I’m slowly working my way through Academy Award winners and nominees. Two days ago I started watching Fences. Frequently it takes me two sittings to watch shows and movies. It’s the prone position in the evening that soon has me snoring. Yesterday I rewound and watched the entire movie. Viola Davis gave an honest, inspired performance of a woman and wife to win that Oscar; her acceptance speech confused me a bit at first, but then I was reminded of my great-aunt’s story and all the lost stories. Stories that great writers like August Wilson can tell.
I related to the character of Rose instantly in this August Wilson work. It was her one line that summed it up when she said her husband had not made a place for her in his life. This was a multi-layered story of human beings, of race, of a marriage. Troy was a man with a great wife but who just couldn’t overcome the disappointments of his life because of discrimination and an unhappy childhood, and perhaps guilt over his good fortune at the expense of his brother. He loved his family but hurt them until he lost them. Even realizing that he still remained closed. Denzel Washington’s portrayal of this man was spot-on and choosing between performances of nominees might mean a roll of the dice were I a voter. Casey Affleck’s performance in Manchester by the Sea was at least equal to this one. Winners might matter to those investors and perhaps actors who can command better roles and more money, but for me nomination is something.
Of course, it’s the story that plays the music to a great performance. These are not happy stories that will leave you feeling good. There is no happy ending for Lee Chandler. I can’t see any way to a happy ending for him. For Troy, though, that’s the tragedy. There might have been a happy ending, but he chose another path.