- Black Panther Review
- A Wrinkle in Time Review
- Acromony Review
- #Spotlight Series Post
Fences: The Phenomenal Feature the Explores Life’s Complicating Layers
(Review: Contains Spoilers)
By: Shanita Hicks
Overall Rating: 5/5
Storytelling & Storyline
Fences, which released nationwide on Christmas day follows the all too common and phenomenally relatable story of an man and his family processing and coping with life’s most unforeseen and dream deferring lessons.
Based on the play written by the late August Wilson, Fences surrounds the life of Troy Maxson whose brilliantly portrayed by Denzel Washington, a middle-aged man who supports his family by the adopted trade of working for city sanitation in Pittsburg during the mid 1950s. Along his life’s journey, Troy like everyone is faced with decisions and actions that ultimately shaped the future and present state of mind that he is currently placed in. After running away from home at the young and impressionable age of 14, he lands in jail for foolish antics for several years of his life and once he given an outlet to showcase and hone a skill playing baseball, he finds that just like many of the other unknown opportunities of life, this too has passed him by.
The Negro league ultimately rejects him due to his old age of 40 regardless of his talent, which in turn made him bitter and resentful. Instead of a dream deferred it was a dream diminished and along his path, he consciously and subconsciously made the decision to destroy the happiness of everyone around him. No one was safe from his internal wrathful conflict. Which brings the overall idea of Fences to a crucial plot point. The idea and question of “What about my life” is openly and honestly explored over the course of every character that directly and indirectly has interaction with Troy.
Because of his resentment towards failing in his own eyes, he decided to take it out on others most predominately his own family. Despite his youngest son, Cory (Jovan Adepo) showcasing great promise and skill for sports particularly football, Troy finds himself forcing his son away from his dreams because of own personal insecurities towards failed hopes.
Lyons (Russell Hornsby) is his 34-year-old son who finds himself within the same trappings as his youngest son in his father’s eyes. He tried with later failed results to escape the life that his father led by running around in the streets and taking what he felt he was due to support his sort of pipe dream career in music. Despite any promising skills he possessed, it is considered useless because he never learned the value of true hard work and persistence due to his strained relationship with his father.
But besides the personal distress that Troy continued to remained trapped in, the two people in my opinion that suffered the most from his discontentment were his wife Rose Maxson, whom is expertly brought the life by actress Viola Davis and his mentally disabled war veteran brother Gabriel. As if plucked from the story Their Eyes Were Watching God, written by famed writer and historian Zora Neale Hurston, Rose Maxson represented the ideology of women truly being considered the mules of the of the world.
Despite the pain and dissatisfaction of her own dreams never coming to fruition while being married to Troy, she continued to lift him up regardless of if he pleased her emotionally or physically. This hard and complex level of selflessness in the end cost her both her voice and her value in both of their eyes as she found herself lost within his shadow of grief and forced to bare the pain of his infidelity and devaluing actions of creating an outside child.
And tucked within that all consuming shadow, laid his brother Gabriel who was brilliantly cast and developed by actor Mytelti Williamson. Having sustained life-altering injuries during WWII, Gabriel is forced to live under the confines of his brother’s choices since he could no longer function and manage on his own accord.
As the story of Troy Maxson’s life unfolds, the symbolic elements within Fences manifests on various levels. The concept takes on both physical entrapment and emotional entrapment of not wanting to let go of life’s hurts and also not wanting to let go of those that can and cannot thrive if placed in a better situation than you. Just as a physical fence is designed to keep unwanted people and things out it also designed to keep said properties in. For Rose, the fence became her heart’s barrier. She was emotionally raw and wanted so bad to keep everything that was Troy Maxson at home with her both good and bad.
For his children, the fence became a representation of what was holding them back from success and for Troy the fence represented all of the weight being incased from his failures, small successes and his infidelity. The beginning of the end for Troy was surrounded by the birth of his outside child, Raynell (Saniyaa Sidney). She was a product of an affair the Troy guarded as his moment of feeling great and being able to escape the trappings of his life. When Raynell’s mother passed away during delivery, Troy had to bring back her to the one person he knew could help her.
In the end, Raynell, Gabriel, Lyons, Cory, Rose and Troy finally escaped the fence. His sons went on the manage life’s curve balls and find success. His longtime friend Bono, portrayed by Stephen Henderson learned what not to do and what to do in life based on the choices he saw Troy make. Rose became the mother that she was meant to be with Raynell and Gabriel although considered a shell of his former self thrived in his own regard once he was given the care and treatment he required. At the end, once everyone had returned for Troy’s funeral Gabriel’s characteristics and antics took on a very spiritual aspect in that he finally got the opportunity to “guide and usher” Troy’s spirit into heaven by sounding his faithful trumpet.
Without question, Fences in my opinion is probably the best film of 2016. From the acting to the scenery each part of this film is top notch. Denzel did a fantastic job bringing this project to the silver screen and you would be very silly not to go witness it’s greatness.
Queen Sugar:The Show That Depicts the Variances of Family Dynamics So Well (Review: Contains Some Spoilers)
By: Shanita Hicks
Overall Rating: 5/5
I am so thrilled that Ava and Oprah decided to bring the vision of this beautiful yet complex story to the small screen. The actors selected to portray the characters in the series were superbly casted. Each character has their own complexity and challenges and with the introduction of both veteran and newcomers, I believe that challenge is met and conquered.
Storytelling & Storyline
Famed movie producer and writer, Ava Duvernay’s television project Queen Sugar premiered on Tuesday Sept 6th on OWN. The first part of a two-part premiere was presented commercial free and showcased a riveting portrayal of the Bordelon Family that had grown disconnected from financial, personal lifestyles and choices. Yet all of those rifts and separating factors were sewn back together with what typically levels the playing field in everyone’s life: tragedy.
We were first introduced to a young woman named Nova Bordelon, who is portrayed by the lovely actress Rutina Wesley of True Blood fame. She appears to be living in a happy and fulfilling space but soon that is revealed to be otherwise. Caught within the confines of a sordid affair with a married man named Calvin (Greg Vaughan) a clear sense of judgment that she must have is consistently challenged. She plays as the silent but strong type that wishes to see change and resolution around her but relies on underground lifestyle habits to survive. Stuck between being apart of the social problem as a pusher and part of the healing solution within the Louisiana community as a holistic healer and social advocate her character stages the basis as the one that will challenge the family into action whether she is right or wrong.
Then we meet a young and emotionally guarded man named Ralph Angel Bordelon (Kofi Siriboe) with a sweet little boy named Blue Bordelon (Ethan Hutchison) that has been dealt the challenging hand of having to raise his son without the aid of Blue’s mother. Ralph Angel teeters along the line of living in line by trying to establish work with his father and dabbling across the line into the world of crime by indulging in stealing. As the storyline seamlessly transitions, we are introduced to Blue’s mother, Darla, portrayed by veteran actress Bianca Lawson who is struggling to regain her footing in life and the life of her son’s after suffering from drug addiction and abuse.
Then finally there is the affluent sister named Charley Bordelon West (Dawn Leyn-Gardner) that lives quite well on the opposite side of poverty and hardship with her family located in Los Angeles. All seems picture perfect within her marriage to Davis West (Timon Kyle Durrett) and her life until misfortune and scandal rock her husband’s basketball team to it’s core. Originally having supported him and his proclamations of fidelity, she is left shattered by the revelation that he was involved and captured as the ringleader in a rape case.
But what lies beneath the surface of all their lives is the ailing patriarch Earnest Bordelon portrayed by celebrated actor Glynn Turman. Unbeknownst to his family, he hasn’t been in good health and he hasn’t been over a thriving farmland. Call it pride or just strong willed but the father takes up a side job as a janitor to make ends meet. All of this secrecy, stress and mounting responsibilities culminate towards the tragic end of his passing after attending his grandson’s birthday party. What proves to be even more tragic is the fact that his most financially successful daughter doesn’t make it in time.
Forced to find closure to their father’s life and potentially restoring his remaining legacy and earthly inheritance, the family must come together and prepare to face old but unresolved wounds.
On Wednesday, the Bordelon family returns and is seen from a more recognizing light of the fact that they must move forward with the home going of their father Earnest. Tensions flare as the family borders between trying to protect the family legacy and also pay respects without the flare and flash of Charley’s help. Eventually, they come to an agreement after a heated argument and the funeral is carried out as required and suggested.
But what happens within the second part of the series premiere is the discovery of awaiting buyers that are eager to take the land from up under the family, Blue being reunited with his mother Darla even after she fails to meet him on time as requested per the father Ralph Angel and Davis West failed attempt to mend the broken pieces between his family but see’s much resistance from both Charley and his son Micah West (Nicholas L. Ashe).
I highly recommend watching this series each week on Wednesday nights 10/9c on OWN. The show portrays the complexity of family life and how families must come together even if there are varying differences between them. The idea of life truly being too short is brought to the forefront and what you decide to do can make the ultimate change within that social circle.
Atlanta: TV’s Newest Gem
(Review Contains Spoilers)
By: Shanita Hicks
The new television series Atlanta premiere aired on FX Tuesday night starring actor and famed rapper Childish Gambino. Within the two-part series premiere, we are ushered into the world of hustling and dreams normally captured in the hearts of many aspiring rappers and performers dwelling in the city of Atlanta. To me the overall feel of the show resembles the styling of the 2006 urban cult classic similarly titled ATL.
When Earn Marks (Childish Gambino) see’s that his cousin Alfred Miles also known as Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) has a real chance at a successful rap career and album, he takes off in search of him in order to regain his connection and possibly land him in the money that he do desperately needs to provide for his child. His cousin, Paper Boi is reluctant at first because of their disconnect after a close family members passing but decides to allow Earn to manage him.
However, Earn felt his world was finally turning for the better until Paper Boi decides to take matters into his own hands after a damaging incident with his car. Both guys find themselves thrown in jail and are left there to reflect on personal change and the social climates of prison. Earn is later bailed out of jail by his child’s mother Van (Zazie Beetz) whom originally entrusted his assistance in watching their young daughter.
Atlanta provides is an interesting take on social issues that currently plague us a society as well as showing layers to the lives of those just trying to chase the American dream. From the gritty cinematography to the infectious musical selection peppered throughout the show, Atlanta is going to be a show on Tuesday nights that will leave you consciously thinking and also thoroughly entertained. Atlanta is tapped to air 10 episodes this season. Catch it on FX every Tuesday night at 10/9c.
Southside With You:
An Intimate Look at the Beloved First Couple
(Review: Contains Some Spoilers)
By: Shanita Hicks
Overall Rating: 4/5
The story itself was brilliantly crafted. It often isn’t easy to find actors to accurately represent prominent and influential figures in such a way that it is believable. However, both Tika Sumpter (most famously known for her portrayal as Candice from TV’s Haves and the HaveNots) and the West London actor Parker Sawyers of Zero Dark Thirty fame proved to be excellent selections.
From strategic vocal inflections to perfectly mirrored mannerisms, each actor embodied and captured the essence of their famous counterparts. The only casting that I felt was a one off was the casting of Michelle’s mother in Vanessa Bell Calloway. Ms. Calloway is an incomparable actress but I felt even with as little screen that she did have, I would’ve selected someone else, say Debbie Morgan perhaps of maybe even Jenifer Lewis.
Storytelling & Storyline
A little over one week after the nationwide release of the movie Southside With You, I finally had the opportunity to catch the wonderful story of our nation’s first black family The Obamas.
Set aptly in the Southside of Chicago, a young Barack Obama had the opportunity of going out on a “date” with a then young and vibrant spirited Michelle Robinson. The term date is loosely referenced because for the majority of their time together both Michelle and Barack had different views on what constituted the realm of a first date. (Find out the book it was based from) But no one could deny as their day progressed well into the evening, that it was truly the foundation of what would develop into the legacy if Mr. and Mrs. Obama.
The written framework that was crafted to depict their first date on the silver screen was beautifully done. Each scene felt relevant and flawlessly progressed into the next moments between Michelle and Barack. I’m already partial to love stories but I’m doubly partial to the portrayal of positive black love stories. As the world has become fashioned to see over the past 8 years of Barack’s presidency, Michelle was an intelligent, well rounded and sometimes head strong but lovable woman. She admired Barack as her mentee but wanted to also maintain her importance and prestige that she worked tirelessly to achieve. These traits were ultimately what motivated his interest and perplexed Barack about her.
And with Barack, we got the opportunity to witness the infancy of his budding relationship within the community, his tenacious spirit while speaking with others and his pure desire to be a true change maker and not just a follower. They both possessed the qualities that brought out each other’s best and it was a joy to witness it unfold on screen.
And lastly, I enjoyed the intelligence that was exuded throughout the film. The inclusion of foreign speech, stories of world travels, interest in the arts and ivy league acceptance set a positive and affirming message that education and highly educated people aren’t absent within African-American culture. It also challenged that you don’t have to conform to societies standards to be successful. It’s perfectly fine to dream but in that dream we need to be daring and unabashedly determined. Southside With You made you feel that zeal and ideology.
I would without a doubt recommend this movie is supported and recommended for viewing. The story was refreshingly pure so it would be safe to bring along the family to watch as well. The only aspect that hindered me from scoring this movie a 5/5 was the fact that it wasn’t long enough for me. I truly hope that this movie is used as a foundation for other works for the continuation of their remarkable real life journey.