So I used to do this thing called an Actors Tournament. Then I moved to New York and forgot all about it like an asshole. Well fear not! It continues today. And just in case you need to refresh your memories, here's how it's gone so far:
ROUND 1, GROUP 1 saw Sean Penn get swept, Elijah Wood win unpopularly, and a highly controversial Bale v. McGregor Battle of the Internet Darlings.
ROUND 1 GROUP 2 saw Wilson v. Wilson, Lebowski v. Lebowski, and an epic Pitt v. Denzel battle.
ROUND 1 GROUP 3 saw Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt fall victim to their own electric youth.
ROUND 1 GROUP 4 saw Paul Rudd get regrettably shut out.
ROUND 2 GROUP 1 saw Billy Crudup earn the ire of Bale's Bitches For America.
And thus, here we are, with the second half of Round 2. Seriously, sorry it took me so long to pick this up again. Hope it was worth the wait:
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).
Brian Cox vs. Hugh Jackman
Quantity: Keeping up with Cox's prolific output is folly. There aren't enough X-Men sequels out there to let Jackman catch up. Advantage: Cox
Quality: Oh, this is tough. Jackman's Fountain performance grows stronger and stronger in my mind as time passes. Yet Cox's Long Island pedophile is disturbingly good; memorable in a role you'd rather not remember at all. In a squeaker...Advantage: Jackman
Fake Oscar Nods: Cox: 2 (L.I.E.; 25th Hour/Adaptation); Jackman: 1 (The Fountain).
Spotlights Stolen: Both men were in the real best comic book movie ever made, X2: X-Men United (Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins can kindly step aside). Cox was shiny and new and chomping up every piece of scenery he could find, but Jackman was still riding his "best casting decision in recent memory" triumph, and it's not like he found fewer ways to be awesome this time around. Advantage: Jackman
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Well this isn't even worth arguing about. Advantage: Jackman
Winner: Hugh Jackman 3-2
Alec Baldwin vs. Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Quantity: Alec Baldwin is in a lot of movies. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is in a lot of movies. I almost always like Baldwin in whatever he's in. I...can't say the same for Hoffman. Advantage: Baldwin
Quality: Jack Donaghy versus Truman Capote. I'd like to think Jack could build a hit show around Capote, perhaps making him the host of "MILF Island." You have to admit, Truman would get along famously with those MILFs. Advantage: Baldwin
Fake Oscar Nods: Hoffman: 1 (Capote); Baldwin: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: I liked them both in State and Main. Hoffman's neurotic screenwriter was a strong center to Mamet's ensemble, but Baldwin stole the show as the lecherous (and possibly felonious) movie star. Advantage: Baldwin
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Maybe if Hoffman thought to show up to the Oscars showered and shaved, I might have given him more consideration here. As it stands, Advantage: Baldwin
Winner: Alec Baldwin 4-1
Morgan Freeman vs. Brad Pitt
Quantity: I haven't seen The Assassination of Jesse James yet, and that might not be so far to Brad Pitt, particularly since I have seen Gone Baby Gone, which puts another credit in Freeman's corner. Lucky for Brad, it doesn't change the fact that he's accumulated more worthy credits in the past ten years. Weird to think about, but true. Advantage: Pitt
Quality: Pitt in Fight Club trumps Freeman in Nurse Betty. Advantage: Pitt
Fake Oscar Nods: Freeman: 1 (Nurse Betty); Pitt: 1 (Fight Club. Push
Spotlights Stolen: Both were in Seven. Both were quite good in Seven. While Pitt's performance remains underrated (the ability to carve such an odd duck out of a typically straight-man role is not easy), Freeman was award-caliber. Advantage: Freeman
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Whether he has any interest in it or not, Brad holds a decisive advantage when it comes to working a runway. Advantage: Pitt
Winner: Brad Pitt 3-1
Jake Gyllenhaal vs. Heath Ledger
Quantity: Ledger's excellent, excellent performance in Candy pulls him into a tie with Jake, who had momentarily snagged the lead via his Zodiac performance. Push.
Quality: Heath's lone Oscar nod was for his career best performance, which is rare. Our favorite Gyllenhaal performance is still Donnie Darko, but it doesn't quite measure up here. Advantage: Ledger
Fake Oscar Nods: Ledger: 1 (Brokeback Mountain); Gyllenhaal: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: So there was this movie called Brokeback Mountain... Heath's certainly getting a lot of mileage out of one performance, but rules are rules. Advantage: Ledger
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Ah! Now it's JAKE'S time to shine. Advantage: Gyllenhaal
Winner: Heath Ledger 3-1
Paul Giamatti vs. Jeffrey Wright
Quantity: Two superb character actors who have muscled careers for themselves by the sheer amount of ass they consistently kick onscreen. I'll say it right now: every role that ultimately goes to Denzel Washington should be offered to Jeffrey Wright first. Giamatti beats him here, though, due heavily to the fact that it seems you couldn't make a movie between 1997 and 2000 without having Giamatti in a pivotal bit part. Advantage: Giamatti
Quality: Giamatti's beleaguered drunk in Sideways was great, but not better than Wright in Angels In America. Advantage: Wright
Fake Oscar Nods: Giamatti: 2 (Sideways; American Splendor); Wright: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: Both were decidedly too good for M. Night Shyamalan's Lady In The Water. It's kind of unfair to say that Wright's role being smaller makes us like him more because there's less of an opportunity to embarrass himself by advancing Shyamalan's self-aggradizing fairy tale bullshit, but...here we are. Advantage: Wright
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Oh, Paul Giamatti. You are so very outgunned here. Advantage: Wright
Winner: Jeffrey Wright 3-2
Jeff Bridges vs. Leonardo DiCaprio
Quantity: Looking at their credits, neither of them have been all that prolific in the last decade. But when they do show up, it tends to be special. Note that DiCaprio isn't getting credit for his Oscar-nominated performance in Blood Diamond (haven't seen it), or two of his three Scorsese collaborations, The Departed and Gangs Of New York (didn't like 'em). That don't hurt him none, however: he still ekes out a victory over Jeff "Four Movies" Bridges. Advantage: DiCaprio
Quality: The one acclaimed DiCaprio performance I did dig was his work in The Aviator. It's more assured than his GONY turn and less overstuffed-with-tics than he was in The Departed. Good as it was, though, it's no match for Bridges's children's novelist/misanthropic sadist in The Door In The Floor. God, we should see that movie again. Advantage: Bridges
Fake Oscar Nods: Bridges: 2 (The Door In The Floor; The Big Lebowski); DiCaprio: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen (though we kind of think they'd make a good father and son).
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Is it just, or does Leo often seem a little wrapped to tightly at awards shows and such? Like he's trying to hard to make people forget about the Pussy Posse days that he's afraid to even breathe? We'll still take the Lebowski dream-sequence pimp walk, regardless. Advantage: Bridges
Winner: Jeff Bridges 3-1
Robert Downey Jr. vs. Peter Sarsgaard
Quantity: A best-in-show performance in this year's Year Of The Dog lets Sarsgaard eke out a slim win here. Advantage: Sarsgaard
Quality: They both manage to elevate good movies into great ones, but Downey carries Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in a way Sarsgaard doesn't quite in Shattered Glass. Advantage: Downey Jr.
Fake Oscar Nods: Sarsgaard: 2 (Jarhead; Shattered Glass); Downey Jr.: 1 (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang).
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Put him in a tux and far away from the junk and Downey can rock a runway with the best of 'em. Advantage: Downey Jr.
Winner: 2-2. HOLY CRAP IT'S A TIE! Vote wisely and once, you know the deal.
Bill Murray vs. Owen Wilson
Quantity: At the last minute, and with a typically charming (or charmingly typical if you're being less kind) turn in The Darjeeling Limited, Owen Wilson forces a Push.
Quality: Settling on Wilson's best performance (it's The Royal Tenenbaums, edging out Zoolander) is harder than deciding whether it trumps Murray's work in Lost In Translation. It doesn't. Advantage: Murray
Fake Oscar Nods: Murray: 2 (Lost In Translation; Rushmore); Wilson: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: Both being members of the Wes Anderson troupe means Wilson and Murray have shared a lot of screen time. They jockeyed for Gwyneth in The Royal Tenenbaums (edge to Wilson), they were estranged father and son in The Life Aquatic (big edge to Murray), and while it may not seem sporting, Murray's Darjeeling cameo can't stand up to Wilson's lead performance. Advantage: Wilson
Motherf*cking Walkoff: The Owen-Wilson-was-Hansel clause remains in effect. Advantage: Wilson
Winner: 2-2. OH MY GOD ANOTHER TIE. Please don't allow your feelings of sympathy about Wilson's suicide attempt or Murray being in Garfield 2 to cloud your judgment. Vote wisely and once.
That's two ties, then. Robert Downey Jr. v Peter Sarsgaard and Bill Murray v. Owen Wilson. Please vote for both in the comments.