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Mace & Crown | March 25, 2017

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Road to the Oscars: ‘Hidden Figures,’ ‘Hell or High Water’ and ‘Fences’

Road to the Oscars: ‘Hidden Figures,’ ‘Hell or High Water’ and ‘Fences’

Tyler Passarge Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

‘Hidden Figures’ (2016) | PG | 127 min. | 🎬🎬🎬

As the U.S. raced the Russians to space exploration in the 1960s, NASA became desperate to put a man in space. In that desperation, they put their trust in a group of African-American female mathematicians, commonly referred to as “computers.” The film focuses on three of those women who fought racial and gender segregation in order to put astronaut John Glenn into space.

Based on the novel written by Hampton Roads native Margot Lee Shetterly, “Hidden Figures” boasts a story that needed to be told. There’s no denying that this movie has the good intention of being an inspirational film. “Hidden Figures” is a warm-hearted film that lives to inspire and dares its audience to never back down from their fight. In that regard, the film has a winning formula.

While “Hidden Figures” is good, the aesthetics of the film keep this movie from being great. By design, the film is supposed to make an audience feel good as they are walking out of the theater. However, the sentimentality of “Hidden Figures” can be quite overbearing at times with directional cues and story elements that feel expendable.

That being said, the problems that the film faces feels minor when it comes to the overall viewing experience. Sentimentality is never a bad thing in a film, especially for a film of this caliber. “Hidden Figures” is still a film that’s entertaining and will be the source of inspiration for many who aspire to make history and break barriers.

Although it falls short of being great, “Hidden Figures” is a good inspirational film with a satisfying end result.

This film is now playing in theaters.


Courtesy CBS Films

Courtesy CBS Films

‘Hell or High Water’ (2016) | R | 102 min. 🎬🎬🎬🎬

After the death of his mother, Toby (Chris Pine) concocts a plan to save his mother’s ranch from the bank ready to possess it. Toby enlists his trouble-making brother, Tanner (Ben Foster), to rob a series of banks in order to raise the money he needs to keep the ranch. Things become risky for the brothers when they catch the attention of the unrelenting Texas Ranger, Marcus (Jeff Bridges).

When the film opens, the audience is first introduced to Pine and Foster’s characters as they hold a lone woman at gunpoint and demand money. These are characters that would be deemed villains in any other narrative. It’s only when their motives are articulated in the film that the viewer is willing to see them as the good guys. It’s that cleverness that holds “Hell or High Water” to a different level.

This is a film that can easily be framed as a modern day western. Pine and Foster take up the roles of outlaws who do the wrong thing for the right reasons. In the world of “Hell or High Water,” there is no good or evil. No black or white. Each character is motivated by a world where morality is a gray area and nothing ever comes easy.

The film is written by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the 2015 crime drama “Sicario.” With his script for “Hell or High Water,” Sheridan brings in the same electric intensity that made his previous film work. Much like “Sicario,” the awesome script is only boosted by the equally great direction and performances.

Thanks to a wonderful script, “Hell or High Water” is an intense film that deals with the themes of desperation and the bonds between friends and family.
This film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.


Courtesy Paramount Pictures

Courtesy Paramount Pictures

‘Fences’ (2016) | PG-13 | 139 min. 🎬🎬🎬🎬

Bitter about the way his life has turned out, Troy (Denzel Washington) has always tried to maintain a sense of control. He works every day at a blue-collar job to support his wife (Viola Davis) and his two sons while also taking care of his brother. While Troy can be loving and truly cares about his family, he holds a far more bitter side of him that’s made up of missed opportunities.

Taken straight from the stage, “Fences” is a film adaptation written by August Wilson. The film’s two headlining stars, Washington and Davis, have worked with the material on stage before. This experience shows in an impressive way. The performances from Washington and Davis are a marvel to witness as the two play the roles with an intensity that’s good enough to be studied in acting classes.

While he stars in the film, Washington took his admiration for the material to a different level by taking on the position as director for “Fences.” Washington made the choice to frame the film in limited spaces and keep the script mostly intact. His choices as a director make audiences feel as though they are watching the stage show with a cinematic scope.

The dedication to the play’s material is both a strength of the film as well as a detriment in some places. Washington kept himself tied to the play’s script, which prevented him from retooling elements from the play that didn’t translate well to the screen. This includes Mykelti Williamson’s overly theatrical performance as Troy’s war-affected brother.

Some elements don’t work on the film, but the performances and handling of Wilson’s material make “Fences” a powerful inhale of American theater.
This film is now playing in theaters.


Rating System:

🎬 — Should’ve Been Snubbed
🎬🎬 — All Politics
🎬🎬🎬 — Just Happy to be Nominated
🎬🎬🎬🎬 — The Contender
🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬 — Taking Home the Gold