Sunday, March 12, 2017

Video review: "Fences"

I was reading one of those articles before the Oscars where a voting member anonymously reveals their ballot, and they were quoted as saying they didn’t put a lot of stock in “Fences” because “they just shot the play.”

Cow patties.

The reason “Fences” was one of the best films of 2016 was not just because of the excellence of the writing, for which August Wilson adapted his own play. Denzel Washington, Viola Davis and the rest of the excellent cast made those characters leap off the screen and into our hearts.

And Washington, stepping behind the camera to direct a film for just the second time, employed a host of camera and editing tools to make us feel like we were in the middle of the story, rather than squinting from the back row.

Part of Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle,” the story examines a blue-collar black family in the 1950s. Troy Maxson (Washington) is an aging cock of the walk, a former Negro League baseball player and thief who went straight to become a family man. He’s a garbage collector who has just agitated to become the first black city employee who doesn’t just pick up the cans but drives the truck.

It tells you something that Troy demanded the opportunity, despite not knowing how to drive.

David plays his devoted wife, Rose (Davis). Their relationship is strong, but one based upon Troy’s dominance over every aspect of their lives -- especially how the treat their teenage son, Cory (Jovan Adepo). He’s a football star with the prospect of a college scholarship, but Troy’s own crushed sports dreams and the racial divide color his reaction.

The rest of the cast is also spectacular, including Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby and Mykelti Williamson playing Troy’s best friend, older son from another relationship and disabled brother, respectively.

Wilson and Washington have supposedly made plans to film the other nine plays in the Pittsburgh Cycle. If so, they’re off to a magnificent start.

Video features are a mite on the light side. The DVD contains none at all. The Blu-ray boasts six making-of featurettes: “Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen,” “The Company of Fences,” “Building Fences: Denzel Washington,” “Playing the Part: Rose Maxson” and “August Wilson’s Hill District.”



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