Five For FRiday: Tipping Sacred Cows: Actors

FR love their movies, and they love actors.
They don’t love these actors.

Nathan: Angelina Jolie

I don’t care if she’s ruined Jennifer Aniston’s emotional life. What she does in her personal life is of no concern to me. In fact, I heartily approve of her romantic choice of Brad Pitt. But Jolie has two huge strikes against her that I can’t get past.

Strike one: her acting is, at best, serviceable. I know she won an Oscar for Girl, Interrupted, but beyond that performance I can’t think of many instances in which Jolie did much more than show up and put her figure on screen. You might argue for her turn in Salt, but that’s about as far as I’d let you go. She’s a screen presence, and not a very compelling one. And, subjective opinion here, I have a hard time finding myself attracted to someone with so many sharp angles.

The second strike: it’s hard to swallow the self-righteous vibe I get from her. I mean, In the Land of Blood and Honey? C’mon.

I don’t hate Jolie. I just don’t think I’ll ever really understand her stardom. Then again, I’ve never seen Tomb Raider.

Tyler: Helen Hunt

Mad About You served as a less-than-palatable on-deck circle for my beloved Friends throughout youth, but the distraction of Paul Reiser curtailed my notice of Helen Hunt’s screen-vacuum presence until her performance in James L. Brooks’s As Good As It Gets.  I possess extreme sensitivity, as a medicated diagnosee, to cinematic portrayals of obsessive-compulsive disorder; that said, Jack Nicholson’s lead–for all his hackneyed, half-cocked avoidances of sidewalk cracks and the like, barking orders for Maryland crab legs or whatever the fuck–is the essence of amiability in contrast to Hunt’s sleepwalking, half-dead performance, culminating in what is possibly the worstly-crafted line of dialogue I’ve ever known, so much that it’s an inside joke between myself and friend of FR James.  Hunt herself does not deliver it, but it somehow epitomizes everything bland and unoriginal about what her onscreen presence inspires.

“We’re goin’ out.  Like people do.”

(P.S. – Lest we forget: “WHY CAN’T I JUST HAVE A NORMAL BOYFRIEND??”)

Travis: Michael Cera

If you would like to guarantee I will not watch a movie, cast Michael Cera, and that’ll just about do it.

Nathan: Ellen Page

She was good in Hard Candy. Then she played Juno in Juno. She’s been playing Juno ever since. Page has become to me what Michael Cera is to Travis. Fitting, isn’t it?

Tyler: Andie McDowell

I mean, yeah, at the end of the day, it’s only Four Weddings And A Funeral, but McDowell remains the single blight on the brilliant celestial surface of Groundhog Day, and this line reading is just about the worst delivery I have ever, ever seen.  (More than once, mind you.  I’m a big fan of Four Weddings.)

“Is it still raining?  I hadn’t noticed.”

Lord.  Watching that clip for the first time in years, it only gets worse.  “No.  I might drown…but otherwise no.”  Andie McDongParty, everybody.

Travis: Anna Gunn

Perhaps it’s just the thankless nature of the roles she winds up playing, but Anna Gunn is the worst part of two of the greatest shows in television history, Deadwood and Breaking Bad. Being pissed about Skyler White being on screen doesn’t make me a misogynist; it makes me human.

Nathan: Keanu Reeves

It is not a good thing when the high point of your career is playing Ted Theodore Logan.

Maybe if he got more roles in drug-related films that covered him in rotoscope animation. That might help.

Tyler: Kathy Bates

Hand to God, I have immense respect for Kathy Bates.  As a woman of figure not generally worthy of Hollywood consumption, she’s carved out a career for herself that’s led to untoward critical admiration.  But I cannot help it–I always see the strings.  Even in Misery, her actorial magnum opus, each line falls on my ears as if I’m seated at a table reading; her “bravura” performance as Molly Brown in Titanic–a film that I greatly admire–feels as authentic to me as some kind of CGI human interpretation.  Good on Kathy for a grand career, but the lady can’t manage more than a monotone for me.  See: Primary Colors and The Late Shift; see: no veritable difference at all.

Travis: John Krasinski

The UK version of The Office is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, and the love story at its center was a large part of why. That same love story, translated into ‘Merican, is ruined by the “one indie dude in the frat” vibe given off by John Krasinski as Jim. It makes the show nearly unwatchable as a result.

Nathan: Adam Sandler 

When he wants to – and he doesn’t seem to want to often – Sandler can be a charming, if semi-retarded, screen presence. In Punch-Drunk Love, 50 First Dates, and even in Mr. Deeds, that awful remake of Frank Capra’s great film, Sandler has shown that he could take his man-child routine beyond the rote litany of gross-out jokes and ethnic stereotypes. Heck, in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan Sandler brought the crazy to one of the zanier political comedies in recent years. It is a grand shame, then, that he insists on involving himself in crap like Jack and Jill and Click. I don’t want to get anywhere near That’s My Boy.

I know the kids like him, but I’m not a kid anymore.

Tyler: Kate Hudson

This is a tough one.  Kate Hudson’s performance in Almost Famous, one of my absolute favorite life-affirming films of all time, is impeccable.  The pain of Penny Lane, deceived by those she adores, adoring those who reject her, that immaculate sequence wherein she skates on rosepetals across an abandoned ballroom floor–it is an impeccable performance, for which she absolutely deserved the Oscar she was given in its regard.

Since then?

Sigh.  Don’t ask.  Just…don’t.

Travis: Zach Braff

Braff takes everything I don’t like about Krasinski and multiplies it by a factor of ten. Other people have made fun of him to a far greater extent than I ever could; let’s just say he has the most punchable face in the world of film and television and leave it at that. Oh, and he’s a director too! Death.

Nathan: Katherine Hepburn 

The high-toned East Coast accent (and all the proper breeding behind it), the face made of forty-five degree angles, the kind of political correctness that makes me want to puke.

I know my boy John Ford had a thing for her, but Katherine Hepburn is the one “great” screen actress I can’t abide.

Tyler: Robert Wuhl

Robert Wuhl features with relative prominence in one of my most beloved pictures, Bull Durham.  It has nothing to do with his hilariously-hated HBO vehicle Arli$$ (see what they did there, with the dollar signs??), but rather something regarding his onscreen persona.  It makes my bicuspids grate on end.  It drives me to fits, even as he’s assaying to perfection the myriad issues of his team’s ballplayers at the mound (“Candlesticks always make a nice gift.”).  Just…something about the guy…I just…AAUGH. Sorry, Robert Wuhl.  At least Will Ferrell, as Elton John, rewrote “Rocket Man” to commemorate your existence.  No, it’s not available online.  I tried.

Travis: Meryl Streep 

Maybe I’m completely missing something, but the renowned greatest actress in the history of ever doesn’t do a single thing for me. She probably wouldn’t even make this list but for the amount she’s overpraised, but the overpraise is enough to vault her to number one. From her “brilliance with accents” that all sound the same to me to her tampon-in-the-wrong-hole way of showing anguished emotion, Meryl Streep does nothing but rub me the wrong way. Even she didn’t think she deserved the Oscar for The Iron Lady.

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9 thoughts on “Five For FRiday: Tipping Sacred Cows: Actors

  1. Streep, if nothing else, has range. She can be a melodrama queen in Sophie’s Choice, acid funny in The Devil Wears Prada, chameleon-like in her depiction of real-life figures, etc, etc. And if I can’t think of a single performance that struck me as great, she’s at least always good in what she does. The problem with Streep is that she’s rarely in any movies that I would consider very good to begin with. In most cases she’s the best thing the movie has to offer, which is never a good thing. She has Adaptation. to her credit, but she’s a minor part – same with Manhattan. Beyond that, she’s lent her voice to A.I. and Fantastic Mr. Fox. That’s it. Everything else is promptly forgettable. She chooses her movies poorly. She’s graceful, though. I thought her speech at the Oscars was pretty cool.

  2. Oh, and I don’t think I made this clear in the post, but I actually thought Page did a good job as Juno, even if the character was annoying.

  3. Hmmm….Well. Hepburn? Eh? Seen Philadelphia Story? Her and a drunk Jimmy Stewart? Although I can see where this follows Nathan from your earlier comment of having no love for sharp and angular faces. The accent can also be a lot to take. The American Office unwatchable? That’s overstating things slightly, and there are admittedly many ways in which the British version is superior. I don’t lay the blame for that solely on Krasinski’s shoulders. In closing I wholeheartedly agree with one of these selections and the choice may surprise you. Andie McDowell is a film ruiner. I can’t stand it. She waltzes, seemingly drunk and stoned through most performances and has crapped on the performance of nearly everyone she has ever worked with. Groundhog Day being a classic film has almost more to do with Bill Murray shining like a golden comedy god opposite her just being goddamn Andie McDowell. Also, and this has always bugged me a bit, after Pulp Fiction I had a taste for all things Travolta. I even saw a little film called Michael, which I really enjoyed. Not just because I love Travolta and Hurt together, but because it genuinely was an interestingly written part for Travolta. McDowell ruins this movie. There is no other way to put it. I am doing deep breathing exercises now.

    Also, As a potential nominee. Colin Farrell. Amazing in In Bruges. Other than that, mostly his films have been criminally bad. I have still watched and enjoyed them, but man have they been bad.

  4. I don’t normally like Jolie either, but I think she is good in Changeling (still a terrible title for something that was meant to be a big budget movie). She in fact won the Oscar for Girl Interrupted, but that role didn’t blow me away.

    Since I like Sandler’s more serious work, I’ve tried to understand his choices. Ultimately, I think the viewer is mainly responsible for the roles he chooses. He needs/wants to make money, so he does movies I would never see. Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me are two of my favorite movies and I like Funny People too, except the masses didn’t. Golden Globes nominated him for Punch Drunk Love. He is similar to Jim Carrey, although some of Carrey’s serious movies have made money. It seems that unlike Tom Hanks, these two “funny men” aren’t allowed to remain serious dramatic actors, and that pisses me off.

  5. Nathan, the thing I find most overrated about Streep is the alleged “range”; it’s almost as if you played into my hands with your critique of my critique of her performances. I think her accents are all the same, her performances are all the same, her constipated facial expressions for every performance are all the same. There’s one movie I love (or, not really love, because it’s thoroughly unpleasant) that she’s involved in, and that’s “The Deer Hunter.” And that’s because I never think “Meryl Streep is in ‘The Deer Hunter.'” Everything else I think, “Meryl Streep is all up in this fucking movie.” Her being #1 on my list isn’t an indictment, necessarily, of her being a bad actress; more of her being the most overrated actress ever. I don’t think she’s a chameleon in her depiction of real-life figures; I think she brings her wrinkled-nose nonsense to every single one of those performances. Her real-life existence is pretty cool; I enjoyed her exasperation at winning the Oscar. But I really do think the idea of her having range is completely full of shit. So I must disagree with your disagreement to my original assessment. Feel free to disagree, as that’s the whole point of this (and you’re probably right, because this is a personal bias), but basically the whole point of my Meryl Streep hatred was that her allegedly diverse performances, accents and all, were the goddamn same.

    As for the objection to my hatred of Krasinski, I’m fully willing to admit that’s a bias that’s fully encapsulated in my other choices, Michael Cera and Zach Braff, of 21st Century beta-maleness. All three of them really could have been one entry: how dudes being total pussies but are also into getting pussy are totally unwatchable. I’m sure any one of those actors might be a person I might get along with, because I myself am a total pussy, but I sure as hell don’t wanna watch it on screen.

    Also, the whole hatred of Andie McDowell is pretty amusing to me because I watched Sex Lies and Videotape long after it would have been a viable artistic statement, and she’s really important to how good that movie is supposed to be, and I hate her a lot less than you all seem to. That probably has to do with how Soderbergh used her than her actual ability, but hey, I thought Gina Carano was a perfectly fine lead in Soderbergh’s hands.

  6. -I’ve never seen Sex, Lies, though I imagine Soderbergh works wonders with erstwhile zombie McDowell. Hell, he delivered Jennifer Lopez to greatness within Out Of Sight, and made Sasha Grey vaguely palatable in The Girlfriend Experience.

    -Streep…yeah, I can see it, though not near Travis’s level. Really, trying to recall any performance that personally stuck out to me is rather difficult; I’ve never seen Sophie’s Choice, she’s a relative non-factor in Manhattan, she (as Travis notes) is far from what makes The Deer Hunter what it is (as Travis also notes, great, and unpleasant), her admittedly amusing work in The Devil Wears Prada was a serious comedic caricature. I haven’t seen Adaptation since the theater–because Charlie Kaufman is 90% garbage–but my best impression looking back is that her stoned antics with Chris Cooper were entirely based in their inversion of her usual persona (much like her Anna Wintour avatar in Prada, come to think of it). I don’t hate her, or even dislike her…I’m just…disinterested.

    Oh yeah, she was also in The Hours, but that movie is total death all around.

    -Sandler has made it transparent that he’s all about the bottom line, with excursions into Actual Cinema mere and rare vacations from his typical vapid fare. There’s been a whole lot of excoriating press about him since the release of That’s My Boy (which apparently sets a new low), including much breast-beating from critics who rightfully celebrate his performances in Punch-Drunk and Funny People. I thought he was damn good in Reign Over Me, too, and I still enjoy a handful of his early wackadoodle comedies, but that may be adolescent reminiscence speaking. (Though The Wedding Singer is a pretty genuinely sweethearted romance.) I forget which critic highlighted the guy’s seeming ignorance of the self-aware aspects in Funny People–where he plays a middle-aged, miserable, lazy comedian who makes horrific mass-market comedies for sport, hmmm…–but it’s an apt observation. Plus, I’m still pretty pissed that he passed on Inglourious Basterds, which left us viewers subject to the McDowell-like horror of Eli Roth onscreen.

    -Katherine Hepburn? I–Nathan, just–no. The answer is no. Katie rocks. I feel like her notorious inflection has been exaggerated over the years, not unlike Cary Grant’s. And, much like Grant, I think her most enjoyable roles make hay of that hifalutin’ New England aura. Jarod’s right: The Philadelphia Story is absolutely awesome, and I also love Holiday. (Criminally, I’ve never seen The African Queen, despite Bogart being my favorite actor.) Plus, there’s this, one of the best go-fuck-yourself monologues you’ll ever see. Seriously, watch this shit:

    HEPBURN BITCH BOW AND TITHE

  7. Streep – I’m being a bit of a devil’s advocate with her. I don’t have any particular dislike for her, but nor do I think that she’s even close to being the greatest actress of our generation. I think that notion comes from two things: 1. Range. She may not be great, but she is serviceable in a wide variety of film types. She gets the job done. 2. She’s been around for a long time and she hasn’t been a bitch or an idiot during that time. Classiness will get you a lot with most people.

    Hepburn – I will not relent. Her presence on my TV screen is as welcome to me as a bat flapping around in my living room. Sorry, guys. Just. Can’t. Do. It.

  8. I think the jury’s still out on Ellen Page. Totally agree with Helen Hunt and Keanu. I think Sandler can be great (Funny People). It’s frustrating that he chooses to make crap like Jack and Jill.

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