Tag Archives: octavia spencer

THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017) – My rating: 8.7/10

The Shape of Water is a dark romantic fantasy directed by Guillermo del Toro and co-written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. The film is set in 1962 BaltimoreThe movie has so many great messages that extend far beyond the obvious fantasy most of us will expect to see.  It’s strong, profound and worthy of all the upcoming nominations that have already started pouring in.  There’s no rose-colored glasses nor any hidden secrets to be discovered.  There’s just pure love and of course, good vs evil and I loved it! WARNING: there’s a fair amount of sex or sexual suggestion making it somewhat risque for the under aged.

— SPOILERS BELOW — 

The plot follows a mute female custodian named Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) who is employed at a highly-secured, secret government laboratory.  The facility receives a creature in a tank, which has been captured from a South American river by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). Curious, Elisa discovers that the creature is a humanoid amphibian. She begins visiting the creature in secret and the two form a close bond and later, fall in love. Her plan is to eventually free the creature from the facility where he is being abused.

Elisa was rendered mute by a neck injury she had sustained as an infant, and communicates using sign language. Her two closest friends are her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), who is an advertising artist and closeted gay man, and Zelda (Octavia Spencer), an African-American co-worker who also serves as her interpreter at work.

Elisa and the creature may be in love, but the United States have other plans for the Amphibian, as do the Soviets, aided by an agent/doctor also working in the facility by the name of Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg).  With plans already in place, the US wants to exploit the creature for possible advantages in the space race; the Soviets want to steal it, study it then dissect it; Colonel Strickland wants to abuse it and Elisa wants to love it and set it free.  None of this is going to go the way anyone thinks.  “The best laid plans of Mice and Men often go awry”. The Shape of Water takes on the most bazaar direction in a non-comedy I’ve ever seen.  No one will be laughing as everyone ends up where they should be.  I see why the nominations are pouring in.

The American Film Institute selected The Shape of Water as one of the top 10 films of the year. It won for Best Director and Best Original Score at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, while also receiving Oscar nominations for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actress – Drama (Hawkins), Best Supporting Actress (Spencer), Best Supporting Actor (Jenkins), and Best Screenplay.  At the 71st British Academy Film Awards, the film received 12 nominations, including Best Film.  It’s a worth while film with a worth while story and a worth while message.  Check it out!

[The Shape of Water is Oscar nominated for BEST: Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Original Screenplay]

GIFTED (2017) – My rating: 8/10

Gifted is a heartfelt story about a seven year old who is a mathematical genius.  When someone tells you that, you tend to think algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry and maybe algorithms as the child gets older.  Gifted went into areas of mathematics way beyond the average.  I wondered if a child’s brain could truly be capable of handling some of the problems mentioned in the movie.  I found it remarkable that a child’s mind could actually process math as advanced as that.  Their living situation was somewhat unique, complete with an over zealous grandmother who is full of tricks and a dead mother, made for an interesting, suspenseful film with a most adorable child.

After much debate, Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace) starts first grade at a normal school, just outside of Tampa, despite her obvious mathematical genius.  She had already mastered advanced calculus, which her teacher, Bonnie Stevenson, (Jenny Slate) soon discovered. Mary is offered a scholarship to a private school for gifted children. However, her uncle and de facto guardian, Frank Adler, (Chris Evans) turns it down. According to a promise he made to his sister Diane and his knowledge of schools for the gifted, he thought Mary would have a better chance at a “normal” childhood if she stayed right where she was.

Mary’s mother, Diane had been a promising mathematician, dedicated to the Navier–Stokes problem (one of the unsolved Millennium Prize Problems) before committing suicide when Mary was six months old. Mary has lived with Frank ever since. However, Frank’s estranged mother and Mary’s maternal-grandmother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) seeks to gain custody of Mary and move her to Massachusetts, believing that Mary is a “one-in-a-billion” mathematical prodigy who should be specially tutored in preparation for a life devoted to mathematics. Frank remains adamant that his sister would want Mary to be in a normal public school and have the childhood she didn’t have. Frank hires a lawyer, Greg Cullen (Glenn Plummer) to fight against his mother in court. Here we learn family secrets and get to see the real character behind the players.  Frank and Mary enjoy a close family relationship with Roberta Taylor, (Octavia Spencer) who is also their landlady and Mary’s part-time caregiver.

From this point on, we see some interesting turns and wonder where Mary should end up.  I found Gifted to be enlightening, interesting and delightful.  Gifted is very well acted (a star is born in Mckenna Grace) and a good family movie.  Check it out!

 

Save

Save

THE SHACK (2017) – My rating: 8.5/10

Ever notice how the background music in most spiritual movies sound alike — slow and with an elevation as though something divine is about to happen. Somehow, the movements are different and the aura of the characters are different. What they talk about and the way they talk is different. You know right away it’s a spiritual movie. The Shack had a lot of these attributes but without giving anything away. It is just a story about a super nice family (rare these days) consisting of two girls, Kate Phillips (Megan Charpentier), Missy Phillips (Amelie Eve) and a boy, Josh Phillips (Gage Munroe) plus mom, Nan Phillips (Radha Mitchell) and dad, Mackenzie “Mack” Phillips (Sam Worthington). They actually hung out as a family, going to church, family picnics, school events and eating dinner together. While that might sound corny to a lot of the world, it’s a pretty nice existence in a world full of smart phones, TV, drugs and so many other interest outside of plain old family values.  All is good until something horrific happens that rocks this family to their knees, especially dad.  Months later, on a snowy day, Mackenzie receives an invitation in his mailbox, signed by GOD as Papa, to meet at the very shack where tragedy still loomed in his head.  Because there were no footprints in the snow, Mackenzie had no idea how the invite got there.  He had just checked the mailbox moments ago.  There was no stamp and no return address.

While not 100% accurate, according to scripture, The Shack teaches a wonderful, spiritual lesson that I believe many can benefit from, even if you’re not a Christian.  The movie focuses on abuse, alcoholism, judgement, healing, forgiving, evil, love, why GOD, and gives an acceptable answer to why bad things happen to good people.  If you listen with an open mind and heart, you might get something out of this movie — and for those who go in knowing their scripture, you’ll have more information to add to what you already know.  The Shack is not boring — it held my attention.  It’s pretty hard to say more about the film without revealing spoilers, so I’ll leave up to you to see The Shack for yourself.  Octavia Spencer plays Papa, Missy’s nickname for GOD while (Tim McGraw) plays Willie, Mackenzie’s best friend.  Aviv Alush plays Jesus and (Sumire Matsubara) plays Sarayu, who completes the trio (Trinity) representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I highly recommend The Shack, it really is enlightening!

 

 

ZOOTOPIA (2016) – My rating: 8/10

zootopiaI’m beginning to like cartoons more and more.  Zootopia is a great animated story that sends a great message to all ages.  It has a large diverse cast that ventures into a few hairy situations from time to time.  In the world of Zootopia, mammals, predators as well as prey peacefully coexist.  An Optimistic European rabbit from rural Bunnyburrow, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) realizes her dream of becoming a police officer in urban Zootopia.  You might notice these mammals have been anthropomorphized so they are representing the same issues of discrimination as though they were human.  So, despite being the police academy valedictorian, Judy is relegated to parking duty by Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), an African buffalo, who doubts her potential because she is a rabbit. On her first day, she is hustled by Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) and Finnick (Tom Lister Jr.), a con artist duo of foxes.

Day two on the job, Judy abandons her parking duty to arrest a thief named Duke Weaselton (Alan Tudyk) who stole plant bulbs. As Chief Bogo begins to reprimand Judy, an otter named Mrs. Otterton (Octavia Spencer) enters his office pleading for someone to find her husband Emmitt, one of fourteen predators who have gone missing. When Judy volunteers and Assistant Mayor Dawn Bellwether (Jenny Slate) praises the assignment, Bogo reluctantly gives her 48 hours to find Otterton on the condition that she resigns if she fails.

After determining Nick was the last one to see Otterton, Judy blackmails him into assisting her by covertly recording his confession to tax evasion. They track Otterton to a limousine owned by crime boss, Mr. Big (Maurice LaMarche) who reveals that Otterton, his florist, went “savage” – reverted to a feral state – and attacked his chauffeur, Manchas (Jesse Corti). At his home, Manchas mentions that Otterton had been yelling about “night howlers.” Moments later, Manchas himself turns savage and chases the pair. Judy saves Nick by trapping Manchas and calls the Zootopia Police Department (ZPD) for help. When Bogo and other police arrive, Manchas has vanished. Bogo demands Judy’s resignation, but Nick reminds Bogo she still has 10 hours to solve the case. As they leave, Nick shares his childhood story with Judy that he was bullied as a child for being a fox. Deciding there was no use in fighting prejudiced ideas about fox behavior, he became a con artist.

From this point, the story gets better as the search intensifies.  More characters enter the picture and more lessons are learned.  This clever tale is truly worth every child’s attention.  Of course I have to stop here so I don’t spoil the rest of the story in case you intend to see it.  Zootopia is on DVD/Blu-Ray and is definitely a worthy piece of animation with a profound message — check it out!

[ZOOTOPIA WON the 89th ANNUAL OSCAR AWARD for Best Animated Film]

Save

HIDDEN FIGURES (2016) – My rating: 9.3/10

hiddenfiguresHidden Figures is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.  Based on true events, Hidden Figures reveals history about the United States space program we knew very little about.  I was shocked to know that Black women participated in the launching of the first US astronaut orbiting the earth, in space or that they contributed in any way to launching the first man on the moon.  The trials and tribulations they went through broke my heart.  This movie tells a story of profound contributions made by three highly educated master minds, toward the space race between the USA and the USSR to gain control during the space age in order to achieve peace, respect and privilege as the front runner and leader, as a nation.  The film recounts the story of three African-American women who worked in professional positions at NASA and helped the United States advance during the Space Race.

Mathematician Katherine Johnson and her two colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, worked in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The film focuses on Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), who is the African-American mathematician who participated in calculating flight trajectories for Project Mercury and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon.  Using these calculations, NASA supported John Glenn in becoming the first American astronaut to make a complete orbit of Earth. The film also features Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), a colleague and mathematician specializing in flight paths, the Scout Project, and FORTRAN computer programming.  Dorothy was also the first Black woman to become a supervisor at a time when racism and Jim Crow laws were at it’s worst.  Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe),  also a colleague and mathematician at NASA, worked to analyze data from wind tunnel experiments and real-world aircraft flight experiments at the Theoretical Aerodynamics Branch of the Subsonic-Transonic Aerodynamics Division at Langley.  She ultimately authored or co-authored 12 technical papers for NACA and NASA.

Al Harrison, (Kevin Costner) is the director of the Space Task Group who Katherine reported to but was told not to get close with. Any positive changes that were made, came from Harrison who was brilliantly played by Costner.  Vivian Mitchell, (Kirsten Dunst) delivered orders to Dorothy and the 30 Black women Dorothy supervised and trained.  Paul Stafford, (Jim Parsons) was the head programmer under Al Harrison and like everyone else, against women and Blacks being present in the program.  John Glen (Glen Powell) The first astronaut to obit the earth and obviously a charismatic man who appeared to be non-racist.  Colonel Jim Johnson, (Mahershala Ali) married Katherine who was a widow, taking on her three children from her first marriage.

Hidden Figures is at times, very emotional but a wake up call for those who could never imagine what it was like to be treated the way Blacks were treated for no reason other than being Black.  Hate is a terrible thing and a terrible waste of energy.  I was happy to see credit given to these women who achieved so much and contributed so much.  If there is no mention of these women in taught in Black history, there should be and if you haven’t seen this movie, you should because it’s truly a great one.  The story is spot on and the acting is outstanding.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Oscar nod or two come out of this film.

[HIDDEN FIGURES is nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Writing Adapted Screenplay]

Save

Save

BLACK OR WHITE (2014) – My rating: 8.5/10

BlackOrWhiteBlack or White is a very well written movie about a mixed race child who suddenly loses her Caucasian grandmother to a car accident.  The child, Eloise Anderson (Jillian Estell) also lost her mother, who is also Causasian, when she died during child birth.  Since she has always lived with her grandparents, Eloise continued to live with her grandfather, Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner), who is a lawyer but has a very bad drinking problem.  Eloise’s father Reggie Davis (André Holland) is Black and a former drug abuser who continues to dibble and dabble in Crack Cocaine.  Reggie has no connection or contact with his daughter but is trying to get clean.  He’s has no money but claims to have a job.  His character appears to be weak and low in self esteem.  In the meanwhile, Reggie’s mother, Rowena Jeffers (Octavia Spencer) also known as Aunt Wee Wee decides to file for custody of Eloise and uses her brother, Jeremiah Jeffers (Anthony Mackie), who is a lawyer and has several degrees, to represent her.  A lot of interaction ensues between the 2 families.  Black or White is deep and sends some profound messages.  I believe there is more than entertainment delivered in this film.  Everyone could benefit from seeing it.  I don’t think it will be long before Black or White is released to DVD.  Overall, I liked the movie and recommend it to all.  Check it out.