The leading men are either pumped up and dim or paunchy whiners who still live with their parents. Hollywood actors used to have more range. Even in the hippie era there was Robert Redford, who could do romantic comedy then convincingly portray legendary Indian fighter Jeremiah Johnson. Now we have Zach Galifianakis, Jeremiah Johnson’s ugly brother, playing the type of guy who couldn’t fight his way up to the bar at happy hour.
It’s not only that the current crop contains few men who can play badass, heroic types. It’s that they apparently can’t even play strong, ordinary guys who have to deal with bad bosses, joblessness, poverty and other ordinary problems.
A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis recently wrote:
The male archetypes populating contemporary movies don’t line up with reality, yet they offer clues about what the men of our dreams look like, or at least what moviemakers are trying to sell us. What do men want? What does it mean to be a man? How does a man relate to other men? And perhaps above all, how does he relate to women, who increasingly occupy a separate sphere on the big screen…
OK, there are relatively young male stars with gravitas — Ewan McGregor, Jude Law, Matt Damon and a few others.
But look at most of them — Zach, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Steve Carroll, Ryan Gosling, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Kevin James, Shia LaBeouf, on and on — and tell me what there is that’s admirable or even interesting about the new “archetypes.” Do women really want see movies about homely guys who seem apathetic and lame? Or about guys who can’t assert themselves unless they turn into comic book superheroes? Or are such movies aimed only at male audiences?
Clarification: Yes, every generation thinks the next generation sucks, but in this case the evidence is too damning to allow for any other conclusion. Wanna fight about it? I didn’t think so.
For women readers: Who are your favorite male movie actors?
Uh-huh!!!!! You’ve been sneaking looks at movies like In Harms Way, The man who shot Liberty Valance, Big Country, The Vikings, From Here to Eternity, etc. It is hard to imagine the current crop even holding the jock straps of folks like Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Burt Lancaster, Chuck Connors, Gregory Peck, Humprey Bogart and Clark Gable. Even the older actors had more b – – – s, like George C Scott, Earnest Borgnine, Lorne Greene, Brodrick Crawford – hell Burl Ives looks like the incredible hulk campared to most of the specimens you mentioned.
Thanks for reading, Sandy. Which current actors do you like? Who’s in the same league with the old guys?
Hanks, Sometimes Gibson, Hanks, Sometimes Costner, Hanks, Keanu Reeves, Damon, Hanks, and Hanks. Older fart new guys – Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery (always), Nickolson, Michael Caine.
I’ve got to agree with you. It seems like more and more people are becoming famous based on everything but credentials. Good post!
There really is just a small handful of actors these days who can come close to filling the shoes of those versatile Hollywood legends. My faves …. Steve Buscemi. William H. Macy. Kevin Spacey. George Clooney. Johnny Depp. Possibly Matt Damon and maybe even Brad Pitt. On the fence (but leaning ever so slightly toward yes) on Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey. Steve Carell is a great funny man, but pretty one-sided. I can’t agree with Sandy about Hanks, though. I find him repulsive and a terrible actor (along with his female counterpart, Julia Roberts — my worst entertainment nightmare came true when those two overrated blowhards started making movies together. Sorry, Sandy.)
All of my contrarian friends — you know who you are — should subscribe to David’s blog.
Brad Pitt, definitely. His recent work in “Inglourious Basterds” was a delight. George Clooney in anything. Tom Hanks when he plays against type (see “That Thing You Do!” and “Punchline.”) Sean Connery in anything.
Johnny Depp is always good, sort of a versatile David Niven type. Hugh Grant’s got that Cary Grant quality. Even when he’s in really crappy comedies, Robert DeNiro always raises the bar. I actually really like Leonard DiCaprio – I always forget how good he is.
I go out of my way to watch Matt Damon in anything. Gene Hackman is still great. Denzel Washington and John Travolta often pick bad films, but I’ll watch them anyway because of that star quality. Same for Dustin Hoffman — but not Jack Nicholson. He’s not wearing well.
Thomas Jane (“Hung”) has the potential to be a breakout star. Same for Aaron Eckhart (“Thank You For Smoking”).
I’ll watch Billy Bob Thorton in most things. I like Vince Vaughn, too, but damned if I can tell you why, because he’s got the range of a log. I was never a huge Steve Buscemi fan, but after watching “Boardwalk Empire,” I am now.
George Clooney’s the only one who comes close to carrying Gary Cooper’s jockstrap.
At the upper end of the age range I would have to say Daniel Craig, Clive Owen, Javier Bardem, Russell Crowe, Ken Watanabe – all non-Americans. I agree with Margaret and Susie on Clooney and Thornton, with Sandy on Damon. But these are all old guys. From the younger generation: Adrian Brody, Jon Hamm, and a few I think hold promise – Jesse Eisenberg, Topher Grace, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Can’t we think of one black man other than Denzel?
Oh, I forgot about Billy Bob, Travolta, Denzel and Hugh Grant! Yeah, all my “young” faves are actually older. Definitely agree on Brody. Not sure about the others from MT’s younger-gen list. Isn’t Joseph Gordon-Levitt the kid from Third Rock?
Let me take this moment to wistfully say, again, R.I.P. Heath Leger.
And add Jude Law to my list of favorites.
Black actors – Isiah Washington, Idris Elba, Don Cheadle, Joe Morton.
Also, maybe not the best actor ever, but John Cusak is one that I will watch in anything, although I liked him best in his interview with Naomi Klein.