On: Will Smith.


Tony Scott’s review of “Seven Pounds” was so scathing that it made me want to see it — which is exactly what he was trying to discourage audiences from doing.

Frankly, though, I don’t see how any review could really spoil what may be among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made. I would tell you to go out and see it for yourself, but you might take that as a recommendation rather than a plea for corroboration. Did I really see what I thought I saw?

I got into a towering argument with a friend over the holidays as to whether Will Smith was a great actor. (Not good — great.) She was emphatic that he was, and it’s a sentiment I was surprised that a lot of my friends seem to have.

I like Will Smith, but I remain unconvinced. He’s obviously likeable and charismatic, and while his movies are generally pretty enjoyable, they’re also pretty forgettable and more interesting to consider as movie star career strategy.  He’s achieved the kind of celebrity that usually produces self-conscious overtures to “authenticity,” like when Madonna ridiculously started showing up in concerts strumming a guitar a few years ago. Right now, I guess, it’s Career-Defining Role time, in which he’s creepily intense and freaks out his co-stars by “staying in character.” You know, “Look, Ma! No CGI!” His deep need to be liked — everyone now agrees that they like Will Smith — has been supplanted by a deep need to be respected.

I also get this feeling that a lot of this Will Smith-as-great-actor talk is because black people feel a sense of ownership regarding their celebrities, and want to bestow upon them extra “legitimacy” (as if Will Smith being the world’s biggest movie star isn’t legitimacy).  That said, Will Smith will almost certainly win an Oscar at some point, and it will be given to him not because he’s Frank Langella but because he’s an icon and well-liked and fantastically famous. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

8 thoughts on “On: Will Smith.

  1. karas January 7, 2009 at 2:42 pm Reply

    honestly?
    i don’t disagree with any of your sentiments on this.
    but he cute, though. stop hatin.

  2. ladyfresshh January 7, 2009 at 3:09 pm Reply

    will smith is a great movie star
    will smith is an ok actor

    i would have agreed with the move towards respect in his career but i saw oprah (stop groaning ya’ll) and he seems to be more in the ‘life changing’ ‘i want to affect/influence you’ mode…i suspect this may cause you more concern lol

  3. ladyfresshh January 7, 2009 at 3:10 pm Reply

    oh and to echo karas

    but he cute, though. stop hatin.

  4. quadmoniker January 7, 2009 at 3:48 pm Reply

    I will say this about Will Smith’s all-but-certain Oscar, because it’s how I’ve come to terms with the insanity of the Academy: The awards honor performances that are intrinsically good or that are good given certain sets of circumstances that make them important to many people all at once. They’re not necessarily awarded to great performers. So Smith may yet stumble onto a great performance, a role that is perfect for his personality and also resonant with the world in some way. I don’t know why I’m defending the Academy after it completely abandoned me with that Crash nonsense, but I am.

  5. G.D. January 7, 2009 at 3:51 pm Reply

    QM: I was trying to work in ‘Crash’ somehow, but it would have required a real stretch. God, I hate that fucking movie. Thank you for providing me the opening to say that.

  6. karas January 7, 2009 at 4:07 pm Reply

    gd, you could always use “I Am Legend”
    that was awful.

  7. geo January 7, 2009 at 4:38 pm Reply

    will smith is an okay actor. not good and certainly not great. he displays the same voice inflections, mannerisms, and facial expressions in every movie. i have yet to see him in any movie where i forget i’m watching will smith. i wasn’t impressed with Ali and still puzzled as to why he deserved an oscar nod.

  8. Kjen January 10, 2009 at 11:09 pm Reply

    Nope, Will Smith isn’t great, but he doesn’t have to be. Just keep pickin’ roles that highlight strengths and his acting will never be criticized too badly.

    I don’t think your friend granted him “greatness” status out of an instinct to protect Will – a black actor. But people in general, once we declare we like/love someone we grant them ‘halo’ status – as in everything they do, say or feel becomes more clever, more amazing then the actual act originally was.

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