Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I apparently might also love Ben Affleck...

I'm changing some stuff around here. I will no longer be posting every Monday, instead I will be posting whenever something is finished. I've rushed a couple of my last posts, and I don't like that. This isn't a job, I have no real deadline to make, so I'm going to take some extra time and do a better job.

I originally put that "posting every Monday" thing into play because I was worried I would just stop writing, but that has not been a problem. Finding a satisfactory conclusion has been, and hopefully more time and thought will fix that. So, I will (hopefully) post at least four things a month, but there won't necessarily be a post every Monday.

Since I am desperate to keep the few readers I have, if you don't have Google reader and want me to notify you when I post something new, I will gladly do so. I'm not going to post my e-mail here, but comment if you want notifications and we'll figure something out.

And now onto the real reason you should be here:

"Stop giving Ben Affleck such a hard time. He occasionally shows that he's really talented, he just makes poor choices with the movies he chooses to be in."
-my oft-repeated argument/apology for Ben Affleck

"It's really cool, I liked it a lot... But I don't think it will age well."
-my description of Gone Baby Gone, November 2007

"I don't know what the fuck I was thinking in November 2007... this is a great, great movie that will absolutely hold up over time. And I was right about Ben Affleck! SUCK IT!"
-my thoughts about my description of Gone Baby Gone from November 2007, November 2009
I won't lie, I'm a big fan of the brothers Affleck. I've been an apologist for Ben for longer than I can remember, and if you read my post about the Assassination of Jesse James, you know how I feel about Casey. It seems that every review of this movie (like, ever) has to mention that they are brothers, and just how bad of an actor Ben Affleck is, and how surprised people are that he made a good movie. This is me fulfilling that obligation.

I also feel that I should explain why I have defended Ben Affleck for so long. I think that reason is a combination of Chasing Amy, and a couple of scenes in Good Will Hunting. He is really good in Chasing Amy in general (I haven't watched the movie since high school and realize it is probably the most dated movie ever by now, but I'm sure he's still good), and there are those two scenes towards the end of Good Will Hunting.

SPOILER ALERT: This next paragraph will potentially ruin Good Will Hunting if you haven't seen it. Skip ahead if you want, but the movie as a whole isn't very good so you won't be missing out on much if I spoil it. Plus, I'm saving you from having to watch Minnie Driver act.

I don't like Good Will Hunting very much: I think it's far too Hollywoodized, Minnie Driver's head is fucking HUGE, and when you think about it, very little of the movie actually makes sense. What does make sense, and what are clearly the best scenes in the movie, are the ones between Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Their last scene together at the construction yard is one of my favourite scenes ever, and that it sums up everything that's good about a friend you are really close with. There is one line especially where Affleck's voice wavers just the tiniest bit, and it's absolutely perfect. Later, in Affleck's final scene, the expression he makes when walking back to the car is just as perfect. I don't like the movie, but I've watched it about 5 times just to see those scenes in context… Even if every other scene he was ever in was absolute trash, I would defend Affleck to the death for these moments alone.


Was I surprised that Ben Affleck directed a good movie? No, not at all… especially since he has never really come across as an idiot to me. Maybe dating J-Lo was a poor idea, but don't act like you wouldn't have if given the chance.

FINE, alright, he shouldn't have been in so many shitty, shitty action movies. Yes, Paycheck and Pearl Harbor are two of the worst movies I've ever seen. But, check out these movies:
  • Mallrats (I'm not a big fan from what I recall, but people love this movie)
  • Chasing Amy (assuming his performance has aged well)
  • Dogma (again, not a fan of the movie, but him and Matt Damon were great)
  • Reindeer Games (honestly, all I remember about this one are Charlize Theron's boobs, but isn't that enough to make it a great, timeless film?)
  • Boiler Room (a very cool movie)
  • Changing Lanes (this is a really good movie)
  • Dazed and Confused (IT'S DAZED AND CONFUSED!)
Boom. Chances are you like John Cusack, and he's been in a much smaller number of good movies, ergo your Affleck hate is completely unjustified. Now that my Affleck discussion obligation has been excessively fulfilled, I can move on to the actual movie.

Like I mentioned in the post about the Savages, 2007 was a great year, and Gone Baby Gone is one of the reasons. It is a neo-noir about a child kidnapping, yes, but that doesn't even begin to do justice to the number of good questions posed by this movie.

The movie starts off with a voiceover monologue about what home is, and the effect it has on a person, setting the theme for the movie. We quickly get some criticism of the mass media, and then we're onto the plot which opens up a whole slew of ethical questions:
  • Who has the right to be a parent? Who doesn't? Who gets to decide what a good parent is?
  • What is a home? How does your own home affect your growth as a person?
  • Do child molesters have the right to a fair trial? Should they just be killed?
  • What constitutes proof? Can we trust the people we're told are to be trusted?
  • Does the media do more bad than good?
  • Why are some people posing for the camera when their goddamn kid got kidnapped?!!?
And all of this is done without ever getting too heavy-handed, and without any actor slipping for even a second. Casey Affleck is (obviously) perfect, Amy Ryan is perfect, Ed Harris is Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman, and Michelle Monaghan is really good too. The cinematography is gorgeous as well for a movie that is almost exclusively shot handheld, and the movie moves along quickly without rushing anything.

I could get more in-depth about why this movie is so good, but I think this post has turned out to be more about Ben Affleck than anything, so I'm going to continue with that. As a study of celebrity, the star as director is fascinating to me: in Gone Baby Gone, we get to see that Affleck has some issues with the media, which is no surprise given that he was a favourite target of theirs during his J-Lo phase. It also might even be a bit of self-criticism: Bennifer never really ran from the media, and in the movie neither does Helene.

Knowing that Affleck is from Boston is also key, because it might appear to be kind of an anti-Boston movie without having known that. I would imagine that all of the questions about raising kids, and who deserves to be able to raise kids, likely come out of the fact that Affleck himself has become a father since fading a bit from the spotlight. Watching Gone Baby Gone, I see the way Helene treats her kid Amanda and think of the Chris Rock joke "that kid is going to rob me in ten years." We see many grown up versions of Amanda in Gone Baby Gone, and it's not pretty.

Then what is it about Gone Baby Gone that I like so much? Is it that it is the first movie I've seen directed by a celebrity I like that backs up my own thoughts about said celebrity? Partially. But apart from Ben Affleck's attachment, this movie is just really, really good. As a thriller, it works. As a series of ethical questions, it works. And yes, as a vague examination of a celebrity, it works. But there is nothing about the movie that isn't intriguing, and I think it definitely belongs in that illustrious "Top 5 of 07." Step aside, Michael Clayton, I'm rejigging this list.


  1. I've never hated Ben Affleck.

    Back in the 90s, and you may be too young to remember this, when the internet was just starting out, Ben Affleck had affleck.com. I wouldn't go as far as to say I was addicted to it, but I spent a lot of time there. This was before "Bennifer" of course, when young Ben was just a single guy with time on his hands (sound familiar Alex?).

    It was cool because it was accessible, and fun to read. I imagine Kevin Smith had something to do with it, given how big into pop culture he is, and I think the sites may have even been linked. But reading it was like reading something your friend wrote. He wrote about his thoughts and his days and it was really cool. Affleck.com doesn't exist anymore. But I remember it.

    Anyway I have issue with your criticism of Minnie Driver. Is it her fault that her cranial bones fused and meshed the way they did? There's no skull-ectomy you can have to reduce the size of your head. Jodie would be first in line for that surgery if it existed (go ahead and ask him.) If anything, you should marvel at the fact that she overcame her "deformity" and got to be in some pretty cool movies with some pretty cool people. And now she's a mom and enjoying her life. Not everyone can be Zooey you know.

    Good Will Hunting is a good movie, flaws aside. It's not perfect. But it is good. I disagree with your assessment on the smile at the end. I don't dig that smile, it seems fake and contrived...a "movie moment" as it were. Trying too hard.

    I agree. Gone Baby Gone...amazing. Heavy. But very very good.

    Are you saying that if Ben Affleck had been in the Blind Side you would have seen it? I'm just askin....

  2. You were posting every Monday?

  3. JE: It has been a couple of years since I last watched GWH, and you might be right about the last smile now that I think about it. I maintain that other scene I mentioned is pure gold, though, both on Affleck and Damon's part.

    And as for Minnie Driver, I hate her. She's just a terrible actress. And I have a giant skull too, so I feel I should be able to make fun of her for that because I'm not in movies.

    I would not have seen Blind Side even with Ben... he's in plenty of movies I wouldn't see.

    That's really cool about his blog though, I definitely would have been down for reading that.

    EmmaJenn Heap: mmmmmmWHATCHA SAY?!!??! I'm offended.