4 Great Artists Who Make it Really Hard Not To Hate Them
I sort of hated writing this article. It involves writing about an artist (actor, filmmaker, whatever), and evaluating them based on things that have nothing to do with their work, and I hate the idea of it so much.
My problem is I work on the Internet for a site that dabbles in entertainment. So, for better or worse, my career choice forces me to be exposed to articles and stories and interviews about an artist instead of their art. I can't un-read Entertainment Weekly or Gawker or any other entertainment news-rag. I am stuck with whatever information gets shot directly at my face via the Internet. As a result, my love for certain artists has been tainted -- so I present this article. In an ideal world, entertainment blogs the net over will read this and decide, "Hey, maybe we should stop talking about what Martin Scorsese's like in real life because it turns out no one gives a shit."
But that probably won't happen.
In 1994, Kevin Smith made Clerks for under $30,000. It was shot with a very light crew, cast with a bunch of Smith's friends and filmed quickly. It was incredibly successful for an independent film and is hilarious. (It's mostly just two friends bullshitting about pop culture and making dick jokes for a little under two hours, so it's not hard to see why a Cracked employee would enjoy it.) But it wasn't just funny. Clerks achieved cult status because Kevin Smith didn't go to film school, and he didn't have any connections and he had made no mark in Hollywood. He was just a regular funny guy who loved movies so much that decided to make one. The success of a movie like Clerks is a win for the little guy. Kevin Smith is just an average dude who worked hard to achieve his dreams. He made a movie without big stars, and without a studio and he managed to make $3 million at the box office. It was an inspiration to any group of friends anywhere that dreamed of one day making films. (Shooting videos with our friends and no budget is basically all we do here on the Internet.)
Kevin Smith is just like everyone.
After Clerks, Smith went on to make a bunch of other mostly funny and mostly successful films. But, in every interview, he still came across as just a regular guy who dug movies. Sure, he made some weak movies, but even Cop Out has a scene where Tracy Morgan punches a child in the dick. So how bad can it be really? And even if he makes a REALLY shitty movie, he just seems like a cool guy, the type of dude you want to sit down and have a beer with. His speaking engagements are always hilarious, his Podcasts are entertaining, and he always struck me as very down to Earth and just naturally funny. There's a video of him making fun of a heckler at Comic-Con and it always brings a smile to my face. Always charming, always self-deprecating. Real class act.
Also he's from Jersey, so we must stick together.
But, Unfortunately ...
Kevin Smith can sort of be a huge baby. He never used to have a problem with critics but, over the last few years, he's campaigned against them several times, on his podcast, in interviews or on Twitter. He doesn't like the idea of letting a bunch of critics see his movie for free if they're just going to shit on it; he'd rather just show it to fans and friends and his Twitter followers.
The thing is, it's not that he just suddenly said, "I don't like critics anymore." He started his anti-critics crusade immediately after they gave bad reviews of Cop Out. Once critics admitted that this one movie he made was maybe kind of shitty, he took to Twitter and said that, in the future, he's done with critics' screenings, and he very clearly stated that he would not do press interviews to promote his latest movie. He's even distributing it himself, which would be cool, but his reason is that he refuses to let anyone else distribute it because "they don't get it." It's the director's equivalent of taking your ball away when you get tagged out at the schoolyard.
It's always hard to hear or read criticism about something you made, but there are better ways to handle it. We get our fair share of criticism in the comments here at Cracked. For all of the wonderful folks who support us, there are plenty that have nothing but negative things to say. Usually it's to the tune of "This article would've been better if it wasn't written by such a shithead" or "I liked you better last year, before you got all that shit in your head," or "Uh, actually, [fart noise fart noise fart noise]." Happens to all of us. You can read and then brush off the comments, or you can read and make adjustments in the future in an effort to cater to a few of the unhappy commenters, or you can straight up not read the comments. I've done all three.
What I haven't done is shut off the comments section, and I haven't gone to Twitter to bitch about people who don't like the things that I like. And I'm not going to ban certain people from reading anything I do, because that's not how life works. It just sounds cowardly, Kevin Smith, who I otherwise like very much. It's really easy to avoid ever having to hear negative feedback if you only show your movie to people who already like it.
Daniel Day-Lewis threw a buttload of knives in Gangs of New York and screamed about milkshakes in There Will Be Blood. Those two things alone make you a good actor in my book. (My book is called I Don't Know How Acting Works by Dan O'Brien.)
Bill the Butcher, Daniel Plainview, Abraham Lincoln, Hawkeye -- his IMDB page reads like a roll-call full of unapologetic badasses. And, according to rumor, when he's not out pretending to be badass, he's actually doing it in real life, riding his motorcycle through the mountains of Ireland and working as a carpenter or shoe-cobbler, or building houses. You get the idea that he's an old-school, hardworking, red-blooded hardass. He's not like one of those fancy, pampered Hollywood actors. He's a Guy; the kind of person you can sit and have a steak with.
But, Unfortunately ...
He's not the badass we want him to be. For one thing, most of the time he dresses like some kind of weird Lumberjack Glam Cowboy.
It's like he's the lead singer of a band that isn't sure if it wants to be grunge or The Fray (but from the future). When he accepted his Academy Award for My Left Foot he took the stage with a slow glide in a dress-length tux jacket and spoke using odd, almost-creepy metaphors and heightened language, like some kind of poet vampire. He opened his There Will Be Blood speech with "My deepest thanks to the Academy for whacking me with the handsomest bludgeon in town." Which, sure, is eloquent and interesting, I suppose, but also weird as shit.
"The ghost of Gay Ernest Hemingway, ladies and gentleman!"
Now, I'm not one to judge fashion; I wear a white T-shirt every day of my life -- my policy on stains is tolerant at best and irresponsible at worst -- but that's also not my only hang-up when it comes to Plainview. Day-Lewis' decision to dress himself as a Wild West space-clown notwithstanding, he's also completely crazy. He's one of those actors that a lot of other actors can't stand. Liam Neeson hates him because Day-Lewis refused to not call Neeson by his character name during Gangs of New York even when they weren't on set, and Paul Dano is uncomfortable because Day-Lewis threw actual bowling balls at him during There Will Be Blood. (And Dano wasn't even the first actor to play the priest in that movie; the original quit because Day-Lewis was too crazy.) In My Left Foot, he made the crew push him around in a wheelchair, even when the camera's stopped rolling, because he never wanted to be out of character.
It's wonderful that he's committed to a performance and, yes, the work shows because he absolutely crushes every role he's ever had. But it's hard to watch him in a movie knowing that he's making everyone around him miserable in real life because he demands to be called "The Butcher" or "Daniel Plainview" or "Mr. Crucible" (I, uh ... didn't see The Crucibile).
"Boy, that sure was one CRAZY crucible!"
Ben Affleck ... As a Director
If you haven't seen Affleck's directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, you absolutely should. It's a well-executed detective mystery that features Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Casey Affleck being surprisingly awesome and Omar from The Wire. It's got everything: action, suspense, a few laughs and also Omar from The Wire.
His second film, The Town, while chastised by critics for its notable lack of Omar, might be one of the smartest and most entertaining heist films in a long time. He's not reinventing any genres or breaking any boundaries, or anything. But as far as just making cool movies that are enjoyable to watch, Affleck's pretty competent as a director.
But, Unfortunately ...
Unfortunately, we have to put up with Ben Affleck as [literally anything else he's ever done]. For someone who knows how to cast, direct and write movies, he really doesn't know how to pick them.
The amount of shitty movies he's been associated with dwarfs the amount of awesome movies he's been associated with and, until that ratio shifts, it's just not safe for anyone to say, "I can't wait for the next Ben Affleck movie" in this entertainment climate.
Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds.
... I don't really need to go on about why Quentin Tarantino's awesome, right? He's one of the most consistently entertaining filmmakers working right now. He's always telling new, interesting stories and he's always telling them in inventive ways. He writes some of the sharpest dialogue and pulls fantastic performances out of every actor he works with. A lot of people feel like he trips himself up too much with his constant tributes to old, obscure foreign films. Or maybe they hate the fact that he packs all of his movies with his personal pop culture observations, because he wants to show off how damn clever he is, but I don't care. He's really talented, so there's a lot I'll let him get away with.
But, Unfortunately ...
This fucking guy.
I have not come across a single interview with Quentin Tarantino that didn't make him sound like the most pretentious, arrogant and egotistical person on the planet (and I am a person who routinely Googles myself). He's never one to shy away from praising Quentin Tarantino, whether he's cockily telling an interviewer that "Inglorious was so good, I don't know how I'm going to top myself," or just generally acting like a total fucking lunatic at awards shows, you don't have to look too far to find examples of douchechill-inspiring Tarantino-isms.
Seriously, watch that video I linked, it's really mind-boggling.
Still, he knows he's good, and I guess there's nothing wrong with that. No one says you have to be humble. And I did say that his talent lets him get away with a lot.
But he had to keep pushing it. Probably the most aggravating dig came up during Inglorious Basterds. I really, really enjoyed that film. I thought it was smart, funny, entertaining and avoided all of the usual ticks that make Tarantino's movies feel so aggressively ... Tarantino-esque. It was a well-done movie that was surprisingly not full of itself, and when it was almost over, I thought, This might be his masterpiece.
Then, of course, the ending hit, and I grunted audibly in the theater. In case you've forgotten how it ends, Brad Pitt's Aldo Raine and Ryan from The Office's Ryan from The Office attack Christoph Waltz in the woods and carve a swastika into his forehead. Their work complete, they stand over Christoph and look down at him ...
... and Lt. Raine says "Private Ryan Howard, I think this just might be my masterpiece." And then it immediately smash-cuts to ...
I can't think of a more aggravatingly douchey way to end a movie than by having an actor say, direct-to-camera, "This is my masterpiece," and then instantly jumping to your giant "WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY" title card. He couldn't just let the movie stand on its own as a great movie, he had to come out and indirectly say, "I know how awesome I am."
And now that I mention it, I can think of a douchier way to end a movie. When the movie came out, Tarantino said in an interview that, when he was originally writing the script, he intended to play the role of Aldo Raine himself. Which means the ending of the movie was almost ...
Aaaaand we've reached the limit. If anyone has ever wondered how far being super talented would get them, it is precisely that moment.