Thursday, February 07, 2008

Beyond Actor-dome: The Semifinals

64 men enter. One man leaves.

A few words on the criteria: I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1996 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 '96 (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).


Johnny Depp vs. Ian McKellen
Quantity: For an iconoclastic artiste like Johnny Depp, he sure works a lot. And he sure made a hell of a lot of crap in the late 1990s. Still, he made enough good ones (Sleepy Hollow; Pirates 1) and enough so-so ones (Secret Window; Pirates 2) to make up for the bad ones that don't count (The Astronaut's Wife; Pirates 3). Advantage: Depp
Quality: Depp's newfound crown jewel of the last ten years, murderous barber Sweeney Todd, presents an interesting challenge to Ian McKellen's James Whale. Neither will win the Oscar they've got coming to them. Whale manages to be quietly devastating while Sweeney's devastation is a bit more...overt. Subtlety reigns, as ever. Advantage: McKellen
Fake Oscar Nods: McKellen: 2 (Gods And Monsters/LotR: The Fellowship Of The Ring); Depp: 1 (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Yikes! Difficult! Depp's certainly got what Tyra would call a signature walk, all carefully calibrated flamboyance and bohemianism. Plus, he's been legally adopted by France at this point, and you know how seriously they take their fashion. And yet: Ian McKellen. Remember that scene in X-Men where we see Magneto in his lair and he walks across this makeshift walkway of free-floating metal sheets that he controls with his mind. It may have defied all laws of physics, even allowing for the fact that he controls all metal (sure, the steel sticks to his feet, but wouldn't he and the metal just go plummeting to the ground?), but he worked that quasi-runway. Advantage: McKellen
Winner: Ian McKellen 3-1

Matt Damon vs. Clive Owen
Quantity: Total blowout. It seems every time I write a new one of these Matt Damon picks up a new credit. Welcome, The Bourne Ultimatum, to Matt Damon's ever-expanding c.v. Advantage: Damon
Quality: Let's talk, shall we, about Clive Owen's performance in Closer. How he can manage to be disgusting, charming, attractive, domineering, whimpering, sexy, sexist, predatory, overmatched, witty, boorish, conniving, and monstrously petty all at once is a sight to behold. The scene in the strip club alone, a pas de deux between Clive and Natalie Portman that's just as riveting every time I see it, should have been enough on its own to earn them both Oscars. Advantage: Owen
Fake Oscar Nods: Damon: 2 (The Departed; Ocean's Eleven); Owen: 1 (Closer). [Confession: I've been totally short-changing Matt Damon all this time by forgetting the fact that I'd totally have nominated him for Ocean's Twelve. Such an underrated performance, but it's easily my favorite in the movie.]
Spotlights Stolen: Do you remember Clive Owen being in The Bourne Identity? Neither do I. Advantage: Damon
Motherf*cking Walkoff: So here we are. Matt Damon: Sexiest Man Alive, as determined by science and People magazine. Clive Owen: the James Bond-er of the two by a rather wide margin. No matter who loses, we all win, is my opinion. By a margin as slim as a quantum of solace...Advantage: Owen
Winner: Matt Damon 3-2

So, by God, after six months, two home cities, and endless reader frustration (sorry, guys -- thanks for sticking around!), we've arrived at our finale: Matt Damon versus Ian McKellen. As we did in the Actress Tournament, I'm going to put this up for a readers' vote ahead of time, just so the ultimate winner isn't an anti-climax. So here's your space kids: vote for your winner wisely and once.


Deirdre said...

This would be a much harder choice if it were the other two semi-finalists (I'm devastated to see Depp go, I must admit). I could listen to McKellen talk all day, but I'm not hugely fond of any of the films I've ever seen him in except Gods and Monsters.

Besides which, since there's no Oscar category for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical Beat-Down of Jimmy Kimmel, this is the best reward I can think of for Damon's brilliance in a certain Sarah Silverman video. Damon, for the win.

harlemjd said...

I was all set to say McKellen, until Deirdre's mention of a certain video reminded me of Damon's cameo in Eurotrip.

I gotta say Damon.

Kris McN said...

See, I was going to say Damon, and then I remembered McKellen's appearance in Extras. I can't remember laughing that hard at anything else in recent times. I know it's TV and not the movies, but seriously...

I gotta say McKellen.

Rinaldo said...

Man, break my heart with two actors I'm devoted to (and a scant 8 years ago, I'd never have believed I'd come to feel that way about Damon -- The Talented Mr. Ripley is when he got my attention, in a big way).

Because I feel that he still has surprises in him.... It's Matt D.

Jennifer said...

McKellen by a mile.

jessica said...

Can I first say, Joe, how spot-on your breakdown of Owen's Closer performance was? Perfectly crystalized every thought I've had about it, and more. Awesome.

Secondly, I have to admit I was pretty ambivalent about the tourney from a "Who's Going to Win?" standpoint for most of the duration. However, I'm kind of surprised how thoroughly pleased I am with the finalists and, subsequently, how difficult the decision is. My first instinct is Damon for various reasons but mostly Will & Grace, but McKellen holds a special place in my heart for his entrance into the 2004 Oscar ceremony and his instructions on changing a tire. (God, I hope that link works.)

I'm going with Damon, but only because I hate LOTR and haven't yet seen Gods and Monsters. (I suck, I know, but no more than Joe does for just now seeing Sense and Sensibility.)

NYOne said...

Damon, by the slimmest of margins. This is a tough call, but it feels like a win-win(-win) no matter who comes out on top. Good times!

JS said...

It's only right that these two would meet it out.

I'll have to go to my Mr. Ripley, Matt Damon.

Anonymous said...


Carrie Ann said...

Matt Damon! Though I also love McKellen.

Emily said...

Wow. What a tough call. The Sarah Silverman video is the latest notch in my belt of love for Damon, an actor I couldn't embrace until the Bourne movies.

But, in the end I have to go with Ian. He is outstanding in most everything he does, but gets the vote for Gandalf.

The Bloody Munchkin said...

Wow, very evenly matched. I'm kind of all torn up here. But I think I'm going to have to go with McKellen, because his performance as Richard the III that I watched in college is still haunting.

SecretMargo said...

McKellen (yes, for Richard III)

JA said...


I can blame my lack of much enthusiasm for Matt Damon on not having watched the Bourne films yet, but my eternal devotion to Ian McKellen was cemented by that tittering whisper-bitch session he had with Mystique in X2.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is hard!

I've gotta say Damon though.

TSquare said...

First off... hard to see Clive Owen go, but understandable (especially against Damon).

That being said, if only for And the Band Played On living in my heart (and occasionally spewing from my tear ducts): Ian McKellen.

pvt. awesome said...

McKellen for the gold!

Stephanie said...

I'm a little brokenhearted because Depp and Owen are my favourite actors currently working. But at least this way I don't have to choose between them.

I'm voting for Damon. He just gives 'er on every single role. It doesn't matter if he's hosting SNL or being directed by Scorsece, he's always good. And a lot of the time, he's fantastic.

adam k. said...

I'm gonna have to go with McKellen - he just has a special place in my heart, whereas I've always thought of Damon as a tad on the boring side, despite his occasionally hitting upon something really interesting. I also don't think he's as hot as most people (especially gay guys) seem to. I just don't like his face. But anyway. Yeah I guess I'm shallow.

I must admit I've never seen any of the Bourne movies. I suck, I know.

Jenn Horvath said...

This is so tough, because the LoTR films are my favorite of all-time, and no one else could ever be Gandalf. But I think the "quantity" bit is the decisive factor here. While McKellen has been spectacular in a few, Damon has been great in many.


Kamikaze Camel said...

McKellen. He owned the last decade, didn't he?