“Down Goes Frazier!” in this case “Mank”, “One Night in Miami” moves into the Top Ten

A true case of “it ain’t over till it’s over”, One Night in Miami just moved into my Top 10 of 2020.

But first, this positive race relations commentary….six Caucasians (actually 4 parties, 2 separate solo single females and two couples) walked into the CineBistro Siesta Key to pay acknowledgement to not only the four great real life men, but also the four tremendous actors who portrayed them AND the brilliant woman who directed (Regina King) AND the man who wrote the script based on the play (Kemp Powers). Not looking for any trophy, just pointing out that there are kind well meaning white Floridians.
The movie began as a newborn calf, kinda clunky, but once I understood the premise that each on these guys: Muhammed Ali, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcom X had incurred their own unfortunate racist moments, the movie was off to the races. Where Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom play to movie cellar scene seemed stifling, One Night in Miami’s hotel room seemed roomy enough to hold tighter interest. The choreography of movement of four restless males may have had much to do with this higher level of excitement. Perhaps it’s a metaphor for how more (though in desperate need of more OBVIOUSLY) 1964 was evolved than 1927, but whatever the case, I was fully engaged in their philosophical wranglings. What does ‘freedom’ mean? Is economic freedom more important than proper racial respect? That seems to be the crux of the argument between Malcom X and Sam Cooke.
Let’s talk about the fantastic acting…I would be super pleased to see Kingsley Ben-Adir win the Oscar for Best Actor. You can not show concern and inner turmoil for nearly two hours and make it interesting unless you’re an A+ actor and this man did it handly. Bravo! The other actors were also supreme, Eli Goree scoring the most extroverted part of Cassius Clay. Leslie Odom Jr was fantastic as Sam Cooke who handles Malcom X’s debates with sly intellect. and I can’t leave out Aldis Hodge, while least animated as Jim Brown, he still had to reign in masculinity to hang and be king empathizer to Malcolm X, not an easy task.
At any rate, as pretty and smart as Mank was, this movie represents a piece of history far more important in my book. And it shows that grown men (and women) can disagree politely and lovingly….advice we can all use about now.

Good Fences Make Good Actors: August Wilson’s Fences

I read the criticisms of the movie version of Fences (‘too confined and stagey”) and as a result, didn’t go for a time. I’ve taught the play and was obviously moved by the story, with an added sentimental attachment to the physical book (which is now on the shelf at Bloomfield Central School) after seeing David Gray at my hotel pool in Dayton Ohio and having nothing else for him to sign.

But the movie was far better than the shallow reviewers revealed. I was physically moved by the acting, so much so, it was difficult to return to the real world and my gala art walk shift at the bookstore. Denzel Washington had a right to scowl at the Oscars upon hearing Casey’s name read. I really think they should have hack sawed the trophy in half and had an unprecedented tie. Why not? It would have made Warren Beatty look better (aside, poor guy, I love Warren). Denzel was Troy Maxson, just as other great actors (Christian Bale “The Fighter” and whatever real life kook he played in “Big Short”/aforementioned Casey Afleck in Manchester/JK Simmons in Whiplash). He reminds everyone of the universal father figure, equally afraid to be surpassed by his son and equally afraid of the opposite, a non-evolutionary expansion.

And what human words can actually explain the force of Viola Davis????????????? She deserved an Academy Award for her acceptance speech alone!!!! She truly gets what it means to come from poverty and to be blessed to have ridden on the backs of those with far less choices. I, too, had a similar epiphany just the other day on one of my lengthy bridge walks: my mother married my dad to get out of the house! It was an escape from the insanity of 8 unsupervised kids as my grandparents eeked out a small town existence.

Movies that help you see your past and your future while telling a compelling story are truly magical. Denzel obviously, having portrayed Troy on Broadway, felt the power and universality of August Wilson’s play and wanted to give it permanence on film. My next internet search is a hope to find that he won the Tony for it at least, as he is one of the finest, if not the finest, actors of our time.

PS Thank you Jesus, Denzel won a Tony for Fences in 2010.