I write about culture from a pro-Black perspective

Anthony Mackie and the Definition of Stardom

I was struck by this exchange between actor Anthony Mackie and Jai Tiggett over at Shadow and Act.

JT: There’s been some talk on our site lately about your career and whether you’ll go on to play the leading man more consistently, in large studio films. Is that your goal, or do you prefer to stay under the radar?

AM: Hollywood’s a business, and until someone puts their finger on you and decides you’re the guy who’s going to carry that movie, it’s not going to happen. So I’m just enjoying the position that I’m in right now and trying to make the most of it.

JT: So would you say that yes, Anthony Mackie wants to be “the guy”?

AM: [Laughs]. Most of the time when you see a movie, the best character in the movie is not “the guy,” it’s the guy next to the guy. So I enjoy playing “the guy next to the guy” because it’s always – in almost every movie last year – the best character in the movie. It’s just fun as an actor to get the opportunity to do something where you can really sink your teeth into it.

What I like about this exchange is that it suggests that Anthony Mackie is incredibly self-aware and very comfortable with the choices he’s making as an actor, regardless of how they might be perceived by the public.

I think it’s somewhat strange to be thinking about “who the next Will Smith will be” partly because Will ain’t goin nowhere and partly because the question suggests that his model is the only model of what it means to be a black movie star.

I think we’re limiting ourselves when we have this conversation. Anthony seems to understand that in a way that I don’t think people appreciate enough. I think he’s quite eloquent in chafing (without chafing, really) at the notion that he’s not “successful” because he’s not a Big Willie. He’s consistently suggested that there are other models for success and that our obsession with Will’s assimilationist model isn’t the only one we should aspire to.

In my mind, the guy that says this:

and this:

isn’t concerned about the Will Smith model. He’s thinking about his own.

We need to start listening to Anthony Mackie, man.

Posted on May 13th, 2013 - Filed under Film
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Black Hollywood, ctd.


Mackie is right that it would help if we essentially see Hollywood as less what is and more what could be. This is where Tyler Perry can actually be an important and useful figure – he just did it himself.

But unfortunately Will Smith is the goal. Everyone waiting around to get the big movie that makes them millionaires so they too can make movies that have absolutely nothing to do with us.

Posted on March 3rd, 2011 - Filed under Film
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Make Me Beautiful

This film feels manipulative and artificial:



Starting with the fact that the film finds a way to make the beast incarnation of Alex Pettyfor attractive (does he really need to be shirtless so much?).

Hollywood never seems to do high school right. If a girl is insulted by a guy in high school and has the power to make him into his worst nightmare, do we really think the worst she would do is put some cool tattoos on him, put a few scars on his face, and shave his head?

Adolescents are cruel. In real life, they would do far worse.

Look, I get it. It's a film and we still have to see Pettyfor well enough to fall in love with him, just like Robert Pattinson and Leonardo DiCaprio before him. But come on. Really?

All of that said, I sort of like that Mary-Kate Olsen is bypassing playing a character by just doing her natural weird rich white girl boho thing. But Neil Patrick Harris' line readings indicate that he might think he's in another movie from the rest of the cast.

Posted on January 3rd, 2011 - Filed under Film
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Loving Mila


It seems that Natalie Portman is perfectly cast here. That steely, somewhat remote and cold demeanor that made her work in Closer some of the best film acting I've seen in ages* seems exactly right for this role.

But let's be honest, Mila Kunis completely upstages her. At least, she does as portrayed in this clip.

If you had asked me who on That 70s Show I thought would have a vibrant, interesting, varied career after that show went off the air about 3 years too late**, it wouldn't have been Kunis. Her Jackie was irritating, one-note, and her comic timing always felt a bit rushed (as if the beats came a split second sooner to her than they do for every other person on the planet).

But then she gave that beautifully warm and open performance in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which really is the only Apatow movie worth a damn***) that completely reinvented how I saw her. I frankly thought she was miscast when I heard that she would be in the film. But watching her in it made me see just how complete her work as Jackie Burkhart really was, because there was not a single trace of it in Rachel. She was utterly charming, and managed to make me forget for a minute how much I adore Kristen Bell (only a minute tho…I mean…it's Kristen Bell).

Watching her stretch and grow from Forgetting Sarah Marshall through Max Payne, Extract and The Book of Eli has been to watch an actress perfecting her craft in the subtlest and deepest of ways. The films may not work, but her work in them does. One could even go back and watch the awful awful American Psycho 2 and see a nascent talent taking tentative baby steps (and falling quite a bit, truthfully).

But in this trailer, Kunis is just magnetic. Even though we see so few extended shots of her, she feels like a whole real person.

She's the reason to see the movie, far as I'm concerned.


*I don't put much stock in Oscars and awards. It started, naturally, with Denzel's loss for Malcolm X, was intensified in the late 90s when Lisa Kudrow and Matt Damon failed to even be nominated for The Opposite of Sex and The Talented Mr. Ripley (respectively), and was solidified when Portman lost to Cate Blanchett in the one role where she was not very good at all.

**Yea, Topher Grace. Man – I would have put money on that one. Who knew?

***Sorry. He's the most overrated director to emerge since Quentin Tarantino. 

Posted on October 21st, 2010 - Filed under Film,Television
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