Thursday, June 21, 2007

Beyond Actor-dome: Round 1. Some More.

64 men enter. One man leaves.

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

Billy Crudup vs. Ryan Gosling
Quantity: The last few years has seen Gosling steadily compile roles in which he can either act creepy (Stay; Murder By Numbers) or play against that creepiness (Half Nelson). Crudup...well, I just like him in everything he does. Even when it's pretty crappy otherwise. Yes, World Traveler. Yes, Trust The Man. Advantage: Crudup
Quality: In a pair of performances that likely call for a more in-depth comparison some day, Gosling's work in Half Nelson edges past Crudup in Jesus' Son.
Fake Oscar Nods: Crudup: 3 (Jesus' Son; Almost Famous; Stage Beauty); Gosling: 1 (Half Nelson)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Close call. Ryan's a cutie, and the type that spends so much time convincing you that he's not the tailored suit type that when he does in fact suit up, you're even more impressed. On the other's Billy Crudup. I'm hardly unbiased in this area. Advantage: Crudup
Winner: Billy Crudup 3-1

Johnny Depp vs. Al Pacino
Quantity: Pacino's a world-class actor and has given bunches of great performances over the years, but not enough of them were in the past ten years for him to beat Depp, whose performances have become one can't-miss extravaganza after another. Advantage: Depp
Quality: Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow bests Pacino's tone-perfect work in Insomnia.
Fake Oscar Nods: Depp: 1 (Pirates of the Caribbean); Pacino: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: They were mob buddies on opposite sides of the law in Donnie Brasco, where Depp's paranoid unspooling was great, but I was more affected by Pacino's sad old dog routine.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: This is not a close call. Depp.
Winner: Johnny Depp 4-1

Paul Bettany vs. Ian McKellen
Quantity: It's hard enough for Paul Bettany to catch up to McKellen's superior body of work without junk like Wimbledon and Firewall clogging up his résumé. Ian's got a bit of padding on his CV with three Lord of the Rings films and three X-Men (X3 was junk, but McKellen wasn't the problem), but it's not like he's ever been given to coasting. Advantage: McKellen
Quality: Bettany's given several fine performances, but his work in the difficult Dogville is likely his most accomplished. Not enough to best McKellen's James Whale in Gods and Monsters, which will be tough for anyone to beat. Advantage: McKellen
Fake Oscar Nods: McKellen: 2 (Gods and Monsters; Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings); Bettany: 1 (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World).
Spotlights Stolen: They both appeared in the big-budget fizzle The DaVinci Code. And while McKellen didn't give so much a great performance as serve as the world's most lilting exposition machine, he still was able to show more than Bettany, who spend the better part of two hours flogging himself and skulking around under a hood. Advantage: McKellen
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Both men are handsome, lean, and English. But McKellen's the only one we can see being fierce, in the Tyra sense of the word.
Winner: Ian Mckellen 5-0

Matt Damon vs. William H. Macy
Quantity: One of the ways Matt Damon has snuck back up on us to become one of his generations most dependable leading men has been my being very good in a LOT of movies. Like, a lot a lot. Including his cameo in Eurotrip and guest starring on Will & Grace. William H. Macy's no recluse, but he's only about halfway to Damon's credits.
Quality: While Damon's remarkable consistency still hasn't produced that one iconic performance that has stood tall above all others, I still think his turn in The Departed slightly outpaces Macy in Pleasantville. Advantage: Damon
Fake Oscar Nods: Damon: 1 (The Departed); Macy: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: If you've seen the Ocean's Eleven films, you know how well Damon can pull off the cool casual look.
Winner: Matt Damon 4-0

Steve Carell vs. Clive Owen
Quantity: A closer race than you'd think, considering Carell's movie career didn't really take off until The 40-Year-Old Virgin two years ago. But he was also one of the funniest parts of Anchorman, and of course his award-worthy work in Little Miss Sunshine, and his TV work certainly counts in his favor. But Clive Owen manages to juuust edge him out by virtue of his latest exercise in shaming the rest of the acting community, Children of Men. Advantage: Owen
Quality: Carell's best work can still be seen every Thursday on NBC, and while we don't think there are many things we'd rather watch than The Office, Owen's Oscar-nominated turn in Closer still kind of shocks us whenever we see it. Advantage: Owen
Fake Oscar Nods: Carell: 1 (Little Miss Sunshine); Owen: 1 (Closer). Push
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Sorry, Steve Carell. Clive Owen could have been James Bond for a reason. Advantage: Owen
Winner: Clive Owen 3-0

Joseph Gordon-Levitt vs. Edward Norton
Quantity: These days, Norton and JGL (we're starting a naming trend -- join us, won't you?) are two of out favorite actors. JGL has rocketed into our good graces after a pair of blistering performances in Mysterious Skin and Brick. Norton was our very favorite actor in the late '90s, but aside from 25th Hour (which remains an underrated gem of a movie and a lead performance), the '00s had been fallow for him, until the last year or so, when he rebounded with The Illusionist and The Painted Veil. Norton takes this in a walk.
Quality: It's hard to overstate the splash JGL makes in Mysterious Skin. It's exhilarating watching a former kid actor make that leap to the next stage of his career all at once. I'd place it higher than a great many of the performances by the actors on this list. Not higher than Edward Norton in Fight Club, though. Not on this blog. Advantage: Norton
Fake Oscar Nods: Norton: 2 (American History X; Fight Club); Gordon-Levitt: 1 (Brick)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: We're not saying Edward Norton seems like the type to walk like he's got a stick up his ass, we're just saying that JGL would walk circles around him without even trying. Advantage: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Winner: Edward Norton 3-1

Adrien Brody vs. Jude Law
Quantity: Brody's yet to really capitalize on the Best Actor Oscar win, but you can't expect him to compete against Law's especially prolific output. 2006 may not have been so kind to him (though I haven't yet seen Breaking and Entering, where I hear he's quite good), but he still is as strong in this category as anyone in the bracket. Advantage: Law
Quality: I'll stand by the statement that Law has never been better than he was in I Heart Huckabees, though I'll understand if you feel I'm biased. As good as Brody's work in The Pianist is, Law bests it. Advantage: Law
Fake Oscar Nods: Law: 3 (I Heart Huckabees; A.I.: Artificial Intelligence; The Talented Mr. Ripley); Brody: 1 (The Pianist)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Clash of the titans, yo. Both fill out one heck of a tuxedo. Law's more conventionally handsome while Brody's a bit gawky, but it's not like gawky is entirely unheard of on a runway. A year ago, Law would have taken this, but he's showed up on too many red carpets looking unwashed this year. Advantage: Brody
Winner: Jude Law 3-1

Alec Baldwin vs. Gene Hackman
Quantity: We've said this before, but we were under the mistaken impression that we disliked Alec Baldwin. For a very long time. Even when he was pretty hilarious in State and Main, we figured it was an anomaly. It wasn't until he showed up on Nip/Tuck and managed to chew scenery and soft-play some key emotional scenes (that's what can happen when you play a botanist whose one-time gay admirer -- whose sex-change operation you then performed before you married "her" -- ran off with your only son and then started having sex with him as a teenager; God, Nip/Tuck could be awesome) that we realized he was effing awesome. His array of supporting performances (The Cooler; The Aviator; 30 Rock) easily outpace the suddenly-not-such-a-workaholic Hackman, and in fact, outpaces him so much that we're giving him credit and a half. Because it's our list, that's why. Advantage: Baldwin +1.5
Quality: Baldwin's Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock is pitted against Hackman's titular role in The Royal Tenenbaums, and much as we love Alec, Royal rules. Advantage: Hackman
Fake Oscar Nods: Hackman: 1 (The Royal Tenenbaums); Baldwin: 0
Spotlights Stolen: If you recall, Baldwin took part in The Royal Tenenbaums as well, though we never saw his face. But his voiceover work was good enough to merit inclusion here. Again, not enough to top Royal, and since a real live performance beating a voice-over performance isn't much of a win, we're only giving Hackman half credit here. Because it's our list, that's why. Advantage: Hackman +.5
Motherf*cking Walkoff: There's more than a bit of the preener in Baldwin, and we think that gives him an edge. Advantage: Baldwin
Winner: So Alec gets +1.5 for quantity, and +1 for walkoff = 2.5; Hackman gets +1 for quality, +.5 for shared, and +1 for fake Oscars = 2.5; HOLY CRAP IT'S A TIE. Please don't hold it against Alec Baldwin that we egregiously re-jiggered the point system in his favor this time. Vote wisely and once.


adam k. said...

Haha. You didn't REALLY re-jigger the point system so bad. You could have just not counted Alec Baldwin in Royal as a performance, and it would've been the same.

But I'm still voting for Hackman, just cause he seems like a much nicer guy.

"Ouch" on a relatively strong contender like Paul Pettany getting trounced 5-0, though. Can't really argue, but still, ouch. That has never happened before, ever, as I recall.

Also, big ouch on Gosling's defeat. After Half Nelson, I was won over life, and I refuse to believe Crudup could outwalk him.

Sticky Keys said...

@adam k.
Did you see Stage Beauty? Billy could outwalk ME, HA!

And though I know this is completely objective, I must say I smiled at the thought of Joer's Billy being ousted so early.

I agree with just about everything here this time, and Clive Owen continues to elate me. I don't think he could be a Bond, but I'd like to see him be a villian, rawr!

Oh, and Alec Baldwin PWNS, I mean really, come on.

adam k. said...

Oh damn, I forgot about Stage Beauty. I did not see the film, but I've actually worked on the play, so I know what you mean all too well.

But Joe didn't mention Stage Beauty in the walkoff category. He just cited his own bias as reason for Crudup's winning. And to that, I say: RYAN GOSLING IS AMAZING AND HOT AND TALENTED, SO WHATEVER. So there.

SecretMargo said...


Wes Anderson's muse > Tina Fey's muse

(though not by much. I do love Tina. But look at what happened to Lohan!)

qta said...

What?!?... JGL is out? I am weeping.

but I must vote, so let me dry my tears and say..."nobody beats Royal." I vote Hackman.

patty m. said...

The fact that Baldwin can actually breathe life into the suckfest that is Saturday Night Live is enough to earn my vote. Hackman is wonderful, and I love him as Royal -- my favorite old bastard ever -- but I don't believe that he could put the moves on Canteen Boy with equal aplomb.

mathan said...

Really Joe? Pacino? How the hell did that guy end up anywhere near this tourney without being a loyal reader? I mean has he done anything truly worthy of praise in your lifetime, much less in the last ten years? (And how in the hell is another Heat in preproduction?)

Macy got robbed! You overlook ER, Sports Night, The Cooler (more on that later) and give it to Damon? C'mon, Macy deserved better than that, certainly better than a sweep. Damon should have been deducted points for making Ben an Oscar winner.

You have convinced me to give JGL a shot. I've been hearing tons of buzz about the kid and I'm finally ready to invest in Brick.

And now for the tie. It's Baldwin, all the way. His reprising of Blake on SNL was hilarious. "Cocoa is for closers", c'mon, pure comedy. He's the main reason why I dig The Cooler so much. And his infamous voicemail has provided me hours of entertainment. 30 Rock man, 30 Rock.

Jenny said...

Great round. I can't disagree with much this time, except I totally would have given the walkoff to Bettany. However, McKellan in Gods and Monsters was major, major greatness, so I'm not sad about his win at all.

As for Baldwin vs. Hackman? Again, I love them both, but. It'll be tough for me to think of anything that beats Royal Tennenbaum. Go Hackman!

Carrie Ann said...

It's the unpredictability of Baldwin that gives him my vote. Who would have thought that he would take this direction in his career? He's suddenly become a solidly reliable comedic character actor. One of those guys you can count on to always be interesting, even when the material is not.

Crudup? Feh. Gosling's still taller. :) Also, did you see Rachel McAdams and him accepting the MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss a couple years ago? Boy can WALK. And kiss, apparently.

NYOne said...

I think I have to give it to Alec Baldwin, much as I enjoy Gene Hackman consistently, on the strength of his SNL work. Tony Bennett, Schwetty Balls, Canteen Boy, etc. Wow, this one is tough though.

And Wimbledon is a fine film. I don't know what you're on about.

The Bloody Munchkin said...

O.k., I gotta go Team Hackman here and for reasons I can't quite explain either. Nostalgia maybe???

Also, Crudup over Gosling? Phhhhttth. Guess I'm somewhat biased...

Joe R. said...

Man, if you guys are coming down on me about Crudup now? It could be a long road ahead. For all of us.


joe if it means anything i still have vestiges of the crudup fetish too. it's not as full tilt boogie as yours obviously but damn he was great in JESUS'S SON.

and i like him on broadway too.

i'm gonna go with BALDWIN on account of the improvement with age. dude just gets better and better as an actor --and he doesn't look like he's trying all that hard either. Like he wisely steers clear of Bening's theatrics in Running With Scissors which is the perfect choice for those scenes with her. It makes them both look better... and those performances are already top notch.

Hackman's best work is so long ago (though I do really love Royal Tenenbaum)

qterplix said...

Wow. I loved Hackman as Royal, so this is tough, but I'm going to side with Team Baldwin. I thinks it's because Tenenbaums was 6 years ago, and I've seen several good performances from Alec since then. (Plus: Mooseport)

jessica said...

Oh, Joe. Ryan Gosling is such a dollbaby. Obviously there was no way he was beating Billy Crudup in your eyes, but still.

I love Hackman a lot, I really do, but Baldwin is so phenomenal right now, and so evolved from where he was way back when. His cameos alone could do it for me, but add in his work on 30 Rock and I'm totally sold.

Anonymous said...

Baldwin--his work on 30 Rock alone is enough for him to win here.

Deirdre said...

Another vote for Team Baldwin. I love Hackman, but Baldwin rules, and this is coming from someone who hasn't seen him on SNL since the "Schwetty Balls" days.

I can't believe Damon over Macy, though. I guess if Fargo hadn't been outside the time limit this might have been closer, but does he get no credit for Happy Texas? Dumbass movie, but Macy was the best thing in it (except for Steve Zahn - and is he going to be making an appearance at all?)

Stephanie said...

Baldwin, because he never phones it in. Except that one time...

And Bettany was robbed, y'all. McKellan is the better actor of the two, but you could at least throw him a point in the walkoff category. He was pretty fierce shaking his very cute bum in Wimbledon (a totally underrated little movie, IMO).

Joe R. said...

Oh, Steve Zahn. Juuuuuust missed the cut. Unfortunately, because I would have loved to have tried to sell Saving Silverman as his best performance.

jessica said...

That movie is hilarious, and Steve Zahn owns it. Love him.

Mathan said...

Wait, Pacino made the list and Zahn didn't? Man I haven't seen a taint like that since my last self examination.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I looooved Hackman in Royal, but Baldwin has had a steady stream of great roles lately. The Cooler, Will & Grace and The Departed amongst them (30 Rock doesn't air in Australia). So, Baldwin gets the vote from me.

Mark said...


Because even in movies like The Replacements, he's watchable.