With a slew of new releases the box office had an impressive weekend, topped for a second straight week by “Taken 2″ ($22.7 million). But amongst the new horror by the producers of the “Paranormal Activity” franchise and starring Ethan Hawke (“Sinster,” $18.8 million), the latest Kevin James comedy (“Here Comes The Boom,” $12 million) and Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell and Woody Harrelson headlining a wacky gangster movie (“Seven Psychopaths,” $3.5 million), the most talked about film over the week was Ben Affleck’s “Argo” (which came in #2 this weekend with $20.1 million).
And it’s hardly because of its Oscar chances.
The latest directing-acting effort from the superstar has led to a polarizing discussion of the star’s talents in everywhere from social media to editorials. This is nothing new for Affleck, who seems to always take the brunt of criticism, even when his films do well.
So for this week’s WWTW, we’re doing something a little different. Spotlighting the two sides of Ben Affleck: the actor and the director.
Ben Affleck – “Argo”
After years of being the focus of tabloid fodder, topped by his relationship with Jennifer Lopez, Affleck has settled down after marrying Jennifer Garner and has kept away from the spotlight, developing projects for him to direct giving movie fans a different look at the sex symbol.
No one can say that Affleck doesn’t have talent. He won an Oscar with Matt Damon for their script for “Good Will Hunting,” which they also starred in and put them on the map. But while Damon moved on to more serious roles followed by the “Bourne” action franchise, Affleck veered more towards leading roles in films that were a little more low brow like “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Daredevil” (and yes, can’t forget his disastrous film co-starring Lopez, “Gigli”).
However, in 2007 he released his directorial debut “Gone Baby Gone,” starring his brother Casey in the lead role while Ben stayed behind the camera. Its good reviews and Oscar nomination for Amy Ryan caused many to finally take him seriously. He then followed that three years later with directing “The Town.” This time starring alongside Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively and Rebecca Hall, the film became a hit and once more led to an Oscar nomination (for Renner), silencing many of his critics and finally giving him the label of a serious artist.
Now with “Argo”, the reviews are positive, the Oscar buzz is increasing but now chatter on if Affleck should just stick with directing and step away from acting has come up. “Affleck isn’t a bad actor, necessarily, just an inscrutable one,” writes Will Leitch in his review for Gawker. “Behind the camera, he makes everything feel real and raw, but in front of it, his performances always have an undeniable dash of posing to them.”
We have to admit, we like Ben Affleck the actor. Yes, there are some roles that just look like he took them strictly for the paycheck, but there’s no reason to fault an actor for that. In a fickle business where your popularity can shift as quickly as you change socks, getting paid is a big motivator. But in films where you can tell he’s just doing it for the love (“Chasing Amy,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Boiler Room,” “The Company of Men”), there’s an intensity and passion in the performances that can’t be denied. Also, any Affleck detractor must realize that him on the poster and in the trailer is what makes movies like “The Town” and “Argo” get made. He’s a brand, regardless what you may think of his past work, it built him into a global star. A star most audiences (and investors) don’t want to see his name next to a writer-director credit unless they also see him on the screen.
So this week Ben Affleck the actor takes the WWTW crown, because without him Ben Affleck the director would not be possible.