Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Short Cuts: Denzel Washington has taken the searing lyricism of August Wilson's Fences and put it on screen with the play's length edited a bit but with no harm rendered to its classic beauty. Washington and co-star Viola Davis reprise their Tony-winning performances as a middle-aged black couple in 1950s Pittsburgh who find their worlds being changed by forces they are not fully prepared to face. In this regard, the eponymous fence symbolizes safety from threats both societal and spiritual; it's a brilliant metaphor. Yes, as with many other 20th century African American literary works, Fences examines "deferred dreams" but without a hint of sentimentality or artifice. It's a powerful film.


Short Cuts: Garth Davis delivers tears of sadness and joy in Lion, a weepy true story of a 5-year-old Indian lad who gets lost 1,000 miles from home, enters the world of India's lost children and is adopted by an Australia couple, saving him from certain deprivation and exploitation. The rest of the film is 25 years on, as the boy wonders about his home, his mother and siblings. Dev Patel plays Saroo as an adult but the marvelous child actor Sunny Pawar is the heart of this moving tale,  which delivers breathtaking vistas and squalor but too much cinematic shorthand to draw us deeply into what must be an amazing story.

La La Land

Short Cuts: Damien Chazelle's La La Land, like his earlier triumph Whiplash, is an exuberant film that explores the territory between love and passion, with the world of music as the backdrop. In La La Land, a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an underemployed actress (Emma Stone) are finding little more than frustration and disappointment in Los Angeles, where being good or good enough doesn't pay the rent. What does pay the bills (playing Christmas tunes in a restaurant and serving up lattes on a movie studio lot) is soul-deadening, but the two find both inspiration and misdirection in each other. Chazelle raises (often literally) the quality of this boy-meets-girl tale with splendid (and frequently quite hummable) tunes and dance numbers that aren't as dazzling as Astaire and Rogers but are enchanting, nonetheless. La La Land is a beautiful and affirming picture. Highly Recommended.

Queen & Slim

In the soon to be iconic photograph from Melina Matsoukas's distressing Queen & Slim, stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith...