Oyelowo remembers ‘amazing’ Gettysburg Address moment with Obama

29 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Selma’s’ Oyelowo extends his reach on cable.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Having your film screened at the White House is a huge honor. “Titanic” may be one of the most technically ambitious and expensive movies ever made, but “Nightingale,” a film that will be shown Friday on HBO, seems even harder to pull off because it is so astoundingly simple.The HBO original film “Nightingale” (HBO at 9 p.m.) stars Golden Globe-nominated actor David Oyelowo (“Selma”) as a war veteran whose life begins to unravel as he addresses the unseen followers of his video log about his obsession with an old Army buddy. RETURNING SHOW: “Alaskan Bush People” (Discovery at 9) returns for a third season with Ami in desperate need of medical attention while the boys try to find work to pay for a wood-burning stove. — Englishman David Oyelowo attributes at least part of his film success to a seemingly unlikely source: the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president.

Also, if you’re a few episodes behind and in need of a show recap, a season countdown precedes the premiere. “Great Performances” (MPT at 9) pays tribute to conductor Andris Nelsons’s first concert leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra. After a chance reunion in a library, Peter desperately wants to strike up the friendship again, despite the many signals, from both Edward and his wife, that Edward isn’t interested. At a White House screening of Selma, “I thanked him for my career, because I can absolutely track some of the best films I’ve done to his presidency: The Help, Red Tails, Lincoln, (Lee Daniels’) The Butler, Selma,” says Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. “America had to open its eyes to the context that brought this seminal moment of having a black president, (which) meant that people with greenlight ability in Hollywood were more open to these stories.” Oyelowo, 39, stars in Nightingale (airing on HBO Friday, 9 p.m. Among his many problems, Peter is deluded, and he nonetheless begins to plan a dinner for Edward, dreaming up elaborate ideas about what he’ll serve and what he’ll wear.

RETURNING SHOW: On the 10th-season premiere of “What Would You Do?” (ABC at 9), a teenage girl appears to be meeting someone she met online and a nanny tries to sway a child to pick a doll with a certain skin color. The humanity of a man in a one-character film who commits a horrible act, while appealing to Oyelowo, spelled trouble in terms of wider distribution or acceptance at independent film festivals, save for the Los Angeles Film Festival. The already canceled apocalyptic series “The Messengers” (CW at 9) chugs on with the messengers racing to stop the next Horseman and uncover a cyber-scheme that could kill thousands. The Gettysburg speech resonated even more with the British-born Oyelowo, who plays a soldier who recites part of the address to President Lincoln in 2012’s Lincoln.

Daredevil and wire-walker Nik Wallenda stops by “Say Yes to the Dress” (TLC at 9) with his acrobat wife, Erendira, to shop for a gown for their vow renewal. His own lack of celebrity may have played a part, he says, but “if you have a black actor in this role and it has nothing to do with sports, music, race, civil rights, has nothing to do with all those touch-button subjects, I feel like some of these festivals just didn’t know what to do with it.” However, Nightingale, filmed before Selma turned Oyelowo into more of a household name (though still tricky to pronounce), ultimately benefited from the actor’s rising star power and his affiliation with Selma producer and Hollywood A-lister Brad Pitt, who became a producer on the project and brought it to HBO.

Host Don Wildman examines a novel contraption that was once deployed to save a bevy of wild beavers in Boise, Idaho, and the history behind Mother’s Day in the United States on “Mysteries at the Museum” (Travel at 9). He has romanticized his time with Edward to the point of absurdity, and at moments in “Nightingale,” he acts as though he’s in love with his former buddy. Oyelowo plays another American, real-life Georgia killer Brian Nichols, in Captive, due in September, but his film choices reflect a global sensibility. King was trying to corral the truth and amplify it to the world and hope people would gather around and make their voices heard against injustice,” Oyelowo says. “Social media is a platform to do exactly that.” A less positive side “is feeling connected when you’re actually not connected,” he says. “You can say I have hundreds of friends, but they’re all electronic.” (Nightingale was filming when news broke regarding document leaker Edward Snowden, who is associated with the digital world in a different way, and the character names are “a complete coincidence,” Oyelowo says.) Peter’s conversation with his online followers provides a means of conveying what he is thinking in the absence of other characters, says screenwriter Frederick Mensch, who was inspired by Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic, Taxi Driver. “Both films are about incredibly lonely people,” Mensch says. “In Taxi Driver, we’re hearing what Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) says in his diary, so this is the contemporary equivalent.” Oyelowo, Mensch and director Elliott Lester acknowledge that a 90-minute film focused on one character struggling with his demons does not spell Hollywood blockbuster, but say it can reach more viewers on HBO than it would have with a small theatrical release. Then, reality television overlord Ryan Seacrest is on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (ABC at 11:35), with actress Brittany Snow and a musical performance from Imagine REO SpeedDragons, a union of members of the bands Imagine Dragons and REO Speedwagon.

He muses aloud about his “love that knows no boundaries” for Edward, and he says, “There is nothing I wouldn’t do for that man.” The possibility that Peter has sexual feelings for Edward is clearly afoot, but his orientation is never nailed down in the script, by Frederick Mensch. In A United Kingdom, the actor, born in England to Nigerian parents, will play a prince from Botswana whose marriage to a white Englishwoman stirs controversy in the 1940s. He is currently shooting Queen of Katwe, in which he portrays a man who teaches a young African chess champion (Lupita Nyong’o). “I love shooting in Africa. The director is happy more people will get to see Oyelowo’s depiction of Peter, who is delicate in his approach to dinner recipes but violent when he runs into opposition. “He’s meticulous in his approach and relentless,” Lester says. He talks — into the camera on his computer, on the telephone and even across an empty room — but it’s not clear who is listening, if anyone. “Nightingale” unfolds without divulging the line between reality and delusion, turning Peter’s monologues into a scavenger hunt dotted with clues to his true story.

A one-man movie is an extremely difficult conceit to sustain. “Nightingale” is obviously bravura television, a showcase geared more toward critical acclaim and acting awards than ratings. What could have been an evocative journey into the mind of a lost veteran, as he opens up his thinking across a one-man show set entirely inside his house, is more like a quasi thriller revolving around a very mad hatter. Roman Polanski’s 1965 classic, “Repulsion,” focuses on the distorted fantasies of a sexually repressed young woman played by Catherine Deneuve, but there are other characters in the film, notably the intrusive men who set off her homicidal fugues.

We learn about that probability at the very beginning of the story, which turns everything that comes after it into the musings of a demented killer — not exactly Baby Jane Hudson from “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane,” but not NOT her, either. Tom Hanks goes a little bonkers while alone on a deserted island in “Cast Away,” but the film brackets his seclusion with scenes from before and after. If we’d been able to find sympathy with Peter first, and later learn about his twisted violence, the movie might have had a chance to develop an impact. In “Buried,” Ryan Reynolds is a hostage held in an underground coffin in Iraq, but the audience is privy to both ends of his cellphone conversations with his captors, his family and State Department officials. “The Man Who Sleeps,” a 1974 French film that had only one character, a young man trapped in a trance of alienation, ruffles the monotony with Paris street scenes, customers in cafes and an unseen female narrator who addresses the hero in the second person. “All Is Lost,” which starred Robert Redford as a man sailing solo across the Indian Ocean, comes the closest to “Nightingale,” but that 2013 movie at least had the drama of a sinking ship in a storm. Instead, we’re just watching very bad get worse, with no surprises and very few philosophical or psychological insights. (By the way, I’m assuming that Mensch uses the names “Edward” and “Snow-den” in such close proximity for a reason, but I’m not sure what that reason is.) The movie features a number of devices that attempt to add variety to the monotony of being in the same home throughout.

Peter talks on his phone and his mother’s landline a lot — to his sister, to Edward’s wife, to his mother’s friends, who are wondering where she is — and he films videos of himself on his phone and his laptop that we watch. There is a far glimpse of a neighbor through a window, and at one point a man hollers at Peter through the door, but that’s about it, and even those signs of an outside world could be illusory. The minute a three-paneled mirror arrives at the door for his mother (“Can’t afford HBO but we can afford this,” he mutters, a weak in-joke), we know we’ll be seeing him in it before all is said and done, a fractured man. He expresses yearnings and fantasies that are so real to him and so ardently described that it’s hard not to wish at least some of it true. “Nightingale,” a deep dive into delusion, is itself a dream-come-true.

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