From my upcoming review in The American Conservative:
The hottest trend on the London stage has been political drama offering fictionalized surmises about recent matters of state. Now, playwright Peter Morgan's two fly-on-the-wall historical screenplays have brought this genre to the Oscar races, with Helen Mirren and Forrest Whitaker winning most of the early acting awards for, respectively, "The Queen" and "The Last King of Scotland."
Whitaker first made his mark in a brief scene in Martin Scorsese's 1986 pool shark movie, "The Color of Money," as a gentle giant who out-hustles (and out-acts) Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. He later starred as doomed saxophonist Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood's "Bird" and directed the hit "Waiting to Exhale," but has been largely relegated to supporting roles too small for him.
The superstars who emerged in the 1930s, such as John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, and Clark Gable, tended to be imposing six-footers (when that was an unusual height). Yet, even though the average American has gotten taller and fatter, leading men, such as Cruise, are now typically energetic little welterweights.
Whitaker finally enjoys a suitably beefy role in "Last King of Scotland" as the 1970s Ugandan dictator with the surrealist name, Idi Amin Dada. At a self-proclaimed 6'2" and 220 pounds, Whitaker is still smaller than the real Amin, who was the most entertaining of all the monsters of the 20th Century, a megalomaniacal cross between Joseph Stalin and Muhammad Ali. Sure, Idi was a semi-literate cannibal, but he was a likeable one.
The Big Man reveled in such self-bestowed titles as Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.