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Post a Comment. It is the latest in the Black Man Talk series. Brother Boone, it's been quite a while since we've done a Black Man Talk on a person. Our last honoree was writer, director, studio head and every Black Church Lady's favorite female impersonator, Tyler Perry. This time, I propose we chat about actor, director, humanitarian and Oscar winner Sidney Poitier. Like Denzel Washington, his heir apparent, Sidney Poitier mesmerized viewers with his acting and his good looks. His destiny is intertwined with Denzel's in so many ways: Poitier was the first Black Best Actor winner, and Denzel was the second.
On the occasion of Denzel's Best Actor win, Poitier was given a second Oscar as well, this one honorary. Both men were widely seen as bringing dignity to the Black men they played onscreen, though Poitier had to carry a much heavier weight in the respectability department. Denzel's been able to get his hands dirty in ways Sidney never could.
Can you imagine Mr. Tibbs fucking hos, doing dope and yelling about how King Kong ain't got shit on him? He would have been run out of Hollywood on a rail that led straight into a Blazing Saddles -style pit of quicksand. You know I love Sidney Poitier. On this very site, I have written almost 20, words on his work as an actor and a director.
And I still feel it's not enough. That inadequacy aside, two things made me choose him as a topic for us:. They'll be showing several of the movies I've written about here at Big Media Vandalism--the good parts of the Cosby-Poitier trilogy for example--as well as others I'd like to revisit like Paris Blues. Our chat would be a timely addendum to the retrospective.
Our friend and mentor Matt Zoller Seitz got my brain buzzing when he commented on how Poitier's films might play to year old kids today. He wondered if White kids would dismiss films like In the Heat of the Night and A Raisin in the Sun , with a glib "we know racism exists, so I don't need to watch this. But Matt also wondered if Black kids today would react in the same dismissive fashion. I disagreed with that notion.
The law-enforcement racial profiling of In the Heat of the Night and the housing issues of A Raisin in the Sun are still instantly recognizable to young people of color today. The storytelling may feel a bit dated, but the issues that leap from the screen are not. Maybe I'm wrong. But who gives a shit what 23 year olds think about Poitier? They weren't even in Kindergarten when he made his last big screen appearance in 's remake of The Day of the Jackal. We, on the other hand, are much older. We were around in the 70's when Sidney Poitier shook free the constraints of old studio system Hollywood.
As a director, he returned himself completely to the Black audiences who loved him despite the sometimes embarrassing restrictions put upon him in his earlier output. Do you remember how you felt as a kid when he showed up onscreen? Let's talk about that. Let's also discuss Poitier's image over the decades, and how it did or didn't. He debuted on the screen in a powderkeg of fury and indignation in Joe Mankiewicz's superb No Way Out , playing a doctor who was allowed an unprecedented level of rage for a Black character in But after that, he started to become a symbol in several films, a glowing beacon of Good Negro who more than once sacrificed his own well-being to teach White viewers lessons of tolerance.
Poitier played those early symbolic roles quite well, and every so often he was given a chance to be the kind of deeper, unapologetic and complicated Black character that sidestepped White comfort. There's a big difference between the convict in The Defiant Ones and the slap-happy Mr. Tibbs of In the Heat of the Night , the role which served as the turning point for Poitier's image in my opinion. Along the way, he played Walter Lee Younger, one of the great theater roles of any persuasion, Black or otherwise, as well as Homer Smith, that kindly Negro handyman who helped out those nuns in Lilies of the Field.
That he won his Oscar for the latter, lesser role and not the former is a reminder of how Hollywood likes its brown people. The trailer is here Al Jolson's makeup man came out of retirement and the grave to do Saldana's makeup, applying so much brown makeup on her that I could have played Nina Simone underneath it--and I could have used my own nose. Saldana's getting a lot of shit for this, but there's a bigger problem at hand. Hollywood, and White directors, have always had problems figuring out the myriad of shades we folks come in.
We're going to talk about Poitier as both actor and director. But first, lemme start off with a few questions for you:. He replied "every last one of them," which included all of Poitier's roles. There was a good amount of side-eye being thrown at Poitier, especially in the 's, and I think some of it might have been justified.
What do you think? On that same token, do you, like me, think Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is Poitier's worst movie and should be set afire and flushed down the toilet? Let's Get This Party Started! Post 2: Boone Hey Odie, Good to be back with you, brother, chopping it up on the blackhand side. Sidney is a great actor who came up through Jim Crow America to distinguish himself without having to undergo the ritual lobotomy or the obligatory castration. It's still a marvel and something of a mystery how he did it. He even went on to become a talented comedy director. For all his poise and regal charms, his performances never put him out of reach from we, the everyday working kneegrows.
As for the 23 year old kids: depends on the kid. Once you settle into the rhythms of Sidney's ature roles, looking past some of the dated '60's studio stylings, there are riches to move any thoughtful soul of any age. That said, it's damn hard to imagine Sidney on something like Empire , that smash hit soap opera in which a family of narcissists trample each other in pursuit of riches and Grammys. I may be wrong but I can't recall a single petty, venal or self-absorbed Sidney character. With that attitude, he ain't surviving on this show.
Watch this clip of Mr. Domingo in action. There will be a quiz later! As for the Nina SImone makeup controversy, until I see the movie, I can only marvel at how well they sculpted the latex to approximate middle aged Nina's cheekbones and overbite. But I'm pretty sure then they'd have just hired Serkis to portray what would have been his most outlandish, exotic creature yet. I'm more looking forward to Thandie Newton's comeback role as Harriet Tubman. And now I gots ta know what are your answers to the above four questions?
And can you give me your take on Sidney's pimphand turning point? Post 3: Odie. Hell no! I ain't crying after watching this clip! You lie! Also, in honor of my Mom's smoking foam curlers, I'm throwing out for discussion the romantic leading man roles that Poitier played.
I'm thinking about For Love Of Ivy and his 70's output, but also anything that strikes your fancy as constituting a love story. What I like most about Sidney Poitier as actor-director is how he focused on making romance a part of his characters' lives.
It seems so weird to say it that way, as romance is a normal part of everybody's lives--except for old school Hollywood Negroes! We apparently reproduced by osmosis back then. Let's give some shout outs to Sidney's women! Post 4: Boone Black actors these days take turns at the Sidney wheel. Will Smith handled a huge share of Sidney duties over the past 15 years, on up to his stalwart NFL doctor in Concussion. Jamie , Don--even Tyler Perry. But, really, there can't be a new "Sidney" when the context of his prime years is gone.
We're all still in the struggle, but everything about black pop culture changed, post-assassinations, post Mr.Sidney poitier illuminati
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