[VIDEO REVIEWS]By any means, time to honor Denzel

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[VIDEO REVIEWS]By any means, time to honor Denzel

Julia Roberts got it right recently when she told Newsweek magazine, "I cannot absorb living in a world where I have an Oscar for best actress and Denzel [Washington] doesn't have one for best actor." The two starred in "The Pelican Brief" in 1993.

Washington's time may finally come at Oscars night March 24. Washington is up for best actor for "Training Day." But his competition is stiff: Russell Crowe, Sean Penn, Will Smith and Tom Wilkinson. Noted for playing strong and honorable characters, Washington made a departure in "Training Day" by playing a corrupt cop.

Washington has won an Oscar before, for his supporting role in 1989's "Glory." His has been nominated three times for best actor, for 1999's "The Hurricane," 1992's "Malcolm X" and 1987's "Cry Freedom." He is finishing up postproduction on his directorial debut, "The Antwone Fisher Story," which hits U.S. screens in the fall. Reviewed here are two of his more significant films.

MALCOLM X (1992)

Directed by Spike Lee. Starring Washington and Lee.

In Washington's second collaboration with Lee, after 1990's "Mo' Better Blues," Washington stars as the man who overcame a troubled childhood to become a leader of the black civil rights movement.

Born Malcolm Little to a minister father who preached that the only hope for black people was to return to Africa, Malcolm is sent to a foster home after his father is murdered, presumably by the Ku Klux Klan. In school, Malcolm is discouraged from pursuing a dream to be a lawyer. His white teachers tell him to get a job at which he can work with his hands.

He takes the nickname "Detroit Red" and becomes a small-time gangster with his friend Shorty (Lee). After being arrested and jailed, he converts to the Black Muslim movement. Once freed, he sheds his last name and starts the legacy that would culminate in his assassination at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City on Feb. 21, 1965.

GLORY (1989)

Directed by Edward Zwick. Starring Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Washington, Cary Elwes and Andre Braugher

This epic tells the story of the 54th regiment of the Union Army during the Civil War, one of the first black regiments to see combat in the war. Volunteering to lead the 54th regiment is a young white man, Colonel Robert Shaw (Broderick). Led by white officers and staffed by black soldiers, the 54th embodies the complexity of emancipation.

Washington is great as a runaway slave joining the 54th. Initially defiant, he reins in his anger to become a fine soldier. Braugher also turns in a fine performance as Thomas, a son of free parents who is uneasy around blacks who were slaves. Freeman is moving as the first noncommissioned black officer and a spiritual leader.

The creation of the regiment was seen as a token act, and the black volunteers were slated for dirty work. But Shaw leads them into a bold and punishing assault on a rebel fort, an act of greatness for the soldiers.

by Joe Yong-hee

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