueve’s “Arrival” appears to be a blockbuster film. A global alien invasion and two leads who’ve starred in competing comic book franchise films screams popcorn flick. A closer look reveals a complex tale that’s not about humanity’s demise, but its salvation.

The film opens with a different kind of arrival than you might expect. We see the birth of Dr. Louise Banks’ (Amy Adams) daughter, Hannah. It’s quickly revealed that Hannah (played by Jadyn Malone , Abigail Pniowsky, and Julia Scarlett Dan) has passed. Her life with her mother is shown through a quick series of moments before it’s revealed that she is gone.

We’re then introduced to present-day Louise, a linguistics professor who is at the top of her field. When 12 mysterious spacecraft appear simultaneously around the world, she is approached the U.S. government to try to communicate with the alien creatures. It’s at the ship’s landing site in Montana that she meets Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a physicist. The two are meant to work together using logic and linguistics to uncover the alien’s intent.

What follows is a complex exploration of humanity, communication, and how we perceive reality. Read the rest of this entry

…stay afloat

manchester_by_the_sea_xlg“Manchester by the Sea,” written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, is not a happy story, but, against all odds, it is a hopeful one.

When we meet Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) he is living his life as a reclusive, surly handyman at an apartment complex in Boston.

When he receives a call informing him that his brother (Kyle Chandler) has died after living with congestive heart failure for many years, which we learn through flashbacks.

When Lee arrives in Manchester-by-the-Sea to handle his brother’s affairs, he discovers he is meant to be the guardian of his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). It’s a task that Lee is resistant to not for lack of affection for his nephew, but a history yet to be revealed. Read the rest of this entry