Saturday, August 29, 2009

Anthony Mackie is Bewitched On Stage, Bothered On Screen

If you happen to be in NY this weekend, this is your last chance to see the latest free Shakespeare in the Park production, Euripides' The Bacchae. (Common wisdom says these free shows are always sold out but I had no trouble getting in so try it, especially if it's wet outside) The greek tragedy plays like a slightly gender-fucked avant garde musical in this particular production. I had seen it once before 13 years ago and the only thing I remembered about it was the absolutely sick gory finale. It's still disgustingly bloody.

Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening) goes for a smeared lipstick rock god style Dionysys. His nonbeliever victim is none other than familiar screen actor Anthony Mackie.

One could argue that both actors are having a great summer. See also: Taking Woodstock (Groff) and The Hurt Locker (Mackie).

I know I haven't given The Hurt Locker enough play this summer at the blog. I guess I figured it would still be around and still in the discussion mix come Oscar season. At the very least, if one is feeling cynical, it'll keep popping up as a shoulda coulda woulda type film. Who knows how the larger voting bodies will respond. Time will tell but surely easier, softer and more nakedly awards-hungry pictures will challenge it for dominance within a month or two.

tick tock tick tock tick tock

The clock hands seems to be weirdly stuck when it comes to Mackie's career. The lack of media attention is bewildering. He turns 3o next month and while he can't complain about the amount of work he gets, shouldn't he be a bigger name by now? The Hurt Locker, in which he plays an increasingly bothered soldier who's worried that his commanding officer is too fond of risk-taking, is his meatiest role since the little seen gay artist film Brother to Brother (2003) but will it open the floodgates to better and/or bigger roles?

Mackie (clockwise from top left) as gay author in Brother to Brother,
bullying boxer in
Million Dollar Baby, drug dealer in Half Nelson,
exhausted soldier in The Hurt Locker and angry royal in
The Bacchae.

Reading the program notes to The Bacchae reminded me how limited the roles can be for a black actor in Hollywood. Mackie's film roles seem to break down to the physical: military men (Eagle Eye, The Hurt Locker), tough athletes (We Are Marshall, Million Dollar Baby) lowlife criminals (Half Nelson, The Man) and sexual objects (Freedomland, Brother to Brother, She Hate Me) ... but he's actually a Julliard trained actor. Come to think of it Mackie has even played against this dichotomy as "Papa Doc" in 8 Mile, wherein he was only posing as a thug. Eminem defeats him in battle merely by rapping about Doc's education and upper class privilege.

We're familiar with his face but how many moviegoers know his name?

The Hurt Locker can only help his career. He already won an Independent Spirit Nomination for it last year. But with co-star Jeremy Renner and director Kathryn Bigelow sucking up all the oxygen in Locker's Oscar-buzz room, is his breakout role still to come?


Cory Rivard said...

I went to Juilliard with him. Very talented guy, especially on the stage. It will happen for him. He's great to look at on screen.

Danny King said...

I would certainly say he is good enough in the film for this to be considered a break-out role. In fact, he gives a terrific performance. However, this is a movie that still hasn't been seen by a lot of mainstream moviegoers, so I would say he is still relatively unknown in the eyes of your average moviegoer.

chris na Taraja said...

I saw the Bacchae and it was a mess. Mackie and Groff were good (as good as they could be in a a bad production.) And Mackie was totally hot in the dress!

But the Phil Glass music was totally wrong for the piece. Actually his music worked for the underscoring and incidental, but the Choral pieces and Dionysis' reveal song at the end were more tragic then the tragedy itself!

The women sounded like a Disney chorus from the 1930's. These are supposed to be women who leave their homes to become wild in the woods, tearing animals apart with their hands! This production was missing that wild primal power that these women could have pulled off, if they were only given a chance.

The New York Times said that a Racoon that appeared on stage before the production started was more interesting. I have to agree.

Let's hope that all of these good actors (and all of the creative people) involved have better vehicles in the future.

BillBill said...

I hope he's nominated this year. There's no reason why he shouldn't be thought of as a strong contender with the field being what it is right now. The lack of exposure/commercial success for "The Hurt Locker" will hurt him, but I'd have to think that any critics' attention at the end of the year for "The Hurt Locker" or Bigelow or Renner will rub off on him some place. But it's an uphill climb I know.

Mony said...

I like this guy. He is a good actor. I haven't seen the Hurt Locker as yet, but will eventually. I hope that he does get more roles in the future.

Matt Mazur said...

I'd love to see Mackie nominated for Best Supporting Actor this year for The Hurt Locker -- he is an underrated, artistically-expressive, hard-working and experimental young actor -- the kind that isn't nearly rewarded enough!