Perspective | Sidney Poitier movies bored me as a kid. Only later did I get what made him great.

This translator role often seemed to be Poitier’s calling card. His career was studded with impressive moments of cinematic “zone-outs,” when his ability to tap into some greater Black context seeped into scenes with a movingness that made the actor a living master class. Muddied and linked to Tony Curtis in “The Defiant Ones,” about two escaped prisoners, Poitier’s Noah Cullen bitterly opens up about the life he lost. He and his wife, he says, “worked 36 acres” on their land — four short of the 40 acres promised to formerly enslaved people. Packed inside that is the indictment of an America that consistently and consciously falls short of its promise. Scenes like that have their legacy in similarly haunting monologues, including Taraji P. Henson’s dressing down of the engineer room in “Hidden Figures,” and Chadwick Boseman sharing a formative childhood tragedy in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” (Boseman, in particular, seemed to channel Poitier’s gift for tapping into a particular mixture of Black male pride, shame and tucked-away fury.)

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