I went to go see Crazy Heart last night (OK movie, pretty good main performance and music, Maggie Gyllenhall ruins it like it’s The Dark Knight). But I got to see one of those trailers that make the movie-going experience. Now, I’m a trailer whore…I always make sure to get there to see them, and think a good one is an art form in and of itself. A good one makes seeing the movie a definite and sends you into the featured film on a high; or it lets you feel superior to the people around you laughing at stupid jokes and gives you glimpses of horrible movies you’ll never see. This was one of the former:
Noah Baumbach making a personal story with music by LCD Soundsystem? Uh, yes…thank you, trailer for letting me know this existed. Baumbach directed one of my top ten movies of all time (Kicking and Screaming…no, not the Will Ferrell soccor movie…aarrgghh), and then failed and/or disappeared for a decade until The Squid and The Whale…this might be a story he’s connected to. Using All My Friends (one of my top ten songs of the ’00s) guarantees I’m paying attention. And Ben Stiller looks perfect for this role.
But that’s also the part that makes me worried. I’m a Ben Stiller fan from way back…I was one of the twelve people who watched the Ben Stiller Show when it was actually on. That’s because he was my favorite SNL cast member before he was quickly fired. He’s an enormous talent, even if he seems like a total douchebag. But he’s on one of the longest bad movie streaks out there. Will he jinx “Greenberg”?
Now I’m not talking about people like Will Smith or Sandra Bullock. They’re likeable enough, I guess, but their talent lies mostly in putting butts in the seats. I’d guess that they miss on purpose most of the time, because the “properties” they make are calculated to be popular. I’m talking about talented actors who have missed for so long that it’s shocking. Most of their streaks start at the end of their most fertile period, and don’t become apparent until a decade or so in. The longest streaks going right now:
Stiller: This streak is 9 years old (and hopefully ending soon). After Meet The Parents, Zoolander and The Royal Tennenbaums in a two-year period, Stiller simply stopped making good films. Even most of the movies he did cameos in sucked. Lowlights include The Night At The Museum 1 and 2, The Heartbreak Kid and Starsky and Hutch. Some would argue for Dodgeball or Tropic Thunder, but neither were funny.
Steve Martin: This one hurts, and was pointed out by The Dilemma (most of the stuff he has to do with hurts). In fairness, during this period he wrote the best book ever about comedy and recorded some killer bluegrass banjo. Between 1987-91, he made Roxanne, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Dirty Rotten Scoundrals, Parenthood, L.A. Story, Father of the Bride and Grand Canyon, one of the best comedy runs in history. Since then, it’s been 19 years (19 years!) of pretty much nothing. Lowlights include Cheaper by the Dozen 1 and 2, Sgt. Bilko, The Pink Panther 1 and 2, and Mixed Nuts. There have been a few good movies scattered in there, The Spanish Prisoner and Bowfinger especially. But once a streak reaches 10 years, you need at least two good movies in a row to break it.
Eddie Murphy: Well-known and breathtaking. From 48 Hrs. in 1982 to Coming to America in 1988, he was The Man. Since then, the best pure comedy talent of this generation has produced close to nothing, except a bad movie nearly every year. ’89 – Harlem Nights, ’90 – Another 48 Hrs.. ’92 – The Distinguished Gentleman, ’94 – Beverly Hills Cop III, ’95 – Vampire in Brooklyn, ’97 – Metro, ’98 – Holy Man, ’99 – Life, ’00 – The Nutty Professor II, ’01 – Doctor Doolittle 2, ’02 – The Adventures of Pluto Nash, ’03 – Daddy Day Care, ’07 – Norbit, ’08 – Meet Dave, ’09 – Imagine That. Whew…that’s only 6 years in the past 21 where he didn’t make a horrible movie…and plenty of them had multiple bombs, I just picked the worst one per year. Included are some of the biggest bombs of all time…for instance, Pluto Nash cost $100 million and made $7 million worldwide…it’s amazing that he still gets money to make movies. And he cost himself an Oscar by publicizing such an embarrassing movie (Norbit) that voters were force to go for the safe choice (Alan Arkin). One of his few good films during this period is also Bowfinger…maybe two negatives make a positive in movies.
Robert DeNiro: Ever since Scorsese replaced him with his trophy wife Leo, Bobby hasn’t be the same. From Mean Streets in ’73 to Jackie Brown in ’97, he made some of the greatest movies of all time. Everyone knows the Scorsese movies, but he was also in Brazil, Once Upon a Time in America, The Mission and Midnight Run. In three of the best mob movies ever made, he played an Italian, an Irishman and a Jew…now that’s range. In the past 13 years? Meet the Parents is literally the only good movie (and is it coincidence it began Stiller’s streak?). Unless you love Men of Honor, Showtime, What Just Happened or Righteous Kill.
Al Pacino Or maybe it was Heat that was the curse. Like DeNiro, he had a couple of good flicks after (Donnie Brasco, The Insider); since ’99, bubkis. I still can’t believe S1m0ne didn’t work.