MovieHype00582 – Actors
Today I want to do something a little different. I’ve been doing quite a few movie reviews, and with the Oscars this Sunday I’ll have plenty more as the week progresses. However, I’d like to take a moment and focus on some of the actors in the movies we watch. In other words: Hyperion has some theories.
First, I would like to address the “controversy” Russell Crowe stirred up last week when he attacked George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro and others for doing commercials. Crowe said:
“I don’t do ads for suits in Spain like George Clooney or cigarettes in Japan like Harrison,” the temperamental actor told GQ magazine. “It’s kind of sacrilegious, a contradiction of the contract with your audience. DeNiro advertising American Express — gee whiz.”
(Clooney responded by thanking Crowe for setting them all straight, and then made a tongue-in-cheek reference to Russell Crowe’s band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts: “…Because Harrison, Bob and I were putting a band together called Grunting for 30 Feet, and that would also fall under the heading of ‘bad use of celebrity.’ Thanks for the heads up.”)
To start with, Russell Crowe should not be attacking anybody. You talk about losing respect, I have lost far more respect for Crowe the man for the things he has said and done off-camera than any commercial could ever make me do, and I’m including the Snuggle Bear.
More generally, though, this is a ridiculous controversy, one that first came up when musicians started using their songs in commercials. Some of these people act like they are founding fathers and elder statesmen. I mean, it’s not like we see the Pope with a cell-phone (“Can you hear me now, O’ Lord? Good.”)
Repeat after me: there is no art without commerce. The movies they make, I’m sure they don’t care if we see them, right? Give me a break. So what if celebrities want to endorse something? Besides: some of these commercials (like the DeNiro AmEx one and Brad Pitt’s) are made by famous directors, and have the cinematic quality of little movies. What’s not to love?
Okay, let’s get down to business. First on the agenda: Orlando Bloom and my Broken Clock Theory. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that “Even a broken clock is right twice a day,” or for those of you who went to schools that started with vowels, what that means is that everbody is right once in awhile.
I think this holds true for some actors as well. Take THE USUAL SUSPECTS, a fantastic movie. It featured great performances, among them Stephen Baldwin.
Stephen Baldwin is the least of the Baldwins, and that’s saying a lot. His other career “highlights” (if you can call them that) are BIODOME, FLED, and THE FLINTSTONES IN VIVA ROCK VEGAS.
This guy never brings anything to the table, and yet there he was in THE USUAL SUSPECTS giving me chills.
Freddie Prinze Jr. is another example. This is a guy who makes Matthew Lilliard look like a thespian in SCOOBY DOO (which should be worth a special award in and of itself), and is single-handedly reason enough not to watch a movie, and yet in THE HOUSE OF YES, he’s amazing.
Which brings us to Orlando Bloom. Now, I’m not saying he’s a terrible actor, who lucked out by first coming to us as Legolas in THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. But I’m beginning to wonder.
Piece of Evidence #1: Orlando only has big parts in historical period movies. Maybe that’s just “his thing,” but sometimes they do that to people because we’ll accept their terribleness by assuming people were different back then.
(Case in point: Keanu Reeves. In a regular movie he’s laughable, but in a sci-fi kind of thing Keanu can basically just be quiet and it’s taken as deep, or at least fitting the genre.)
Let’s look at Orlando’s work: Other than LOTR, the main thing people saw him in was PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. Bloom brought nothing to the table here, and while you can ague his job was to stay out of Johnny Depp’s (and to a less extent, Geoffrey Rush’s) hammy way, Keira Knightley still managed to act spirited.
Then we have TROY, where Bloom plays Paris like a punk. Again, you can argue that Paris was a punk, so Bloom is giving us a great performance, but I’m starting to wonder.
Finally, I saw NED KELLY, and Orlando is horrible there. Now, the movie is horrible too, which wasn’t his fault, and maybe that’s why I see Orlando as bad, but you see where I’m going with this? Perhaps it was simply Peter Jackson, and the greatness of LOTR and the Legolas character that brought anything out of Orlando Bloom. Only time will tell.
Next I want to examine another career that people can’t make heads or tails of: Ben Affleck. His has to be the most schizophrenic career in some time. On the plus side: his performances in SCHOOL TIES, DAZED AND CONFUSED, MALLRATS, CHASING AMY, GOOD WILL HUNTING, DOGMA and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE are pretty good. In everything else, he’s been pretty awful.
I’ve actually given this a great deal of thought. On the one hand, you can argue that in SCHOOL TIES, DAZED AND CONFUSED, and MALLRATS Ben is basically playing the same character. Furthermore, in MALLRATS, CHASING AMY, and DOGMA, he was directed by Kevin Smith (who clearly “gets” Affleck), and in GOOD WILL HUNTING, Ben wrote the script! So, maybe he just got lucky a few times.
But I’m not sure I buy this. I think Affleck is probably quite limited as an actor, but who isn’t? That’s not disqualifying of itself. Secondly, I think that Matt Damon is an amazing actor, and since they were always spoken of together, Ben suffers in comparison. Again, that’s not necessarily his fault.
The biggest problem, though, seems to be his choice of movies. While REINDEER GAMES was fun, it was a terrible movie, and didn’t help his credibility. BOUNCE was made with his girlfriend-at-the-time Gwyneth Paltrow, and the buzz was more about that than the movie. This mistake Ben would repeat more than once, in DAREDEVIL with Jennifer Garner, and most famously, in GIGLI with Jennifer Lopez.
Speaking of which, I actually saw GIGLI a few weeks ago, to see what the fuss was about, and came away convinced that people simply hate those two. It’s not a great film, but it’s certainly not the worst movie ever made, and I’m convinced that if it were any other two actors this would have just been another movie. And Jennifer actually looks good, something she sometimes avoids in her movies.
Back to Affleck: he made PEARL HARBOR and ARMAGEDDON, which made a lot of money, but are pretty bad and knocked him down several pegs in respect. He chose PAYCHECK, which was with John Woo, so it seems like a good idea, but it’s terrible, so Ben gets blamed. Finally, he was half decent in THE SUM OF ALL FEARS, but he’s following Harrison freaking Ford as Jack Ryan, not to mention the fact that Matt Damon also made an action movie that year, and a much better one: THE BOURNE IDENTITY. Poor Ben just can’t win.
My conclusion on Affleck is that he’s a decent actor who’s main fault is some HORRENDOUS choices. Ben is simply not strong enough to pull off great performances without a terrific movie, and lately he’s gotten precious few of those.
Finally today, I want to ask the question, “Whatever happened to Robert De Niro?” Go look at his IMDB page right now. It’s okay: I’ll wait.
See what I mean? This is the man who gave us phenomenal performances in BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY, MEAN STREETS, THE GODFATHER PART II, TAXI DRIVER, THE DEER HUNTER, RAGING BULL, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, THE UNTOUCHABLE, STANLEY AND IRIS, GOODFELLAS, AWAKENINGS, BACKDRAFT, and CAPE FEAR.
Then, we didn’t hear much from Bob. In 1995, he briefly resurfaced in CASINO and HEAT, and there were a few in the next three years, like SLEEPERS, MARVIN’S ROOM, WAG THE DOG, JACKIE BROWN, and ‘98’s RONIN, to let us know he still had it. Since then, what have we got instead? A glut of embarrassment:
ANALYZE THIS, THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE, MEET THE PARENTS, SHOWTIME, ANALYZE THAT, GODSEND, and MEET THE FOCKERS.
The only movie even close to decent in the last 7 years was THE SCORE, which most people didn’t see. Instead we get self-parody and crap. Look, I can buy that tweaking your own tough guy image in ANALYZE THIS or even MEET THE PARENTS isn’t a bad idea. But even if you loved those movies, did they both need sequels? And even if you think they did, you cannot argue that it’s not vintage De Niro, the guy who you used to get excited about seeing.
So, what happened? Laureate tells me it’s the money, that Bob has a reputation he’ll do anything for the dough. It could be; I don’t know. But it’s sad. Jack Nicholson doesn’t act very often, but when he does he still gives it his all. Hoffman turns in great performances now and then. Are you going to tell me that De Niro, the man who scared me silly in TAXI DRIVER and gave new meaning to method acting in RAGING BULL isn’t capable of this anymore? I don’t buy it. I want a full investigation.
Well, that’s all I have for now. If you can think of other actors, or another movie subject that needs exploring, be sure to write and let me know. And I’ll have the Oscar preview later in the week.
That’s all, Folks
February 20, 2005
Thanks to Laureate and Jerrica
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