Tag Archives: Glory

Denzel Washington’s 10 Best Movies

Denzel WashingtonDenzel Washington and Tom Hanks are, in my mind, the two best actors of their generation.  Both started in TV, Hanks in comedy with Bosom Buddies, and Washington in drama on St. Elsewhere.  Where Hanks’ career has exceeded Washington’s is not in talent, it is in project selection.  Washington elevates anything he’s in, no matter how mediocre, but he’s unfortunately had stretches of his career where he’s picked projects way beneath his astounding talent level.  Lately, though, Washington has been on a roll balancing commercial successes like The Equalizer and The Magnificent Seven with astounding dramatic performances in films like Flight and Fences.  Like the best actors, there is no limit to what he can achieve if paired with the right cast, project, and director.  He can be eminently likable, intensely despicable, sympathetic, heroic, noble and fallen all with an ease that lulls the audience until he turns it up and he grabs the screen by the throat and sears a moment into your mind forever.  Glory, Philadelphia, The Hurricane, Flight, Fences, all of these films have moments that transcend what even great actors can do, and you realize that you’re watching someone whose work will be remembered as long as they’re showing films.  He’s that good, and he keeps getting better.  Washington is also a talented director, helming Antwone Fisher, The Great Debaters, and Fences
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Morgan Freeman’s 10 Best Movies

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman passed beyond being one of the most prestigious actors of this generation decades ago.  Now, still churning out several films a year, Freeman is capping a resume of over 50 years of work on television and in film that stacks up against the greatest actors of all-time.  Most of Freeman’s early work was in television including being part of one of the most innovative children’s educational programs of all-time, The Electric Company, from 1971-1977.  Transitioning to film, his resume grew and grew, but he really didn’t become a huge star until 1989 when Lean on Me, Glory, and Driving Miss Daisy were all released.  Freeman was already 52-years-old.  Now an octogenarian, Freeman continues to be one of the most welcome presences on the screen, graced with a dignity most actors could only dream of, and a voice that can only be described as divine.
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My Favorite Scene: Glory (1989) “One Tear”

Sometimes the word “favorite” isn’t exactly the right descriptor for this column.  This isn’t a scene I watch over and over because it’s fun.  It just happens to be one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever seen in any film, and it’s a reminder that when Denzel Washington is paired with great material, he’s probably the best actor on the planet.

Glory is a criminally underrated film from 1989 that tells the story of the Massachusetts 54th: the first all-black, all-volunteer company in the US Army.  Some were free men from the North, others escaped slaves from the South.  All were fighting in a war that would be run by white men to determine the fate of their people, and they did so in the face of contempt from both  sides.  Directed by Edward Zwick and starring an ensemble that includes Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher, Cary Elwes, and Matthew Broderick, Glory is the film that made Denzel a superstar and won him his first Oscar (for Best Supporting Actor). Continue reading My Favorite Scene: Glory (1989) “One Tear”

Morgan Freeman’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies

Morgan Freeman
Latest vs. Greatest looks at directors, actors, actresses, screenwriters and composers to assess the state of their career as it stands.  We’ll look back at the latest 10 movies the artist has done, rate them and then average them out to see where they stand today.  We’ll also rank their 10 greatest movies and give them the same treatment to compare what they have been doing to their very best work.  (A quick side-note: if an artist is/has been a regular on a TV show we’ll also grade the seasons individually; artists need 10 projects to qualify).

With all due respect to James Earl Jones, I believe that Morgan Freeman has passed him for BEST VOICE EVER.  Freeman’s deep tones, dripping with gravitas are welcome whether they’re narrating a VISA commercial, the plight of penguins in the Arctic or from his mouth as continues to be one of the best actors in modern cinema.Morgan Freeman, The Electric CompanyFreeman got his start in features late, working primarily on TV since his first job in 1964 on Another World through the 1970s, appearing on a number of programs, but most famously and endearing to those of my generation, Freeman was a part of the cast of one of the most original children’s educational programs ever filmed: The Electric Company.  Freeman would stay with the show from 1971-1977.Lean on Me, Morgan FreemanHis transition to the big screen really didn’t begin (though had appeared in the odd film) until the very end of the 1980’s when Freeman was over fifty!  He received his first Oscar nomination of six for Street Smart in 1987.  He appeared in 1988’s powerful Clean and Sober and then in 1989 exploded.  He was the powerful principal cleaning up the impossible school in Lean on Me.  He was the wise voice of reason for the men of the 54th Massachusetts in, what I believe, is the best film made about the Civil War: Glory.  Most famously, though, he was Hoke, the driver in Driving Miss Daisy.  Freeman was nominated for another Oscar and the film took Best Picture.Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, Driving Miss DaisyAfter playing my favorite addition to the wildly campy Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (He’s Robin’s Muslim sidekick from the Crusades just like in the book….hmmm..what?…. the heck you say?  Next you’ll be telling me that there’s no crazy witch and Robin Hood is NOT from Iowa?  Ok, now I’m just confused).Morgan Freeman, Kevin Costner, Robin Hood Prince of ThievesFreeman in 1992 participated (and was robbed of a nomination for) the greatest Western in modern times: Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.  As Bill Munny’s best friend and conscience, his vicious end (spoiler) in many ways strips Eastwood’s character of his remaining shackles of morality and brings the film to its bloody climax.  Gene Hackman gets all the plaudits for that film, but Freeman was just as integral a part of the ensemble.
Unforgiven, Morgan FreemanThe IMDB 250 lists 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption as the greatest motion picture of all time.  I don’t know that I’d put it at the very top….but I wouldn’t have it far from it.  Coming out the same year the Forrest Gump-fever took the nation, Shawshank was unfortunately overlooked for most awards (though Freeman did get another Oscar nomination).  In the 20 years since, though, Shawshank has grown in prestige and popularity until it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t list this tale of friendship and hope in the most brutal of places among their favorite films.  This is my favorite Freeman performance.  When I think of his body of work, the first character of his that comes to mind is Red, either throwing the ball in the yard or walking down the beach at the film’s end.
Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank RedemptionIn the following few years, Freeman would co-star with Brad Pitt in the chilling film that made David Fincher’s name: S7ven, the very underrated pandemic film Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman and co-star in Steven Spielberg’s flawed but still-powerful Amistad.
Amistad, Morgan FreemanThen from 1998 – 2005, Morgan Freeman hit a bit of a slump, appearing in a string of average movies.  He tried to launch a franchise off of James Patterson’s Alex Cross books that had mixed results.  He put in a great performance in a REALLY messed up movie: Nurse Betty, that probably should have earned him another Oscar nod.  Then he just did some he probably wishes he could take back (Sum of All Fears, Bruce Almighty, Dreamcatcher, etc.)
Million Dollar Baby, Morgan FreemanFreeman’s fifth Oscar nomination was the charm and remains the only win he’s ever had (criminally, he’s never won Best Actor) picking up a win for Best Supporting Actor in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby.  I have major issues with this film.  I think I outlined most of them in Clint Eastwood’s profile and you can check them out there, but I do NOT have any problems with Morgan Freeman.  I don’t think I have EVER had a problem with a performance from Morgan Freeman – even in a bad movie.  He elevates everything he’s in by his mere presence in it.  That’s how you can tell the great ones from the merely good.  He makes everything and everyone around him better just by his presence.
Batman Begins, Morgan Freeman, Christian BaleA perfect example of Freeman raising an ensemble is his participation in Christopher Nolan’s peerless Dark Knight Trilogy.  They could have gotten a lot of actors to play Lucius Fox (Batman’s Q, more or less), but sticking Freeman in the part gave it what Freeman always gives everything: gravitas.  Nolan strived to make Dark Knight as realistic as possible and as grounded as possible and wisely casting Freeman in a minor, but memorable and pivotal role in all three films was a masterstroke.
The Dark Knight, Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman’s latest Oscar nomination was in 2008 for his portrayal of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Clint Eastwood’s Invictus.  So few (and I haven’t seen Idris Elba’s take yet so I can’t compare) could even step into the shoes of one of the most revered men in modern times and make you forget that an actor is playing him, but Freeman pulls off the feat effortlessly.  It’s one of my favorite performances he’s given.

Which brings us to Freeman’s 10 latest films:
1. Transcendence (2014)……………………..5.50
2. The LEGO Movie (2014)…………………10.00
3. Last Vegas (2013)………………………………6.75
4. Now You See Me (2013)…………………..9.25
5. Oblivion (2013)………………………………….7.50
6. Olympus Has Fallen (2013)……………..3.75
7. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)……….10.00
8. The Magic of Belle Isle (2012)…………7.75
9. A Dolphin Tale (2011)……………………….6.75
10.  RED (2010)………………………………………8.50
Glory, Morgan Freeman
Freeman’s done a lot of fun but forgettable movies lately (Magic of Belle Isle, Last Vegas, Oblivion) mixed with the conclusion of The Dark Knight Trilogy, his hilarious voice work in this year’s The LEGO Movie and last year’s underrated and tons-of-fun Now You See Me.  His average is the second highest (behind Robert Downey Jr.) of the actors we’ve examined and I think that’s certainly an offshoot of what I was talking about earlier.  Freeman raises average films to good, good to really good and really good to great.
Freeman, Now You See Me

1. The Dark Knight (2008)……………………..10.00
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)..10.00
3. Unforgiven (1992)……………………………….10.00
4. Glory (1989)………………………………………….10.00
5. Batman Begins (2005)…………………………10.00
6. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)……………10.00
7. The LEGO Movie (2014)……………………..10.00
8. Amistad (1997)………………………………………..9.25
9. Now You See Me (2013)………………………..9.25
10. Driving Miss Daisy (1989) ………………….9.00
Freeman’s career score is also the second-highest (Tom Hanks) of any actor profiled yet, which is astounding when you consider that his career started so late.  You could argue about the order, but that Freeman has at least 10 films of darn near perfect quality is undeniable from his resume.Lego-Movie-Morgan-Freeman-ImageFreeman will next star with Scarlet Johansson in Lucy later this month and has The Last Knights and We the People also on his 2014 plate before he returns to the one really bad movie he’s made in the last ten, Olympus Has Fallen, for its sequel: London Has Fallen (whyyyyy?).

Many actors are very good.  Many actors show flashes of greatness from time-to-time.  I don’t think there’s anyone in Hollywood who brings more to the table by his mere presence than Morgan Freeman. He’s still working like a young man, too, so I wouldn’t count out the possibility of a few more perfect 10’s from Mr. Freeman.  In a relatively short career, he’s turned in indelible performances in classic films that will live on long after all of us are gone.
Morgan Freeman

Top 5: War Movies

Top 5

This weekend it’s Memorial Day here in the States and we remember those who fought in wars foreign and domestic so that we might enjoy the freedoms we have today.  The war movie has been a part of film since the beginning.  A staple of cinema through the early 1970’s, the genre virtually died off until it was redefined and revolutionized by one of the most important films ever made: 1998’s Saving Private Ryan.  Continue reading Top 5: War Movies