Tag Archives: Denzel Washington

“Fences” was fabulous, and hey, the Oscars aren’t so white this year! Aziz Ansari really brought it on “SNL.” And Roger Federer turning back the clock at Aussie Open

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I love, love, love movies that are beautifully written, with monologues that go on for minutes, acted out by thespians who are at the top of their craft, with a cast that is as good as they are.

Sitting in a movie theater while a screen legend brings the fire, the pain, the heart, and the love, using words that were written by master craftsmen, just inspires me so much.

I felt that way when I sat mesmerized in a theater last week by “Fences,” the new movie Denzel Washington and Viola Davis burned through the screen in. Based on a Pulitzer-Prize winning play by August Wilson, “Fences” tells us a simple story of a married couple in 1950s Pittsburgh, with Denzel’s Troy character the hero of his own world as a garbageman still bitter about not getting the chance to play baseball in the major leagues. He’s a flawed man raging at slights, real and imagined, but he’s trying to do his best by his family and his son.

Denzel is phenomenal in this role, especially in the scenes where he’s just riffing to his buddies and his wife. Oh yeah, that wife is played by the fantastic Viola Davis, who more than holds her own as Rose, Troy’s long-suffering wife who indulges his crazy talk because she knows he’s, deep down, a good man.

Until we learn, maybe he isn’t. Davis lights up when she finally gets a chance at a few good monologues of her own, tearing into Troy as she asserts herself for the strong, independent woman she is.

The supporting cast is great, too, especially Mykelti Williamson as Troy’s brother, who suffered a serious head injury in World War II and has been radically altered in more ways than one.

“Fences” is terrific filmmaking, which is why I’m thrilled it got nominated for Best Picture on Tuesday, with Davis and Washington deservedly getting acting nods as well.

Oh yeah, the Oscars nominations came out Tuesday! And some non-white people got picked in the big categories, whoo-hoo! After two years of the Oscar picks being paler than a Trump rally, we got some welcome change.

All kinds of people of color are up this year, including Washington, Davis, Dev Patel for “Lion” and director Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight.”

We’ll see if any of these people actually win, but hey, at least you gotta give the Academy credit for finally realizing that non-white people occasionally do good stuff.

**Next up, I wrote here last year about my newfound appreciation for Aziz Ansari, who created and starred in the Netflix show “Masters of None,” which ought to be coming back for Season 2 soon.

Ansari is also a fabulous stand-up comic, and over the weekend he did a really strong opening monologue (apparently that’s the word of the day here at Wide World of Stuff) on “Saturday Night Live.”

Stay through to the end, that’s the best part.

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**And finally today, it’s feeling an awful lot like 2006 at the Australian Open, and it’s so great.

Venus Williams, age 36, making one hell of a resurgent run and reaching the semifinals, where she’s one win away from probably playing her sister Serena in the finals (wouldn’t that be something?)

And my man Roger Federer, given up for dead in terms of him ever winning another major, just two wins away from Slam title No. 18 in his first major tournament since missing six months with a knee injury last year.

Federer is playing out-of-his-mind right now, hitting winners and moving about the court like a guy who’s 25, not 35. He has to play Stan Wawrinka in the semis, which will be no cakewalk, and then maybe, could it be… Rafa Nadal in the finals?

The tennis Gods have been so good to us the last 10 years or so. Is it too much to ask for one final Williams-Williams championship match, followed a day later by one more Federer-Nadal match? I mean, come ON tennis Gods, we’re stuck with President Trump, can’t we at least get this?

Jason Gay at the Wall Street Journal has a fabulous article up on the Federer resurgence, and what so many of us tennis fans are feeling right now.

A pretty blah Golden Globe awards, but some winners got me excited. And a gonzo weekend of NFL playoffs, including the disgraceful Bengals

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 10: Actress Viola Davis attends the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Awards season is here, which means snark reaches a new level on the Internet, I watch and say “I never saw that movie” a lot, and fun is had by all.

Sunday’s Golden Globes were pretty meh, I thought, but I was glad to see so many surprise winners and new faces. Some random thoughts from my wife and I as we watched…

— Ricky Gervais as host was, as usual, not funny. Sorry, I just don’t get why people love him (I also don’t get why Lady Gaga is famous, but that’s another story). Alluding to Mel Gibson, “we know who Mel blames” was one of his two best lines of the night. The other one I loved, directed to the night’s winners, was “Remember, if you win, nobody cares as much as you do.”
But otherwise, I thought Gervais was boring and not needed. Why can’t Tina and Amy host every year?

— Things/People I was thrilled to see win: “Inside Out” for best animated movie. Jon Hamm for “Mad Men.” Aaron Sorkin for “Steve Jobs” (I really don’t know why that movie didn’t do better at the box office, it was terrific).

— And Sly Stallone winning for “Creed” was fantastic. Not as fantastic? Him forgetting to thank the movie’s star, Michael B. Jordan, and director Ryan Coogler. Look, Sly, I know you’re 93 years old, but come on man, you gotta thank the freaking star and the director, the ones who actually put you in a GOOD movie for the first time in 15 years!

— Meanwhile, “Spotlight” was robbed, getting totally shut out. Just wrong.

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— Jamie Foxx yelling “the winner is, Straight Outta Compton” while presenting an award for Best Original Score was pretty hilarious, then Foxx making it better by mocking the huge Steve Harvey mistake calling out the wrong Miss Universe winner, was fabulous.

— My wife I aren’t the only ones who still can’t remember which one is Olivia Wilde and which one is Olivia Munn, right?

— Denzel Washington can’t be 61 years old. Tremendous montage of his movies, though not sure why “The Pelican Brief” got so much air time; that movie stunk and I love John Grisham.

— Best dressed of the night: Viola Davis (and Amy Adams) for the women, and Chris Evans and Brad Pitt for men. (Brie Larson’s dress (above) was also fabulous.) Worst dressed, by far and no one was even second: Maggie Gyllenhall. I mean, were bumblebees attacking her in this thing?

— Speaking of Mr. Jolie, does Brad Pitt ever, ever age? Dude still looks 25. He’s got some amazing, Benjamin Button secret formula to stay young or something.

— Not to pile on the nice folks in charge of programming at NBC, but USA Network won TWO Golden Globe awards Sunday, while NBC won zero. USA, the channel that shows pro wrestling and other crap most of the time, beat out the network of “The Cosby Show” and “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A. Law.”

Bengals-Steelers

**Next up today, we had two bizarre and compelling endings in the NFL playoffs this weekend, one game that was exciting for three quarters, and then the Chiefs-Texans game which happily I watched not one second of.
The Redskins-Packers game went pretty much as expected; Washington had a surprisingly good season, but the Packers are better. Aaron Rodgers remembered who he is and played great.

The two games I definitely want to talk about, though, were Bengals-Steelers and Vikings-Seahawks.

— One hundred years from now, when pro football is banned in America and high school classes are studying why, I think they’ll show them clips of this Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game. The brutality was ridiculous, so over the top. The vicious Ryan Shazier hit on Gio Bernard (above.) The Vontaze Burfict brutality on Antonio Brown. The Ben Roethlisberger injury. Several other headshots that I can’t even remember off the top of my head. Coaches cursing at players on the field. Just a horrendous display of vicious behavior; this game was out of control.

— And the ending… well, I’ve seen a lot of epic meltdowns in pro football, but that one by Cincy might take the cake. You make a fantastic comeback, take a one-point lead, get an interception with less than two minutes left to basically clinch the game… and still lose. Because your defense is filled with obnoxious, taunting, me-first, selfish, completely irresponsible players like Burfict, who acted like a moron all game, and Adam “Pacman” Jones. They both committed 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalties when the Steelers were only at midfield, allowing Pittsburgh to kick a chip-shot game winning field goal.

How Marvin Lewis can keep his job as head coach after his team was as undisciplined as this is beyond me. What an embarrassment the Bengals were.

— As for the Vikings, their defense was great, they got just enough offense, and then their kicker, Blair Walsh, missed a 27-yard field goal. Yeah it was below zero out, and yeah his holder didn’t spin the laces right, but come on, you gotta make that kick, Blair Walsh.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks did nothing for three quarters but somehow found a way to win. This is one hell of a run Seattle’s on, being good and getting all kinds of lucky breaks. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them go back to the Super Bowl.

But honestly, I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth about all of football right now after that Bengals-Steelers game.

“Flight” is a compelling movie, but I’m not sure it was good. “Homeland” makes my head spin. And Tyler Hicks’ amazing photos of Gaza

Sometimes you go to a movie and as the credits role, you can’t stop smiling at how good it was, and you don’t want to get up and ruin the moment.
Othertimes you go to a movie and it’s so disappointing that you want to run out of the theater the minute it’s finished.
And then there are times like I experienced last weekend, after “Flight.” I sat there kind of dumbfounded, trying to decide in my own head whether I liked it or not, and whether it was any good.

There were lots of good parts; if you have seen it already you’d probably agree. Denzel Washington was terrific as pilot Whip Whitaker, the plane in a storm sequence in the beginning was beautifully shot, and John Goodman, well, he’s just jolly good fun whenever he’s on screen these days. I thought the way they showed Whip’s inner demons, his wild mood swings thanks to alcohol, and his troubled relationship with his son were all spot-on.

But there were some really strange holes in the plot, and odd decisions made, too. Like what the point was of the redhead Nicole, other than to give Whip someone to play off of? She disappears halfway through the movie and isn’t missed one bit?
And the whole final scene with the NTSB lady Ellen Block just played out really oddly to me, like nobody knew exactly where she was going with her line of questioning, including Ellen Block herself.

Still, if you haven’t seen it, I tentatively recommend “Flight.” If nothing else, you get to see John Goodman in two or three hilarious scenes, which is worth the $13 ticket price.

**What another heart-racing, pulse-pounding, what-are-they-gonna-do-next episode of “Homeland.”
I swear, each hour of this show has me scratching my head in confusion, awe, and sheer joy at how good of a show this is.
This week brought lots of questions, including…
— The biggest hole in believability this week was that the CIA was utterly and totally convinced that Nasir would be dumb enough to actually be directly involved in the “homecoming explosion” mission, and that he’d actually be in one of the cars in the parking lot. Why would Nazir take such a risk, when he’s not even sure he can trust our hero Nick Brody anymore? Just seemed like a silly assumption by the CIA.

— So Quinn, after all this time, is actually an assassin hired by a rogue former CIA Agent named Daradell, and he was two seconds from killing Brody in that limo? And who is that baby mama policewoman? And is Quinn going to get back at Saul, now that he knows it was him who interrogated the baby mama? So many fascinating questions around Quinn. He’s become a very interesting character.

So many great things about this episode, including Brody still leaving us guessing as to which side he’s on. I’m even willing to put aside the ridiculousness of Jessica deciding to shtup Mike while her kids are in the next room and they may be killed at any moment. Come on, she can’t be that horny.

Three episodes left, and I have absolutely no idea what will happen. Which I love.

**Finally, I’ve written before about my admiration for my one-time co-worker and current incredible New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks. The man is fearless and brave and a remarkable storyteller with his images, and he was at it again last week in Gaza. Check out this slideshow of images from the awful fighting, and read his thoughts about how he deals with seeing so much devastation every day.

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