Friday, June 05, 2009

Forbes 100: On Actresses and "Power"

As you may know, the annual Forbes 100 is out. This 'Celebrity 100' list is also referred to as "World's Most Powerful Celebrities". Which... well, I wonder. The list ranks the celebrities based on their media visibility and earning power. Media + income = power. All lists are subjective but it seems strange to assume that visibility equals power. It can but I doubt it automatically does. Is Lindsay Lohan a powerful person because the paparazzi follow her around? If so, what does she hold sway over... legging trends? Can she get movies greenlit? She didn't make the list but it's just an example.

Another funny/strange thing: It only goes to show you that becoming enormously popular at one time in history can keep you on these lists in perpetuity. Witness the staying power of Sandra Bullock and Harrison Ford on lists such as these.

Here are Forbes top movie actresses...

01 Angelina Jolie
There's no disputing her fame. Would that her influence was as indisputable. Celebrity philanthrophists are often subjects of loathing from many pockets of the media and various segments of the general populace. Why that is I'll leave it up to social theorizing in the comments [A History of... Angelina Jolie]

08 Jennifer Aniston
She was my favorite member of Friends back in the day but I realized as soon as she transferred to the cinema that I was a fan of "Rachel" rather than Jen. Sometimes when thinking of Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courtney Cox in tandem it becomes clear that Brad Pitt is to blame for her ubiquity. But then I think of my beloved Juliette Lewis and... well, the world isn't fair.

58 Sarah Jessica Parker
Sometimes Square Pegs only need to ignore the round holes and find a new board on which to play. What a difference HBO and "Carrie Bradshaw" made. [More on Sex & the City]

64 Meryl Streep
Her top earning status as she enters her 60s fills me with utter glee despite the fact that Mamma Mia! was terrible. Once, long ago, (very early 90s to be more precise) the same media that now kisses her feet used to belittle her for speaking out about the inequality in pay between actors and actresses.

71 Reese Witherspoon
Earned $15 million last year. Usurping all of Jake Gyllenhaal's time? Now, that's power.

73 Cameron Diaz
Forbes is pushing the notion that we should have her on our Best Actress Oscar lists for My Sister's Keeper. What say ye?

74 Nicole Kidman
She takes a beating in the American media but she's still an international draw. Plus she's, you know, awesome if you care about the cinema rather than just 'the movies.'

85 Anne Hathaway
She only made $7 million for Get Smart? For some reason I thought she pulled down more than that already.

87 Drew Barrymore
Still a double threat as Producer/Actress. Every time we hear about Drew's next project, the roller derby film Whip It!, it's mentioned in connection to Ellen Page's rising stardom post Juno. But have you checked out the supporting cast and their character names? Drew as "Smashley Simpson", Kristin Wiig as "Malice in Wonderland", Juliette Lewis as "Dinah Might", Eve as "Rosa Sparks". I only hope the movie is half as fun as the milieu and moniker imply.

92 Sandra Bullock
Forbes implies that her return to romcoms justifies her placement. Is she headed for a major comeback this year with The Proposal and All About Steve?

Most random finding on this list: Jennifer Love Hewitt is at #99. Other than her power to stay on television year after year after year after year (Jennifer Love Hewitt in the reboot of Murder She Wrote... coming your way in 2038!) I had no idea that she wielded any, let alone that she was the 5th most powerful TV actress . I didn't know that she was more powerful than three Desperate Housewives and that Gossip Girl... more powerful yet than Eliza Duskhu who is infinitely hotter and shares Hewitt's power to stay on the airwaves.

You know what I'd like to read? A list that seeks to quantify the overall influence of celebrities as opposed to their income or household name status. Who has trickle down power? I always think of that "cerulean" scene in The Devil Wears Prada when I think of cultural influence.
This... 'stuff'? Oh... ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don't know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean.

You're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of 8 different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff.
Wouldn't more specialized celebs like, oh, Parker Posey in the 1990s or Björk or Tilda Swinton make lists that quantify cultural influence? They're famous, referenced, idolized, admired, stolen from, imitated and occasionally worshipped in fashion, music, media, cinema. They're not interchangable with the next up and coming starlet. But, alas, they aren't ... Jennifer Love Hewitt.


Anonymous said...

Totally with you on Jennifer Aniston. I thought I loved her, turns out I only loved Rachel. I wish she'd make more movies like "The Good Girl" and "Friends with Money". No more puppy movies.

And Cameron Diaz... She has been my rant of the week because I just read the Vogue interview/article on her. I hate when magazines try and convince me to like an actress and that is the crap Vogue is selling in the latest issue. "Cameron drives a Prius, but she drove it before it was trendy... Cameron loves chips and salsa with her girlfriends... Cameron really isn't a talentless actress who has somehow coasted by on shitty movies."

Go away, Diaz. Go away.

Abe said...

Damn, that cerulean monologue was fierce. I try to keep my Meryl worshipping down to a low roar, but when she nails it, she really nails it.

Chris Na Taraja said...

This is exactly the type of list that appeals to execs but not to actors. If it was based on acting powers, this list would look a lot different.

adelutza said...

I'm not sure it is based on any powers at all. It's just an arbitrary list imho

Christine said...

I think it's hysterical that Barack Obama (#49) is below AC/DC (#47) which shows a big problem with equating power with the amount of money someone makes.

In terms of power for actresses and actors, I agree that trickle down influence would be more interesting to look at. Also, maybe look at things like who has the power to get difficult, hard-to-market projects greenlit,

Bryan said...

Putting Obama on this list is ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as ranking him 49! Saying he has less celebrity power than Jolie or anybody is absurd. I mean, you could say he's not a celebrity in that sort of way, but then you'd have to take him off the list altogether I think. I mean, what are they ranking with Obama exactly?


@chris exactly. The thing i don't get about Jennifer Aniston and the perception of bankability is that she's only ever bankable in high concept projects like Marley & Me or BRuce Almighty or whatnot and did people really got to those movies because she was in them? Isn't that kind of movie completely it's own bankability. You do have to have a star for that sort of movie but couldn't it be ANY star?

but even if they based lists on "talent" you get all sorts of weird executive / business concerns that obviously showed through. I remember when EW did a top 25 most talented actors and a top 25 most talented actresses and they left brad pitt and harrison ford (i think unless i'm remembering it wrong) off the actors list saying that they were true movie stars but they were more movie stars than they were "actors" and they wanted the list to be about acting.

came time for the female list and Julia Roberts had a movie opening (stepmom i think it was) and was on the cover and there was no mention of this 'this is an acting list not a movie star list' ;) because you know. they wanted to sell the magazine with Julia's face on it.

@bryan... agreed. I love that Obama is listed as #1 in all types of visibility but because he's in last place for income (just below Jennifer Love Hewitt!)

@abe amen.

John T said...

Nat-while I think that she might be a little high, Aniston also has The Break-Up & He's Just Not That Into You, the former making $118 million and the second making $93 million, neither of which is anything to scoff. As far as creating buzz, selling her movies, and decently consistent box office in the last three years, she's definitely one of the top industry actresses.

Robert said...

Really the whole list feels like it was made ten years ago.

Anonymous said...

"Why is no one ready?"

Had to.

They really need to cut it with these lists. It's like I end up seeing the same people on every freaking list over and over and over again.

We get it world, everyone thinks Angelina is the next best thing since Jesus Christ and the rainbow coalition she calls a family is equally amazing and everyone's concerned because we aren't praying to the altar of the Jolie-Pitts, but seriously...enough.

Shawn said...

Weird that Kate Winslet didn't make the list.

Anonymous said...

yeah...Kate Winslet has two oscar buzzy movies,finally wins and oscar plus the reader has all the perverts doing searches on the internet...and she still doesnot have enough news press and pay ranking?

Guy Lodge said...

I love Rachel AND Jennifer Aniston. Is that allowed?

I have no idea why, but she's my guiltiest cinematic pleasure. There's just a complete lack of guile in her performing style that I find very engaging, even when she's not terribly good.

That I said, I think she's genuinely aces in "The Good Girl" and was robbed of an Oscar nod.

And that, I think, is where Nat steps in and bans me from his site. It's been nice knowing y'all... ;)

Guy Lodge said...

With all that said, even I'm mystified as to how Jen is more powerful than, oh, say, the President of the United States. But what do I know?

The Pretentious Know it All said...

Lists like these are bullshit. It's like the year that "X-Men: The Last Stand" came out and Brett Ratner made the list of most powerful directors in Hollywood. Just because it opened at number one at the box office. It raises so many questions that the people making these lists seem unwilling to ask. Like, wouldn't "X-Men: The Last Stand" have made just as much money no matter who directed it? Jane Campion could have directed it and it still would have made money.

Wayne B. said...

Brett Ratner BOO! HISS!


@Guy you'll never be banned. I do think you hit on the most pleasant aspect of Aniston's work but I maintain that she's not very good at all in The Good Girl or in Friends With Money... because (sorry to be a broken record cuz i've said this before) people who mistaken throwing a wet blanket over their screen charisma for playing sad always come across as terribly unimaginative actors to me.

if you're not a great actor "sad" is a really boring emotion to play.


@The Know Nothing. Exactly.

although @JohnT has a point with Aniston. She is more bankable than i was giving her credit for.

amir_uk said...

Thanks Guy re: Jen Aniston in The Good Girl! You're the first person I've read who agrees with me! She did brilliant work there.

Also - I'm all for being convinced that Cameron Diaz needs a Best Actress nomination this year. She was so viciously robbed of a Supporting one in 2001 (even after BFCA, GG and SAG citations, dammit!) that a make-up nod this year is TOTALLY fine by me. Especially as her star is on the wane right now - and I'm not sure how many more chances she'll have.

Lastly - does anyone remember when Angelina was on the way OUT? Circa 2002/3 when that Oscar was seeming more and more like a big mistake, and she was headlining flop after flop (and we're talking proper flops like Life or Something Like It and Beyond Borders). I actually thought she'd kind of slip into the lower ranks à la Winona. Who'd have thought it now!

amir_uk said...

And by extension I think those fallow years in Angelina's filmography (when they should've been some of her most fertile) mean she absolutely and totally has not - and will never - earn the right to go around scowling and pouting and refusing to give red carpet soundbites like she does now, as if she is The Greatest Movie Star to have ever graced the earth and so is exempt from such trivialities. It pisses me off that she acts like that actually. She's just not on that level, really.

Anthony JX Huang said...

Angelina will probably write a book and is laughing out loud on how she single-handedly (with no publicist) manage to manipulate the media and United States...

rosengje said...

I feel like Angelina would be just as amused and befuddled by her placement as anyone else. She has always been open about her own weaknesses and proclivities and I think the media fascination and idealization is a result of a) Brad Pitt (like Nat suggested with Aniston, I think he is the one that causes the intense tabloid circus) and b) not really knowing how to define her. There's so many incongruous layers to her that tabloids can recycle endless amounts of stories with slightly different angles depending on how they want to portray her.

I feel like Jennifer Aniston is a perfect example of someone who falls victim to traditional career expectations. I am not personally a fan of her acting, but I think she excels in pieces where she can slowly develop a likable character. She is just better suited for tv than film, but for most people that would be viewed as a step back. As a result, she will probably end up locked in gratuitous supporting parts or roles to which she is not ideally suited.

Fernando Moss said...

I've always tought that Lisa Kudrow is the most talented ex-Friend (of the 6)... and Phoebe and Joey were my favs.

Guy Lodge said...

Celebrity aside (and she's an undeniably great celebrity), I wish Jolie's filmography was as formidable as her star persona. Even the films she's good in (and there have been a few) are so dreary.

I just think it's a shame that the person who is supposedly the world's biggest movie star has yet to appear in one great film.

Anonymous said...

Jolie gets so much undeserved hate because she's overexposed in the tabloids. She's a fantastic actress. I loved her performances in Girl Interrupted, Gia, George Wallace, A Mighty Heart, Playing By Heart, and Changeling. She gets undeserved hate because people are so consumed with the tabloid media and believe in the image they created for her.

Glenn said...

See, I like Aniston. I think she has a personality that I want to relate to. I actually thought she was quite great in He's Just Not That Into You because she felt like a real person as opposed to the obvious movie characters that surrounded her (like the ones played by Barrymore and Johansson). I find myself wanting Aniston to succeed far more than I do the likes of Jolie who people will fawn over no matter what.

And so what if she only appears in movies that seem designed to make big box office. Isn't that what the likes of Will Smith/Shia LeBeouf/Harrison Ford/etc/etc do?

What surprises me the most is that Meryl Streep is so low. Hit after hit, Oscar nom after Oscar nom and yet she ranks in the '60s? She could get a movie made if she even read the script!

Chris Na Taraja said...

I don't have anything against Jennifer Anastin, but I'm kind of dumbfounded that she is up higher than Streep and Hathaway. It may be becuase of the high profile projects. Thing is, i don't even remember her in BRUCE ALMIGHTY! All I see is Morgan Freeman in a giant white room and jim Carrey parting the red soup, oh yeah, and Steve Carrel doing that brialliant newscasting flub up scene. Was Jnnifer really in this movie?

Morgan said...

If I had my way, Jennifer Aniston would have had Salma Hayek Oscar nod. I thought she nailed it in "The Good Girl" and I'm waiting for something more. I'm hoping she suprises in "Traveling"/"Brand New Day" or whatever the hell it's called. Most likely she won't and I'll lose the Actress Psychic...big time!

Andrew K. said...

This list is just wrong on soooo many levels. I mean, I like Angie, so I don't mind her at number one - and she did have a good year - movie wise - last year. But I do NOT understand Jennifer Anniston being so high, I just don't... and Will Smith, Dr. Phil... TOM CRUISE!!!!? WTF What are they judging on, are these people serious.
Nicolas Cage? I can't continue, there isn't enough time. It's like they just pick some names and organised them randomly.

Andrew David said...

TOTALLY agree with your last paragraph (I especially like that you mentioned Tilda Swinton and Bjork because they're two of my idols).

I guess the list can't really effectively determine influence... I just don't think Jennifer Aniston or Sarah Jessica Parker really have much cultural influence. Sure, they could snap their fingers and all the personal assistants on their payroll would jump to attention. Whereas Tilda Swinton could snap her fingers and every artistically inclined person on the planet would jump to attention.

Andrew David said...

A better list --

Michelle Forbes 100: On Actresses and Power
3) Michelle Forbes on "True Blood". BRILLIANT.
2) Michelle Forbes on "In Treatment". UNBELIEVABLE.
1) Michelle Forbes on "Battlestar Galactica". I REST MY CASE.


Drew, well i think SJP does have cultural influence (fashion wise)

Andrew David said...

Yes, but don't you think SJP's influence lies more in one long-running role that she has played rather than in herself? So her influence probably has more to do with the writers, directors and costume designers of Sex and the City?

mrripley said...

sandra bullock has been a consistent box office draw for 14 years now.


drew so you're a fan of Forbes? ;)

Have you seen her in Kalifornia?

Andrew David said...

I am a big fan of Michelle Forbes, and no I haven't seen Kalifornia (just looked it up, I'll add it to the list!).

She's got this amazingly watchable quality and that unforgettable harshness to her voice. She leaves such an impression on the shows she's in even when she's hardly in them. I really hope she gets the opportunity to move into great film parts permanently. There is so much potential there, I literally start itching to write whenever I watch her.

Ryan said...

Re: female thespian’s w/ power…

- I’ll admit I do bow to Jolie.

- Don’t even get me started on Witherspoon and her hogging of my Jake.

- Drew... I'll always love you to death but more stretching please and less rom-coms.

- Go Meryl! I’m with you on MAMMA MIA but your right; at least she showed ‘them’.

- Sandra Bullock…(aka Ryan’s Reigning Female Nemesis of the Silver Screen). Oh how I loath her and those pay checks she gets for successive garbage. Nathaniel, you really must do a post on this demon exploring how someone with so little depth and range can remain so high on the actress meter and for so long.


Egy Azziera said...

Could the huge popularity of Michelle Obama be a sign of changing attitudes in the fashion industry? Vogue featured Michelle Obama on its cover recently. Michelle Obama in particular has ushered in new era of style and entertaining.