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Plot: A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship. Runtime: 126 mins Release Date: 25 Dec 2007
Although "The Great Debaters" does not open until Christmas, I had the good fortune of seeing it at a preview -- and I can recommend it without reservation. It is a great story, based on real events that most of us never heard of, about a debating team from Wiley College, a small black institution in rural Texas, that performs extraordinary feats because the kids are good and the team is taught by Mel Tolson, a real person, acted by Denzel Washington, who also directs. Forest Whitaker, like Washington an academy award winner, plays James Farmer Sr., the school president and the <more>
father of one of the debaters, James Farmer Jr. yes, that James Farmer Jr. . The participation in this enterprise of Washington, Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and the Weinstein brothers should draw crowds provided the film isn't cursed by being described as "uplifting," though it is . The revelation in this film are the performances of the three principal debaters: Jurnee Smollett as Samatha Booke with an "e", as she proclaims when she tries out for the debate team , Nate Parker as Henry Lowe also with an "e" as he announces in response to Samantha's declaration and Denzel Whitaker as James Farmer Jr. It's an amusing coincidence, but he is unrelated either to Denzel Washington or to Forrest Whitaker. You may have seen Jurnee Smollett earlier in her career when she was a "cute kid" and a promising actress. This film could be her portal to stardom. In addition to being a gorgeous young woman, she's also an accomplished actress, ready for bigger parts in the future. You'll also be impressed with her colleagues, people whose names you may never have heard. You don't have to be black to find this film engrossing; I'm not. All you need to be is a a human being and b someone who appreciates a good movie. I hope it makes a ton of money at the box office but it is, above all, a quality film. It just happens to be about a difficult period in American history, the rural South in the 1930's. It just happens to be inspirational and uplifting and all that good, boring stuff that cause your eyes to roll when that's how the critics describe it. But it's better than uplifting. It's GOOD and it's REAL.
I say this because: 1 The acting is remarkable. Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, Denzel Whitaker, and Kimberly Elise are all stunningly good 2 The cinematography is very well done and the score is beautifully and uplifting. 3 The story is great. It has multiple underdog themes which when watching, you root so much for the underdog it actually hurts : . These would be: a the black people in the south in the 1930s b little Wiley collage especially when they are vs Harvard c the 14 year old boy James P. Farmer Jr. Denzel Whitaker who is seemingly <more>
incapable at first of debating. Do yourself a favor and see "The Great Debaters". You are going to love it.
Though I speak with the tongues of angels, but have not love.... (by intelearts)
"The Great Debaters" is a very fine film.It reminds us of what it means to be excellent, to stand for something good, to love with all our hearts, and to shine.The performances, or the cinematography, historical care, or directorship all lift it out of the ordinary.And in its difficult subject: racial tension and the education and discovery of values by the three young debaters from Wiley College, one of the oldest colleges in America, it creates real excitement and interest.But the real reason that this is a fine film lies in is its plea that in education lies the reasoning, the <more>
power, and the will to change history. That learning lies not just in knowledge but also in applying that knowledge to better yourself, your world, and all of humanity.The very significant point of the film is at the end. I can forgive the slight drag here and there because the ending is magnificent and explains something crucial about American history by its finish.From an era when bigotry, racism, and degrading behavior was a wretched norm to our era where values are mutable, where dumbing down has no limits, and taste little place; "The Great Debaters" stands out as being a story that stands against all of these things.The rating says it all: excellent.
Great Sophomore Film by Denzel as a Director (by desiplaya)
Two words perfectly sum up this movie - inspirational and uplifting. I have not seen Antwone Fisher, but I will be sure to check it out after seeing this.Before watching this, I had never even heard about Wiley College or what it did in the '30s, so not only is it great entertainment but it is also educational. I don't know how closely the movie follows the actual events so I can't point out the flaws, but it doesn't matter because the movie is brilliant and moving. This is an underdog movie and you'll be rooting for the Wiley College team throughout the movie. The acting <more>
is marvelous by all the actors, but recognition has to be given to the three stars that portray the debaters, Denzel Washington, and Forest Whitaker. Not only is Denzel great as an actor, he is even better as a director. As other reviewers have said, out of all the actors Denzel Whitaker is the star. His portrayal of James Farmer, Jr. is outstanding and this role will certainly further his acting career. Forest Whitaker doesn't have a huge role to play, but he performs his parts beautifully for example the hog and the sheriff scenes .Overall this is a very inspirational and uplifting movie. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets a few Oscar nods. 9/10
In his sophomore effort, actor-director Denzel Washington has created one of the best films of the year, The Great Debaters. Never trying to be the cliché coming of age tale of student-teacher relationship that becomes like a bad aftertaste like past efforts, as Mona Lisa Smile; the film takes a high road to transform its narrative into a beautiful canvas for Washington to paint on like forgotten masterpieces like Stand and Deliver and Dead Poet's Society. Adapted from a Tony Scherman article by Robert Eisele and Jeffrey Porro, the film follows an astonishing pace and never forcing <more>
anything down the audience's throat rather, uses images and manifestations for its armor.Washington's achievement here is pulling the performances of this new, unknown young actors. Denzel Whitaker as the innocent, curious James Jr. is wonderful in exposition of character and gives the best child performance of the year. At 17, young Whitaker should have no problem coming into his own as a great young leading man in the future. Nate Parker in a momentous breakthrough performance indulges the audience as Henry, the angry young college student dealing with the inequalities of African-Americans in the South. In the end it's the tenacious performance by the beautiful Jurnee Smollett that holds the emotional premise of the film together. Not only dealing the racial barrier, but the barrier of being a woman, a woman running away from her past and trying to settle into a world dominated by the differences of her own. Smollett's debate speeches are felt with every word, every expression, and every influential command. Smollett's performance is the ignored performance worthy of consideration for awards of 2007.Not expecting too much from last year's Oscar winner Forest Whitaker probably helped him in watching the film. Whitaker reminds the viewer of how great he was for years before The Last King of Scotland. This is a true superior work on the actor's resume. So how Denzel Washington do in directing himself? Not glossing as much as Clint Eastwood and Kevin Costner past works, Washington does an admirable effort and takes the supporting role yes it's supporting and acts as the film's right hand man. Adding his charisma, potency, and veteran thespian persona, the film is a success.In terms of Oscar's chances, costume designer Sharen Davis nominated for her designs in Ray and Dreamgirls is worthy of citation. David J. Bomba's production design is quite easy on the eye and captures the era of tyranny and persecution. With the potential to be a late surge to the Academy Awards race, The Great Debaters delivers on every level encompassing the richness of love, the evil of oppression, and the beauty of triumph.Grade: ****/****
I saw this at the WGA Theatre and Robert Eisele, a white man, Polish-German, if I remember right was in the house. Being a white American myself, I very drawn to race conscious stories, though I strongly believe the only race is the human race.Eisele the screenwriter has teamed up with Oprah Winfrey, producer, and Denzel Washington, star-director, and the result is one of the best inspirational movies I've seen. I was impressed with Director Denzel before when I saw "Antoine Fisher." Very thought provoking that was and this one has multiple characters to root for.In 1935, Jim <more>
Crow was still in effect and blacks were clearly living as second class citizens. Based on historical characters and events, a debate team from the South went on to become the undefeated champs for the next ten years.Washington plays the college professor who coached and even wrote for the team but also was an agitator who used blacks and poor whites to join an union. Forest Whitaker plays a genius level minister who must cow down to whites to protect his family. It's fun to see the two Academy Award winners on the same screen.While everybody is good in this period piece, special mention must go to Denzel Whitaker, the one who has visual daydreams for the female but it's unrequited but still able to raise above that to win the debate at the end. Even more important, he's the one who failed the first time which makes the final victory so sweet.As the debate team is traveling, they narrowly escape whites when they witness a burning lynching from their car. Very believable done.I highly recommend this movie and hope it has great success.
You do what you have to do, so you can do what you want to do. (by lastliberal)
This wasn't about my Texas, although I am familiar with many of the topics in this film. I have been to Marshall in my travels over most of the highways in Texas, I know about Paul Quinn College and Prairie View A & M University. This wasn't even about my Daddy's Texas, as he was just a small boy at the time. It was, however, my Grandfather's Texas. he typified the characters in this film.With Denzel Washington directing and acting, I expected an outstanding film. I was not prepared to be so emotionally taken in that I left the theater wiping tears from eyes. This was a <more>
powerful statement about the differences in American. Differences that were typified by Franklin Roosevelt's affirmative action program for whites - the New Deal; differences that would be repeated twenty years later after WWII when the whites again received affirmative action in the form of the GI Bill. Robert Eisele's story really brought home the pain and deprivation of being Black in America, and how some could overcome that deprivation with the right help, but could never overcome the pain.Besides Washington, there were outstanding performances by Forest Whitaker, Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, and Denzel Whitaker, as a 14-year-old in college.Tears in my eyes, I will long remember this film as one of the best of the year and of many years.
THE GREAT DEBATERS is a movie-going treat, with young people exemplifying truth, respect, pride and dignity. In an entertaining way, with some preaching, this movie shows four African-American debaters succeeding in the face of adversity, growing stronger with success AND defeat. Their debates are lively and thought provoking.However, before, during and after these contests, other serious and complicated issues are revealed. Two of these issues deal with a confrontation on the road between two farmers and a minister, and a lynching in the middle of the night. Both are reflections of the time, <more>
unsettling and disturbing to those in the movie and in the audience.This is not family entertainment, nor is it mindless entertainment. It has no gratuitous sex, but there is a hint of romance. It is fast paced, but the action is verbal not physical. THE GREAT DEBATERS lives up to its name in that it has something for everyone, and not everyone will like it. I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a quality film that will be debated by all who see it!
Disappointed in the manner Marshall was portrayed (by ksliving)
I think the movie went overboard to portray 1935 Marshall as an economically poor and illiterate community.For example, the Marshall "town/city" scenes were filmed in Louisiana. Marshall had at least three theaters in 1935--one was for blacks on the town square did you see a square with a courthouse in the center? and two white theaters where blacks did have to sit in the balcony.Marshall was a hub of the Texas & Pacific RR and had a very nice station for the 1930s granted it had separate waiting rooms for blacks and whites . And, you would not see a grove of trees or forest <more>
as the train left the station for 3-5 miles in any direction.Furthermore, I do not recall ever seeing a bench in Marshall with a sign that said "Whites only." The Bus station had a waiting room--again separate areas for whites and blacks.The only downtown benches I recall were around the courthouse and they did not have any signs on them. Yes, the restrooms and water fountains were marked for "Colored" and "Whites." The wife and daughter of the sheriff at that time would not have let him out of the house dressed in the manner of the movie sheriff. He generally wore khaki or tan trousers with a starched and ironed light colored shirt. And, no sane official that had to manage a county budget would have rammed a county vehicle into a closed barn door.Marshall also had another Black college--Bishop that moved to Dallas in 1960.Although there was no mention of it, Wiley had an outstanding football team. As a youth, I attended a number of their games during WW II as well as Bishop's inaugural post WW II game. We white kids did not go to the Wiley vs Bishop games.Nonetheless, my wife and I enjoyed the movie especially since we knew about Professor Tolson and James Farmer. We did not know about the Southern Tenant farmers union activities which probably were in the eastern part of the county where most of the cotton was grown.