Oscar 2017: Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington–What They Share in Common?

It is probably a coincidence that the two frontrunners for the Best Actor Oscar, Denzel Washington in Fences and Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea, play working class, down on their luck, sad and bitter men–albeit for different reasons.


The two characters differ in age and race: Washington plays a black man in this 50s, whereas Affleck is a white guy in his 40s.  But they do share one significant attribute in common, their job.  Affleck is a janitor in Boston, Washington is a garbage collector in Pennsylvania.

The fact that both movies, which have been in the works long before Donald Trump even announced his intention to run for President, are released during a new era, to be defined by a billionaire in the White House, makes them all the more significant.

Exit polls have suggested that Trump benefit from a strong support by rural white men, but did not do so well with voters of ethnic minorities.

Fences and Manchester by the Sea call attention to the lower, working class in the increasingly stratified class system in the U.S.  They also defy the prevalent notion of upward mobility as a basic tenet of mainstream ideology–the American Dream as we used to know it for decades.

As noted, president-Elect Trump is said to have benefited from the support of the “forgotten man,” a group largely comprised of rural white citizens whose voices have not been heard in real as well as reel life.

On one level, both Fences and Manchester by the Sea are intensely intimate intergenerational family melodramas.  As such, they dissect the roles, duties, and responsibilities of fathers  (or father figures).

Washington plays a rigid patriarch in Fences, holding a major secret from his past from his beloved and loyal wife, while engaging in lifelong conflict with his rebellious son.

In contrast, Affleck is a father who has gone through a major loss and tragedy in his own marriage, and now faces the added burden of whether or not he can assume the role of guardian of his nephew.

Oscar Prospects:

Casey Affleck has already won several important awards: Best Actor from the Los Angeles and Broadcast Film Critics Associations, among others.  This will be his first Best Actor and second Oscar nod; he was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor in 2007.

Denzel Washington is a two-time Oscar winner: Best Supporting Actor for Glory in 1989 and Best Actor for Training Day in 2001.