Something to watch tonight: Friday 5 January
Glory (Zwick, 1989)
Firstly, no “Friday new releases” post today. Reviews of all the latest films in cinemas and streaming are going to be posted to RNZ for the next few weeks (until At the Movies returns) and I’ll summarise them here once they’ve been up for a few days.
So, an old fashioned streaming recommendation today: Ed Zwick’s double Oscar-winner Glory from 1989.
Just before Christmas I was reading this lovely memorial to the great actor Andre Braugher who passed away from lung cancer earlier in December at the much-too-early age of 65: Listening to Andre Braugher When he acted, the words were notes; the sentences, lyrics; every monologue, an aria. In the piece Matt Zoller Seitz specifically mentions Braugher’s debut feature film performance in Glory and I was forced to confront the fact that I either hadn’t seen the film when I thought I had, or hadn’t remembered Braugher’s participation.
Handily then, Netflix announced earlier this week that the film had been added to their service in New Zealand so I caught up with it (again*) last night.
Braugher plays Thomas Searles Jr., a second generation free man and childhood friend of Matthew Broderick’s milquetoast Colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, who would lead the first regiment of Black soldiers to fight for the Union in the Civil War. As an educated and privileged young man, Thomas finds army life hard – Denzel Washington’s rebellious Trip nicknames him “Snowflake” – but by the end his journey has been as important to the film as everyone else’s.
Glory remains a tremendously powerful achievement, the Black performers (including Washington, Morgan Freeman and Jihmi Kennedy) eating up the material and leaving perfectly fine actors like Broderick and Cary Elwes looking bland and ineffective. Which – until the final fateful assault on Charleston’s Fort Wagner – they were.
Washington won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor that year and you can see how big a star he is going to become. A couple of weeks ago, director Ed Zwick took to the social media platform formerly known as Twitter to reminisce about Glory and described Washington thusly:
While working, he burned with an inchoate rage, controlled yet always just below the surface and accessible at any moment. I learned not to break his concentration between takes. Off set, he was funny and approachable. Better that than the other way around, I figured.
*I must have seen it before! Some of it is very familiar but other scenes felt completely new to me. One thing that might be important to note is that the 5.1 audio seems to be have been mastered very quietly and we had to turn the volume up much higher than usual to appreciate it.
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