Fences

The film Fences was director by Denzel Washington and released in late 2016. It is based on a play by the same name, written by August Wilson. Fences won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Viola Davis. The film displays themes of family, abuse, and forgiveness.

Set in 1950’s Pittsburgh, the film centers on a low-class African-American family as they deal with racism, financial issues, and crumbling relationships. The Maxson family consists of Troy, played by Denzel Washington, his wife Rose, played by Viola Davis, their son Cory, Troy’s brother Gabe, and Troy’s two illegitimate children, Lyons and Raynell. Troy is a garbage collector, who once had talent as a baseball player but could not join the major leagues due to being black. Rose is a stay at home mother who desperately tries to keep the family together. Cory attends high school and has a promising future as a football player, though his father disapproves. Gabe is a veteran who sustained a head injury during World War II and consequently is left mentally impaired. Lyons struggles with making money as a musician and often borrows money from Troy. Raynell is born later on in the film due to Troy’s affair with another woman.

Throughout the film, Troy Maxson exhibits controlling and sometimes abusive behavior towards his family. He highly disapproves of Cory’s dream of playing professional football and sabotages Cory’s chances of being recruited by not signing permission documents and forcing the coach to kick Cory off of the team. Troy rationalizes this by saying that Cory could never make it in a professional sport because of the color of his skin. This shows that Troy has internalized the notion that African-Americans cannot play sports from his own rejection by the major leagues. He may be trying to protect his son from the disappointment and pain of rejection, but whatever good intentions he may have had are overshadowed by the violence he exhibits towards Cory. The father and son regularly fight, most often when they try to build a fence together, hence the title of the film. It is after one of their most heated fights that Cory leaves home and joins the military. The two never see each other again and there is no reconciliation.

The theme of forgiveness comes almost entirely from Rose. She becomes estranged from Troy after a fight between them becomes violent when Troy tells Rose that he has cheated on her, resulting in his mistress becoming pregnant. After the mistress dies giving birth to a premature Raynell, Rose takes in the baby and raises her as her own. She finds it in her heart not to have resentment towards Raynell, thus forgiving the affair. After a time skip of several years, Cory returns home due to the death of Troy. He tells his mother that he does not want to attend the funeral but Rose and Raynell convince him to attend, and thus find forgiveness in Troy.

Fences is a deeply dramatic and emotional film that highlights the best and worst aspects of a struggling family.

For more information, refer to the IMDb article.

The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings trilogy consists of the movies The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. The films were directed by Peter Jackson, were released in the early 2000’s, and based on the fantasy novels by J. R. R. Tolkien. Altogether, the trilogy won 17 Academy Awards.

The first film in the series tells how 20 rings of power were created, three for the elves, seven for the dwarves, nine for humans, and one for an evil entity known as Sauron. The three elven rings were kept safe by Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf. The dwarves rings were either lost or destroyed, the nine human rings turned their bearers into monsters. The One Ring was supposedly lost to time, but was found by a creature named Smeagol, who was corrupted into the creature known as Gollum. The One Ring was then stolen from Gollum by a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Years pass and Bilbo entrusts the ring to his nephew, Frodo Baggins. The main plot of The Lord of the Rings trilogy revolves around Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring, and thus destroy Sauron. It can only be destroyed by tossing it into the fires of Mordor, from which it was forged.

Together with a group of nine, Frodo embarks on this journey to bring peace to Middle Earth. He is only a small Hobbit with no talent in warfare and physically weak, yet his determination and bravery makes him one of the many heroes of the series. In the beginning, Frodo exhibits the wisdom to understand that the Ring is evil and its power should not be used, even for the sake of good. He sees firsthand how the Ring can destroy people’s lives. Throughout the second and third films, Frodo becomes increasingly more worried that he will be corrupted by the Ring and turn into a creature like Gollum. He grows more and more possessive of it as the films progress, and in the end tries to keep it for himself, nearly leading to his death. Frodo is saved, both figuratively and literally, by his best friend and companion, Samwise Gamgee. Throughout all three movies, Sam stays by Frodo’s side, with the exception of leaving only when he believes that Frodo has been killed. Even when he thinks that Frodo is dead, he continues the task to destroy the Ring, making him a hero in his own right. This level of friendship and commitment to one’s friends becomes a reoccurring theme in The Lord of the Rings.

Many would ask why Frodo is the one chosen to complete the near impossible task of destroying the Ring when he was initially rather unwilling. There are many other, more qualified characters who could have taken the Ring to Mordor, such as Aragorn or even Elrond. However, Frodo volunteers and is chosen above others who wished to become heroes by destroying the Ring. Perhaps this is why Frodo was given permission by Elrond to be the ring bearer. Frodo did not want to destroy the Ring for fame and glory. He wanted to destroy it simply because it was the right thing to do. Even the smallest, most seemingly insignificant person can change the world through bravery, determination, and friendship.

For more information, refer to the IMDb article.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is an action/science-fiction film directed by George Miller and released in 2015. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won six, including Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Production Design. It is the fourth installment of the Mad Max franchise, in which it is the highest grossing film of the series, making over 300 million dollars at the box office.

Set in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, the plot revolves around Max, played by Tom Hardy, and Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, as they aid a group of enslaved women in escaping from the warlord, Immortan Joe. The five enslaved women are kept by Immortan Joe as wives and forced to have his children. Furiosa secretly smuggles the women out of the Citadel controlled by Immortan Joe, who discovers them missing and sends a party of violent War Boys to capture them. Max is at first used as a “blood bag” to give blood transfusions to a sick War Boy, Nux. The two men come across the group of women and Max reluctantly helps them. Nux however wants to return them to Immortan Joe, so the women toss him out of the truck.

Furiosa reveals to Max that she is taking the women to where she was born, a habitation called the Green Place, in which plants can grow. Immortan Joe and his forces chase the group across miles of desert and swampland. This obsessive need to recapture the women results in the accidental death of Immortan Joe’s favorite wife, Angharad, who is heavily pregnant. The group continues on and is rejoined by Nux, who has had a change of heart, and wishes to help them. They eventually come across a group of older women, called the Vuvalini, who know Furiosa. These women tell the group that the swamp that they passed was the Green Place and that it had been poisoned. Feeling that their plan has failed, they decide to drive for as long as they can across the salt flats. Max convinces them to return to the Citadel and kill Immortan Joe and his supporters. A bloody chase ensues and they are able to kill him and most of his forces. Their victory comes at a heavy price as most of the Vuvalini are killed, Nux sacrifices himself, and Furiosa is stabbed. Max performs a blood transfusion to save her life. They return to the Citadel and presumably free the other slaves.

Themes of Mad Max: Fury Road includes survival, control, autonomy, and home. All of the characters are trying to survive in desert wasteland where resources are difficult to obtain and death is a constant threat. Immortan Joe’s need to control the resources and people of the Citadel causes the main conflict of the film. Many of the characters, especially the enslaved women, seek autonomy and control over their lives, bodies, and children. Max symbolically regains control and his autonomy when he chooses to perform a blood transfusion on Furiosa even though he was forced to give blood to War Boys at the beginning of the film. Many of the characters were sold or kidnapped and thus had no home or place to belong. The main plot revolves around Furiosa and the wives finding a new home away from slavery and exploitation.

For more information, refer to the IMDb article.

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