Denzel Washington’s big screen adaptation of Fences, August Wilson’s critically acclaimed staged play, has finally been seen. To say that people loved it would be underselling it; last night’s Screen Actor’s Guild screening went over so well that many are calling the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress races over.
I already discussed that Viola Davis’ choice to campaign in Supporting Actress instead of Lead Actress as many were guessing she would essentially ended that race. Davis has been working for a long time and has been nominated twice for an Oscar, and she almost won a few years ago for The Help. She won a Tony for this role on Broadway, and after making history with a well deserved Emmy win an Oscar seems likely to follow.
The biggest question marks were always the film’s quality (seeing as no one had actually seen it until last night) and Denzel Washington’s status in both Best Actor and Best Director. While Director might be a harder road with so many names floating around at this stage (La La Land‘s Damien Chazelle, Moonlight‘s Barry Jenkins, Jackie‘s Pablo Larraín, Manchester By The Sea‘s Kenneth Lonergan just to name a few), Lead Actor is incredibly fluid this year, something that might work to Washington’s benefit.
See the rapturous reactions from last night’s screening:
Everyone will obviously have different reactions to Fences, and yes the Academy is a completely different demographic than film journalists. The important takeaway, however, is the power; if Fences is indeed as undeniable and powerful as people are saying, that’s huge for its Oscar chances in categories outside of the acting ones.
Washington’s performance and his status as a director are undoubtedly intertwined, and I imagine that’s how the campaign is going to play out. He is an Academy favorite, so he could absolutely double dip by earning a nomination for Actor and Director. If the film gets enough votes to make it into the Best Picture category, he could be nominated as a Producer as well. It’s safe to say as Fences continues to screen and build momentum, its status as a force to be reckoned with will grow, which reveals that maybe that late Christmas premiere date wasn’t such a bad idea after all.