Friday, June 15, 2007

Beyond Actor-dome: Round 1 continues...

64 men enter. One man leaves.
(I had to revert to the Mad Max-themed title so that tagline would work.)

A few words on the criteria: I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1997 and onward). Film and television performances count. Match-ups will be judged on the following merits: (1) number of performances I've enjoyed (sheer quantity); (2) whose singular best performance is the greatest (quality); (3) if I had an Oscar ballot, how many nominations would the actor have received since '97 (fake Oscars); (4) if both actors have co-starred in a film, who gave the better performance (spotlights stolen); and (5) since watching boys fight is something you can see at the closest downtown bar, this time around we're judging by who would prevail in the most time-tested of competitive activities: The Walkoff (Motherf*cking Walkoff).

Round 1 - part 1

Round 1 (cont'd)

Don Cheadle vs. Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Quantity: Much as we appreciate his prodigious talents, Hoffman leaves us irritated (Boogie Nights; Red Dragon) almost as much as he impresses us (State and Main; Magnolia). Still, he's starred in roughly six thousand films in the past ten years, which helps edge him past the Soderbergh-laden credits (Out of Sight, Traffic, Ocean's Eleven) on Cheadle's side of the ledger. Advantage: Hoffman
Quality: Hoffman's Oscar-winning Capote performance really is a crowning achievement, and one that probably outpaces Cheadle's career-topping work in Hotel Rwanda. Advantage: Hoffman
Fake Oscar Nods: Hoffman: 1 (Capote); Cheadle: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They both starred in P.T. Anderson's Boogie Nights. Cheadle was the kind-of inconsequential urban cowboy Buck, while Hoffman was the disgusting gay sad-sack Scotty. God, do we ever hate Scotty. Advantage: Cheadle
Motherf*cking Walkoff: On the surface, the disheveled red carpet appearances Hoffman gave two award seasons ago would seem to disqualify him. But his filmography displays some "work it, girl" tendencies that help us believe Phil could rock a strut. Cheadle, however, is no slouch, even though he never has much chance to display it onscreen. Still, we have faith in him. Advantage: Cheadle
Winner: Phillip Seymour Hoffman 3-2

Joaquin Phoenix vs. Peter Sarsgaard
Quantity: Phoenix is a good actor, and in his best work (Walk the Line; Signs), he's quite endearing, but he's just as often stuck in junky films where he's just sort of stuck looking stoic (thanks much, The Village). Sarsgaard, meanwhile, has shown a staggering ability to deliver a shining beacon of a supporting performance in films from Boys Don't Cry to Garden State to Jarhead.
Quality: Phoenix is part of a gorgeous and well-acted duet in Walk the Line and probably deserved more credit for that movie than he got. Sarsgaard kicked all sorts of righteous ass in Shattered Glass, and that's the movie I'll watch multiple times. Advantage: Sarsgaard
Fake Oscar Nods: Sarsgaard: 2 (Jarhead; Shattered Glass); Phoenix: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Peter's quite the handsome man, but Joaquin, in my opinion, would make a striking male model. Hairlip or no.
Winner: Peter Sarsgaard 3-1

Patrick Wilson vs. Owen Wilson
Quantity: Just to ease your curiosity, no, Luke Wilson did not make this list, and wouldn't have if it was expanded to 128 actors. Patrick Wilson's career is very young yet, but he's already given some seriously great performances in things like Angels in America and Little Children. Owen Wilson, however, has been in about twenty-five some-odd movies in the past ten years, and even though nobody's getting credit for I Spy, he's still got the edge here. Advantage: Owen Wilson
Quality: We are big fans of Owen's work with Wes Anderson, but his work in The Royal Tenenbaums can't compete with what Patrick does in Angels in America. Advantage: Patrick Wilson
Fake Oscar Nods: Patrick Wilson: 0 (Angels was on HBO, or else Patrick would totally have one); Owen Wilson: 0. Push
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Damn, this is tough. For one thing, Patrick Wilson is one of the most aesthetically gifted human beings on the face of the Earth. On the other hand: Owen Wilson played Hansel in Zoolander. And we all know that Hansel is so hot right now. Advantage: Owen Wilson
Winner: Owen Wilson 2-1

Heath Ledger vs. Billy Bob Thornton
Quantity: This is a bit of a conundrum. We like Heath Ledger and have way back when he was doing teen comedies (10 Things I Hate About You) and Mel Gibson movies (The Patriot). We can say we're not all that fond of Billy Bob Thornton, either, but he's beaten us into submission with one fine performance after another (Primary Colors, The Man Who Wasn't There, Intolerable Cruelty). And in the end, he's just got more of them than Heath does. Advantage: Thornton
Quality: While Thornton's work in A Simple Plan is no slouch of a performance by any stretch, we prefer Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.
Fake Oscar Nods: Thornton: 1 (A Simple Plan); Ledger: 1 (Brokeback Mountain). Push
Spotlights Stolen: Both starred in Monsters Ball, and it's not just because the sight of a naked Billy Bob kind of made us go blind for a minute -- it's also because pound-for-pound Heath's damaged son packed more of a wallop -- that we preferred Ledger.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: It's not like Billy Bob's a stranger to dressing up nice, but even when Ledger's not trying (or trying very hard to look like he's not trying), he looks like a million bucks. Advantage: Ledger
Winner: Heath Ledger 3-1

John Cusack vs. Paul Giamatti
Quantity: Pity that we're looking into the window on Cusack's career where he began to fall out of favor. Sure, he was wonderful in Grosse Point Blank and Being John Malkovich, but in the same time frame, Giamatti began his rise from Pig Vomit (Private Parts) to invaluable character actor (The Negotiator) to prize-winning lead actor (American Splendor; Sideways). Advantage: Giamatti
Quality: Cusack's pretty much an archetype to himself in High Fidelity, but Giamatti's Sideways performance bests it.
Fake Oscar Nods: Giamatti: 2 (Sideways; American Splendor); Cusack: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They were both in the unremarkable ode to communism in the arts, Cradle Will Rock. Cusack's okay, but I barely remember Giamatti in it, so okay is good enough in this case. Advantage: Cusack
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Yeah...sorry, Paul. You may not need posture to win critics' awards, but this is something else entirely. Advantage: Cusack
Winner: Paul Giamatti 3-2

Jeff Bridges vs. John Goodman
Quantity: Goodman's occasionally brilliant on screen, but he seems to take up so much time making crappy sitcoms. On the other hand, Bridges works pretty sparingly as well, and his great work is tempered by pap like Arlington Road. In the end, it's a Push
Quality: We'll get to the unimaginable delight that is John Goodman in The Big Lebowski in a second. For now, I'll stake my claim that Jeff Bridges delivers a killer performance in The Door in the Floor and takes the category. Advantage: Bridges
Fake Oscar Nods: Bridges: 2 (The Door in the Floor; The Big Lebowski); Goodman: 1 (The Big Lebowski).
Spotlights Stolen: Ah, Lebowski. You already know our fondness for it. And asking us whether Bridges or Goodman gives the better performance is like asking us to choose between our children. Bridges is brilliant as the ur-slacker, and The Dude becomes such an indelible character but we ask you, when it's the Dude and Walter Sobchak on screen together, which one are you paying attention to? Goodman is unhinged as Walter in all the best ways, and about 75% of the quotable lines come from him, and it's all because of how much John Goodman rules the world in that role.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: We're telling you right now: someone needs to make this happen. John Goodman on the catwalk? Awesome. Still, remember that "What Condition My Condition Was In" sequence in Lebowski? The Dude descending the staircase? That, my friends, is a signature walk. Advantage: Bridges
Winner: Jeff Bridges 3-1

Brian Cox vs. Cillian Murphy
Quantity: For a newbie, Cillian Murphy has made quite the impression, with high-profile roles in low-key thrillers like Red Eye and 28 Days Later. Cox, however, has married a Hackman-esque ability to play a wide variety of roles to a John C. Reilly tendency to pop up everywhere. From The Bourne Identity to Deadwood to Zodiac, you can't escape him. Not that you'd want to. Advantage: Cox
Quality: Cox's sad pederast in L.I.E. versus Murphy's compact yet delightfully hammy Scarecrow in Batman Begins. You can tell Cillian's got something brilliant lurking in the near future, but for now, Cox takes it.
Fake Oscar Nods: Cox: 2 (L.I.E.; 25th Hour/Adaptation); Murphy: 0
Spotlights Stolen: Murphy headlined and Cox co-starred in Wes Craven's Red Eye. It's something of a thankless role for Cox, but Murphy doesn't exactly win this one by default. He delivers a legitimately scary performance in a movie that relies on the performances greatly. Advantage: Murphy
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Patrick "Kitten" Brady, Murphy's character in Breakfast on Pluto, isn't one of our favorite screen drag queens, but he gets the job done enough right here. Advantage: Murphy
Winner: Brian Cox 3-2

Brad Pitt vs. Denzel Washington
Quantity: Just so it's clear, we really do like Denzel Washington. When he's on his game and in a movie that challenges him (Training Day, The Hurricane), he's electric. Hell, he's even been known to enliven an otherwise blah movie (Inside Man), but too often he's asked to star in these middle-of-the-road nothing movies, plus the occasional Tony Scott mess. It doesn't add up to a ton of love here. Pitt's not immune to this either (Seven Years in Tibet; Troy), but he's amassed enough wild performances in interesting films (Snatch; Fight Club) and skillfully-chosen crowd-pleasers (Ocean's Eleven; Mr. and Mrs. Smith) to take the category. Advantage: Pitt
Quality: We love Pitt in Fight Club. He's a riot. But he doesn't prop up an entire film on his shoulders and carry it to much more than the "Our Checkered Racial Past" it could have been, like Denzel did in The Hurricane.
Fake Oscar Nods: Washington: 2 (Training Day; The Hurricane); Pitt: 1 (Fight Club)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Tough call. They can both cast a James Bondian silhouette, and they can both put in that attitude, you can tell. But in modeling, youth is king, and Brad's got nine years on Grandpa Denzel. Advantage: Pitt
Winner: 2-2 HOLY CRAP IT'S S TIE! You knew one was coming. This one's a doozy, I think. Stake your claim, sports fans: are you on Team Brad or Team Denzel? Vote wisely and once, thank you.


jessica said...


Okay, first: Nooooooooo, Don Cheadle!!! Don Cheadle gone and Owen Wilson survives? The world is not right! I can't argue, really, considering the matchups and criteria, but GOD. That hurts.

Now: Even though both have a tendency to take themselves far too seriously, it's been a LONG TIME since I've seen Denzel pull off anything even remotely funny. Shit, even browsing IMDb I realize half the stuff he's been in the past 10 years I've not even bothered to watch. Brad, on the other hand, runs the gamut this past decade and I've thoroughly enjoyed at least twice as many performances. And even though we don't have a shared screen, we can easily go to the single degree of separation, Angelina. The Bone Collector was ... not good, and the normally dynamic Denzel and Angie both seemed dull beyond repair. Mr. & Mrs. Smith, however, was delightfully fun and sexy, taking my mind completely off the fact that they were embroiled in an ugly little adultery scandal at the time. Denzel would've gotten the better of Brad if we'd been comparing their performances with Julia Roberts, but The Pelican Brief was like a hundred years ago.

Pitt takes it.

Brenda said...

Oh, this is hard. See, I like Brad and I think he's a good actor, but he can't really do anything if the material's bad (see: Meet Joe Black). But mostly, that material's good, he chooses interesting projects with good directors in between the Ocean's 13 and stuff, and he isn't afraid to unpretty himself (see: Fight Club, Twelve Monkeys, Babel). Denzel can play the hell out of anything, but he picks pretty dull projects.

In conclusion, Team Brad.

SecretMargo said...

Pitt (Sorry, Oprah)

Alyson said...

I gotta go with Brad too. C'mon, we're talking about Fight Club here.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Well, I'd love to vote but I'm busy compiling a list of neglected actors that should've been in the tourney ahead of John Freakin' Goodman. This will take time.

Fine, I vote for Denzel, Joe. I think you know why. Now, get Mathan over here and let him know that our guy is trailing by a current vote tally of 4 to three-fifths.

That'll rile him up.

patty m. said...

Hated Pitt until Twelve Monkeys Fight Club. Boy can act! Loved Denzel in Malcolm X but have hated nearly everything he's done since, and his ego slays me. Add one for Brad.

Neel Mehta said...

Uh, you have two ties in this post.

Cheadle vs. Hoffman: you have Hoffman winning under "Fake Oscar Nods," but that should be a push when you add Hotel Rwanda. So instead of Hoffman winning the round 3-2, you'd have a 2-2 tie.

As you'd guess, my tie-breaking vote would go to Cheadle, and because I'd like to see him face Denzel in a future round, bye bye Brad.

Michelle said...

I'm voting for Pitt based on the strength of their recent minor TV roles. Denzel has only played Humpty Dumpty in some "Rappin'" Mother Goose TV movie with Regis and Kathie Lee. Pitt on the other hand had two memorable cameos - on Friends and as Boomhauer's bro on King of the Hill. Definitely puts him ahead.


I love Denzel but in this contest it's gotta be PITT the biggest male movie star on the planet who isn't a crazy alien worshipping freak... unless you think Angie's from another planet [ba dum dum... i'm here all week]

just the range in his work alone.

'king kong aint got shit on brad'

mathan said...

My ears are burning!

First allow me mourn Cheadle's passing. But at least he lost to someone worthy.

Also, I've met Mr. Phoenix and the guy doesn't so much walk as he does stumble.

Now for the tie.

They way I see it is like this; Denzel takes it. Sure, I enjoyed Pitt is Fight Club, Snatch and Ocean's Eleven, but the guy also appears in Soderbergh's less than great projects (Full Frontal, Ocean's Twelve). And while Denzel may star in the occasinal Tony Scott borefest, the later had a better 1997 than the former.

Plus Meet Joe Black felt longer than Denzel's 1998 flicks, combined.

Dig Pitt, but I'm with Denzel on this one.

Anonymous said...

Denzel easy

SheenaJade said...

Team Brad.

adam k. said...

Yeah, I definitely like Cheadle a hell of a lot more than I do Hoffman, but based on the categories, I can't really argue. The thing is, it'll all about Capote. If not for Capote, Hoffman would have practically nothing going for him, but Capote alone got him 2 of the 3 points needed to win. Damn.

And I guess I'm also on Team Brad. It's a toughie, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy Brad more onscreen these days. Most of Denzel's best stuff was pre-97, whereas Brad's still relatively in his prime. And he's the only one of the two who I still ogle regularly.

Big "ouch" on Bootleg Guy's comment. I feel bad now not voting for Denzel. But what can you do.

qta said...

Denzel!!! Malcolm X, Training Day, etc..

Jenn said...

Gotta say Pitt...can't help it.

Marius said...

My vote goes to Denzel. He's just a better actor than Brad. I'm shocked that people would think otherwise.

Joe R. said...

Neel Mehta: "Fake" Oscar nods aren't real Oscar nods. Cheadl'e didn't make my cut for Best Actor that year. Or any year. Though I do like him.

jessica said...

I'd give Cheadle a nod for Traffic before Hotel Rwanda anyway. But, alas, I am not the ringmaster of this fabulous circus.

Neel Mehta said...

I figured "Fake Oscar Nods" covered shoulda-been nominations in addition to real ones. Didn't know they related back to some actual list.

Seriously though, I just hate, hate, hate PSH. Represents almost everything I dislike about acting. Promise me he goes down in Round 2 to Sarsgaard, or whoever.

Daniel said...


Jenny said...

I agree with marius. They both are worthy of being in a second round, but bottom line Denzel is a better actor. Vote: DENZEL.

Stephanie said...

I loved the Actress Tournament, so I'm wicked excited for the guys to have a turn. Thanks joe r.!

Although Denzel is probably the better actor overall, I have to vote for Brad on the strength of "Ocean's 11" and "Fight Club". He makes it look effortless.

NYOne said...

I'm not sure I have forgiven Brad for Troy yet, but I can't whip up enough interest in Denzel to vote for him. Reluctant Team Brad.

qterplix said...

love the tournament. love the site. love you.
i'm voting for brad.
denzel's got the goods, but his movies tend to make me sleepiezzzzz. . .

Carrie Ann said...

Oh, Brad, easily. He may not have the natural talent of Denzel, but I think he's got more charisma, and that goes a long way. Especially in the crappy movies.

I am shocked that Joaquin went down so quickly. I sure do love that nutter. Eh, at least he won the walk-off.

mathan said...

"I've said it before and I'll say it again; democracy simply doesn't work."

The Bloody Munchkin said...

O.k., forgive me for going all Ocean's Thirteen, but...
"The Nose Plays" Team Pitt.

Although I was almost tempted to go Team Denzel, for one movie that still, ten years later, has me reeling; The Fallen. Denzel kicks all sorts of but in that....

Sticky Keys said...

I am so aghast at some of these choices that I can't even COMMENT! Skaars over Joaquin? Why are Cox and Cillian in the same category? Cheadle looses?!?

And then you pit Brad against Denzel?! That's just mean man! MEAN!

I can't even choose, I love both and will watch either in just about anything.

This thing is going to kill me, see you next round!

Sticky Keys said...

Are you still taking votes?

Team Denzel. I just watched Malcolm X and Glory again and OMG SO GREAT.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Wow. I'm late. If I can still vote I'm voting for Denzel. Basically because I really really don't like Pitt. Other than Fight Club and his cameo on Friends I can't remember really liking him anywhere, whereas I do remember The Hurricane, Inside Man, Remember the Titans and (as much as I dislike the movie itself) Training Day. I even quite liked The Bone Collector as these things go.

...hey, there's a link between them. Angelina.