Friday, April 1, 2011

They're Not Actors...THEY'RE MOVIE STARS!

Contrary to what might be thought, I LOVE actors and respect them tremendously. What is being asked of those who step in front of the camera is extremely difficult. We are being asked to accept, if only for a few hours, that they are not themselves but the characters they are playing. It is not easy, not by a long shot. When an actor/actress does it well, what you have is pure magic. When it is done badly, it is beyond boring.

Now, I want to be charitable in my evaluations. I can't say that each person on this list has NO acting talent whatsoever. They may yet become performers who, with the right role, the right director, may surprise us all. However, given their body of work, I don't half fancy their chances. These musings are written in an effort to help those below, to show that I care. I want them to succeed, and I am here merely to offer advise in their efforts to improve. With that, let us begin.






BEN AFFLECK



As an actor, Ben Affleck is a wonderful director. Was that harsh? Well, perhaps, because for better or worse, it appears people think he rode into success thanks to his bestest best friend (Matt Damon). It isn't that he hasn't tried...actually, I might have to revise that statement. Richard Roeper in 10 Sure Signs A Movie Character Is Doomed & Other Surprising Movie Lists mocked Affleck in the appropriately-named chapter 7 Movies in Which Ben Affleck Cries Like a Big Fat Baby. Not only did Roeper ridicule Affleck's affection for tearing up in film, but went so far as to point out that in some of his weep-fests, Affleck was crying over his MALE friends.



I guess this is to point out the inconsistency between the persona Affleck was apparently trying for (the macho leading man) and what he was actually doing on screen (weeping like a little girl). I think these emotional scenes were a result of Affleck trying to show he can act, and nothing says acting like a few good tears. Leaving that aside, Affleck made a terrible mistake by trying to go into the action star route. How else to explain Armageddon or Daredevil (which, perhaps to my shame, I enjoyed more than I should have--in my defense, I never read the comic books so I have no idea how one compares to the other, but I digress).



Some of his films have been absolutely abysmal: Pearl Harbor, Reindeer Games, Surviving Christmas, and of course, that monument to sheer cinematic junk, Gigli. Given how most of his films have failed at the box office (and with critics), I once gave him the unenviable title of Box Office Poison. It must be pure ego that would have him defend Gigli--a comedy where every attempt at humor was forced, and a performance that was a parody of a sketch-show parody of The Sopranos. Affleck must have thought well of his performance: he broke his Razzie Award as soon as it was presented to him.



I take back, slightly, what I said earlier. In Hollywoodland, he did try to act, and his George Reeves wasn't all that bad...it just wasn't as good as it could have been. Affleck's biggest problem is that he stubbornly chooses the wrong material: primarily action pictures where HE was the lead. If he wishes to continue a career in front of the camera, Affleck would be wise to step back from being the star.



He need look no further than The Town, his second directing job. As part of the ensemble, Affleck worked well and gave one of his better performances. However, if I may be honest, I don't think he's a very good actor. As a director, I think he's grown, although I'd like to see him step outside his comfort zone and make a film that's set outside Boston. Really, my advise for Ben Affleck is simple: go for smaller parts and accept that while you make be a beautiful-looking man, character work and writing/directing is where you would excel.





HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN



It takes a certain special talent to make Star Wars dull and lifeless. If that's the case, Hayden Christensen is beyond belief. As Anakin Skywalker, Christensen was deadly dull, giving a performance that made even Jake Lloyd look good. Maybe he's just cursed in that to me, he and Paul Walker look identical, and I would have to look hard to tell the difference.


He isn't a big draw, and looking at his filmography, most of the films he's been in have bombed: Awake, Jumper, Takers. Maybe he just should avoid single-title films. On a more serious note, Christensen's problem is that he's remarkably bland in almost all his films, as if he isn't quite engaged in his performance. I'm sure he tries, but for most of his films, he can't bring a character to life because on screen he appears so lifeless, so disinterested.


Note that I said almost all his films. That is because one performance of Christensen's in one film left me surprisingly impressed: as disgraced journalist Stephen Glass in Shattered Glass. It might be uncourteous to say Christensen was playing a variation of himself: a privileged young man, but I admire the fact that he put so much into making this loathsome character someone one could almost sympathize with. He went for broke and gave a strong performance.


Perhaps Christensen would do well to go for more character-driven roles and forget, like Affleck, about being an action/sci-fi guy. Right now, Hayden isn't doing well because he appears, again I'll say it, lifeless. One needs to bring a character to life to be a good actor, and with one exception (so far) he hasn't. In a nutshell, I'd say...relax. You can get another take.


CHRIS EVANS


Maybe I'm just having a hard time when action stars try to act or vice versa. This is a case of the reverse in regards for Affleck/Christensen. I think Evans makes a great action star...just not a dramatic actor. I know he's tried, but London was not a good use of anyone's time. When you find yourself competing against Jason Statham over who can be the most dramatic, you know you have problems.


It may be that Evans has embraced the fact that he is better suited for action films than more serious dramatic or even comedic roles. Nothing wrong with that: embrace what you're good at. In fairness to Evans, I admire the fact that he tries, but I do have one particular memory of him from The Nanny Diaries--not the film itself, but the trailer. I don't understand why people laughed at the idea of Chris Evans being a student at Harvard. Perhaps he doesn't strike people as being the intellectual type. This may be unfair: Evans may be a bright guy and may be confusing his persona (specifically Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four films) with the person.


I can say that in his case, it's a case of the public not really rallying to his side. His roles in films like Push, The Losers, and Captain America: The First Avenger (a title I have a terrible difficulty with) make him appear to be only interested in strictly comic-book, popcorn fare: light entertainment that won't tackle your intellect. No, I haven't seen Sunshine, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. At the moment, I can only say to Evans that he, for right now, might want to focus on being an action star. If he wishes to be an actual actor, again, smaller roles. That might just be a general rule: smaller roles, smaller roles.



LIAM HEMSWORTH

Perhaps it is harsh to include this Hemsworth brother in the mix. After all, he is just starting his career. However, I was so appalled by his performance in The Last Song that I wondered whether he had any actual acting ability.


Again, generous, be generous. Well, he had a pretty good American accent. And again, he is still starting out, so I have to be temperate in my views. One bad movie doesn't mean Hemsworth will turn out to be a horror. In this case, I will only go so far as to say it would benefit him tremendously in his career if he were not one of the main characters in upcoming projects. The public won't automatically accept an actor who is being pushed no matter how hard one may try. Please Liam, avoid things like The Last Song: films where your character is just the love interest. You need roles where you have motivations beside romance. It's hard to say what kind of actor he may be, so perhaps I am being premature in my evaluation. Right now, my best advise is to go for secondary roles (again, I find that a common theme). Once you've built up name recognition, scored a few good notices in small films, then you can try to branch out--but no action films, at least not yet.



ASHTON KUTCHER

The most amazing thing about Ashton Kutcher isn't his body, or his marriage to someone fourteen years his senior, or even the fact that his career consists of playing the same character. It is the fact that he is suppose to be highly intelligent. The same man who's spun out a career out of playing dim-witted sex-crazed boys is apparently also a highly educated medical student, or at least he was until he felt the world could do with fewer heart surgeons and more underwear models.


When it comes to Kutcher, I don't think acting is his forte. He might be better suited to produce, given his track record in that field. However, the success of Punk'd may also be at the heart of Kutcher's situation. Yes, his films (most) are financially successful, but I am hard-pressed to A.) find ones where he was critically acclaimed, and B.) where he was called to play a character of depth. Why do I get the feeling that if he tried to play Stanley Kowalski people would suddenly burst out laughing? Here is why: in the majority of his roles, he is playing a version of Kelso from That 70's Show. When you position your public persona to be such a goofball, you cannot expect the public to take you all that seriously.


This situation is aggravated by some of his public behavior, such as when he went on a rant about his neighbors making too much noise with their construction. The Twitter feeds don't help either. In short, Kutcher almost dares us to think of him as an idiot, and that's a double-edged sword. It might make for a great 'character' (an Ashton Kutcher-type), but it cannot possibly be good for sustaining a long-term career once his looks fade (as they must for all). What truly is the difference between his role in Dude, Where's My Car? and That 70's Show and My Boss' Daughter and Valentine's Day?


Of all the people here I think Kutcher is the one with the least talent as an actor. He's never strayed far from his Kelso character (which, given his one public behavior, makes one wonder whether he was acting on that show or playing himself). I really can't find any advise to offer him other than to stop making films and get into producing. Yes, they may make money, but I really question whether anything in his filmography has deviated from one type. I can't warm up to him as an actor.


TAYLOR LAUTNER


At nineteen, Lautner is the youngest member of this unofficial club, but already the damage he's done on screen acting has had a wide impact. Yes, I am talking about the Twilight series (excuse me, SAGA), where girls of all ages (and I do mean ALL ages) squeal with delight at a teenager appearing shirtless at every turn. No, I never did see all of The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (one of those treats I'm saving for a cold winter's night), but the few clips I have seen show he really hasn't advanced much in his acting.

I am hard-pressed to think of him as an actor because, like Kutcher, he hasn't shown any acting ability. Yes, so far his biggest role has been JACOB...BLACK...OOOH, the teen werewolf whose primary requirement is to be shirtless. He can't be dumb enough to not think his physique is what has gotten him the most attention...going back to Sharkboy & Lavagirl, he appears stiff and unconvincing even as a fantasy character.

To his credit, he at least recognizes this quandry. In Valentine's Day, he refused to appear shirtless and even made a joke about it in the film. If I could tell Lautner anything, it would be...keep your shirt on. He has the blessing of youth, so he can go anywhere he'd like while the iron is hot. However, should he really make a Stretch Armstrong film (one based on a toy that to my mind, reminds me of Mr. Fantastic), be prepared to not be offered any serious roles and a life at conventions.


MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY


McConaughey at 40 is the oldest of our collection, but perhaps the strangest of the lot. Given that he has had more experience than all the others before the camera, it is simply amazing that he has not developed as an actor of any depth or range. It may be that he has spent a major part of his career playing the same type of character.

For most if not all of his career, he appears to play the same character (a bit like Kutcher): that lackadaisical, slightly stoned boy with the East Texan drawl. It's as if he's been playing David Wooderson from Dazed and Confused for close to twenty years on screen. It isn't as if he hasn't gone to dramatic roles (Lone Star, A Time To Kill, and now The Lincoln Lawyer) but I would argue that since The Wedding Planner and especially How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days his character hasn't really shifted (Failure to Launch being perhaps the nadir of his career, and I say this as someone who enjoyed Sahara--apparently one of the few, although even then I said he was not Dirk Pitt but Matthew McConaughey). When you can't separate role from actor, one has to stop and say 'maybe I SHOULDN'T make another "romantic comedy" where I'm catnip to all the women who fall for my easy charms and Texan accent'.

He appears to be the Ghost of Kutcher Future: playing the same character without an ounce of intelligence. Those comedies haven't helped. At the moment I've yet to see The Lincoln Lawyer and I'm told we see him actually act. I say Bravo if that's true. If he can surprise us with a few more good performances, he may yet rescue himself from being just a dude and a star to an actor of merit. Keep going for parts that can play to your persona but who have a bit more depth to them, and you'll do alright, alright.

ROBERT PATTINSON

I give Pattinson an A for Effort. He at least knows enough to see that he can't keep playing EDWARD CULLEN (not that Remember Me didn't try to capitalize on the most beautiful undead in history since he was playing a version of EDWARD CULLEN). However, as one of the few people who like Little Ashes, I respect how he is trying to have variety in his roles.

Pattinson will be interesting to see in Water for Elephants. I understand people love the book, so if he succeeds in the film, he has a better-than-average shot of making good on a long career. He doesn't need my advise because he's doing what I would advise him to do: venture out of EDWARD CULLEN, push himself to doing other things. I would advise against a spoof of his character, but maybe if he tried for a cameo in a comedy, that might be a good step.

In short, he seems to be doing the best job of those on this list, so I hope good things for him (even if I hate the Twilight series...excuse me, SAGA).


CHANNING TATUM


Dear Sweet Mother of Mercy--Channing Tatum. You'd think that with a name like Channing Tatum (something that sounds straight out of the Rock Hudson/Tab Hunter School of Monikers) he would be a built-in star. He appears to have been manufactured in a Hunk Laboratory: all muscle, no brain.

That is terribly unfair...he may be quite bright. However, right now his roles appear to be exactly the same. I could give him the benefit of the doubt, except that the only comedy I've seen him so far in (The Dilemma) he appeared no different than in his more 'dramatic' roles (ie. blank and expressionless).

I hate saying this, but I don't think Channing Tatum can act. Again, always open for the possibility that I may be wrong, but none of the films show any range, period. I have no advise for him because unless one of his five or so films this year shows him in any different way, I'm just prepared to write him off completely as an actor and just relegate him to mere 'star'.


SAM WORTHINGTON


Yes Sam, we are praying for you too...praying you either develop into an actual actor or just stop making movies all together. Well, that's a bit harsh. However, in the three films I've seen you in (Clash of the Titans, Avatar, and Terminator: Salvation) you were wooden throughout. If you want to be an action star, then you are doing all right--a sequel to the abysmal Clash of the Titans wasn't made because the first story demanded we know more--it was purely because people flocked to a piece of garbage. I don't know what to tell you...other than to stop trying to be an actor and embrace the action star route. If you want to be an actor, go to the theater for a few years and then make a comeback.


Is there something that all these guys have in common? Well, you have a genuine lack of training. Kutcher, Pattinson and Tatum each started out modeling. Admittedly, they were good at their jobs, which consisted of looking beautiful. Also, there have been talented actors who have come from the modeling world: Lauren Bacall springs to mind, Lauren Hutton as well. Come to think of it, Bacall and Hutton are the only ones that pop to mind straight away.


It may be that is really all they need: more training and better agents, ones who will allow them to venture out beyond the familiar. Of course, if in the end my generosity is for naught and we find these guys don't have talent as actors, well, at least they gave it a good try.


Happy April Fool's Day...although I wonder who is fooling whom.

1 comment:

  1. I was talking to my friend on my lunch break today. For some reason Ben Affleck came up in the conversation and my first response was "That guy cries in every movie he's in". She didn't believe me and I bet her $5 that we'd find a website or blog that talks about how he cries WAY too much. And I found this post, it made me laugh, thanks!

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