[1 October 2007]
The Orange County Register (MCT)
I have a friend who is a big movie fan.
As soon as I get back from a screening, she wants to hear all about the movie. We’ve had some lively and thoughtful discussions. Our most recent discussion was not one of them.
I saw an early screening of “American Gangster” the other night, and she couldn’t wait to discuss it.
In the middle of my critique of how director Ridley Scott tackled the nuances of the gangster film, and how “American Gangster” fared against the best movies of that genre, I was rudely interrupted.
“Is Denzel worth looking at for three hours?” she asked.
“Don’t you want to know if the movie’s any good?”
“No, I want to know if Denzel is worth looking at for three hours?”
“Are you asking if Denzel Washington has turned in another Oscar-worthy performance as a Harlem narcotics kingpin in the 1970s?”
“No, I want to know how he looked.”
“Aren’t you interested in Russell Crowe’s performance as the honest and dedicated New York City cop who tries to bring down the drug lord?”
“No, I want to know how Denzel looked.”
As I said, this was not one of our most intellectually stimulating conversations.
By the way, the answer to her incessant questioning was an unqualified “Yes.”
Then again, when is Denzel not worth looking at for three hours? The man is a movie star.
Movie stars make an obscene amount of money because they are worth looking at for two or three hours. One would have to be a really big movie star to be worth looking at for three hours, though. Denzel Washington falls into that category.
Of course, there are other factors at play when you engage in the “Who is worth looking at for three hours?” debate. The quality of the movie comes to mind. If a movie stinks, then nobody is worth looking at for three hours. And that poses an interesting question: “Which stars are worth looking at for three hours, and which stars aren’t?”
Before you say it, allow me to point out that most of you don’t think that any movie star is worth looking at for three hours because you don’t think that any movie is worth three hours of your time. I understand that. Most movies are way too long these days. But once in a while, a movie comes along that I think is worth three hours of my time.
So, let’s assume for the sake of this discussion that a movie is so well-written, so cleverly directed and so brilliantly acted that even you might feel it’s worth three hours of your time. Whose face could you look at for three hours before you tired of it? And whose face has a shorter attention span?
Obviously, these are only my opinions. You might have a different opinion. One man’s Denzel Washington is another man’s Adam Sandler. In no particular order:
THREE HOURS: Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Cate Blanchett, Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, Helen Mirren, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman and Peter O’Toole.
TWO HOURS: Clive Owen, George Clooney, Jodie Foster, Sean Penn, Matt Damon, John Cusack, Halle Berry, Mark Ruffalo, Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Tom Cruise, Ray Liotta, Jamie Foxx, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright Penn, Will Smith, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Forest Whitaker, Laura Linney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Harvey Keitel, Geoffrey Rush, Jane Fonda, Don Cheadle, Christian Bale, Robert Duvall, Ben Kingsley, Claire Danes, Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Patricia Clarkson, Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson, Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening, Mel Gibson, Michael Caine, Glenn Close, Laurence Fishborne, Jeremy Irons, Alan Rickman, Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Shirley MacLaine, Bill Murray, Vanessa Redgrave, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Dakota Fanning, Edward Norton and Sean Connery
NINETY MINUTES: Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe, Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ryan Gosling, Kevin Bacon, Colin Farrell, Will Ferrell, Richard Gere, Ashley Judd, Jack Black, Renee Zellweger, Vince Vaughn, Angelina Jolie, Daniel Craig, Hilary Swank, Nicolas Cage, Keira Knightley, Michelle Pfeiffer, John Travolta, Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, Rosario Dawson, Tobey Maguire, Orlando Bloom, Felicity Huffman, Elijah Wood, Kim Basinger, Eva Mendes, Salma Hayak, Drew Barrymore, Mike Myers, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Demi Moore, Robin Williams, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Lopez, Josh Hartnett, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Lawrence, Woody Allen, Sandra Bullock, Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Steve Martin, Bill Bob Thornton, Uma Thurman, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Scarlett Johansson, Sacha Baron Cohen, Shia LaBeouf and Keanu Reeves
TWO-MINUTE TRAILER: Dane Cook, Jude Law, Carmen Electra, Ewan McGregor, Woody Harrelson, Adam Sandler, Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Simpson.