Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Beyond Actor-dome: Round 2 begins

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 2

Matt Damon vs. Jack Nicholson
Quantity: We can't entirely blame Jack Nicholson for not being able to keep up with Matt Damon's career output. He's getting on in years, and waiting for the Viagara to kick in takes up a lot of time. Matt laps him, even if you don't count sequels, cameos, or TV. Which we are counting. Advantage: Damon
Quality: Damon was probably our favorite thing about The Departed, but not better than Nicholson as Warren R. Schmidt. That scene where he unexpectedly breaks down at the end still gets to us. Advantage: Nicholson
Fake Oscar Nods: Nicholson: 2 (About Schmidt; As Good As It Gets); Damon: 1 (The Departed).
Spotlights Stolen: They were both on the shady side of the law in The Departed. Like we said, Damon was our favorite thing about that overrated movie. Advantage: Damon
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Did you guys see how addled Jack looked at the MTV Movie Awards? I'm not sure I'd trust him to make it to the end of a runway standing upright. Advantage: Damon
Winner: Matt Damon 3-2

Jim Broadbent vs. Ian McKellen
Quantity: By the iron shavings on Magneto's fingertips does McKellen eke out a victory over Broadbent here.
Quality: Oh, Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters. It still wakes us up in the middle of the night to think of how you lost out on a much-deserved Oscar to the organ grinder's monkey that was Roberto Benigni. Interestingly enough, McKellen later lost out on what everyone figured would be his makeup Oscar for Lord of the Rings...to Jim Broadbent. Revenge is sweet. Advantage: McKellen
Fake Oscar Nods: Broadbent: 2 (Moulin Rouge; Gangs of New York); McKellen: 2 (LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring; Gods and Monsters). Push
Spotlights Stolen: They were both in Richard III. We can't remember who Broadbent played, but that doesn't matter because McKellen walked away with that movie.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: In a battle of atypically un-stodgy Brits...um, how do we put this? ...McKellen's gayer. Advantage: McKellen
Winner: Ian McKellen 4-0

Clive Owen vs. Elijah Wood
Quantity: Wood walks away with this category on hairy hobbit's feet. Owen is, like, a year away from amassing enough credits to overtake him, but for now, it's all Frodo. Advantage: Wood
Quality: Clive Owen in Closer revenge-fucks Elijah Wood in Return of the King and makes Sam Gamgee cry in his doctor's office. ...And we are now officially uncomfortable at where this metaphor has taken us. Advantage: Owen
Fake Oscar Nods: Owen: 1 (Closer); Wood: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: They were two of the brightest spots in Robert Rodriguez's Sin City, Wood as the silent, scary-as-hell depraved monster, Owen as the resourceful and chivalrous hero with an affinity towards sever heads. It's a tough call, but Owen carries more of the movie. Advantage: Owen
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Elijah Wood is short, for one. On the other hand, Clive Owen is older. On the other hand, Owen is sexier. And on that same hand, his emotionless visage looks meaner. Advantage: Owen
Winner: Clive Owen 4-1

Edward Norton vs. Mark Wahlberg
Quantity: It's a closer race than you'd think, considering for the first half of our ten-year judging period, I thought Wahlberg was something of a one-flick wonder, while Norton was Acting Jesus. Marky Mark has really come into his own since then, but Norton's been able to get his career back on track enough to maintain his lead. Advantage: Norton
Quality: Have we sufficiently bored you with talk of just how phenomenal Wahlberg was in I Heart Huckabees? If we have, all that means is that you haven't seen the movie. So, really, your irritation is ultimately your fault. That being said, we are very big fans of Fight Club, and of Norton's performance in it. Advantage: Norton
Fake Oscar Nods: Norton: 2 (American History X; Fight Club); Wahlberg: 1 (I Heart Huckabees).
Spotlights Stolen: To date, the only movie we've seen where Edward Norton delivered a bona fide bad performance was also the only film in which he's co-starred with Mark Wahlberg. Dam you to hell, The Italian Job. Advantage: Wahlberg
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Mark Wahlberg? Still a former Calvin Klein underwear model. Advantage: Wahlberg
Winner: Edward Norton 3-2

Daniel Craig vs. Johnny Depp
Quantity: That fallow period in the late 1990s almost costs Depp this category. He just barely holds off the hard-charging Craig on the strength of, of all things, the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel. Yikes. Advantage: Depp
Quality: In a battle of performances that seriously elevated what could have been so-so material, Jack Sparrow (the first Pirates movie) bests James Bond (Casino Royale). Advantage: Depp
Fake Oscar Nods: Depp: 1 (Pirates of the Caribbean); Craig: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Depp's got the attitude, sure, but he's also just as likely to rock a red carpet looking like a particularly unwashed panhandler. Also, last time we checked, Daniel Craig could work the hell out of swim trunks. Advantage: Craig
Winner: Johnny Depp 3-1

Christian Bale vs. Billy Crudup
Quantity: Very close. Both men have been steadily working for the last ten years and have built up impressive résumés of quality films. And Reign of Fire and Trust the Man. By a margin of one performance... Advantage: Crudup
Quality: Crudup's mesmerizing rendition of a tremendous fuck-up in Jesus' Son juuuust gets edged out by Bale's frighteningly amoral serial killer in American Psycho. Advantage: Bale
Fake Oscar Nods: Crudup: 3 (Almost Famous; Jesus' Son; Stage Beauty); Bale: 1 (American Psycho).
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Invoking the Stage Beauty clause... Advantage: Crudup
Winner: Billy Crudup 3-1

Gael Garcia Bernal vs. Jude Law
Quantity: In any case, Bernal's youth and relatively recent entry into the American marketplace would be a disadvantage. Against Law, one of the most prolific actors in this competition, the kid ends up getting lapped. Advantage: Law
Quality: Law's miraculously unhinged Huckabees performance gets the best of Bernal's layers-upon-layers work in Bad Education. Advantage: Law
Fake Oscar Nods: Law: 3 (The Talented Mr. Ripley; A.I.: Artificial Intelligence; I Heart Huckabees); Bernal: 1 (Bad Education).
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Recent dirty-hairedness aside, Jude's given us a decade's worth of scorching photo ops, and Gael is, alas, still quite short. Advantage: Law
Winner: Jude Law 4-0

Russell Crowe vs. Ed Harris
Quantity: Close call. It's interesting to observe the way Crowe's list is exclusively leading-man roles in awards contenders while Harris has set himself up in supporting roles in...well, other awards contenders. Harris ekes out a slim victory here.
Quality: Love Harris in Pollock, but Crowe's breakthrough work in L.A. Confidential remains the best thing he's ever done. And the best thing a whole lot of actors have ever done. Advantage: Crowe
Fake Oscar Nods: Crowe: 2 (L.A. Confidential; The Insider); Harris: 2 (The Truman Show; Pollock). Push
Spotlights Stolen: They were both in the terribly manufactured-for-Oscar ode to the wonders of mental illness, A Beautiful Mind. It not that we're such huge fans of Crowe's heavily-nominated, buck-toothed, tortured genius performance. It's just that Harris didn't really get to do much besides act mysterious and not be real. Advantage: Crowe
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Once upon a time, Ed Harris was the go-to object of Hot Bald Middle-Aged Guy. Also once upon a time, Russell Crowe was Cro-Mag Clooney. Now, the latter has lost impulse control while the other's just gotten...old. in the face. Still, we're not convinced Russell can make it through a walk-off without an incident of some sort. Advantage: Harris
Winner: HOLY CRAP IT'S A TIE. Vote, my pretties. Vote! Vote! Vote!


Anonymous said...


And Crudup over BALE?! Heresy.

The Bloody Munchkin said...

Craig beats Depp in a walk-off??? Do you not remember Ed Wood and how thoroughly Depp could rock angora? I'm disappointed Joe. The tournament is rigged!!! (Kidding :))

Anyhoo. I'm voting Team Harris for the simple fact, and I know this is probably against the rules that his performace in The Abyss still blows me away. To convincingly play Mary Stewart Master Antonio what's-her-buckect's husband without throttling the woman? Get that man an award of some sort...

Brenda said...

Again, Crudup over Bale? WHAT?

Also, I was kind of sad to see Jude Law trounce Gael Garcia Bernal; I feel like I would actually want to watch a far greater proportion of Bernal's output that Law's.

That said, I find it hard to pull for either Crowe or Harris, neither of them really makes interesting movies most of the time -- I'm going with Crowe though, mostly on the strength of LA Confidential.

adam k. said...

Yay, it's back!

Wow, sad to see Nicholson, Bernal and Bale out of it. That's brutal. And yeah, I do think you have an unhealthy obsession with Billy Crudup. If he wins the whole thing, I'll be... well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

re: Harris or Crowe, they're both fine actors, and too different to really compare in that regard, so I have to decide this on other factors:

Personality: Well, Crowe's an asshole, whereas Harris seems like a cool guy. Points for Ed.

Sexiness: This has to go to Crowe, but Harris is no slouch either. A threesome with those two would really be something.

Err... Harris.

Deirdre said...

I too am a bit stunned about Bernal over Law (do "The Motorcycle Diaries" and "Babel" count for nothing?) and even more so about Crudup over Bale, but on to the tie-breaker:

If "Glengarry Glen Ross" were within the time frame, Harris would win no contest. And his performance in "The Hours" was wonderful. On the other hand, I've enjoyed more of Crowe's films as a whole, and I've sat in the same room with him and found that it's possible to see charm in him when he's not trying to get cell service or whatever. So: Crowe.

Anonymous said...

Harris for sure.

NYOne said...

Well, getting it out of the way, I'm voting for Harris on the sheer fact that Russell Crowe annoys me to no end.
But my real point here, and boy this is going to be both difficult and embarrassing to explain, is that I am totally baffled by the structure of the Tournament. Based on the order of the match-ups in the first round, I made an entire spreadsheet for the Tournament, as if I were running my own office pool. Then I proceeded to make predictions for Round Two, based on the winning actors’ scores in each category, assuming that Quantity and Fake Oscar Nods would be consistent across rounds. (Insert nerd/too much free time comment here). So imagine my chagrin when I found out that the order in which you list the match-ups doesn’t really have any bearing on the structure of the field. I guess that’s how all of those ties always land at the end of the post. (Headdesk) So do you re-seed after every round or is the field set? Or do I just need to let it go?

Joe R. said...

I'd never tell you to just let it go. except...just let it go. Heh. Actually, there is something of a rhyme and reason to the tournament, but it's quite loose. Generally, the winners of Group A will match up against the winners of Group B and Group C against Group D, but I might present them in the order of: D, A, C, B. You see what I mean? But there's no predetermined bracket, as such.

In other commenter news:

My obsession with Billy Crudup is TOTALLY healthy. You don't even KNOW him!

Also, you as a reader making a vote are in no way bound by the 10-year time span. Just vote for your pure favorite, regardless of rhyme or reason. Of course, I love reading your reasons, so keep those coming.

jessica said...

I tried to structure the tournament last time with the actresses, nyone. It'll send you to the madhouse.

I'm looking at Billy Crudup as the Laura Linney of the Actors Tournament. He'll take out a lot of strong contenders, but ultimately will fall short. I'm just glad to (finally) have a freakin' update. Ahem.

Anyway, I'm stalling. I'm not sure I give a damn about either. There are equal parts brilliance and annoyance for both. In the end, I'm picking Ed Harris because I adore that ridiculous Milk Money movie.

Anonymous said...

I was totally going to vote for Russ le Roq for the way he can totally disappear into a role (his performance in the Insider still amazes me - I can't wait for the day he eventually shares the screen with nicole Kidman), BUT then I remembered Ed Harris' performance in the Hours, and how he's not an arse in real life, and realised I have to vote for him.
Plus, I know he won his match and all, but not giving Clive Owen a fake oscar for Children of Men??? For shame...

par3182 said...

it's a pity neither crowe nor harris were in huckabees - that seems to guarantee anyone a win...

(sorry, but that film was one of my biggest disappointments of whatever year it was released)

it's odd how the two least appealing actors on this list ended up in a tie; i vote for harris simply because crowe is an arrogant prick

Neel Mehta said...

I've said it many times: Russell Crowe is the greatest overactor of his generation.


"For God's sake, Chris! The whole world is watching. We can't let him die in front of a live audience!"

"He was born in front of a live audience."

Such brilliant nonchalance kills me. And to think he was a last-minute replacement for Dennis Hopper.

Ed Harris. That was too easy.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I vote Crowe because I'd nominate him for my own awards more than Harris.

Jenny said...

Ed Harris is great, and he probably was the best thing in The Hours. And I just really like him in Apollo 13.

But, Crowe totally made me cry in Cinderella Man. And I wasn't even expecting to like that movie.

Plus, L.A. Confidential is sooo wonderful (although for me, the real breakout star of that movie should have been Guy Pearce, but whatever).

Vote: Crowe.

Anonymous said...

There was a time in my teens about 15 years ago when I thought Ed Harris was the hottest thing ever. I think I must have seen every movie he'd ever been in at one point. To this day I have no idea how I got started down that path, but damn he was so so hot.

Also, Russell Crowe is a tool.

Vote: Harris!!

Anonymous said...


Pamela said...

My vote goes to Ed Harris. I love his cheating husband in "Places in the Heart" and I agree with the bloody munchkin -- he was fantastic in "The Abyss."

Which is a tragically underrated movie, by the way. James Cameron should've stopped right there.

Mathan said...

Where to begin Joe?

They were two of the brightest spots in Robert Rodriguez's Sin City, Wood as the silent, scary-as-hell depraved monster, Owen as the resourceful and chivalrous hero with an affinity towards sever heads. It's a tough call, but Owen carries more of the movie.

Way to make me feel like a perv for diggin' the ladies.

Next, let me give you props for your love of Gods and Monsters. Such a powerful performance/film.

And, you put American Psycho over Jesus' Son? Really? REALLY? I've watched the former a few times and it just doesn't hit the same chords as the latter. But it's your tourney.

Finally, let me cast my vote for Crowe. L.A. Confidential was perfect in every sense. Crowe does get lost in his roles and Harris' characters tend to creep me out.

Joe R. said...

Patrick Bateman over F*ckhead was probably the closest call I've made yet. I'm glad you're carrying the torch, Mathan.

Quesadelia said...

Bale should win over Crudup. They are both pretty, and both good, but after this year is out, it's gonna be BALE.

Anonymous said...


SecretMargo said...


Crowe: The Insider, LA Confidential, Gladiator (I guess...), Master & Commander

Harris: The Hours, The Abyss, Nixon, Buffalo Soldiers, Pollock, A History of Violence, (the only watchable part of) The Rock, Apollo 13


Crowe: A Good Year, Cinderella Man, Proof of Life, Virtuosity (almost a plus, but...no), A Beautiful Mind

Harris: Stepmom, Milk Money, Radio (...ugh. That almost counts double), Enemy at the Gates, A Beautiful Mind


Balance: Harris! I always liked him better anyway.