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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Reader Opinion: Who Are Today's Black Hollywood Greats?

Tambay Obenson, who had probably the best blog on Black film "The Obenson Report", has decided, sadly (or unsadly, depending on your view) to venture on to different things. He now has a blog called "Watch Us Explode" and he left this comment for me the other day:

Paul Newman was that very rare breed of celebrity - not just an entertainer, but a real actor, and an activist who invested both time and money in various social causes. He got it, unlike so many others. This just got me thinking, and maybe this is a potential future post for your blog :o) - as Hollywood's stars from yesteryear (its so-called golden age) are starting to pass on to the next life, who are the next group of stars (I guess the baby-boomers) who will replace them? The likes of Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Sydney Pollack, Ossie Davis who have all died in recent years, as well as their contemporaries who are still alive like Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Robert Redford, Ruby Dee, etc... Who are today's golden stars? Are they even comparable to those that came before them?

I have had the same questions on this blog about non-Black Hollywood, but never really brought it up here about who will be the greats in Black Hollywood. I have my thoughts on this, but I would like to know yours...I will use your comments in a post early next week. Who do you think will be picking up the torch of the greats like Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee? Will any of today's Black Hollywood be remembered 50 years from now and why? (in your opinion). And everybody can't say Angela and Denzel, haha!

btw, who put taye diggs' ass in that pic?


IamMe Like IT-Love IT-Hate IT said...

Don Cheadle is an amazing artist. I love his versatility and I believe that will keep him around for a long time.

clnmike said...

There are quite a few male actors that will be remembered and are worthy of taking the torch, Sam Jackson, Forrest Whitaker, Will Smith, Terrance Howard, Laurence Fishburne and Wesely snipes.

Derek Luke and Idris Elba have a bright future.

With the women thats kind of hard to call cause they dont get the work to show off there skills and the work they do get are lousy and unchallenging.

Angela Basset, and Queen Latifah are locks.

I have high hopes for Taraji Henson, Kerry Washington, Jennifwer Hudson, and Kimberly Elise but I think there all well on there way.

I'll tell you who are overrated and or screwed up but they will get mentioned because they get a lot of work: Halle Berry, Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Gabrielle Union, orlando Jones.

Djimon Hounsou, Vanessa bell Calloway, Lisa Bonet, Jimmy Jean Lois, and Thandi Newton are ones that need that break out roles or a 2nd chance.

sdg1844 said...

I dig Forest, The Cheadle, Djimon, Thandie, Kimberly Elise, N'Bushe Wright, Sophie Okenedo, Chewitel Ejiofor.

I don't see them as often as I'd like, but I see them all as bright and talented actors with much to offer.

I'll end it here or I'll go into and anti-H'Wood rage and I'm trying to keep my blood pressure down. :-)

bluebird said...

i'm definitely liking Sophie Okenedo (The Secret Life of Bees) and Chewitel Ejiofor (Redbelt). They're doing big things. Idris Elba is also showing his range in the upcoming RocknRolla.

I know this is television but Chandra Wilson from Grey's Anatomy is quite brilliant.

Sergio said...

O.K. let's see...

Don Cheadle - Nope, he's a character actor, not a leading man. He'll be around for a long time but he's never going to be a leading man. One of the "golden stars"? Among character actors he's already there.

Forest Whitaker - See Don Cheadle above.

Djimon Hounsou - Got the African and slave roles locked up. Just read in Variety today about his new role in a film version of Shakespare's The Tempest playing guess what.... A SLAVE!

Jennifer Hudson - Not with that gut. Hey, look I'm being honest here. They're thinking the same thing in Hollywood. She's set for playing "the lead actress's fat and adorable best friend" roles but she's going have to lose that weight if she wants to get better parts

Queen Latifah - She's already playing those old Ethel Waters and Oprah mammmy parts and that seems to be her niche in the forseeable future. And let's say that romantic movies with men aren't very likely. I mean there was that The Last Holiday with LL Cool J and I wouldn't say she was exactly convincing in that film....

Lawrence Fishburne - One time had a real shot for being one of the "greats" but too many bad or forgetbale movies (anyone remember Bad Company with him and Ellen see what I mean) and got real fat. Now it's CSI for him.

Taraji Henson - Maybe, all depends on the roles she gets. Already these strong buzz about her getting a Oscar nomination for for role in that upcoming The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with Brad Pitt so we'll see. Or she could wind up like Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long and other black actresses who were hot for a minute then went cold or even worse working in Tyler Perry movies

Terrance "Baby Wipes" Howard - Too "soft" and gives the SAME DAMN PERFORMANCE IN EVERY MOVIE

Cheitwel Ejiofor and Idris Elba - YES! They've both got real screen presence and that "masculine" vibe that too many actors and, sad to say, black actors are missing. Elba needs one or two really great stand out roles to shoot to the top of the A-list actors list

Angela Bassett - Where to start with Angela? There are a few reasons why she's never reached that A-list status that Halle reached (though for Halle it's somewhat precarious now)

First of all, from people I know in the business, she had a repuation of being extremely hard to deal with. Now if you're an A list actor whose films bring big bucks at the box office, people will tolerlate anything just as long as your presence in a film puts seats in the movie theater seats. But Bassett has never been box office, so there's only so much people will take from you.

But her other problem is one that I call her lack of "approachability" To be a genuine movie star you need that likeablity, that "approachability" to come out from the screen. In other words, if I met you on the street and talked to you would you talk to me and tell me to get lost? Will Smith and Denzel have it. So does Tom Hanks and yes, even Seth Rogen just to name a few. And there are other actors who don't like Sean Penn. Technically he's a fine actor but he turns one off when he's on screen and looks like he's always ready to punch your lights out

Bassett doesn't have it. Donald Bogle, the cultural critic, said once about her that she has a "brittle" quality on screen and he's right. She always angry and bitter on screen pushing you away creating this barrier bewteen her and the audience. She looks always like she's going to bite your nuts off. The complete opposite of...

Kerry Washington - She got IT! She definitely has that "approachability". In other words, if I saw her on the street and asked her for the time of day she would give it to me. Bassett would probaly tell me to go f----k myself

I recently Washington back in Auguist and we must have tlaked for 30 minutes and in the first minute we starting talking she was playful, flirteous and genuinely very warm. And those qualities come off on the screen as well. which is why I think she's headed for big time movie stardom. All she needs are some really great stand out parts

MsMarvalus said...

I totally agree with Sergio...although it pains me to say that about Angela. You wish for her to succeed, wish for her to live up to what you see in her, but it is like she one says you have to get naked in a movie, but even in her best role (Tina), I think something was lacking.

I love Kerry Washington and her diversity...

I also have high hopes for Thandie Newton...

And Jeffrey Wright...

Denzel's name is already etched in stone on this list...there is no removal or erasability...

Fair or unfair, Halle's name is probably etched too...all she needs to do is show up and take a couple a pictures a year to show that she is still beautiful and age gracefully and she's in...

d.funkt said...

kerry washington has range, i think: from baby mama in save the last dance to african queen in last king of scotland. it helps that shes gorgeous. love her cartier and l'oreal ads. im hoping michael ealy will keep getting roles that let him prove himself. barbershop wasnt all that great but he did this low budget independent film called jellysmoke about a guy struggling with bipolar disorder and he gave a really nuanced performance. and hes gorgeous.
i cant really thinking of anyone new and different [i.e. not angela or denzel] that really inspires me but then again sometimes i just get so fed up with hollywood and the bad black movies it churns out that i dont go to the movies that often.

d.funkt said...

oh and terrence howard. hes a great villain and hopefully he'll get a couple good guy roles that will prove he has some sort of range. lord, that man looks sexy smoking a cigarette. *takes cold shower*

Sergio said...


Oh yeah I forgot about Jeffrey Wright. Everybody loves Wright and I do too but he's also in that Cheadle and Whitaker category. A terrific character actor, but not exactly a leading man. Unless it's one of those strange, weird quirky roles lead roles

Thandie Newton - Leaves me cold. I don't think she's attractive and she has the frigid, "look, but don't touch" vibe about her. No sexuality at all. A cold fish. Almost as bad as Nicole (Looks-creepy-like-an-alien-from-outer- space) Kidman

@ msmarvalus

Bassett has done a nude scene before, She's got a great, big, fat topless nude scene with Joe Morton in that John Sayles' film City of Hope back in the early 90's before she was a name. Check it out for yourself

madame z said...

Picking up the torch:

Mos Def - yeah, I said it. He IS talented. LOL. And he's had some 'lead' roles: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Be Kind, Rewind. He can blend onstage and on film, so yeah, look forward to more of him.

Beyonce Knowles - yeah, again, I said it. She will be 'remembered' for taking on the roles that real actresses should have like Eartha Kitt. Yeah, I'm depressed too as I can think of a number of others more talented. I got this info. from (scroll down). SMH. But she will be remembered because of her celebrity; maybe not because of her talent (or lack thereof). Again, I said it; feel free to throw rotten fruit at me if need be.

Andre Royo - saw him first in G then saw him recently in August. I've got my eye on this young man. I find him very interesting to look at and very arresting. His subdued performance practically stole scenes away from Josh Hartnett....or at least for me it did. I want this man to have bigger roles! I want to see more of him! LOL

Kerry Washington - she's got the range and the looks and the appeal. Enough can't be said. Give this woman more roles!

Taraji Henson - Yeah, I said it. LOL. I 'like' seeing her onscreen. She has a certain look about her, too. She can play it cool or play it straight or subtle or over-the-top or sista-girl or gee-golly-wow-bestest-bud or ghetto-hooch or middle-class-bourgeoisie get my picture. I want to see more of her; I want her to be a part of those remembered.

Sanaa Lathan - yeah I said it, but wait! there's more! I want her to 'extend' herself so that she CAN be a part of this new era of Black Hollywood Heavyweights to be remembered. She needs to come harder, extend her range because I see the same character pretty much everytime in her films. But I like her ;)

Terence Howard - I agree with Sergio, dude is the same person in every role. I used to love him...back before his head swelled; back when he played villains and supporting roles. Back when Dead Presidents and The Best Man were the better Black films and not some Family That Preys or Madea goes skinny-dipping in Timbuktu. (jibe at Tyler Perry, I know, but c'mon...he's raising the bar for mediocrity in Black film. He should be called out. LOL). Terence is good, but to be remembered? Only if he too STRETCHES IT. Go gay, I say. Go on, 'gay' or play 'defiant' (thinking Poitier's Defiant Ones); get out of that niche of 'wavering voiceovers, wavering voice, emotional speech, to the point of tears close-ups, etc. Same person I see every time; even in Ironman during that opening speech. C'mon!

Jurnee Smollett - Yeah, uh huh, that's right. Give this child more roles! She's uber talented! And yes, she too, should be a part of the pantheon of future Black acting legends! She just needs the roles. Damn you Hollywood! Damn you! *shakes fists*

I'll come back with more as I think of them ;)

madame z said...

*Beyonce to STAR as Eartha Kitt. Excuse my mistake.

Anonymous said...

To me it doesn't matter if they are not a leading man forget that will they be considered legend years from now yes. Forest Whitaker who has already had plenty of lead roles and Don Cheadle who has had plenty of lead roles also. WTF is up with this leading man shit,there are plenty of White people that are considered hollywood legends and were not leading men or women.

Angela, Alfre Woodard, Jamie Foxx

I think Kerry and Taraji Henson are up and comers.

Anonymous said...

BTW Beyonce shot down that rumor years ago. SO no she will be not starring as Eartha Kitt.

Anonymous said...

Oh I forgot to mention Will Smith, it doesn't matter if he isn't that talented and plays the same character he Will be considered a hollywood Legend years from now just like George Clooney( Who also plays the same cahracters all the time) and Tom Cruise. I think some of you guys are mistaking the question thinking it who is the most talented or who gets the most lead roles. If you are very popular much like Angelina and Brad you will be considered a legend years from now. Hell even Britney Spears will be seen as some kind of icon years from now. Now if we want to talk about talent then that's another question.

madame z said...

@ anonymous about Beyonce, thanks. But I have to wonder why the article was posted on that other site???

Anonymous said...
October 5th, 2008

jaceeel said...

Sadly, like albums and Saturday morning cartoons, the days of real “movie stars” is dying with these actors, actresses and directors never to be seen again. The naivety on the public’s part needed to build movie stars is long gone.

SolShine7 said...

Here are the actors that I hope become greats:

1. Rosario Dawson - amazing actress, she's one step away from getting a solid starring role in an indie film that will give her major critical acclaim and award nods. Plus, she's an activist.

2. Thandie Newton - she has some real heavy-hitting acting chops and she has versatility.

3. Corbin Bleu - three words: High School Musical

4. Kandyse McClure - she's building her career in the sci-fi realm, she could be a cult queen if she lands her own show/movie.

5. Lee Thompson Young - this former Disney star of the Famous Jett Jackson could make a big screen leap as leading man if he gets the right action role.

6. Paula Patton - I just like her. She's cool and I want her to be remembered.

7. Meagan Good - She started a production company. That could be her best chance at a solid legacy if she puts out more indie films.

8. And of course all the biggies like Denzel, Angela, Forrest, Lawrence, Sanaa, Gabrielle and Kerry.

clnmike said...

I am judging this buy the quality of work as opposed to box office appeal.

Every entertainement genre has people who can fill the seats in but really are talentless.

If the basis for this is who will be remembered for getting the money than Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Tyler Perry, Halle Berry, and some others all deserve to be on that A-list.

Doesnt mean there worthy based on their work.

Ortega said...

and the young up and comers Keke Palmer l just hope she doesnt go the Meagan Good road

Undercover Black Man said...

I co-sign on Jeffrey Wright... our new James Earl Jones in terms of versatility and longevity, I predict.

nikki said...

i will co-co sign on jeffrey wright. that dude is one of my fav actors PERIOD.

sooooo glad someone mentioned chewitel ejiofor. watch him in 'kinky boots' and you'll see just how talented this cat REALLY is. didn't even KNOW he was british until i saw that movie, that's how broad his range is.

and you gotta include cheatle. come on, that's some bullshit about the leading actor thing...marlon brando was considered a CHARACTER ACTOR, yet folk think he's one of the greatest ever. being the lead in all the movies has nothing to do with it. the stand out performances are what set the good ones apart from the great. who doesn't remember cheatle stealing the show in 'devil in a blue dress'?

denzel, yeah. i have to agree with what was said about angela...she just looks...HARD. and no matter how soft her role is supposed to be, she STILL looks hard.

i can't even think of that many sistas cuz someone said it...we ain't getting the roles. jennifer hudson? no. too big, and queen already got the 'big black asexual chick' roles on lock.

will smith is a shoo in, even if his last five movies have been flops in the big picture.

really though...i don't think there will ever be that iconic hollywood star like in the past, primarily because back then there was nothing competing with the movies, so they could big up the stars like that. television came through, but it still wasn't a competitor. now though...all kinds of different mediums with all kinds of acting workers. just too large of a pool.

Sergio said...

@ Nikki

Brando was definitely one of the biggest leading men in movies during the 50's and 60's, He was the main male actor in his films back then and his name was usually above the title which was a real sign of a "leading" man. But during the mid to late 60's Brando had one box office bust after another and was considered unbankable by the early 70's around the time he made the Godfather. In fact he actually had to read for the role which was a big come down for him. But as the 70's wore on and he got older and waistband expanded he definitely became a character actor.

Also you can define "leading man" as an actor who has had romantic love scenes with actresses in films. In that case then Cheadle, Wright and Whitaker are not leading men but character actors since none of them had any real romantic scenes with actresses. The same can be said of Samuel L. Jackson though he has played the lead male roles in several films including most recently Lakeview Terrace. Jackson falls in the rare position as bigger than a character actor but not quite a full blown leading man. Smart move on his part since as a result the box office success or failure of a movie he's in doesn't fall on his shoulders,

But in the long run who knows who will make it as major star in movies and who falls by the wayside? It all depends on the parts you get and lots of luck. I once used to think, a long time ago, that Chris Rock was going to have a big career in films and though that all those bad movies Eddie Murphy had made wasn't going to hurt his popularity


I've been enjoying reading all the comments. Thanks for the post!

We should be considering each candidate's entire package/brand - not just what they are doing, or have done on-screen, but also the type of people they were off-screen.

I already mentioned Paul Newman's well-documented humanitarian efforts. Sidney Poitier definitely left his mark, although he came along during a time that allowed for that to happen. But, still today, he's a commanding presence, and carries an elegance that demands you pay attention to him; and I haven't seen that replicated in any actor today. Ossie Davis (along with Rudy Dee), of course, were instrumental civil rights activist, and continued to be activists until death (although Ruby is still alive and well).

I could go on... but these were people who demanded you pay attention to them in front of the camera, but who also made lasting impressions behind the lens, using their celebrity to draw attention to various social causes, whether locally, or on foreign soil. And not even necessarily social/humanitarian causes. Some changed the way people thought about a specific subject or idea. Others they broke new ground... challenging the status quo in some manner... things like that.

I think those are the real legends.

I look at many of the names listed above, and I don't know if I can say the same about several of them today, although I can't say that I won't be able to do so in years to come.

Someone said that the roles just aren't there... and that's obviously part of the problem - one that can be fixed, IMHO, although I won't bother going into that here.

But, the pickings are definitely slim.

D.J. said...

I read thru most of the comments. I dont think I saw anyone say Whoopi Goldberg. I have not always liked her movie choices in the past but I have always respected her as a actor and comedian.

Anonymous said...

How great can you be without great roles in great movies? It's hard to come up with even 5 fitting that category for any of the best Black actors in Hollywood.

clnmike said...

This should be broken up into to types of roles played, villians, hero, comedy, romance, and so on to get a better understanding of the overall skills of the actors.