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Movie Review: Picture Perfect Is Damn Near So.

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Is there any such thing as a ‘perfect Nollywood movie’?

 

I, along with a lot other people don’t expect a lot from Nollywood. I’m used to substandard work, movies with plots that make little sense, acting that means something else entirely, dialogue that sounds like it was inspired by Martians – and a billion other flaws.

 

But every now and then, a movie comes along and makes me want to jump for joy.

 

I hardly go to the cinemas to watch a Nollywood film. This one, I stumbled into by accident. I was at the cinema to pretend-watch the latest Ape Planet something. I changed my mind last minute – but then, I still wanted to watch a movie.

 

So.

 

Against my judgment, I chose Picture Perfect. And I can tell you, I didn’t feel as fulfilled watching Spiderman: Homecoming.

 

And that is saying a lot.

It is written and produced by Biodun Stephen and directed by Tope Alake. The premise is simple: a tailor/fashion designer gets stuck in a notorious neighborhood and is about to be assaulted by a couple of touts. She’s saved by another tout who pretends to know her from somewhere – just to save her from the other ‘undesirable elements’. A bunch of funny things happen – along with a major plot twist – or not so much a twist, depending on what side of the camera you’re usually on.

 

I saw it coming tho.

 

It’s a simple movie; it isn’t trying to fix humanity or the government for that matter. It isn’t trying to make us see the value (or lack thereof) of marriage; it’s not trying to sell us the glam and flimflam of how the other half lives. It’s just trying to be a fun movie; sweet and entertaining.

 

And that; it manages quite well.

 

Picture Perfect works best because the cast completely inhabits their characters. Bisola Aiyeola smoked as Kiksy, the lead female’s best friend. She’s completely natural – though she does come across as overacting in a couple of scenes. But she is the voice of reason (as the lead’s best friend usually is) and she’s sweet and kind and fun and real and will marry me by force or…

 

I’m just kidding.

 

The women in the movie represent a class of oft-ignored Nigerian woman – strong, independent, capable, and caring, don’t exactly need men but want them nonetheless. The women in this movie are not weak, neither do they have an agenda or feel a need to shove the gender argument in your face. They are just women who love life and are living it on their own terms. I gotta get behind that.

 

Bolanle Ninalowo also rocked as Jobe aka Jobsy Jor-Jor, the tout who rescues Kumbi (Mary Njoku) from his less-than-gentlemanly associates. I would like to meet this young man, because his accent is spot on, and he cannot seem to stop saying ‘philanderer’ in all its forms. He’s the quintessential tout; rough, strong, respected, honorable, kind, thoughtful, considerate…Jobsy is a character to love and root for.

 

Mary Njoku, the female lead is also a pot of discovery. The way she switches between fluent English and Yoruba is noteworthy. She, just like Bisola is also completely natural, inhabits the character with grace and feeling. She is believable in all of her scenes, from the dissenting friend to the spurned lover to the consensual lover to the protective mother. The cast had a lot of fun creating this movie – and I’m sure the viewers will too.

 

The movie is not without its flaws tho, as a couple of scenes/incidents defy explanation, and in some cases, reason. Nothing major, however, the couple plot holes do not dim the fun to be had even slightly.

 

Is there any such thing as a ‘perfect Nollywood movie’?

Maybe not yet; and I stand corrected, but Picture Perfect comes close.

 

Now showing in a cinema near you.  


F8 or Fate of The Furious: A Review

 

For the most part, the premise of the Fast and Furious movie franchise can be summed up in one sentence:

 

‘Watch; don’t think’.

 

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It’s hard to knock a franchise that has grossed over five billion dollars and is eight movies deep. However, it is what it is. The Fast and The Furious franchise has been around for seventeen years and have collectively grossed over five billion dollars. When you consider, however that the last one (Furious 7) single-handedly grossed 1.6 billion dollars, more than the first five installments of the franchise combined, you know they (Universal) know they’re onto a good thing – and as is usual, will ride it till it can be ridden no more.

 

For the most part, The Fast and The Furious requires suspension of belief from the audience in spades – but never more than in the latest installment; The Fate of The Furious.

 

While honeymooning somewhere ‘off the grid’, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is approached by a mysterious woman who coerces him into working for her against his ‘family’.

 

The end.

 

I’m serious. That’s as far as ‘plot’ for this particular movie goes.

 

Fate (as I will be calling this movie from here on) opens with; (wait for it)…a street race. I mean, of all the openings F. Gary Gray, fresh off the huge success of Straight Outta Compton could have gone with, it had to be the cliché of all clichés – as far as this particular movie franchise is concerned?!

 

Huge disappointment.

 

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An alluring, mysterious woman; Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up at Dom’s honeymoon destination (you get nothing for guessing where this destination is) and shows him something on a mobile phone screen, ‘something’ she believes is powerful enough to make him come and work for her – even though she’s a terrorist and he knows. Almost immediately, Dom gets a call from Agent Hobbs, asking for his help. The usual suspects (the family) are quickly rounded up again by Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson; The Rock) to go steal some EMP to stop it from falling into some terrorists hands – same piece of machinery Cipher needs for her ‘grand plan’. The mission is successful – only for Dom to sabotage it, steal the EMP and dump Hobbs into police hands.

 

Somehow, he ends up in the same prison Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is in…

 

One of the biggest issues I have with this particular outing is how short on memory everyone seems to be. Wasn’t Deckard the same dude who killed Han (Sung Kang) as revenge for his brother’s ‘death’ in the sixth film? All too suddenly, they’re forced to work together and when the team is given news of Deckard’s death, they’re actually sad.

 

WTF?!

 

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Trust me; moments like the one I just described abound. Cipher, played with amazing detachment by Charlize Theron is another misnomer in her role. She’s the big bad in this movie, and unfortunately, she has nothing different to offer from the other ‘big bads’ in the other Fast and Furious movies. She’s a boring antagonist; it isn’t clear what she wants, she rambles a lot about nothing or pointless rhetoric, and is passionless. Her ‘kissing scene’ with Dom was just that; a bland uninspired lip-lock.

 

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Exhale for a bit – and then, wonder with me how human hands can be used to redirect the path of a torpedo. Or how a submarine dives and resurfaces effortlessly as though it is a dolphin. Moments like those are why the description ‘mindless action’ exists.

 

The ‘family’ was interestingly inept in this venture; it was as though they couldn’t find any use for themselves individually. That diversity that made us love As an aside, be prepared to hate that word ‘family’. It is thrown around like so much confetti at a wedding, as though the characters need to remind themselves in their many ‘why are we doing this again?’ moments.

 

Roman’s (Tyrese Gibson) humor was responsible for quite a number of the laughs in the movie – and frankly, it begins to be annoying at some point. I would have loved to see more Helen Mirren who played Magdalene Shaw, and the partnership between the Shaw brothers was another good one.

 

All in all, for all my issues with this installment, I acknowledge the truth that Fate isn’t a bad movie. For all my knocking it, I don’t go to cinemas for ‘intellectual, life-changing’ movie experiences. I do that shit in my house.

 

No; I go to the cinema to be entertained and refreshed. And on that score, Fate delivers EXCELLENTLY.

 

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On Logan: A Paper.

 

This Took Longer Than It Should Have. I Apologize.

 

 

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Maybe it has to do with the type of comics I grew up with.

 

Maybe it was the idea that heroes stood for more than themselves; heroes were a voice for people who couldn’t speak.

 

Maybe it was the escape it offered such that; whenever I was having a bad day, I could just reach for a comic – and like that, I’m gone away like so much magic dust. Maybe it is the realization that comics; like X-Men for instance, showed me a world where people were feared and hated just because they are different. A world freakishly like the one I live in.

 

Maybe it was the fact that I learnt the difference between a phrase and a clause; thanks to an Incredible Hulk comic.

 

Whatever the reason, I am a proud comic book lover.

 

Long before DC started to drop box office bombs with the frequency of a radio broadcast, I was discussing with a number of friends and wondering what it would be like when these guys came on to the screen. As a result, we/I watched EVERY on-screen adaptation of comic books, just to see if they lived up to the image the owners have consistently created in our/my head(s) for years.

 

Usually, there’s stuff to complain about. Very few movies have nailed it down – even the most ‘critically acclaimed’ of these movies get a whole lot wrong. And even judging them on their own merit; at worst they created a hot, fudgy mess (Dawn of Justice, any of the CW series), at best they create amazing stories (Netflix Daredevil, Batman Begins and so on).

 

Logan is one of the latter moments.

 

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There was cause for concern; obviously. The first two Wolverine films were (even now I am shaking my head as I write this) just something to pass the time. I doubt I saw either of them more than twice, definitely not up to five time collectively. There just wasn’t anything to see – apart from a train roof fight sequence from the second one. Nothing.

 

Then Hugh Jackman teased this:

 

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I wrote a piece then, talking about how I suspected they were going to adapt the Old Man Logan storyline from the comics, or at least come pretty close. The biggest issue with adapting that would be the fact that it was a universe-wide event; even though it happened in a Wolverine story, it affected multiple characters; characters 20th Century Fox do not have rights to. I really wanted to see how they would play that.

 

I mean considering what they did with Civil War

 

I saw Logan twice before attempting to put anything down about it, and this was the first and only post I made concerning that film:

I will not be writing a review of Logan – simply because I don’t have anything new to bring to the conversation. I will, however be writing a treatise on why it’s one of the most important superhero films ever made.

There was only one scene that made me unable to control the waterworks from my eyes; even though there was a girl I was trying to impress present.

The climax.

No, it wasn’t the fact that Logan was dying; anybody who’s watched more than five movies should have seen that coming. People like Wolverine don’t get to retire peacefully. Their deaths have to be as violent as their lives (you’d understand better if you’ve seen Shane or actually listened to that part in the hotel room scene).

He had to die.

What made me cry; what shook me to my fibre was when the not-so-little little girl said, “Daddy…”

Forget that she was built in a lab. Forget that she’s killed more people than you’ve had orgasms (wellllllllllll). Forget that she’s a violent, half-animal, I-can-talk-but-would-rather-stay-mute-cos-that’s-way-cooler, murdering mutant. In that moment, she was just a child about to lose her father.

And that, is the type of pain no healing factor, no matter how heightened, can heal.

Aloha, Logan.

Aloha.

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One of the pieces I read after the second viewing said ‘Logan is the Batman Begins of the Marvel Universe’ and I agree completely. What both films have in common is that they brought superheroes to our level. ‘Begins and Logan were not ‘superhero’ films, they were films that had a couple of superheroes in them. In other words, the story/plot/progression wasn’t based on superpowers, these are stories that could happen to anyone; the characters just happened to be heroes.

 

Take away Christian Bale’s costume and gadgets. Remove Logan and Laura’s claws and healing factors. Would we still have stories? Yes; with minor adjustments. For example, in Logan, we wouldn’t have Reavers chasing Laura and the other kids because they were mutants, they might just be child-traffickers trying to catch some runaway kids some high-end clientele have paid for. Bruce Wayne could just have been some guy who wants to clean his city, a well-trained martial artist. The crime had a human face; Falcone, even the ‘super villain’ Scarecrow was just an insane doctor.

 

Ordinary people in extra-ordinary circumstances. Just like you and me.

 

 

Logan is a fitting end to Jackman’s run as Wolverine; he has never been better and I doubt he can ever be. Patrick Stewart was at his telepathic finest even with his mind ravaged by Alzheimer’s (see the irony?) and the new girl, Laura aka X-23 was just…

 

In all the many, many mortalities in all the X Men films, none of them hit me like the death of Logan. Not because he’s my favorite X Man (well, till they find a perfect Gambit) but because it was human. This was not a superhero, mutant, claw-popping, accelerated healing factor rocking guy dying; this was just an old man who happened to have lived too long.

 

In fact, I was kinda happy for Logan.

 

Finally, he’s going to rest. I mean, he has the burden of outliving EVERYONE he’s ever cared about. He’s lost his one excuse for sticking around; Professor Xavier, so his life pretty much had no purpose from then on. Finally, this lonely and grumpy old man will have peace.

 

But, he had a daughter.

 

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Someone who knows she was built in a lab finds out she has some kind of tie to humanity; she has a father. A father who denies paternity – but a father nonetheless. And when, just when he’s finally accepted she’s a part of him –

 

They kill him.

Even now, putting down these words that have been hovering in my head for almost two months, my eyes still smart. Finally, an X Men movie I can not only enjoy; but relate to. Themes of friendship, responsibility, purpose, destiny keep going on, over and over.

 

And then, when you consider I have a little girl of mine…

 

As far as I’m concerned, Logan is a movie that belongs in the ‘How To Make A Superhero Movie’ corner of libraries, film schools – and whoever else archives stuff like that. Me?

 

I’m just thankful I’m alive to see stuff like this.

 

Now, who has some tissue?

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – A Review

 

Warning: Major spoilers ahead.

 

With Marvel these days, a sequel is a certainty.

 

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Scratch that. With ANY high grossing movie, a sequel is ALMOST a certainty. Why, word dropped only some time ago about a sequel to The Wedding Party. Who can blame them? The biggest reason (or the second-biggest) anyone puts money down to support almost anything is to make more money, no?

Therefore, a Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is a no-brainer.

When I heard in 2013 that a movie adaptation of these characters was being made, my first question was ‘Which Guardians?’ I know I keep harping on this fact – but you should read a freaking comic.

There are two teams known as Guardians of the Galaxy. The original team created in 1969 by Gene Colan (don’t quote me) comprises different characters, some of who you saw/will see at the end of the second movie; Charlie 27 (Ving Rhames), Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone), Aleta Ogord (Michelle Yeoh), Yondu (Michael Rooker; appears in both films), Adam Warlock (mentioned at the end of two) and so on. But as is usual, the whole thing was retconned for the movie(s). The Guardian team the movies are mostly about is the 2008 version.

In this sequel, the Guardians get in trouble because Rocket Raccoon (if he catches you calling him that, don’t say you read it here o) decides to steal a bunch of batteries they (the Guardians) were hired to protect by The Sovereign. On their way from the planet, they are attacked by their erstwhile employers, The Sovereign – but are protected by a mysterious man who calls himself Ego (Kurt Russell) (after the living planet in the comics) and turns out to be Star-Lord Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father.

 

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That pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the film – that; and further exploration of the relationship between Yondu and Quill. We get to understand why Yondu has a soft spot for Quill and, more importantly, why Yondu decided to keep Quill for himself instead of delivering him to – as per his employment at the time.

The sequel is a good movie; refreshing humor and emotionally satisfying moments well put together. It is not as good as the first one, however, and a number of head-scratching moments further take away from the shine of this outing.

 

Head-Scratching Moment 1 – why did The Sovereign hire The Guardians in the first place? As seen further into the movie, The Sovereign are quite capable and vicious in their own right. Ayesha (also known as Her and Kismet from the comics) explained it as ‘each of the Sovereign are created to specific genetic codes. We are all special and therefore must be protected’ or words to that effect – but still.

 

 

Shallow excuse.

Head-Scratching Moment 2 – why did Ego tell Peter Quill about killing Quill’s mom Meredith? I know, the ‘good guy’ needs inspiration; usually delivered via rousing speech to remember what he is fighting for – but that?

Made no sense. AT ALL.

Look out for the coming of Adam Warlock, one of the original Guardians! Well, it’s an Easter Egg so pay close attention or you’ll miss it. And The Watchers…!

The sibling rivalry between Nebula and Gamora came to a quite disappointing end – and some of that doesn’t make sense either. Nebula attacks Gamora with a jet, crashes the jet and is trapped. Gamora carries a big-ass canon, shoots the jet into a hole, ‘has a change of heart’, climbs into the hole and rescues Nebula. WTF?

Call that Head-Scratching Moment 3.

The movie had some slow parts; dialogue that seemed irrelevant and went on and on – but lends to the overall shape of the movie. James Gunn’s strength as writer/director remains the ability to not take any of the on-screen happenings too seriously – and that translates well for the characters. Quill remains as fun as ever, Drax the unintentional/well-meaning brute and loudmouth, Gamora who looks and fights nothing like her comic counterpart, Raccoon who remains as annoying as ever –

And Baby Groot who steals every scene he’s in with childlike charm and baby cuteness.

 

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A good movie; definitely worth watching.

Guardians of the Galaxy is now showing in cinemas across the country.


John Wick 3.

 

 

Sorry. No posters yet.

 

 

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John Wick 2. I had been waiting for that movie for ten years. Abeg abeg. Allow me.

After all, is it your wait?

But really and truly, I kept hoping it would be shown in local cinemas. After seeing and hearing how much of a box office smash it was, my desire tripled. I really wanted to see it but no matter how intense it got, I never did myself the disservice of downloading a cinema dub or reading the plot on Wikipedia. I waited.

First time I saw it, I enjoyed it even though I thought it was slow.

The second time, I realized how good a movie it is. The reason I initially thought it was slow was because I couldn’t help seeing it in the shadow of the first one. My introduction to John Wick was as a force of nature; ‘a man of focus, a man of will and determination’ (yeah yeah, I roll my eyes too). The first film had a domino effect, things just kept happening.

The second took a while to build – but it was just as strong as; if not better than the first one. I love both though.

And now, I want to share thoughts on what will happen in the third installment. How did I know? Did I forget to mention I’m still personal friends with Keanu?

Yeah yeah. Kill yourself.

Now, the end of the sequel left me and my friend Keanu with a dilemma. I mean, *spoiler alert* he walks away, right? He walks away with his nameless, faithful dog with the entire Guild of Assassins after him.

“Tell them. Tell whoever is coming. I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all.”

According to Winston the hotel manager, there are two rules that govern the world of assassins.

  • One; no business is to be conducted on Continental grounds.
  • Two; A marker has to be honored.

We know the second was created for the second film – but what does it matter?

Remember Ms. Perkins from the first film? She did the same thing Keanu did in the sequel; killed someone on Continental grounds. She was killed almost immediately afterward. Yet John got a one hour head start;

 

 

“You broke the rules, John. Your life is therefore forfeit.”

“So why aren’t I dead?”

“Because I deemed it so.”

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It’s pretty clear Winston has a soft spot for Wick; in fact this is pretty much made evident in both films. Fantastic writing.

So where do we go from here, Keanu asked me.

Way I see it; there are only two possible outcomes:

  1. John Wick is killed. After all, he’s only one man. It’s nothing short of ridiculous to expect that he would be able to fight off all the assassins of the world. And let us not forget Common is still after him on a personal grudge level.

 

  1. He kills plenty of the assassins, but realizing they’re not going to stop, he comes back and kills Winston, destroying the assassins’ world from the inside.

 

  1. He runs to Africa to spend time with a certain friend of his *wink wink*. And then, the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) rises and threatens Winston, and Winston calls for Wick’s help, promising to re-induct him into the house – or let him go free.

 

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Okay. So I said two and wrote three. Who’s counting?

 

Seriously though, the setup for sequels are clear through and through the movie. Something else I would like to see; John finding love again. It probably won’t happen because the writers would know, like I know and like you know that it is expected – and therefore will refuse to include it. But sometimes, clichés are just perfect. It depends on how they’re done.

 

I mean, don’t tell me you don’t know the entire John Wick thing is a cliché. I mean, professional gets tired of the game, finds love, wants out. He leaves and is happy for years – and then, some ambitious fool wants to kill him and accidentally kills his wife.

 

Not exactly, but close.

 

I like what they did though. They didn’t kill his wife, she died of an ailment – but then, they killed the dog his wife bought him as a reminder of her. So technically, they did kill his wife.

 

I know; pointless. I’m just saying though.

 

Anyways, we’ll have to wait for two years for the sequel. In the meantime, I want to go sip some palm wine with my ‘retired assassin’ friend. Who would have thought someone like John Wick would like palmie?

But then, when you think about it, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

 

 

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“So Seun, what did you say I should do in the next one?”

 


Movie Review: Fences Is A Baba Nla Film.

 

 

“People build fences for two reasons; to keep people out, and to keep people in.”

 

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Don’t get it confused; Troy Maxson, the lead character of the play/film Fences is a good man. Which; in human parlance (as I so often quoth) is another way of saying he’s deeply flawed. He drinks too much, spends too much time talking about how the white man doesn’t like to see a black man do good and spent way too much time (most of the film actually) building a simple fence his wife has been asking about for years.

 

But he’s a good man.

 

Fences is based on a 1983 play written by August Wilson. Original premiering on Broadway in 1987 and closing in 1988, the play featured James Earl Jones as Troy alongside others, and then, it was revived in 2010 featuring Denzel Washington in the titular role, which he carried over to the film.

 

August finished a screenplay for the critically acclaimed play since 2003, but couldn’t reach an agreement with the studio on choice of director. August wanted a black director because; ‘It’s not about the color of his skin, it’s about the culture’.

Denzel directs and stars in this masterpiece, his third behind the camera. He says ‘Scott Rudin brought the screenplay to me seven years ago, and when I heard it was a play I was doubly interested. ‘Can I do the play first?'”

 

Troy reeks of bitterness and gin. Every chance he gets, he complains about how his skin color kept him from making it into Major League Baseball; in spite of his excellence in Negro League Baseball, a fact echoed by his first son Lyon (Russell Hornsby) in the movie’s closing scenes;

 

“You gotta take the crooked with the straights’, that’s what papa used to say. He used to say that when he struck out. I seen him strike out three times in a row, and the next time up he hit the ball over the grandstand.”

 

Troy talked a lot; as men who drink as much usually do. In one scene he tells the story of a wrestling match he had with the devil, and how he fought the devil to a standstill. His listeners don’t argue with him, but the looks on their faces give the impression they’re used to his tale-telling. But, as we learn later in the movie, man knew what he was talking about.

 

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Fences is a close-up, and sometimes uncomfortable look at a man and how he can’t get better than his circumstances, and the irony of how sometimes, those same circumstances are of his own making. In the opening scenes Troy is having a conversation with his long-time friend Bono played by Stephen McKinley Henderson. Troy, a garbage man asked his boss a simple, yet uncomfortable question for that time, 1950s Pittsburg;

 

“Went to Mr. Rand I asked him. Asked him ‘why’. ‘Why he got all the…white mens driving, and the colored lifting. Told him, ‘Whatsamatter; Don’t I count? Think only white folk got sense to drive a truck?’”

 

He’s told to take his complaint to the Union, probably thinking he was going to get fired. Turned out he’s complaint is valid, and he’s promoted. He becomes the first black garbage truck driver in Pittsburg at the time – and he didn’t have a driver’s license.

Troy feels guilty; the house he lives in with his family was bought with his brother Gabe’s disability fund after he got half his head blow away in war. Played by Mykelti Williamson, Gabe is the spiritual core of the film which is interesting; he’s brain damaged.

A lot of Troy’s strength comes from his wife Rose played with great intensity by the great Viola Davis. One thing that sobers me constantly in the movie is how Troy, anytime its payday comes home and surrenders his money to this woman without a fight. When his son Lyon comes over and asks to borrow ten dollars, Troy refuses to give him – but says nothing when Rose takes out the ten dollars from his pay and hands it over to Lyon. And when Lyon returns to pay back the loan and Troy refuses to take it, he hands it to Rose. He proclaims his love for Rose every chance he gets; but that doesn’t stop him from…

 

Fences is about choices and relationships – and really, about fences we build around ourselves for different reasons. My favorite scene comes in at 40:37, when Troy and Rose’s son Cory (Jevon Adepo) summons the courage to ask his father a bold question;

 

Cory: Can I ask you a question?

 

Troy: What you gotta ask me? Mister DeWicker’s the one you got the questions for.

 

Cory: [pause] How come you ain’t never liked me?

 

Troy: Like you? Who the hell says I gotta like you? What law is there say’ I got to like you? Wanna stand up in front of my face and ask a damn fool ass question. Talking ‘bout likin’ somebody. Come here boy when I talk to you.

 

Cory walks up, Troy smacks him in the chest

 

Troy: Straighten up, goddamnit! Now, I asked you a question. What law, is there say’ I gotto like you?

 

Cory: None.

 

Troy: All right then. Don’t you eat every day? Answer me when I talk to you! Don’t you eat every day?

 

Cory: Yeah…

 

Troy: Nigga, as long as you’re in my house you put a “Sir” on the end of it when you talk to me.

 

Cory: Yes, Sir.

 

Troy: You eat every day?

 

Cory: Yes, Sir.

 

Troy: You got a roof over you head?

 

Cory: Yes, Sir.

 

Troy: Got clothes on your back?

 

Cory: Yes, Sir.

 

Troy: Why you think that is?

 

Cory: ‘Cause of you?

 

Troy: [chuckles] Hell, I know it’s ’cause of me. But why do you think that is?

 

Cory: ‘Cause you like me?

 

Troy: Like you? I go outta here every morning; I bust my butt, putting up with them crackers every day ’cause I like you? You’re about the biggest fool I ever saw. It’s my job. It’s my responsibility. A man, is supposed to take care of his family. You live in my house, fill your belly with my food, put your behind on my bed because you’re my son. Not because I like you – ‘cos it’s my duty to take care of you, I owe a responsibility to you. Now let’s get this straight, right here and now before it go any further – I ain’t got to like you! Mr. Rand don’t give me my money, come pay day, ‘cos he like me. He give it to me ‘cos he owe me. Now, I done give you everything I got to give you! I gave you your life! Me and your Mama worked out between us and liking your black ass wasn’t part of the bargain! Now don’t you go through life worrying about whether somebody like you or not! You best be makin’ sure they’re doin’ right by you! You understand what I’m sayin’?

 

Cory: Yes sir.

 

Troy: Then get the hell out of my face, and get on down to that A&P!

 

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Talk about intense.

 

The film does feel a little hemmed in; the entire movie you see a backyard, a living room/dining area, a bedroom and street in front of house maybe once or twice – but you’ll probably only notice that on your second or third viewing if you make it that far. Chances are you won’t notice; the dialogue fills the head and heart and doesn’t live space for much else.

 

At the end of the film, Rose talks to a reluctant Cory about his father and a little girl he brought home one day, and her closing line sums up Troy Maxson and really; what each and every one of us should aspire to do with our lives;

 

“And if the Lord see fit to keep up my strength, I’m gonna do her exactly how your daddy did you. I mah give her the best of what’s in me.”

 

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Which is why I can say loudly; Troy was a good man. Or maybe he wasn’t, depending on your perspective. But he did the best of what he knew how – which really is all any of us can hope for.

 

We all are put on this earth to do the best we can; and maybe he could have been more; maybe his failure to get into the Major League had more to do with his age and less with his skin – maybe. But Troy and Rose gave their all to each other.

 

Troy: It’s not easy for me to admit that I’ve been standing in the same place for eighteen years!

Rose: Well, I’ve been standing with you! I’ve been right here with you Troy! I got a life too! I gave eighteen years of my life to stand in the same spot as you! Don’t you think I ever wanted other things?

 

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Fences is about hope, love, fear, anger, pain, frustration, how those things can take you and turn you into a carcass of what you were supposed to be. And yet it’s hopeful, brave and fearless. It’s about determination, faith –

 

And how sometimes, the fences we build to protect us also keep us away from the ones who love us. Troy unconsciously built fences between him and his family – and that cost him a lot.

 

But still, he made good in the end. And really, that’s really what any of us can hope to do. Do the things that count while we can.

 

See Fences. And take down some of the ones you may have built around you. Who knows?

 

PS: Hypocrite Alert.

 

Heh.

 

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Review: Joy Isi Bewaji’s Story of My Vagina: Socially Conscious Play or Feminist Propaganda?

Story of My Vagina: Socially Conscious Play or Feminist Propaganda?

 

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Story of My Vagina is a forty-something minute play written by Joy Isi Bewaji and presented by the Crown Troupe of Africa. For the truly discerning; if you’re imaginative and you’re familiar with the writer, you know what to expect.

 

And either you agree with her or not, she meets your expectations.

 

Due to a confusing sense of direction and an equally confused Google map navigator I missed almost twenty minutes of the showing; however I saw enough to understand the message; the intent of the play.

 

SOMV is a thematic anthology of sorts that attempts to represent the many trails and travails of the Nigerian Woman. There’s the story of the woman who is sent packing from her husband’s home because the couple cannot have children. There’s the story of the woman who ends up in a cell because she dared report her husband for domestic violence. There’s the story of the woman who is molested by her male colleague and is told there’s nothing she can do about it simply because she is female and he is male; therefore he is superior to her – at least in the office. There’s a story of two female students; one who thinks the word ‘vagina’ is taboo and shouldn’t be mentioned in public, there’s the more self-aware one who doesn’t see anything wrong in calling a body part by its name. Fast-paced, littered with bright dialogue and a strong cast that brings the play alive with sizzling narrative strength, it is an interesting watch.

 

The play struggles to find a middle ground between painting a somewhat stereotypical (true nonetheless) picture of the Nigerian woman – a picture already popularized by your favorite Nollywood movie(s), and telling a different, often-neglected part of the female plight; women are just as responsible for the situation as are men.

 

One of the more-resounding parts the play is the vignette in which a woman is thrown out of her matrimonial home for the couple’s failure to conceive. She is not thrown out by the man (who is neither seen nor heard) but by the man’s mother aided by his two sisters. An interesting moment of this scenario is a scene in which the wife asks; “How do you know I’m the problem?” and the sisters respond with indignation. One of them says; “How dare you suggest our brother is the problem? Our brother that has large Cassava” or words to that effect.

 

I couldn’t help but wonder how she knows her brother has a big – but that is beside the point. And here’s my reason for choosing that particular vignette as my favorite – it brings something fresh to the conversation; how do we treat people of the same gender with us? Is feminism about blaming the other gender for your woes?

 

In the ultimate scene – the one in which a woman is locked up in a cell for reporting her husband for domestic abuse – a policeman rants about feminism; “You better forget this your feministic nonsense! Your feminism is nothing but a house divided against itself – it cannot stand!”

 

At the very least, what passes for feminism these days in these parts leaves many a man/woman confused. As I shared in a conversation with renown poet Dami Ajayi after the play, the question I want to ask most is, where does feminism end and misandry begin?

 

That particular vignette (the one with the thrown-out wife) and Joy’s closing speech emphasized what I believe the entire play should have been more about in the first place; man is NOT the enemy. These things happen, no doubt – but have we taken a moment to truly understand WHY they happen? No matter what you think, both men and women are victims of a construct called society, a construct constructed by both genders. I mean, what do we say about a society that makes it a compliment when a woman grabs a man in a certain way, but makes it molest/assault when a man grabs a woman in the exact same way?

 

Joy, in closing mentioned the truth that “You won’t hear men insulting other men of having small penises. No, these insults come from women” a hard, uncomfortable and often overlooked truth, something she herself did, either consciously or otherwise, in the play. Therefore, instead of provoking empathy and understanding from the average male, it is more than likely to spark a defensive reaction; “I’m not like that! I don’t grab or beat women anyhow…and this is the issue with feminism!” or similar denial.

 

However skewed the overall perspective of the play is, it is a strong presentation by a talented cast, a cast that takes everything but itself seriously. They dance through the lines and scenes like a fully-functional human being would dance through a day; normal or otherwise. And I would be remiss to not mention the audience; they were, at least at my viewing, a very quiet and attentive audience, following every scene and word with what I hope was contemplative and not offended silence.

 

If Story of My Vagina achieves anything, I hope at the very least it sparks a conversation – a much-needed conversation about gender and the things that truly matter.

 

I can get behind that.