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Saturday, November 17, 2012

An Open Apology To Ben Affleck

Good Will Hunting is one of my favorite movies of all time. On my old site we collectively ranked it as the 10th best film of the past 25 years. I think it's brilliant and it's a shame it came out the same year as the extremely overrated Titanic because I think in most other years it would have swept the Oscars. But one Oscar it did win was Best Original Screenplay. Writers and stars of the film Matt Damon and Ben Affleck each won their only Golden Statute of their careers for writing Good Will Hunting. Yet in the decade plus after the release of Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's careers seem to have taken two different paths. Matt Damon became a bona fide A list celebrity whereas Ben Affleck became Hollywood's punching bag. As a result of the films that both Damon and Affleck were releasing, it became a popular joke to claim that Matt Damon alone wrote Good Will Hunting.

Could you blame us though? It was not only easy to pick on Affleck but it seemed justified considering the movie choices he made. Between Good Will Hunting in 1997 and Gone Baby Gone in 2007, Ben Affleck starred or was the co-lead in 16 films. Out of those 16 films only THREE of them were Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes: Dogma, Changing Lanes, and Hollywoodland. Of those three, Affleck co-starred with Damon in Dogma (thus it's hard to argue Affleck was good on his own) and Hollywoodland came out in 2006 (and at this point it seemed America had already made up their mind about about Affleck). The average Rotten Tomatoes score out of those 16 films is just a measly 40.8%. During this decade time frame Affleck released garbage like Daredevil, Reindeer Games, and Gigli.

However, in that same time frame, Matt Damon starred or was the co-lead in 17 films. Out of those 17, TWELVE were Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The average Rotten Tomatoes rating of Damon's movies came in at a whopping 65.5%- which is Certified Fresh. Damon was also at the helm of a franchise that was both a commercial and critical success (The Bourne movies) and was one of the three co-leads of another franchise that also had critical and commercial success (The Ocean movies). Even if you don't count the Ocean films as Damon's (and there is a valid argument to that), then Damon starred in 14 films and his average Rotten Tomatoes score jumps up to 76.1%.

Damon never had a film get under 32% on Rotten Tomatoes. Affleck had four. Affleck never starred in a film that got over 69%. Damon starred in seven- including The Departed (93%) and The Bourne Ultimatum (94%).

The point is is that because of the movie choices that Damon made and the movie choices that Affleck made (PLUS Affleck's tabloid debacle with Jennifer Lopez), it seemed that Ben Affleck was a hack and Matt Damon was the true star of the duo. However, in the past five years, Ben Affleck has proven not only how erroneous our thoughts were that he didn't co-write Good Will Hunting but just how talented he is as a writer and filmmaker.

The first film on the Ben Affleck redemption tour is Gone Baby Gone (2007). This was Ben Affleck's directorial debut and a film that he wrote by himself. Personally, I thought Gone Baby Gone was excellent and thought it was the best film of 2007. Affleck was able to pull amazing performances out of his brother Casey Affleck as well as Amy Ryan (who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in GBG) and he told a gripping and thrilling tale about a young man and his wife trying to solve a mystery surrounding a missing girl. The pace of the film is excellent, the acting is superb (except for Mrs. Brady Baby Momma Michelle Monaghan who is fucking atrocious in it) and the plot is riveting. The masses seemed to have liked it as well as it scored a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 72 on Metacritic.

Next came 2010's The Town. Affleck's second film and one that he co-wrote and starred in. While I personally did not like this movie all *that* much, the vast majority of people disagree with me. It received a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 74 on Metacritic. While its only Oscar nomination was for Jeremy Renner (Best Supporting Actor), it was one of the go-to movies that everyone complained the Academy snubbed. This is Affleck's first film where he cast himself as the lead which help change the perception on him and his acting abilities. Affleck was really good in the film and he showed us how good of an actor he can be.

Lastly, we have 2012's Argo- a film that Affleck stars in and directed. While 2012 seems like, and is, an incredibly deep year for great films, Argo is already the front runner to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Right now, I personally have Argo as my #3 film of the year (behind Looper and Wreck It Ralph) and the entire second half of the film is some of the best film making you'll see all year. Because it is a true story you know how it ultimately ends, but Affleck finds a way to keep you on the edge of your seat nonetheless. Critics love this film too as it has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and it has an 86 on Metacritic. According to the HitFix blog "In Contention", they predict that not only will Argo be nominated for Best Picture at the 2012 Academy Awards, but that Affleck will finally be nominated for Best Director. While that has still yet to be determined, it is obvious Affleck made a great picture and that he is a damn good director.

Out of all the A-list and well known actors who have made movies in recent years (most notably Tom Hanks, Sean Penn, and George Clooney), Affleck is by far the best. All of Affleck's movies are perfectly paced, well acted, and Affleck does an amazing job at building and maintaining suspense (Just watch the scene in The Town when Jeremy Renner "runs into" Affleck and Rebecca Hall if you don't believe me). But above all else, Ben Affleck just makes good movies and he makes movies you want to see. At the end of the day that is all we as moviegoers really care about.

Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo are proof that 1) Ben Affleck is really talented, 2) Ben Affleck CAN act, and 3) Ben Affleck is a really good screenwriter.

So Ben Affleck, on behalf of myself and everyone in America: I'm sorry.

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