Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Where do I get a Denzel Washington T-shirt?

I just came back from seeing The Great Debaters, a movie that has received a resounding vote of No Confidence from America's Holiday Movie Viewing Public. This movie is seemingly a perfect storm of success; It stars and is directed by Denzel Washington, fresh off of his victory of American Gangster, and America's Favorite Woman Oprah Winfrey. (Sorry, Hillary, Ellen, Beyonce, Martha, et. al... Actually, I'm not sorry.)

Related fact #1: American Gangster is Denzel's biggest box office money maker of ALL-TIME w/ nearly 130 million bucks in receipts... not Malcolm X (49 million), not Hurricane (50 million - FUCK YOU OSCAR VOTERS!!! Kevin Spacey? PUHHHHHHHHHLLLLLEASE!), not Devil in A Blue Dress (16 million? If that movie had been a hit the entire direction of black actors in Hollywood would have changed for the better.), nothing w/ Spike Lee (Although Inside Man did make 88 million.)

Related fact #2 Denzel's number three biggest money maker, you ask. ... Pelican Brief (100 million) starring at the time an up and coming actress named Julia Roberts.

Where does Pelican brief rank on Julia's list of box office receipts, AGAIN, you ask. It just baaaaaaaaaaaarely squeaks into the Top 10, behind such classics as Hook, SLeeping With The Enemy, and (drumroll please...) Ocean's 12... (I still want my 10 bucks back Mr. Clooney.)

ANYWAY, this should have been the perfect storm of box office success, but America stayed away in droves. Why wasn't it? Three reasons...

1) The Great Debaters is about a debate team from the small historically black, Wiley College. And if there's one thing that America hates more than black people... it's black history. Nobody cares about black history. Not black people. Not white people. Not no people. This is nearly a death blow in and of itself. I think we all got our fill of black history with Roots. Or maybe we just want our black history for free on TV.

2) While Oprah has an impeccable (IMPECCABLE!) record when it comes to pushing books...
Say what you will about A Million Little pieces, but the book sold very, very, well.

(By the way, nobody can ever tell me that Oprah's Book Club is bad in anyway. I hear people (like my ex-girlfriend) complain about the books she chooses, but it is NEVER bad to encourage people to read, no matter what you tell them to read. At least they are reading. No matter how bad the quality of the book is ALLEGEDLY. We all started by reading stuff like See Spot Run, not exactly classics of literature. Hopefully it led you to reading better stuff... like this blog.)

ANYWAY... Oprah does not exactly have a gre
at track record when it comes to making big box office at the movies. Her biggest public failure was the adaptation of Toni Morrison's Beloved. Now, understand. I'm not so narrow minded to equate big box office with good filmmaking. In fact I'm not so dense as to think that they even usually go together. But it certainly shows that despite common beliefs, her immense audience doesn't run out and do everything she says. Uh oh, Barack. Uh-freaking-oh!

(For the record I saw Beloved and it's depiction of horrors of slavery matched up against the horrors of a ghost story was so viscerally... horrific I don't know how ANYONE could have thought is was box office gold... or even box office tin. I have in fact blocked it from my memory.

3) Even I wasn't that interested in seeing The Great Debaters, and I tend to feel about Denzel Washington the way I'm told I'm supposed to feel about Jay-Z (even told so by Jay himself.) Actually, it's bigger than that. Denzel falls into my pantheon of great men that includes, my dad, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, and Malcolm X, himself.

Having said that, I am not interested in seeing him play second banana to anyone, not Antoine Fisher, not the Wiley College Debate Team, not even Shakespeare. I never saw those other two movies, but I DID see The Great Debaters and I apologize, Denzel, for not trusting you fully. First of all, the movie is a totally serviceable story of inspiration set against the background of The Wiley Debate Team, and secondly it is great to see Denzel's work as a director. I felt like I could clearly see the touches he picked up from Spike Lee and Remember The Titans (His second highest grossing film.). But MOST importantly, this movie contains a CLASSIC Denzel Speech, which are to me like manna from heaven. This speech is right up there with the "Bamboozled" speech from Malcolm X, and "I'm 50 years old..." from Hurricane, and even "The Crab Cake Scene" w/ Dean Cain in the little known gem, Out of Time. This speech will forever be known to me as "The Nigger Speech", and it is a CLAAAAAAAAAAAAASIC! If you consider yourself any level of Denzel fan then you should RUN, don't walk, to the theater. (Mostly cuz it won't be there very long.)

But that's not why I write this blog. I write it mostly to ask... WHERE THE HELL IS MY DENZEL WASHINGTON T-SHIRT? You can get t-shirts of ALLLLL the rest of the men on my Mount Rushmore (except my dad, but I'm workin' on it), but NOT DENZEL?!

Every movie he makes is yet another brick in The Sidney Poitier "Take Pride in Yourself Negroes!" Museum. In a culture as obsessed with celebrity as ours. It is a shame that Denzel's celebrity has gone nearly unnoticed. (Isn't it a shame that black men take more pride in Al Pacino's Scarface than Denzel's EVERYTHING ELSE? Anyone who has ever watched MTV's cribs knows the ubiquitous Scarface DVD in every rapper's collection.) Denzel is like a walking black monument to pride and responsibility. And although on one hand he is carrying on the legacy of the original colored leading man, Mr. Sidney Poitier, on the other hand he is also an actor on par with Robert De Niro. Only De Niro has played such a variety of roles, but unlike Denzel, you don't exactly want to see him as the shiny leading man. Only Brad Pitt compares as far a range of roles, but he is in no way as historically relevant as Denzel. All I'm trying to say is...

Can't the brother get a better T-Shirt than THIS?


Dean said...

Thanks for the new blog! So you're saying "Beloved" is just a couple of steps away from "Attack of the Killer Negro Tomatoes"? Perhaps Danny Glover lost big to Oprah in a poker game.

When my daughter gets older, I'm forcing her to read Autobiography of Malcolm X and then watch the movie.

mermaidintherudder said...

you can get a better shirt, but you gotta design it yourself

readingwritingliving said...

My 17 year old texted me from the movie theater and said she was crying and had goose bumps and was so blown away and everyone in the world should see this movie. It's on my list.