Awards Season 2018: The Unsung, Part 2: Two Men On Different Missions - PopcornReel.com

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Monday, February 12, 2018

AWARDS SEASON 2018
The Unsung: Two Men On Different Missions


Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams in "Get Out", written and directed by Jordan Peele.  Universal Pictures  

       

by
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Monday, February 12, 2018

In this continuing series "The Unsung", a look at two actors not in the Academy nominations announced last month: Lil Rel Howery ("Get Out") and Jason Mitchell ("Mudbound").  Both men were standouts in the films they acted in.  Previously "The Unsung" looked at actors Betty Gabriel and Vicky Krieps.


LIL REL HOWERY
as Rod Williams in "Get Out"

There's remarkable dexterity and fluidity to Lil Rel Howery's performance as Rod, the TSA Agent in "Get Out".  Mr. Howery balances many responsibilities as an actor to match the multi-layered, multi-faceted material Jordan Peele creates.  Mr. Howery plays a self-appointed detective of sorts, acting on behalf of his best friend Chris.  Yet Mr. Howery is also a surrogate for the audience watching Mr. Peele's film.  He delivers lines that you may have heard audience members vocalize during horror movies like "Get Out".  His timing is comic, instinctual but I've never thought Mr. Howery's performance was comedic.  "Get Out" is not a comedy. 

Mr. Howery, a comedian by trade, is also playing a best friend and he gives a carefree, casual and relaxed demeanor to every engagement.  He doesn't exert masculinity as you might see with other movie "wingman" characters.  He exudes common sense.  That quality is valuable especially in the current America that America is living in.  A lot of horror movie characters don't have any common sense, smarts or savvy but Rod is not one of them.

When you watch Mr. Howery you watch the wheels turn -- and you also watch an actor who plays a character who cuts to the chase and through the b.s. while almost everyone else's characters in "Get Out" prevaricate or are mired in codewords, nuance or minutiae.




Jason Mitchell as Ronsel Jackson in "Mudbound", co-written and directed by Dee Rees.  Netflix

JASON MITCHELL
as Ronsel Jackson in "Mudbound"

Jason Mitchell has flown under the radar all awards season long but his excellent performance in Dee Rees's "Mudbound" (currently in theaters and on Netflix) underlines his phenomenal acting skill and ability.  Mr. Mitchell brings a strength and intellect to manhood, specifically Black manhood, during the 1940s in his portrayal of Ronsel Jackson, who goes away to fight for his country against the Nazis. 

Mr. Mitchell exudes a confidence in Ronsel that makes him an audacious figure, a man-child of sorts.  Ronsel's innocence is partnered with a curiosity, daring and a critically-thinking discernment of an atmosphere that is historically and presently hostile to him.  It is great to see Mr. Mitchell's acting evolve as Ronsel adjusts to the environment of 1940s Mississippi and how his onscreen character's body language and personality changes when he's in Germany, Normandy and elsewhere during World War Two.  The subtle opening and closing of Ronsel's character -- specifically the way he sees the world and the opportunities it presents, shift perceptibly and imperceptibly according to where he is located.

Ronsel is dedicated to staking a claim to the land -- the American soil he and his ancestors are deeply rooted in, by blood or otherwise.  Mr. Mitchell's Ronsel is a man preserving manhood and a new generation of it on behalf of his father in "Mudbound", a father beaten down physically by the ardor of enslavement and physical toil at the hands of a white property owner who invades his ancestral land in Mississippi.

Whenever Jason Mitchell is on the big screen in "Mudbound" what you see is know-how, intelligence and an appeal that makes a major impression.  As an actor Mr. Mitchell knows how to adapt quickly.  In "Mudbound" Mr. Mitchell is agile, aware and has acquity.  These qualities and others the actor possesses energize Ronsel and rivet him to us the big screen.  Mr. Mitchell is an actor you can't take your eyes off in "Mudbound". 


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