Man on Fire
August 13, 2015 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period. "I think the great thing about this podcast is, even if people don't think he's the greatest actor of all time—first of all, they'd be wrong—you'd totally get why somebody would be excited about Denzel Washington. He's like black Santa Claus, like he'd walk into the room and everybody gets excited."

W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery's Earwolf show on Denzel Washington started off as a simple project between friends, who happen to be successful comedians, talking about their favourite actor. They didn't realise that once they opened the genie's bottle on the Denzelishness, the resulting Denzealotry would grow to include a comprehensive fansite, unofficial-but-official Twitter account, a bunch of amazing photoshops, a new vocabulary ("Denzealots", "Shed a Glory tear", "I been TOOK!", "This is what he does" ), the phenomenon of Black People Homework, discovering that you can get Carbon Copy on laser disc, fabulous guest stars including Selma's Omar Dorsey, David Alan Grier, Living Color's Vernon Reid, Michelle Buteau, and The Equalizer's break out star Johnny Skourtis, and a whole lot of fun with the #UncleDenzel meme.

Show highlights include: American Gangster (aka "the movie Kamau fast-forwards through Russell Crowe"), Flight with Doug Benson, Devil in a Blue Dress with Kathryn P. McMurphy, the unofficial-but-official bootleg of Inside Man, and, of course, Glory.
posted by Gin and Broadband (38 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Froggy Fresh is also a big Denzel fan.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:25 PM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Favorite actor != Greatest actor.

Just like Michael Bolton is not the greatest jazz performer, even if he does outsell Miles Davis.

Still, a fun idea for a podcast. Gives those whacky kids something to do besides all those drugs and hippity-hop and worshipping Satan in videogames, or whatever else they're into these days. So, carry on.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:45 PM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm going to have to listen to this if only because I want to stop picturing them in valet uniforms ala the Key & Peele sketch.

I'm too hetero to have a gay crush, but if I did it'd totally be Denzel.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:46 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'll have to show this to the missus. Man of Fire is probably on our TV at least once a month. It's practically her mood music.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:48 PM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Malcolm X is just a tremendous movie. Denzel did such a wonderful job. I really like him.
posted by 4ster at 1:48 PM on August 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


This week's 'Idle Thumbs' podcast had a cute story someone wrote in about Denzel Washington, incidentally.

The author of the email had been working at a company in Los Angeles that did editing/production work for movie trailers. His boss was in the habit of having employees do favors for celebrities he was schmoozing with. So one day the boss shows up with Denzel in tow. Denzel has a bunch of VHS tapes of his kid playing high school football and wants to convert them to digital files. Since apparently this takes a while and you have to sort of watch the process, Denzel then sits down and decides he'd might as well offer color commentary on the games as everyone watches them. Long story short, apparently he spent the whole day there BSing about football with the employees.
posted by selfnoise at 1:53 PM on August 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm so behind on my podcasts... I have multiple Idle Thumbs and Lady2Lady and Throwing Shades banked, and I have no idea when I'm going to be able to catch up. Sometimes I miss my super long commute for my last job. (Not really.)
posted by kmz at 2:03 PM on August 13, 2015


Hmm.. in about 9/10 of his roles I find his absolutely chewing the scenery awful... there are a few gems though for sure.
posted by Cosine at 2:03 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I kind of like The Equalizer, it's like watching Training Day and Man on Fire at the same time. The part where he goes to visit his former boss at the CIA and when he leaves she says, "He wasn't asking for help, he was asking for permission" is just so badass and over the top that it makes me like the movie more.
posted by VTX at 2:04 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Long story short, apparently he spent the whole day there BSing about football with the employees.

One of the things I like about Denzel is that I can hear in my head exactly what this sounded like.
posted by VTX at 2:06 PM on August 13, 2015


Huh, I've been crazy about him since Glory. So, welcome to my fan club.
posted by bearwife at 2:16 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think they make a compelling case. I mean, Denzel isn't a thespian, and he isn't a chameleon who can inhabit any role. Like a lot of great movie stars, Denzel does Denzel. (Like De Niro, Nicholson, Pacino, DiCaprio, etc., they all play themselves). But can you think of anyone who can do themselves better than he can? He just has utterly amazing screen presence. Some kind of magical movie-star aura follows him around. And anyway, he did Malcom X!
posted by dis_integration at 2:18 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Virtuosity was on yesterday
posted by djseafood at 2:19 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Isn't Denzel like legendarily very abusive and hostile to his co-workers and underlings on-set? I thought he was generally thought of as a truly terrible human being so this kind of fan-boosterism makes me feel weird.
posted by anazgnos at 2:20 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


He's like black Santa Claus, like he'd walk into the room and everybody gets excited.

In that case, wouldn't he be the black Betty White? Oh, wait, that would be fierce.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:26 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think Training Day was the first movie I ever went back to see multiple times in the theatre.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:27 PM on August 13, 2015


Isn't Denzel like legendarily very abusive and hostile to his co-workers and underlings on-set?

He got some bad press from Bronson Pinchot after Courage Under Fire (maybe my all time favorite movie), but there's also some thought he was in character. He can be tough on journalists. Not "legendarily very abusive and hostile" though.
posted by bearwife at 2:29 PM on August 13, 2015


Um, I believe Morgan Freeman is the black Santa Claus.
posted by Splunge at 2:50 PM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Steve Buscemi is the white Zwarte Piet.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:54 PM on August 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


man that is not at all the direction I expected Mr. Robot to go.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:16 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure one of my customers at my former job was the black Betty White.

So this (I'm guessing, based on the accent) Caribbean woman in her 80s walks into my store...bleached blonde hair, tee shirt with tons of rhinestones, holding but not really using a cane. She requests a product we keep on a high shelf, so I come out from behind the counter to help her. As I walk over to her, she whoops and announces to the rest of the store "YOU BUILT LIKE A SISTAH!"

Me: "um...what?"

"YOU BUILT LIKE A BLACK LADY!"

"Um..."

The woman lets out an infectious cackle deep from her chest and gives me a light, friendly punch. "DAT WAS A COMPLIMENT, YAH."

Meanwhile, my Black coworker is standing behind the counter, smirking at me, and I give her a dirty look because I can't laugh along with her.

---

Also, I'm really glad I've gotten my mother to describe Denzel as "charismatic". Her previous description of him was always -- ALWAYS -- "he has nice teeth." Clooney? "Handsome." Cary Grant? "Suave." Denzel? "Nice teeth."
posted by pxe2000 at 3:22 PM on August 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Fallen" FTW. John Goodman and Denzel? Yes plz
posted by aydeejones at 3:34 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


He's been a big part of what makes a lot of awesome movies awesome, for sure. But a lot of the time it seems to me like it's Denzel playing "what would Denzel do in this situation" rather than playing a character, if that makes any sense. Like Tom Cruise, who strikes me as always kind of the same guy in pretty much any role.
posted by Hoopo at 3:50 PM on August 13, 2015


Okay. You made me. I'm sorry. Denzel is a great actor. He's fine. And I mean that in a vaguely not vaguely sexual way.

But Gary Oldman is the best actor in the world. And I mean that in the most way.
posted by Splunge at 4:07 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I mean, Denzel isn't a thespian

Dude got a An undergrad degree in drama. He did grad school at the American Conservatory Theater, and to top it all off, he EARNED a Tony.

If he isn't a thespian, there are no thespians.

King Kong ain't got shit on him.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:19 PM on August 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


So this weekend, En Vogue performed at the local street fair and when they performed "Whatta Man" they wisely sang the Salt N Pepa rap part and even more wisely changed the lyeic so it was "a body like The Rock with a Denzel face".

This is barely on topic but I really felt like some of you would want to know this.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:35 PM on August 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


and to top it all off, he EARNED a Tony

An Obie, too. What else does Denzel need to do to earn his bona fides?
posted by thetortoise at 4:39 PM on August 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


He needs to stop this large out of control vehicle from crashing, despite the fact that he's one day from retirement and also he got really drunk because he didn't know he'd be called in for duty. If he can save these passengers...he just might redeem himself.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:43 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


"To be truly effective, a good narcotics agent must know and love narcotics. In fact, a good narcotics agent should have narcotics in his blood."
posted by porn in the woods at 4:47 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I dated a gold-star lesbian, who absolutely loved him, and thought he was the sexiest dude on earth. We watched a movie with him in it, and she occasionally whispered intensely "DENZEL" which made me feel oddly competitive and confused. Dude's got fans from all teams.
posted by missmary6 at 5:05 PM on August 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period.

It is known.

Is this not from the same people who brought us Kittens Are Cute Period, Pizza Is Tasty Period and Water Is Wet Period?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:06 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's really hard to compare Denzel to other actors like the Gary Oldman or (more appropriate to my mind) Tom Cruise because I'm pretty sure Denzel has never competed for, or been offered the same roles as either of those actors.

My assessment of his career is that he's usually the best thing in movies that are frequently terrible. I don't know for sure, but I have a hard time believing that this is because he is so bad at selecting scripts.

I have no idea how accurate the descriptions of his bad/crazy behavior on and off the set are, so I don't know if they would also be treated differently in a more colorblind Hollywood.

The previously mentioned Gary Oldman is also know as a pain in the ass, racist, and misogynist and seems to survive on the tempermental artist side of the "hard to work with" line. I'm a fan of both men's work, but have never worked with either, so I can't say if there's a double standard at work or not.

I can only say that it's impossible to examine Denzel's career without context. He's a black actor who started his film career in the late '80s. He's 60 years old now. He was 20 years into his career and in his mid-40s when people started talking about him being "difficult".
posted by Anoplura at 6:11 PM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've been listening to this podcast for a few months and it's one of my favorites. I started out just listening to the episodes for movies that I've seen, but I've started to reach out beyond that because the banter between W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery is really funny. They know each other well on a personal level and have been working together for a long time, so they are both experts at picking each other apart in a very entertaining way that isn't mean-spirited. The movie chatter is a really small part of the podcast compared to them ruminating over failed past projects or what their jobs would have been if they didn't get into college or join the army.
posted by Alison at 6:49 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you haven't seen The Mighty Quinn, you're missing out.
posted by now i'm piste at 7:27 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Huh. So I went into The Equalizer (DVD at home via Netflix) with no idea what to expect. It started off sloo...ooow. And mellow. And stayed slow and mellow, but managed to perfectly convey the idea of a tightly coiled mainspring, or a barely contained potential underneath, all the way until maybe a solid 45 minutes(?) into the movie, Denzel places the three death's heads on the table facing three goons. And then, BOOM. Suddenly, it was rocketing along.

I loved that movie, all the way till that last extended scene in Lowe's Home Depot. Why? The first 3/4 of the movie is really well done in my book. And yeah, "Asking for our permission, not for our help" - nice. Why ruin it with that prolonged self-indulgent last set piece, where in the end it hinges on luck and the other guy failing, rather than Denzel having planned three moves ahead? Weak.

In comparison, I didn't really enjoy Man on Fire. Maybe because I loved The Equalizer so much, and Netflix was all "if you like this, you'll like that", and it was just too similar and yet not bad-ass enough?

In summary, my tastes are a land of contrasts.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:14 AM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Denzel's son John David Washington is one reason why I keep watching Ballers on HBO. I had no idea who he was, but after a few scenes I was certain they must be related and had to go look it up. Clearly I missed all the memos that Denzel's son played pro football at one point! But they share mannerisms as well as good looks. I have a feeling that he's going to have a good career in acting; I think he's doing a solid job on the show.
posted by aabbbiee at 10:16 AM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


oh shit ricky is his son.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:42 PM on August 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


While I do like Denzel in movies generally, I have to admit that there is something special about Man on Fire. I think it's the same part of me which loves the horrific violence in Kill Bill Vol1 that loves the horrific violence in Man on Fire. Also, Una palabra is the best song.
posted by librarylis at 5:21 PM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


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