Tag Archive: David Oyelowo


‘Queen of Katwe’

 

katwe

You know how sometimes, something can feel too good to be true, so you underplay your hopes for it?  When I first heard David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o were doing a movie directed by Mira Nair about the true story of the young girl from Uganda who became a chess champion, I muted my expectations. Not because I didn’t want it to be good, but you know, you don’t want to be disappointed either.

‘Queen of Katwe’ does not disappoint.

In this film adaptation, Oyelowo takes on the role of the teacher who discovers then nurtures the talents of the children from Katwe as they learn and eventually represent Uganda in tournaments around the continent (and eventually the world).  Lupita plays the mother of the main character.

If you’re a fan of Mira Nair (as I am, I loved ‘the Namesake’), this film carries her mark.  The characters feel like three dimensional people with flaws, none of the people we cheer for as an audience are perfect;  no one standing in the way of the journey is a one note ‘evil’ person.  And as a viewer, you become immersed in the culture of the story.

Which brings me back to my original hopes and fears.  David expressed it best in the Q&A after the screening I attended, but it’s worth noting.  To have the biggest studio in the world put out a movie by a female director with no major white characters, starring two Africans, with an unknown African girl playing the main character…it just doesn’t happen, ever.  The fact that the film is a good, entertaining family film is a nice cherry on top, of course.  But in just about every way possible, this is why representation matters.

‘Queen of Katwe’ opens nationwide on the 30th, definite recommend here.

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‘Nightingale’

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In theory at least, any professional actor, if you give them 90 minutes worth of material, will commit to it and give you a quality performance.  But to essentially do a filmed version of a one act play, and keep the audience engaged for the entire time, the truth is even those who would want that challenge may not be able to pull it off.

The Emmy nominations for Best TV Movie and Best Actor are just two of the things that validate David Oyelowo as being a cut above the rest.  The premise here, an Army vet kills his mother and slowly loses it, is the kind of part most dramatic actors salivate over.  Part of the reason for that is, playing mental illness is a very, very delicate line.  To be convincing without condescending (think of the truth inside that monologue Robert Downey Jr. did in ‘Tropic Thunder’).  I’m not surprised David could pull it off, but as my last memory of him was as Dr. King, this picture is a great testament to his range.  And there’s some other character details that play out that pull you in that David nails as well (the hardest of the hardcore film geeks will understand when I say I was reminded of Brando in ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye’ by David’s performance.

Streaming on HBO Now if you have it.  Worth the less than 90 minutes.

‘Interstellar’

interstellar

So what does the genius Christopher Nolan do with his ‘blank check’?  He makes a film that’s not quite on the level of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But honestly, what is?

Interstellar is epic and ambitious and unique (especially in the current era of filmmaking).  The McConnaisance is the headliner of this ‘near future’ tale of a pilot called back into service when the future of the human race is in question (no pressure).  A lot of science is dropped to explain the plot, all supposedly based on real scientific theories (I’m an artist, like most of you, I have to trust what I’m hearing as far as that’s concerned.)

So my nitpicks with the movie aren’t with the science that I can’t refute.  It’s with the genre jumps.  For the most part, this is a science fiction film, but there are turns where it becomes a family film, and in the last act, it becomes an action movie for 20 minutes or so (with a nice uncredited cameo from one of my favorite movie stars).  The tone shifts work most of the time, but not all of the time.

But with an ensemble including Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, David Oyelowo, Casey Affleck, and Michael Caine, Nolan fanboys will not be disappointed.  Definitely worth seeing (on the big screen if you can still catch it).

‘Selma’

 

selma

She did it.

That’s the simple but accurate description of what Ava DuVernay has accomplished with ‘Selma’.  The (still criminally) short list of Hollywood backed films about black history, where black characters are actually the centerpiece of the story, has another worthy entry.  From the opening sequence which contrasts King’s Nobel Peace Prize winning speech to four little girls walking down into the church basement (and if you know black history at all, you know how that ends and you immediately get a lump in your throat), the tone is set.

The title makes it clear: this isn’t a complete biopic of King as Spike’s film was about Malcolm X.  ‘Selma’ focuses on this key moment in time when Dr. King was a big enough name to routinely meet with President Johnson (played by Tom Wilkinson, one of many great character actors in the film), but far from universally loved by the people who were holding up the status quo, or some of the young black students who were already wearing thin on the idea of ‘nonviolent resistance’.

I went to a screening where Ava and David Oyelowo participated in a Q&A following the film.  When asked about his process, David talked about his experience on ‘Lincoln’ and watching Daniel Day-Lewis (very telling).  To do an impersonation of a famous person, if you break it all the way down, is usually mimicry while amplifying a mannerism or a cadence, usually for comedic effect.  What David does in this film is not impersonation.  There’s more than enough in look and cadence so the audience knows this is Dr. King, but it’s deeper than that.  And for what ‘Selma’ does, it should be.  I researched this whole era as a teenager so no information in the film, whether real or used for creative license surprised me.  But, if all you know of Dr. King is what you here one day in January every year, or every February, you…might get some new information.  I like to believe between my film geekness and passion for history, I’ve seen every ‘big time’ portrayal of the man, but I’ve never seen Martin Luther King portrayed so human.  So flawed.  David got all the nuances right.

Award season? We shall see. Timely? Obviously. In my opinion, it’s Ava’s best film to date; if (American) audiences had any doubt David could be the leading man in the right role, let’s squash that now too.

Go see it.

 

12-years-a-slave

Here are the nominees for Lead Actress:
Amy Adams
Cate Blanchett
Sandra Bullock
Judi Dench
Meryl Streep
Who Should Win
MALIK: It’s the freshest performance in my mind, but I think the most filled out performance was Judi Dench in Philomena.  Don’t think she’ll win though.
ART: I agree. Judi Dench is pretty great. But, Cate Blacnhett is fierce. Been a fan for years. Just one of those actresses where anything she does, you gotta take notice.
Who Will Win
MALIK: Probably Cate Blanchett, though I will always argue it’s way too much Blanche Dubois for my personal taste.
ART: You may be right, but she does a great Blanche. Sandra Bullock did an underrated turn in Gravity and I wish she received more recognition, but Cate will take this category.
Who We Want to Win
MALIK:  I’d like to see Dame Judi honestly.  Not saying I hope she retires, but it would be a nice capper to an impressive career.
ART: Whoever Malik wants to win, who is… kidding. I’m a fan of each actress in this category. But, Cate had the showiest role, with the least controversy. Certainly, Amy Adams is on the fast track to being a frontrunner, but the film, Blue Jasmine completely lives or dies based on Cate’s performances and it would not have the attention it has without her effort. She should take this.
And here are the nominees for Lead Actor:
Christian Bale
Bruce Dern
Leonardo DiCaprio
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Matthew McConaughey
Who Should Win
MALIK: McConaughey is on an absolute tear right now, but he’s earned it.
ART: I agree. He may pull a Bo Jackson in acting and win in an Oscar for his movie work and an Emmy for his TV work, because his acting in Showtime’s True Detective has been just as stellar. I’m not sure what happened, but it’s like somebody sat him down and was like, “Yo, people mostly know you for the mellow California accent and taking your shirt off, what you gonna do about that?” He’s on a roll.
Who Will Win
MALIK: Alright alright alright…
ART: Christian Bale already has an Oscar and Leo is Leo. Bruce Dern may be the sentimental favorite and dark horse and Chiwetel will be lauded for simply getting a nomination. Matthew McConaughey, the guy wasn’t taken seriously even three years ago, will take this. Oscar loves a great comeback story.
Who We Want to Win
MALIK: Even though I’ll probably lose every dramatic role I want for the rest of my life to him and David Oyelowo, it’d be nice if Chewie won.
ART: I really, really want to say Chiwetel, for obvious reasons. May still say it… His turn was the only one that nearly moved me to tears, especially within the last ten minutes of the film. But, Matthew McConaughey really went all out with his portrayal. That dude earned it this year.
Last post of the week will break down one of the most unpredictable Best Picture races in a few years…