As the temperatures continue to fall and with schools and offices soon closing for the holidays, some families may be wondering to do with all of that extra downtime.
But before you decide to sleep in, engage with social media or be a couch potato, you may want to consider checking out a few of the new films – great stories featuring Black actors all at the top of their game.
Denzel Washington triumphs as the actor in and director of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Fences” in a film that opens on Christmas Day. He’s joined by Viola Davis in their collective portrayal of a husband and wife living in Pittsburgh in the late 1950s. And after recently putting their stamp on the roles on stage when the play opened as a revival on Broadway, they bring even more emotion and passionate exchange in the screen adaptation.
“Fences” follows the middle years of Troy Maxson, a former Negro League baseball player now collecting garbage, who angrily opposes anything or anyone that challenges his authority. He’s a man with a lot of pent up frustration, unrealized pain and unfulfilled dreams – “dreams deferred” as the masterful Langston Hughes once wrote.
Be prepared to witness an acting “tour de force” from Davis and Washington. And don’t be surprised if the two take home the Oscar for best actor and best actress during next year’s awards.
As New York Times critic Charles Isherwood says, “August Wilson’s art celebrates the sustaining richness of the Black experience.”
He’s right on the money with his analysis.
“Hidden Figures” brings together a triad of Black women who illustrate the heights to which Blacks, and Black women in particular, can ascend when the illogical ignorance of racism and sexism are removed from the equation.
The movie’s based on a true story so rarely told and so little known that many would assume that it’s a fictional tale. Three African-American female mathematicians who work at NASA in Virginia during the Civil Rights era, lend their intellectual skills in America’s goal to achieve dominance in the space exploration frontier.
Actors Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae bring a one-two-three punch to their portrayals that will unquestionably make this one of the best films of the season – if not the year. The story and their skills are just that good.
And it’s both refreshing and encouraging to see actors of color get a bite at roles that allow them to spread their wings and assume the persona of characters who not only look like them, but which have substance. The characters of the three women deal with sexism, racism and segregation and find that they must depend
“Collateral Beauty” features an ensemble cast including Will Smith, Keira Knightley and Kate Winslet and tells the tale of a successful New York advertising exec (Smith) who, after undergoing a great tragedy, retreats from the world and life.
His friends, clearly concerned, make every attempt possible to reconnect with him. But he decides to look for his answers from the Universe, writing letters to Love, Time and Death.
When his notes bring unexpected personal responses, he realizes how the three, interrelated and inextricably bound, make for a fully-lived life. Even more, he learns that we can find meaning, beauty and hope even while in the midst of the deepest loss and pain.
Other noteworthy films to consider: “Almost Christmas,” with Danny Glover, Mo’Nique, Gabrielle Union, Kimberly Elise and Omar Epps in a comedy about a family patriarch who insists that the family spend Christmas together – whether they like it or not. Get ready to laugh and laugh and . . . laugh.
Finally, a film that’s not part of the Christmas release but well worth seeing, “Loving,” based on a true story, punctuates the fact that “all love is created equal” as a man and woman fight for the right to live and love in a world where marriage between Blacks and whites is forbidden.