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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Men Who Flop

On Sunday, Hollywood will shell out Oscars to recognize the actors, actresses and movies who do the best job at promoting their Oscar-worthiness. Oh, all right. The Oscars probably identify some of the best performances and some of the best film-making over the course of the night, too.

There are names that are synonymous with film acclaim. Relatively contemporary ones include Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Kate Winslet, Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, even Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Beyond racking up nominations and sometimes wins, these names and others like them are usually reliable indicators that the movie they are in is decent. They can't all be Sophie's Choice or Forrest Gump, but you can also trust that you won't catch Kate Winslet running around screaming in Scream 5.

Then there is another set of actors and actresses. The set I'm referring to boasts the distinct dishonor of tending to be associated with movies that are, well, bad to awful. In fact, these actors and actresses have been in so many bad-to-awful movies that their name on the marquee has become a shorthand for a bad review, a rotten tomato, or a blinking light saying "don't waste your money on this one."

Below are the actors I'd put in this less distinguished category. I've taken the reality television stars, musicians, and supermodels out of the mix, because that's just too obvious and too easy. On Friday, I will identify the five lucky actresses fit to be pegged here.

The Actors

Luke Wilson: If he's part of an ensemble cast, hopefully one including his brother Owen, you can be somewhat assured that the movie will be somewhat entertaining. I'm thinking here, of course, of The Royal Tenenbaums and Old School. Even Legally Blonde, where he was a background-type. But if Luke has to carry the picture? Oh, boy. That's when you get movies like My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Super no.

Shia LaBeouf: This kid took a popular series and a cultural classic, respectively, and managed to tarnish each of their reputations. He played the young version of the titular character in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull, which went on to be ranked by some as the most disappointing movie ever released. He also had the lead in the equally-disappointing sequel to Wall Street. Basically, he makes you feel like you've wasted your time when you try to spell his name correctly.

Nicolas Cage: Poor Nicolas Cage. He won an Oscar back in 1996 for his performance as a suicidal alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas. Now he can't get anyone in Hollywood to buy him a drink. At least, not the right people. Dogged by money problems thanks to his lavish spending habits, he is now seemingly compelled to take whatever bad role is offered to him. I mean, I think most people believe that Gone in Sixty Seconds is the description of his 21st century movie career, and that National Treasure is some kind of desperate subliminal message.

Gerard Butler: Now we're really getting to the cream of this crop. Mr. Butler got some acclaim thanks to 300, but I think that was mostly because people love to watch large batches of other people die in technicolor. He managed to follow that success up with the likes of P.S. I Love You, which single-handedly knocked Hilary Swank's career off the Oscar track, and The Bounty Hunter, which managed to make us all wonder if we'd actually been giving Jennifer Aniston too much credit.

Josh Duhamel: But lovely Josh Duhamel really takes the cake. He's easy on the eyes and hard on the conscience, as we all know the authorities allow him to go home with Fergie every night. I'm not sure he's ever been in a remotely decent movie. His newest release, Safe Haven, kind of epitomizes his entire career. He plays a stereotypical heartthrob-in-lumberjack's clothing in a stereotypical coastal village who sweeps a stereotypical damsel in distress off her stereotypical uneven footing. The movie comes complete with a save-the-damsel-from-a-raging-fire-scene. And lines like "I've had things happen to me in the past, things that still scare me," and "there's no safer place for you than here with me."


Who would you add or subtract? And who would you award with the title of Best Indication The Movie Will Be Bad?


  1. Vin Diesel, Robert Pattison (sp?--not even worth Googling).

    Good call, Sarah. Though, I think we could make a separate category for guys like him and Cage who have gone from bankable to laughable in the last 10-15 years.

  2. Excellent calls, Ben and Sarah. Keanu is very Cage-esque, and Ben's category perfectly sums them up. Also agree on Vin Diesel and RPattz. This could be a long list!

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with the Josh Duhamel nomination. Nicolas Sparks sends him bountiful tributes so that he stays the "insert template of good looking, empty man-child who utters the nursey rhyme-like lines with a vacant look that attempts to seem deep" characters that good ole' Sparky writes books about.

    Nic Cage is just so...irritating to watch. I should probably seek therapy to discover why the sound of his voice makes me a teeth grinding individual much to the despair of my dentist.

    I have to throw a name in the ring-Channing Tatum. You run the chance of falling under a hynotic spell if you watch his super shiny (greased) abs move around like there is a flashing medallion in your face. Once someone claps four times and says the word "Actor", you emerge from this stupor and realize that dancing is really all he is good at-and he's great at it! He should have stuck to the pole.

    That's my 2 cents.


  4. Abby,
    Nic Cage is Oscar-worthy:

  5. Keanu always delights me and I will see Fast 6 the day it comes out, so there's a chance I'm not the greatest guy to weigh in. That said: Adam Sandler hasn't made a watchable movie in 15 years.

    Guys who also aren't great thespians that I still enjoy: Steven Seagal. Jason Statham in the role of smooth talking badass British guy. Sly Stallone and his battle with the English language.

    1. While Adam Sandler is an excellent call, your wisdom is put into question by the confessions surrounding your nomination.

  6. I see you Taylor Lautiner (sp...and just like Ben). I. See. You.

    1. Taylor Lautner is both a good addition and the classic actor you would dislike.

  7. Other than his good looks, I really don't understand the appeal of Ryan Gosling.

  8. "Snipes," this MAY be the first thing I've ever disagreed with you on. I thought he was good in Drive and excellent in Blue Valentine, Half Nelson and Lars and The Real Girl. He does get by on charm/looks in some movies, but I think he's also proven that he can act. And in terms of being associated with a movie, I think the only bomb he's been in is the recent Gangster Squad thing.

  9. Now we're really getting to the cream of this crop. = great line