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Fences, His & Hers

The adaptation of August Wilson's Fences is under embargo so we're not supposed to review it. I notice that hasn't stopped anyone but I play by rules (sigh). Let it suffice to say for now that it's super. Denzel Washington stays out of the play's way and the play is so grand that that's all you need. Can we reverse time and have him do this for August: Osage County and Doubt? They both derailed themselves with nervous attempts to jazz up the material to be A MOVIE.

There's no awkward attempts to "open" Fences up, and that tightness, that feeling of no escape informs this in the same way it informed the plays of August and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which all use their single settings brilliantly to inform and confine and reflect the characters. Fences is just these characters (seven of them in total), this time (the 50s), and this place (Pittsburgh) and it's beautifully acted. 

P.S. So depressed that they aren't gunning for His & Hers Leading Oscars to match their His & Hers Leading Tonys.

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Reader Comments (45)

Sooo excited for this!! Denzel's Antwone Fisher showed signs that he can be a very good director. Glad that he was able to successfully translate this to the screen.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel

Is My Left Foot the last time Best Actor and Supporting Actress went to the same movie?

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Really looking foward to see it. Love Denzel, love Viola, love August. Considering the heavy competition (Portman and Stone), I think Viola did the right thing to go supporting.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGiorgio78

Yes, /3rtful, you're right. Last time a movie won Actor and Supporting Actress was 1989, though A Beautiful Mind and The King's Speech likely came close.

Nathaniel, I've seen some people (Janelle Riley, etc.) say that they really genuinely think Viola is supporting--guessing you disagree?

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercoffeysr

@Giorgio78 - this is what makes NO SENSE to me whatsoever. If Portman, Stone and Davis are all in contention with brilliantly received work (and embargo aside, I think we can agree that they are based on Nathaniel's comments) then Davis has no competition whatsoever.

Portman is a previous winner
Stone is emerging from the "ingenue" tag but is yet to build momentum and a belief that she has previously been denied an Oscar

Viola has literally EVERYTHING working in her favour! The Tonys and the Emmys have shown that there is no backlash whatsoever to the Oscarssowhite campaign - her peers are showing that they are desperate to reward non-white performers when they are in contention.

So why the Supporting campaign? When it first emerged I assumed that she must be unquestionably Supporting as that seemed the only logical reason. Now it transpires that the studio think she'll have a tougher ride to the crown in Leading!? Confusing.

Part of me hopes that Taraji takes Leading and Naomie takes Supporting. Viola can then return and take the big prize for Widows (a trashy, melodramatic UK thriller from the 80s reimagined by the chilly gaze of Steve McQueen? I cannot wait). Teach the studio a lesson.

Yet the biggest loser in this situation would be Viola and I can't wish that on a prominent actress of colour.

Can anyone tell me what I'm missing here?

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterkermit_the_frog

So much has been made of the performances that I think that we have neglected to consider -- seriously consider -- Denzel's shot at a director nod. How are those odds looking?

And while we all seem to want Viola to receive a Best Actress trophy, let's not lose sight of the fact that regardless of where she's ultimately placed, she'll still be making history as the first black actress to score three nominations. Furthermore, a win would secure her place as the first black actress to complete the acting triple crown. All of that is to be regarded.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Me too seems Viola is destined to win her 1 and only Oscar

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMARKGORDON

I think Denzel's director chances lie with the overall reception of La La Land. If voters love it the way festival audiences and critics have so far, it has the potential to break the 13 nomination record. Any movie with 13 or more nominations would be hard to defeat in the director/picture categories, but it's possible. He seems to be the strong frontrunner for a 3rd acting trophy which I think is pretty awesome and well-deserved.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

I'm starting to think the Academy will Winslet Davis into Actress. But while I'd probably love that for her (haven't seen it yet), Stone loses and Williams probably wins for a role I don't love. Choices.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

coffeysr -- the only reason anyone views this as "supporting" is the distortion affect of the last 20 years of category fraud. If this had come out, same exact movie, in the early 90s there isn't a soul on the planet that would think Davis was "supporting" in it. She's in 70-80% of the movie, they both have scenes without each other, and it's about their marriage and the family they created together. And her character arc is practically the DON'T YOU DARE CALL ME SUPPORTING!? effect of a woman coming into her own voice.

She has a lot less lines that Denzel but just because Troy is a blabbermouth -- the first 20 minutes are a pretty thrilling... 'when is he even going to take a breath? chatterbox-monologue-cum-duet with his best friend Bono. -- but how talkative a character is does not reflect whether the movie is about them or not.

eurocheese -- i really hope they do. The optics are so much better and the truth is also well served if she wins for lead but I think she'll win for whichever category she's in.

Troy -- he has a really good shot at a directors nod i think. but i dont think he can win that

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

If she deserves to be considered as best actress, put her there! Putting her in supporting just to be able to win the award seems unfair (and other words that I can think of but won't use, like racist? It seems a little "go to the back of the bus"). And did Meryl Streep already get nominated for Florence Foster Jenkins? Your page has become her de facto Oscar campaign with all of these banner ads, and I hope you are being paid some serious coin, but maybe it's time for a refresh? TGIF.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJono

Nathaniel: If it comes down to Casey Affleck vs Denzel for the Best Actor Oscar, who would you say is the most likely to win?

And do you see Denzel winning any of the best actor critics prizes, as critics seem pretty in the tank for Manchester By The Sea, looking at reviews out this week.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterribbler

So why the Supporting campaign? When it first emerged I assumed that she must be unquestionably Supporting as that seemed the only logical reason. Now it transpires that the studio think she'll have a tougher ride to the crown in Leading!? Confusing.

That's not confusing. She will unquestionably have an easier time winning in Supporting Actress, because it's supposedly a great performance in a big role, and it's easier to compete against people with smaller roles than against other leads with big roles.

Putting her in supporting just to be able to win the award seems unfair (and other words that I can think of but won't use, like racist? It seems a little "go to the back of the bus").

Er, no, she's going to supporting because she sees a concrete benefit (increased likelihood of winning). She wanted to be in Lead, she could submit that way.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

Jono -- i have to make a living somehow and so when i can get Oscar ads i take 'em. If people don't like seeing them, they should subscribe to the site. it's frustrating because if everyone who was hear daily gave the price of a cup of coffee a month, i could earn a totally reasonable living and just blog all day instead of eating ramen and panicking and chasing ad buys and whatnot and occassionally going back to corporate america with my tail between my legs ;)

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Viola is destined to win her 1 and only Oscar

You have this whole thing figured out.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Category fraud makes me angry. Hopefully voters think for themselves and don't just do as they are told. Give the supporting actors a chance! You feel like Viola would feel the same as she was a true supporting player for so long. It just takes someone else's recognition/spot away from them who likely needs it much more than Viola does.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Nathaniel- I am loving the Florence ads on the site! :)
Much better than those Chastain Violent Years ads.....

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Can you vote for her as leading at the BFCA or does the studio have a say on the category?

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

If enough BFCA voters overturn the placement and if the Globes and the critics don't accept this placement, she'll be suppprting for the SAGs only. If Fences goes for BP, a The Reader situation ia very plausible.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

@ Annony - Couldn't have said it better myself.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEz

MARKGORDON: I see many a nomination in Viola's future. In addition to Widows, she's going to be in two high-profile biopics: Harriet Tubman and Barbara Jordan!
That alone...

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

As much as category fraud is annoying, and as much as I want Viola Davis to win Leading Actress... my most important want is Viola just having an Oscar. Not saying she should go supporting, but if that's the campaign that they're spearheading, then I don't want her switched to lead unless she's still guaranteed to win it.


November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

The hypocrisy of category fraud...when you want someone to win badly, it's okay. Otherwise, let's wave our banner of righteousness.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJans

The hypocrisy of category fraud...when you want someone to win badly, it's okay. Otherwise, let's wave our banner of righteousness.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Cal -- i dunno. there isn't much precedence for precursors rejecting category fraud. Usually they go along with it. Critics are especially egregious when they of all people should know better since they're supposed to actually be evaluating films, not rubberstamping "narratives" and "campaigns"

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I saw Fences some years back with Fishburne & Bassett and I think Denzel did a great job of "opening up" the play without getting in its way. That said, this is a very different (i.e., traditional) animal than the adaptation of another stage property, Moonlight, which is much more cinematic. But we're talking about August Wilson here, a real wizard of words.

This, to me, is one of Denzel's greatest performances, and I've never been the biggest fan. I always find him to be a withholding actor, almost as if he won't deign to let an audience in to his most secret places. While I adore this trait in European actresses, it's not what I always like in my American leading men. But I would not be mad at all if this work landed him a second Best Actor statue.

Viola, as I've said already, is only supporting if you consider Denzel the sole lead, around whom the other characters orbit. But that's not an argument I feel compelled to make. To be honest, I have the strange feeling that Viola has a better chance in Lead than in Supporting, but I haven't seen La La Land yet (tonight!). I have seen Loving, Jackie, 20th Century Women, and Elle (as well as Toni Erdmann).

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I wanted to see Viola Davis win in lead, but Emma Stone is probably going to be unbeatable. Oscar voters find it very difficult to resist young, charming It Girls, regardless of the quality of their performances. Plus, La La Lad is poised to be a bigger player all around than Fences.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Same time next year... If last year with Vikander and Mara scandals weren't enough to overcome the category fraud, did you people thought that will happen with Viola? Beyond the moral thoughts, sometimes i'm surprised of the naivite of some posters (Now comparing Viola with Winslet for "The Reader"). Winslet and Castle-Hughes were the sole leads of their films, but when you have a co-star is easier for the AMPAS voters to believe the category fraud.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterleon

Can I just say I get a bit tired every year talking about category frauds. BUT THIS YEAR? After the shitstain that was 2016 and the election? YES PLEASE. The kind of debate I want to have right now.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I see the cast of Florence has all been nominated for Oscars. How wonderful.

Good Girls Revolt on Amazon is truly a tonic. Charming. Anna Camp and the whole cast rock it.

Yes to Viola in lead. You put her in the ring with the greats. Meryl, Emma, Natalie, Adams

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

If Emma Stone is unbeatable, Nicole Kidman should have won for Moulin Rouge! and Helena Bonham Carter should have been nominated for Sweeney Todd. I say this after a screening of La La Land that ended an hour and a half ago.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

(To say nothing of Liza in New York, New York and Doris Day in Love Me or Leave Me.)

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Paul -- yeah, i don't think Viola would lose in Lead OR supporting. They should have gone for the more history-making bigger prize.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Viola knows and has worked with Emma...I can see her being gracious and stepping out of the way so Emma can have her moment...same with Octavia...she campaigned as a Lead for The Help so Octavia could own the supporting category.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSoSue

Also, a supporting win for Viola paves the way for multiple nominations and a leading win(s) down the line a la Meryl, Cate, Denzel. And, yes, I can totally see Viola going out with a very robust "Geraldine Page 8" nomination count.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSoSue

When the play first premiered on Broadway, Mary Alice won the Tony Award for Featured Actress. The decision to campaign Viola in Lead at the Tony's for the revival was honestly probably due to her star wattage in that arena. I haven't seen the film yet, but I have seen the play, and onstage, it definitely feels like Troy's journey. Rose is a huge part of that, but the play is about HIS dreams and struggles.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I'm starting to suspect that this 'Supporting' placement is just the studio's marketing trick for voters to 'demand' that Viola go to Lead & win. These Oscar campaigns really are manipulative...

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTOM

@SoSue - that is NOT gracious at all; I think you mean selfish (esp to the real supporting women this year). Let me think on that again....yes, improves her odds of winning immensely...yep, selfish is the word I'm looking for. Selfish on her part, the studios part or most likely both.

If it makes you feel good thinking she is just politely choosing supporting to be gracious to Stone, go for it but that's not what is happening.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Is there a way to petition Viola as lead for the oscars? ;)

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKent

I don't think she is being selfish at all...the role can be seen as either supporting or lead and she chose purposefully not competing in lead, she's also graciously leaving room for Ruth Negga and Taraji.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSoSue

I'm glad this film is getting such a positive reviews. I was getting a bit worried for a second.

November 20, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

She is ungraciously making things much more difficult for the Naomi Harris, Greta Gerwigs, Lupitas, Molly Shannons and Gugus of the race. For shame.

November 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

As I argued when her category placement was first announced: Viola is just playing the hand she has been dealt. If I had been promoted as Lead in a box office smash, received some of the best reviews of my career and nearly everyone proclaimed I had it in the bag, and then lost ... no way would I agree to a situation where history could repeat itself. If she were white, I'd say go for it. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

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August 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Love Denzel Washington 's work.

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