8 Irritatingly Great Contributions Of Some Of Pop-Culture's Biggest Laughing Stocks
I don’t know about you, but I prefer to keep my irrational hatreds pure. So when I discover (or remember) that a Hollywood player that I think is worthy of scorn once contributed something truly great to the artistic landscape, my scathing bitchiness becomes, well, scathed. I prefer to snicker and sneer at the Michael Bays, Uwe Bolls and Brett Ratners of the world. But when you have to start being reasonable about someone’s body of work — when you have to take into consideration that there is some talent there somewhere — well, that ruins all the fun. Here are eight irritatingly great things that rain all over my hate parade. Damnit.
Sam Worthington — Somersault: Obviously, when I use the word “laughing stock” to refer to Sam Worthington, I’m using it in the strict Pajiba sense. Out in the real world, Sam-bo here is a much sought-after leading man who is laughing all the way to the Stock Market when he’s not rolling around in his Avatar millions. From my perspective, he’s one of the dullest lumps of leading man we’ve been asked to swallow in years. So I’d really like to believe that he lacks talent. But, er, then I saw Somersault. So it’s there, damnit, somewhere. Sleeping, I imagine.
Jay Leno — “Louie”: This is maybe the most personal and jarring entry on the list because in the two-parter “Late Show,” Leno plays himself. And it’s a wreck. The self-awareness and defeat that Leno exhibits here while portraying himself will make you feel for the man. I DON’T WANT TO FEEL FOR THIS MAN. Tears of a clown. It’s fantastic television and puts a major damper on the purity of my hate.
Kristen Stewart — Speak: When I mentioned a few weeks back that Into The Wild was the best thing Stewart had ever done, several commenters brought up Speak. I had read the distressing YA novel by Laurie Halse Anderson but somehow missed the movie entirely. (Perhaps because it aired on Showtime.) Stewart is brilliant in it, largely because her naturally sullen and withdrawn nature fit the character and the plot perfectly. I still maintain that Into The Wild is the furthest she’s stretched herself, but Speak is without a doubt her most powerful performance. Which is too bad because she really is so enjoyably joyless.
Joel Schumacher — Flawless: What are the first words that come to mind when you hear “Schumacher”? It’s okay, you can say it. It’s Bat Nipples, ain’t it? Never mind that Schumacher had a solid career of somewhat over-blown classics in the ’80s (St. Emlo’s Fire, Flatliners), Bat Nipples are his legacy. In case you thought that was an aberration, he went and out-cheesed Andrew Lloyd Webber with his hideous adaptation of Phantom Of The Opera. NO ONE OUT-CHEESES SIR ANDREW. Anyway, it would be convenient to write Schumacher off as a tasteless, ham-fisted director were it not for Flawless. The film lives up to its title and features a heart pulping performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman and DeNiro right on the cusp of his downward comedic spiral. (This came out the same year he starting Analyzing things and just before he met Ben Stiller.) It proves that Schumacher does have his heart in the right place. Even if it is buried under a rubber, be-nippled breast plate.
Charlie Sheen — Platoon: Sheen, of course, had a run at a legitimate leading man career in the ’80s. Between Wall Street, Platoon and Eight Men Out, it’s not hard to see that there once was something there. Now, Sheen is not just a laughing stock, he’s an actual monster. Made all the more grotesque by the fact that he was so beautiful once. And young.
Gerard Butler — Dear Frankie: Oh Gerry, Gerry, Gerry. I mean, when you hear Gerard Butler is attached to something these days, it’s not exactly a selling point is it? The man is quite charming in interviews, but his taste in projects? Yeaurgh. We’ll absolutely give him points for his voice-over work in How To Train Your Dragon, but I want to grab him by his curly Scottish mop and demand to see more of what he showed us in Dear Frankie. Stop messing about with Anistons, Heigls, soccer balls and surf boards, Leonidas, and give me something to believe in.
Shia LaBeouf — A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints: A lot of young actors are plucked from the Disney meat grinder and immediately slotted into god-awful action movies or Sparksian dramas. But not our Shia. He took a detour before hitting his stride with these dry, middle of the road thrillers. And while he was good enough in Disturbia, he was actually brilliant in A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints. Playing a young version of Robert Downey Jr. opposite a fresh-off-the-pole Channing Tatum, LaBeouf exhibited an emotional depth well beyond his years. Where that depth went, I’ll never know. Maybe he lost it while swinging on the vines with Indy. I doubt we’ll see it again.
Kate Hudson — Almost Famous: I’m sorry. I can’t not include the lovely Penny Lane. It’s in my Pajiba contract. Visions of her tear-streaked face, empty concert hall pirouettes, impish middle fingers and Quaalude-induced despair haunt me through every one of her empty-headed rom-coms and sleazy “Glee”-full shimmies. She was the best. Just the best. And how can I hate her now when I loved her with all my heart?