Archive for the ‘Chiwetel Ejiofor: MASTER ACTOR’ Category

The Martian

16 Oct

The Martian – directed by Scott Ridley. Scifidrama. 141 minutes Color 2015.


The Story: An astronaut left behind and believed dead on Mars, contrives to survive, while rescuers on earth exhaust various schemes to save him.


Among actors of his generation Matt Damon possesses the rare quality of human decency – which Tom Hanks possessed and Jimmy Stewart possessed and which his contemporary Jim Caviezel also possesses. It means that he can bring to his characters an atavism, a strain of honesty which supersedes modernity by going back to the American primordial, a strain which is recognizable, trustworthy, and inviting. As such, Mark Damon is an actor as useful as bread. Not for just the characters he may sometimes play, but always for the way he plays the character.

For the character is not always white bread.

Here it is sour rye. His character is not peachy clean. He has temperament. Opinions. Dislikes. Vanity. Tartness. In embodying this, Damon gives to us someone we might know. And whose survival we might care about and root for.

All this, naturally, is in the writing, but Damon extends himself into each word said as a physical release – which is important, since he is often bench-bound. And since his resources for survival are so technical they cannot be appreciated, save in the actor’s practical, personal commitment to them.

The story is beautifully filmed and directed. Each member of the all-star supporting cast is scrumptious to watch. Each of them is a space program bureaucrat. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the NASA mission director; Michael Peña plays a fellow astronaut; Benedict Wong plays the rocket engineer; Donald Glover as the aerodynamics pro who masterminds one of the rescue missions; Jeff Daniels as NASA head; Jessica Chastain as the captain of a space ship.

If you like The Wizard Of Oz, you will find that this is the sort of story The Martian is. A fellow human finds himself unprotected and alone in strange land. Assisted by friends, plus his own gumption and perseverance, he must make a long journey through it to reach the salvation that will whisk him home.

You will cheer at the end. I understand you will cheer even more if you see it in 3D. I didn’t, but I enjoyed the story and the spectacle just as well. It’s a big hit, and Damon well worth the Oscar for it, don’t you think? For his opening scene alone. Check it out.


Kinky Boots

14 Jan

Kinky Boots – directed by Julian Jarrold. Dramedy. 107 minutes Color 2005.


The Story: The young owner of a shoe factory must find a way for the company to stay in business, and he finds it with the help of a drag queen.


The story offers no surprises, so everything depends on the execution, which is excellent. We do know how it will end. So everything depends on the fun of a journey we all have taken many times before in a film. And fun there is aplenty.

For me the fun was in being in the beautiful old Northampton shoe factory and the fun of seeing the shoes in production. The fun was watching the cast make kinky boots, some of them actors who learned how, some of them craftspeople of fine shoes from that factory. The fun was the shoes that emerged in all their rash hues. And the fun was in watching Chiwetel Ejiofor play the drag queen, when we finally see him hove into view amid the blinging cantabile of his rubbled dressing room in a cabaret in which he stars.

As a drag queen he is as all other drag queens – vestiture of the female is adopted to hide what one really is. The result is an imposture of female bitch-energy, an energy fuelled by malice adopted to monopolize all sexual territory within shrieking distance.

There is only one drag queen. The matter is treated head on when the hero demands from Lola to emerge from what he is hiding behind. He demands it because he is embarrassed by Lola, which is the wrong reason. But at least it is raised. The hero calls Lola on her fear. But the hero’s own fear impels it. Neither fear is followed through on.

The transvestite is a transvestite because a male feels women’s ways in him. So he dresses up. He wants to do women’s work and to be around women. And maybe because the clothes give him a buzz. But in Western society, the only work a tranny can do and not be arrested is to doll up and entertain in a cabaret. At which point, on stage or off, he is called a drag queen. Off-stage, for a man in the marketplace to be wearing women’s clothing is too disconcerting. We have no place for it. In traditional Zuni societies in New Mexico, transvestitism was bestowed, at ten or so, on boys who chose women’s work. It was not a disgrace, but an accepted role in the economy. The berdaches, or lhamana as they were called by the Zuni Indians, had significant and honored roles in the frequent Indian ceremonies. Their sexual orientation was tertiary to their roles as workers and as forces in ritual. As such their place was assured.

Modern transvestites  at least the ones we see —  the drag queens — have no such honor, no such acknowledged welcome in spiritual and economic doings, and no such place. In our culture, they are, like the outfit they wear, a fringe. So their spiritual power, their slant on life, their talent, their human orientation are largely  lost to us. In the film Lola finds acceptance only by old people, and an alternate calling as a fashionista. A fringe.

At any rate, I have diverted us into a screed. Forgive me. The film is most entertaining as it is, and it is lovely to see Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things, Twelve Years A Slave) put on his kinky boots and go to town.



Talk To Me

14 Mar

Talk To Me — directed by Kasi Lemmons. Backstage Bio-drama. A wild-talking ex-con shoots for a job as a DJ on a stuffy Washington radio station. 118 minutes Color 2007.


This beautifully written and directed picture ought not to surprise, since its star Don Cheadle has fostered a number of interesting projects in the past, except that one finds him here far to right of the mode of Hotel Rwanda, and its saintly hero. Cheadle has the eyes of a saint, so it’s natural for him to be cast as the good boy getting even better. However, in this piece he is cast as the devil incarnate. He dresses like a circus and he talks like one too. It’s a really brilliant turn, and it stays in the delightful realm of a horse movie until the character, Petey Greene, who is a real-life person, must go on air to calm the rioters on the death of MLK. The film becomes very moving, nowhere more so than in the performance of Martin Sheen as the head of the station. At which point the story focuses on Petey Greene’s mentor, Dewey Hughes, who wants to raise Petey to national prominence as a stand-up performer of black palaver. His manager is played by another superior actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, always fascinating to watch. (You will remember him from Dirty Pretty Things.) It’s interesting for me to see him act through his eyes, for it’s through the strength of the daring of their big open vulnerable plains that everything is delivered. With Cheadle, his eyes are where everything is hidden. He allures with half-lids. Dancing between these two is Taraji B. Henson, whose Afros get huger with every scene and who scallywags through the film with brilliant spontaneity doing a female impersonation that is extremely funny and always on target. The director has commanded all sorts of forces to her aid, and they all do well: the costumes of the period of the late 60s and the riots and the lighting of the black actors to register their skin tones for us properly. I found it quite satisfying, and as with Cheadle’s other efforts both gripping and educational. Educational. Is that a bad word? Not for me. For me it means an experience that is both humbling and enlarging.


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