Short ‘n’ Sweet Reviews: Manchester By the Sea, Hidden Figures & Fences

One more sleep until the Oscars and here are some more of the big contenders:

Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, 2016)
Slow-moving but always intriguing, Manchester by the Sea is 100% NOT for people who don’t like depressing movies. Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is left to look after his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) after Lee’s brother/Patrick’s father Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies. In flashbacks his own past is gradually revealed, and lemme tell you it’s BLEAK AF. Casey Affleck is good but let’s hope a sex fiend doesn’t win an Oscar. The main problem I had was with Patrick’s attitude to girls and sex and the suggestion that his father encouraged this mindset and was a top bloke all the same. I kept waiting for Lee to stand up and do something about it but nup. I guess I shouldn’t have expected to get that from Casey Affleck. This aside, it was a strong and emotionally rich film that certainly didn’t feel 137 minutes long.
4 stars

Hidden Figures
(Theodore Melfi, 2016)
hidden-figuresA true story that takes a few liberties but at least finally gives some recognition to three African-American women who served NASA during the US space program. Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) are presented as flawless characters who did exceptional things with little fanfare. Their accomplishments are unquestionably formidable, however the film feels a little too like a telemovie that goes for some big clichés re: racism. This is probably the weakest among the big black contenders for this year’s Oscars (alongside Moonlight and Fences which are both more nuanced). But it’s a big win for women and more specifically, black women, and that is certainly something to be celebrated. That it took over fifty years for their story to be told is telling in itself. Oh, and the costumes are fab.
3.5 stars

(Denzel Washington, 2016)

Denzel in dual roles as director and star.
Denzel in dual roles as director and star.

Denzel better win tomorrow over sex fiend Casey Affleck or I QUIT THE OSCARS. (But I say something similar every year). It’s a big meaty role that Denzel takes on here (having also played the role on Broadway) which has him speaking a mile a minute. He’s Troy, a working-class African-American man in the 50s who is trying to provide for his family. His is certainly a thoroughly flawed character, and I found myself disgusted by him in many instances. Viola Davis as his wife, Rose, is hot favourite for Best Supporting Actress tomorrow and her portrayal of the patient and faithful Rose is like a dagger through the heart. August Wilson’s play gives audiences plenty to think about, in terms of family responsibilities, regret, pride, and blame. At 139 minutes it does feel long (and very much like a play rather than a film), but is mesmerising all the same.
4 stars


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