Recently, while browsing online, I came across a top ten list of the most underwhelming Best Actor winners ever in Oscar’s history. To my horror, Denzel Washington’s face was being used as the main picture for the story. Even worse was the fact that it was a picture from his film Training Day. Now, I’m all for lists as they create a very good back and forth over people’s preferences, but Denzel Washington does not belong on any list that has the word ‘underwhelming’ in the title.
Denzel Washington is probably the most prolific actor in history in terms of churning out consistently great performances, even in films that might not be great. You can always rely on Denzel to crack that trademark grin and take us away into whatever world he has created with his latest role.
By winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for Training Day he became a two time Oscar winner, as he had previously won for 1989’s Glory. He also became only the second African American to win one at all, after Sidney Poitier had won in 1964.
The conspiracy theorists say that he only won that year (2002) because Russell Crowe had won the previous year for Gladiator and therefore could not win twice in a row like Tom Hanks had done previously, something the Academy vowed not to repeat. ‘They’ also say that he may have won because Halle Berry was chosen as Best Actress and they wanted to have two African American winners for the first time. To this I say, nonsense. As it turns out it was sweet retribution for Denzel as he had lost out two years before to Kevin Spacey who won for the rather average American Beauty.
The list in question stated that in Training Day he was far too over the top and was not believable any longer in the role he was portraying. In the film, from the very beginning, we see that Denzel is a man with a very high opinion of himself. He is obviously very shady and he knows that he is a man who has control of his life. Just to hammer home the point that Denzel is playing a bad guy, something he rarely does, is the fact that he wears all black. Even the dog on the street knows that black denotes ‘bad’.
Without Denzel Washington this film would have been just another run of the mill cop/ corruption film. But with his dynamic charisma, sly grin, knowing winks and obvious joy in playing a bad guy, we know that his is a performance to be remembered. He drips with effortless cool and commands the screen in a huge way.
If you haven’t seen the film, shame on you. Any self respecting fan of Denzel needs to see this film. If you have seen it, watch it again and bask in his glory. They say that you can rely on only two things in life, death and taxes. In my opinion they should add to the list that Denzel Washington does not make bad movies.