Why Denzel Rules The Universe
A day late but a promise is a promise: Denzel Washington is my all time favorite actor.
First is the fact is that he is one of those rare personalities you know by his first name. Aretha. Elvis. The Babe. Ringo. (sorry; but it’s true) For that matter, Sir Paul. And Denzel.
The best way for me to describe it is when a therapist asked me why I was a Denzel guy (she had me do a collage and Denzel was prominently featured). I said ‘he has an aura, he has a presence’ And he does. Whatever he does. We saw it in his Oscar turn in Glory where he’s being whipped and just one solitary tear runs down his cheek. Powerful. Or when he talks about how his group has become his family. (Sidebar: in that same scene Matthew Broderick was excellent as well — after reprimanding the guy with the whip for insubordination he demands the whipping start; but you can tell he is anguished in doing so. This three years after Ferris Bueller. Probably his most powerful moment as well)
And of course the Oscar for Training Day, where he served notice ‘I AM THE BEST actor of my generation.’ A bad man in every sense of the word, who he made a multi layered character. And an epic final line when he knew it was over: ‘King Kong Ain’t Got Shit On Me!’ (Which I tried, unsuccessfully, to make a thing with the Patriots.)
Look at his filmography. There’s no paycheck movies. Not a single one. In every movie, he is powerful, he is multilayered. An example is Flight, where he plays a pilot who, despite being coked out, is able to land a plane safely when any other pilot sober winds up crashing. John Q, where he plays a desperate father looking for medical care for his son where insurance won’t pay for it. Malcolm X. Fences, part of the August Wilson Pittsburgh 20th century cities. Reboots: The Equalizer. The Taking Of Pelham 1–2–3. The Magnificent Seven.
If there is one light movie he’s done, it’s Remember the Titans, where he takes over as coach of an integrated school and has to deal with things like people throwing bricks through his window. When interviewed about it, he says, ‘If whomever threw this wants to talk to me about it, come see me. I’ll be home.’
He’s also front and center in every movie he does. Denzel does not do supporting characters, even as he approaches 70. He doesn’t do TV. He’s done Broadway (he briefly was Julius Caesar many years ago) And to his being 70, his career is still moving along — he was nominated for another Oscar for The Tragedy of Macbeth. Which he probably won’t get — this is Will Smith’s year by all indications — but he’s still making relevant work.
I think it was Bill Simmons who asked who the male equivalent of Meryl Streep was. The answer is that there isn’t a true one. But if you’re looking for someone with staying power, someone who never disappoints, who doesn’t do paycheck movies, Denzel is the guy and it’s not close. (And by the way Meryl is another one that you know by her first name alone) Meryl has been nominated twenty-one times — TWENTY ONE!!!-for an Oscar and won three; but I think that’s largely because the bench for female actors, sadly, is not that deep. (I do think — hope-Amy Adams, who’s 0-for-6 gets one, but she’s got plenty of time.)
But I digress. I did the write up on Cumberbatch, I did the write up on McConaughey. But doing the write up on Denzel, I realized that he is The Guy. There is no one who is more powerful, more consistent, with more of a presence than Denzel. Whether he is the GOAT I don’t know but he’s in the discussion.
No, wait: I’ll say it. Yes.
Denzel is the GOAT.
Prove me wrong.