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Beautiful Teasing: "Fences" and "20th Century Women"

The latest potentially rich films to tease are two of our most anticipated 2016 features. They aren't coming out until the last week of December. We worry for 20th Century Women that it will be lost in the shuffle (why oh why this release date?) but Fences at least will win attention due to the combined starpower at its center and the event prestige of the August Wilson award-winner making it to the big screen. The terrific teaser trailers are after the jump with a few notes on each.


Beautifully coherent trailer with the father/son discussion seguewaying to the broader themes and family joys and pain. Cross all your fingers that this lives up to the hype. It's so hard to pull off that stage-to-screen transition as history is littered with exciting plays that fell flat on film including, recently, Doubt and August Osage County. But back to the teaser: how perfect is it that It's perfect that Viola Davis gets the last word? And it's good to see Jovan Apedo get a prime movie gig after his fine work on The Leftovers (s2).

Intimate character dramas can sometimes struggle in Oscar's craft categories but it's probably worth noting that Denzel assembled quite a team for this film - Sharen Davis on costumes, David Gropman on production design, Hughes Winborne editing. They've all been in the Oscar race before. He went with a fairly new name for his DP though. It's Danish cinematographer Charlotte Brus Christensen. She's only done a handful of features (including The Hunt, Girl on the Train, and Far From the Madding Crowd).


How interesting to watch these teases back to back and consider their similar smart construction - open with a speech and the mother's reaction to it. Explode into montage of scenes from the film and watch the humanity blossom. This looks just delicious and we know from Beginners (2011) that Mike Mills can make masterful family dramas with great humor to them. What's your primary takeaway? Mine is this: There are few sounds in the world as pleasurable as The Bening's voice. It's possibly the best vocal instrument in the movies, so light and sparkly on top with a deep resonant undertow.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how in love with both of these teases are you? We'll do Yes No Maybe So when we get full trailers.

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Reader Comments (55)

Charlotte Brus was The Hunt's MVP and it looks like her work's gonna be great for Fences too. Denzel looks just as magnetic and appropriately scaled from all the footage I've seen, everything looks like a million bucks! These kinds of films never get tech nods but it'll be a shame if Fences doesn't contend. We always need more Viola but God I'm ready for this and for her.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNick T

Oh WOW. Fences, I was worried. But OK, I guess Viola is coming for that Oscar!!

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJB

One word for Fences: WOW! It was appropriate that the trailer only showed glimpses of Viola until the very end when her character reached its boiling point. Powerful!

Not a fan of Denzel's non-dramatic work, but whenever he goes back to drama, it's truly something to behold. Since he already won a Tony for this, this may be the role that he was truly born to play. Would not mind a third Oscar, if the trailer is an indicator of what the film will be.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel

I feel these trailers cement the Best Actress contenders housed in them. Bening especially seems so worthy. It's bothersome inflated nod count Adams could have enough support to budge her. Remember that awful Oscar morning when her name was announced in Best Actress? Taking away the elusive Best Actress nod from Emma Thompson to secure her place as a Best Actress perennial (Nick Davis)!

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Fences has an advantage over Doubt and August: Osage County here: it's more suited to film. Both Doubt and August have explosive, melodramatic moments that work very well on stage- on film, not so much. They're also more claustrophobic plays that film directors love to crack open for the screen, losing that intimate power.
Fences has a wider scope and more low-keyed intensity. I think the shift to screen feels more natural for what it needs to work.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

i have these teases on loop now. uh-oh. need to see these quick before the teaser BECOME the movies.

September 27, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I don't think Adams will make it in. It seems like her films will be too divisive. Actually, I hope Nathaniel's predictions are correct and Negga is the fifth nominee - her performance looked wonderful from the film's trailer.

Anyway, both these trailers are great and the three lead performances look to be outstanding, what more is there to say?

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Nick T: She was also that version of Far From the Madding Crowd's MVP too. The core problem of that Madding Crowd movie is basically the same as Suffragette's core problem (namely, having watched both, Carey Mulligan officially needs to turn down any future offers to play "firebrand" characters NOW, because she's worse at it than Mia Wasikowska), but it's not also crushingly beholden to all the worst aesthetic instincts of modern filmmaking on top of that.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I hope these do well with audiences, etc.

The film version of Doubt for me reaches some great moments due to text and the four main actors. I don't really have a lot of gripes with that production.

August: Osage County on the other hand was a strange adaptation. It had an alternating sunny or dark TV-like approach, with Streep and Roberts completely miscast as mother and daughter. But even that film has some great scenes, like the dinner scene, so I don't discount it 100%. As noted above, completely successful plays to screen are really hard to pull off, and there are only a handful of great screen adaptations.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJono

Viola is completely overshadowed by Denzel and is so supporting in this trailer. I guess the rumor is true.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTruth

I find Charlotte Bruus to be as overrated as that other Danish lenser, Anthony Dod Mantle - but good for her, she's working with some heavy hitters, for sure.

If you look at the Hunt - very boring look-wise.
Far From The Madding Crowd looks really beautiful, but anbody could make those landcapes look beautiful - you just point a camera at them during magic hour!
And Fences doesn't have a very interesting, either, I have to say.

Fences will be all about the acting for me.
As soon as that snot came flying out of Viola's nose and mouth, she secured her Oscar nomination!

20th Century looks so beautiful - looks like Mike Mills' most aesthetically accomplished movie to date. Can't wait to see it.
Even though I'm not a fan of Greta Gerwig, but judging from the teaser, she fares all right.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

20th Century Women trailer: Am I the only one who disagrees on 20th Century Women? In fact, I kind of think even the acting nomination possibilities, including Bening's, are dead. Her reaction to the malaise speech is this: "I thought that was beautiful." Now, let me try that again, but less "straw hippie", "I like the sentiment, but that was badly expressed." Musical/Comedy Globe nod? Sure, because they haven't decided to break it in three and introduce a more "prestige specific" Dramedy/Performance Musical category, allowing Musical/Comedy to feel a little more specific. But Oscar? Nah.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I'm concerned for Bening. She looks wonderful but also very "real" and I'm scared the more grandiose performances will edge her out. I'm wondering if Negga and Bening are our two most likely "real" roles to be close. If you consider Stone, Portman and Davis to be pretty sure bets (I'm sorry, but the way Davis fills the screen with power in this trailer makes her seem like a sure bet this year) who should make room for Hubbert? I really believe Hubbert needs to be one of the five so who should fall into that unenviable 6th position: Negga or Bening? I guess, because she has been so excellent so many times - if it comes to that - I hope Bening makes it and Negga does not.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

I LOVE that Fences trailer, and didn't know Christensen shot it. That's really good news, as the trailer demonstrates. While stage-to-screen can be a perilous journey, I really feel like this should be something special. Washington's prior two directorial efforts are solid, emotionally honest efforts hemmed in by conventions. With material this good, I really feel like he's capable of knocking it out of the park.

20th Century Women looks interesting. I'm one of the few who didn't love Beginners, and this trailer doesn't immediately grab me either. As a showcase for Bening, sure, and that's great, but the surrounding material seems like it could fall into some awfully familiar traps. But I hope not! I always root for new movies to be great.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Denzel looks fantastic. Makes me realize how many performances I've seen from him where he has just phoned it in.
Maybe he'll get that elusive BAFTA nom, finally...

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGena

Viola has two Tonys for August Wilson plays, including one for Fences. She's got this Oscar.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCharles O

I think they both look great. But why oh why can't these just be the trailers? They're both a minute and a half long, and trailers are now nearly double that and show us everything. These teasers do what trailers SHOULD do - give us a taste of what to expect while wanting more.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Well it's pretty damn embarrassing when I misspell Huppert's name - TWICE.

What else did I spell wrong?

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

billybil: I'd argue in that case that it'll actually come down to material, and I just deconstructed, through re-writing, a line I'm pretty sure A LOT of people, even in the liberal corners of Hollywood, will find jaw-droppingly dumb. So Ruth "almost the N word" for slot 4 and probably either Huppert or Adams for slot 5.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Then I hope then it's Huppert for the 5th slot (although I do love Adams). Is it the matter of "coming down to the material" why ARRIVAL keeps coming up for Adams and not NOCTURNAL ANIMALS? From what I can see from the previews it seems the role in NOCTURNAL is much more "baity".

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

^hey, I left out the "y" in Anybody - anbody!

And I left out "look" in the setence
"And Fences doesn't have a very interesting, either, I have to say."

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

^I'm sure Huppert won't mind you mispelling her name, billybil!

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

Viola is coming for that Oscar and I am here for it.

I feel like that last 'I been here' Line is a metaphor for her career and her challenge to those declaring the race is locked by Emma and Natalie.

Or I'm just feeling my Viola fantasy way too much today.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMorganb

billybill 😀

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrob

From the trailer I don't see any Best Actress potential in Bening but I see it in Viola my only question regarding Viola is the level of difficulty in the role compared with her most well known dramatic roles,is this something we know she can do as we have seen it before or is it a completely different character,I hope it's not Mrs Mills the extended version.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordon

Yusss I'm so happy Adepo was featured... maybe people will finally take him seriously as a BSA threat now!

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterslayton

lol Rob! what the hell sort of name is bil anyway? LOL

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

I sure hope not Ulrich. She looks fierce as fuck in the preview for ELLE!!!

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

That Fences teaser gave me everything that I needed today, and the way it's inundating my Facebook news feed I don't think I'm the only one. I always assumed it would be a respectable movie while hoping for a homerun, but this clip has exceeded my expectations. It seems like Denzel has been his best lately when he plays deeply flawed men, and the way Viola wears a character's entire history on her face slays me every time.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Oh, Viola. How I love you.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I feel a his & hers vibe, which would be perfect after #oscarssowhite.

Yes, Emma Stone can wait, Portman already won and Bening is just another Glenn Close/Deborah Kerr/Thelma Ritter. That means Viola is gonna win.

And yes, Denzel is as respected as Jack Nicholson was when he won his third Oscar. A lot if paycheck movies, but he likes the stage and he is a huge movie star.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Bening will not be Glenn Closed out of a competitive Oscar win. If Julianne Moore can Blue Sky her way to an overdue win in a weak field Bening is a real possibility for that biopic she has for next year.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Davis has based a lot of her film work on snot!!!! LOL

Overdue ... owed...,. those horrific words again!! Let's look at performances ...

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

I am feeling the black community has a lot to be happy about this year... so many excellent films... this will not be last year's Oscars....

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

I love Emma Stone but how AMAZING would it be if Viola Davis won this year!

She's building even more momentum in her career, especially after that historic Emmy win. Plus, winning the Tony and Oscar for the same role. Another great narrative ;)

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKent

mmmmm. These both look so good. I'm now officially excited for the Fall movie season!

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Ah, the irony! I misspelled misspelling!

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

Both of these are REALLY good trailers. I really hope that if a "full" trailer is coming, that it isn't much longer than these, because they're both perfect at setting up the story and the mood of the film, which is really all you need to do in a trailer.

That Fences one, though. WOW. I worry SLIGHTLY that it may be too "big" (because that tends to be very divisive), but context matters a lot, so I'm hoping the overwhelmingly large emotions feel natural within the context of the film and not too "actorly". But either way, DAMN. THAT is how you announce yourself as a force to reckoned with in Oscar season!

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I'm gobsmacked by the FENCES trailer. The early stills looked so bright and generic. The actual cutting and scoring of the trailer gives major MOONLIGHT vibes, so I do have the slightest reservation that perhaps this was an incredible marketing ploy -- that said, the visuals, the performances, there's a lot here that you just can't find in your standard stage-to-film adaptation. Count me in!

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Sort of underwhelmed by Bening... not sure the film or her nomination.

Viola if nominated will win. But Fences on Christmas Day? Feel like it would play better if it had been released a bit earlier.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjamie

That Fences trailer has me choked up; I can't wait to see it.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

The Jimmy Carter speech is pretty iconic and is taught in history books. Your perception of that speech kind of determines how you shake left vs right philosophically tbh

Both trailers look amazing. Pretty excited for the end of the year since the summer blockbusters were so hum drum.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRahul

jamie, I said a while back that considering how lackluster the summer movie season wound up being, Fences would have fit perfectly in a late slot.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Fences opens in limited release before going wide Christmas day.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Bening, Davis, Portman, Stone, Streep

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

Just immediate impressions from trailers: Fences looks like a play and that can go either way. If it's the Denzel show then Viola may want to go supporting. So much depends on viewer perspective, and this was a commercial gor Denzel. Benning ... That movie looks like an awkward indie. Unless she does something phenomenal, don't count out Adams. Worthy in two films is not easy and I honestly look forward to her films more.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

i agree that Fences will demand attention but that the late release date may hurt 20th Century Women. We shall see.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Davis, stone, portman, huppert & streep

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

/3rtful: On hindsight I thought Amy Adams clearly deserved the spot for American Hustle. She was amazing as Sydney although the last 3rd of the film kinda let down her character. Emma Thompson was really good too and I would have replace Meryl or Dench with her.


September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBluemoon02

Three time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington. It might be time to start getting used to this idea.

Fingers crossed for Viola. She has two amazing monologues in the play that she will knock out of the park. The trailer shows just part of one of them.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

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