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The Reeler Blog

Believe It: NY Post Hits New Low

A brief preface: Some days -- not often -- I just don't feel like doing this job anymore. I'm no different than anyone else, I suppose, wanting to move on to something new when the work at hand acquires a certain tedium or yields diminishing, dissatisfying returns. But typically, I have a safeguard response to look at where The Reeler is now compared to where it started -- and how it got here -- and it's enough to shake my blahs for the rest of the day and complete what I hope is some quality work.

The quality is anyone's guess, but even at my most acidic and disgusted, I'd like to think it has a purpose. Say what you want about those Top 10 of Top 10 lists, but read the introduction (and last year's as well, while you're at it) before writing them off as purely nasty enterprises undertaken for the sake of tearing people down. Will they have a long-lasting effect or influence? I'm not flattering myself (or bullshitting you) by saying yes, but for better or worse, as with pretty much everything I publish here, they're defensible, and I hope they'll make you think.

Which is basically a long-winded way of introducing you to Sara Stewart's mindblowing Ben Affleck piece from yesterday's New York Post, which seriously turned me off to film "journalism" the way dubbing porn videos might turn me off to sex (and please pardon the long pullquote, but context is essential):

We were just beginning to settle into the idea of a Ben Affleck comeback.

His role as George Reeves in Hollywoodland earned him a Golden Globe nomination and a best actor award at the Venice Film Festival. Plus, he's directing a promising first film, written by the author of Mystic River. Everything was looking good.

And then there's the new movie he's starring in that's going straight to DVD.

Ouch, indeed.

Often, when an actor is on an upward trajectory, a studio seizes the opportunity to release a dubious earlier project that's been sitting on the shelf - as would be the case with Man About Town, which was shot in late 2004. ...

For Affleck naysayers, this might be the perfect opportunity to crow that the actor's so-called comeback was nothing more than a blip on the radar, and that a straight-to-DVD release is the logical culmination of a decade of work that's consisted largely of forgettable films such as Daredevil, Paycheck, Surviving Christmas and the infamous Gigli.

Yes, for all of those "Affleck naysayers" -- a burgeoning cult if ever there was one, teeming throngs of filmgoers united in their distaste for the actor/writer/director, thriving on every misstep, rejoicing at every box-office disaster, scanning news feeds and blog items for the latest update on how Ben Affleck fucked up this time around. What a thrill -- what gratification! -- to see the actor fail, to justify their unequivocal convictions that he's just not that talented, that he can't choose roles or, moreover, he can't act. After all that "settl(ing) into the idea of a Ben Affleck comeback," the world can get over it and settle elsewhere.

But it gets better:

The best performances from Affleck have all been when he's playing himself - from his cameo with Matt Damon in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, to his self-mockery on SNL, Regis and Kelly and the Howard Stern show, to his incisive current-events debates on Real Time with Bill Maher.

Perhaps the DVD release is the best thing that could have happened to Affleck. The field of presidential contenders is getting winnowed by the day -- maybe now's the time to chuck acting and throw his hat into the ring.

Right. I may ride the Post a little hard from time to time, but even Page Six, Kyle Smith and Andrea Peyser combined don't shock me the way Stewart does in this merciless hack job. At first I didn't imagine the angst was worth it, but think about it: Here's a guy who has done nothing but work consistently in film for more than 10 years. The majority of his recent films receive mediocre to bad reviews, and one goes straight to DVD. Another one earns him awards-season mention. And he's good at making fun of himself. On these bases, the author has contrived -- nay, premeditated -- a 515-word kick to the balls that's neither news nor necessary; even Jeff Wells's feverish Eddie Murphy awards boycott (which the Post also has fingers in and which I'll get to soon enough, probably after a few weeks of therapy) possesses a legitimate conflict in its surly subject's Oscar ambivalence. And despite Stewart's jokey conclusion (or perhaps because of it), there's really no good-natured way to spin this: It's a pig's-heart valentine, an acid attack disguised as tabloid filler. It's straight-up sociopathy.

The handful of people with whom I've spoken about this recommend leaving it alone; "It's the Post," they say, sometimes followed by, "It's not like you've never done it." But have I really? This kind of gleeful, willful, unqualified detonation of an easy target just for the pleasure of watching it burn? I can't remember the last time I saw this in any ostensibly mainstream media outlet: a bylined feature conceived to not only bring someone down, but to kick him once he's there. And not a deposed dictator, either, or a disgraced politician or skeevy convict, but a fucking entertainer who, by today's all-powerful Oscar standard, has a leg-up on Leo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Brad Pitt or any number of other enduring A-listers chasing that ultimate validation.

I don't know if Stewart enterprised this bullshit herself or if she was the hapless assignee at the end of some fork-tongued editor's e-mail, but it's got her name on it, and I hope she'll someday have the opportunity to abjure it. You know she will want to eventually. Meanwhile, I need a thicker skin, because co-existing professionally with animals like these has me further down than I've been in a long, long time.

Posted at February 5, 2007 3:35 PM

Comments (4)

It's this brand of passion for journalistic standards that makes me proud to be a member of the Reeler community.

The Post article isn't upsetting because it's mean-spirited (I mean, you'd have to be utterly anti-Page Six to have a problem with that). The real problem is that Stewart's piece serves no purpose whatsoever, and it reflects an animosity toward Affleck that doesn't seem to exist. I mean, there are worse sins in the world than a few mediocre movies. This isn't Uwe Boll we're talking about here.

I believe you'll have to catch up with Ms. Stewart in an empty nighttime parking garage...

I read the piece in question and in general I agree with you, it seems that there are some writers who enjoy putting people down, often unnecessarily.

However, as you offered up your Top 10 of Top 10 lists article as an example of your own rantings (albeit pre-qualified by a disclaimer), don't you perhaps think that some of the stuff you write might ruffle some feathers? Is it really necessary to dismiss the journos in question as hacks? Are they not just writing in the style that they believe suits their specific audience?

The "disclaimer" isn't a disclaimer at all -- it's a qualification, and it says in no uncertain terms that the worst Top 10-list offenders aren't writing with any audience but their peers in mind. It's not about sharing anything new or about enlightening readers; it's about their writers' self-love at the expense of readers and about 80 percent of films that are released over the course of any given year. At worst, they're anti-reader. At best (and it's still pretty bad), they're anti-cinema. Sara Stewart has accomplished both here.

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