You wanna see somethin’?
“A person is smart, people are dumb.” That’s what Tommy Lee Jones said in Men in Black. There’s certainly truth to it. When you’re apart from the world, watching a movie on your own, you are finally free to form your own opinion. By contrast; when hoards of moviegoers coalesce into one big opinion-pile, they tend to egg each other on and build up one shared view…which more often than not tends to be overly extreme in one way or the other. The opinion that, for years, could be found on damn-near everyone’s lips was…
“Ben Affleck is shit!”
I grew up with this notion presented to me as a norm. It was a given. Everyone knew has Ben Affleck was nothing more than a pretty-boy, right? Well, no. I wasn’t so sure. To me, the man always seemed pretty smart and well put together. Yet, throughout the 90’s and 00’s, people only focused on these:
And hardly ever acknowledged his contributions to these:
All his supporting roles were completely overlooked, possibly because his face just wasn’t on the poster. Whenever it was seen as a “Ben Affleck vehicle”, the axe immediately fell on him. Over the years, as his career slalomed into more and more ridicule, all the comedians took shots at him. South Park, Family Guy, and The Simpsons all crapped on his name.
But now, suddenly, after all these years Ben Affleck is considered important to the industry. The movies he’s directed; Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and of course this years Best Picture winner Argo, were all drooled over by critics. What in the world has happened? Why the sudden respect?
Well, I liken it to playground bullying. A few faults in close proximity and the crowd gives you a nickname. That nickname, or stinky reputation, stays with you for a long time and is very hard to break out of. It would appear, however, that Ben has done the exceedingly difficult. He managed to generate respect as a director where before he had little as an actor. Although, I think he always had the director’s gift and it was revealed at an early stage with the first short film he ever directed…
I Killed my Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meathook, and now I have a Three Picture Deal at Disney, Ben Affleck’s 16 minute long 1993 directing debut, can be seen here and here. It’s a weird movie, I’ll admit, but there’s something fascinating about it. I have no idea what the point of it is, and I’m not even sure Ben knew when he made it. It looks like a film made by someone who just wanted to make something to prove he had a voice. It has a bit of an American Psycho vibe to it, but was made seven years prior. Anyone who now considers themselves a fan of Ben Affleck as a director should check it out.
Ben Affleck can arguably be described as someone who has had to learn a lot throughout his career. He has had some trouble securing his own respected place in the industry, but now seems to have found the lock that matches his key. Still, as good a director as he may be…he is also not a bad actor. Lest we forget that his speech at the end of Good Will Hunting is the best thing in an already great film. Sure, he’s been in some horrendous movies. I’m sure he joined a few purely for the money, and gave lacklustre performances in them…
Hear Hear! Phantoms is a phenomenal 90’s horror with a simple unassuming little plot:
“Two sisters arrive at the tiny village of Snowfield, Colorado, only to find that the villagers have all disappeared…overnight.”
I love movies like this, they remind me of The X-Files. “How can so many people just disappear, and why?” The Beatles said “all you need is love”, but I say “All you need is a good premise”. An intriguing idea will see you through bad acting, bad direction, and even a fair bit of bad writing. That’s not to say, however, that Phantoms exhibits any of these damning qualities. It’s a really good movie.
The atmosphere is perfectly captured with an eerie blend of lighting, effects, and music. David William’s musical score is terrifying, while being as precise as a scalpel. It consists of a very simple and elegant tune that repeats over and over, fading in and out in the background (like a…phantom, maybe?).
Sorry, that was perhaps a little silly. Maybe I’m putting too much into the music, but I will not surrender my flattery of the performances. Rose McGowan is fine, Joanna Going is descent, Peter O’Toole is good, Ben Affleck is great, and Liev Schreiber is off the charts! Schreiber plays a a really twisted character called “Stu”, who’s so shady that it makes him the most interesting person in the film. You never quite understand if he’s evil, or if he just enjoys sowing the seeds of conflict and watching them grow. I love it!
Of course, as it’s from 1998, the digital effects sometimes underwhelm. The practical effects, however, are spot-on. There are some great throwbacks to gooey classics like The Thing and The Fly. Tentacles, insects, decapitations, and possessed morphing dogs all make an appearance. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like a great night in front of the tube.
Many actors do small horror movies early in their careers. It’s a quick check and a bit of fun where you don’t have to take yourself too seriously. In Ben Affleck’s case, however, he actually made a good one. I hope everyone takes a trip to Snowfield and fights Phantoms with Affleck and Schreiber, lets go of all seriousness, and enjoys a fright or two.
– Rant Over