Friday, August 06, 2010

Wahlberg, Posterized.

(Left) Then & Now: Wahlberg in the infamous CK campaign in 1991. Wahlberg yesterday in Missouri.

In my weekly column at Towleroad, I barely mentioned what will likely be the big box office draw this weekend, the Mark Wahlberg/ Will Ferrell comedy The Other Guys. I note this because I was moved to discuss National Underwear Day in the same article and what modern star used underwear so successfully to boost their initial fame? Why did I ignore him so? The Other Guys poster implies that you'll be seeing a kind of self-aware satire of a buddy cop comedy. You know... the kind Edgar Wright already delivered memorably with Hot Fuzz (2007). Could these two American hams really top that Brit wit? I'm doubtful... but perhaps they're not trying. I haven't seen it. Maybe the poster is misleading.


Let's look at Wahlberg's career as told to us through movie posters. Is there another star as popular that people still regularly complain can't act?

Renaissance Man (94) | The Basketball Diaries (95) | Fear (96) first lead

Boogie Nights (97) all time classic | The Big Hit (98) | The Corruptor (99)

Three Kings (99) | The Yards (00) | The Perfect Storm (00)

Planet of the Apes (01) | Rock Star (01) | The Truth About Charlie (02)

Italian Job (03) | I Huckabees (04) | Four Brothers (05)

Invincible (06) | The Departed (06) - Oscar nom | Shooter (07)

We Own the Night (07) | The Happening (08) | Max Payne (08)

The Lovely Bones (09) | Date Night (10) | The Other Guys (10)

I missed one film in that line up, an indie called Traveller (1997) but the posters have to be divisible by 3. How many of his 25 have you seen?

Does your answer make you proud, ashamed or dumbfounded? Regarding the latter, do you even remember the films? Should you glance across the posters a pattern emerges. Wahlberg alternates seemingly interchangeable gun-wielding crime dramas with A list auteur-driven ensemble films. (The latter category seems like a 50/50 mix of "instant classic" and "notorious misfire".) The overlap between his two preferred types seems to be the James Gray movies, which are both crime dramas AND auteurish ensemble films. I'd never seen a James Gray film prior to Two Lovers (09, quite good) and, though some smart critics swear by him, from the outside in both plot synopsis and marketing his movies look EXACTLY like generic crime drama programmers, don't they?

Will the upcoming Fighter jack up the modern classics section of his filmography by one? The star seems to think so. I've had a good feeling about it even prior to his biased 'good vibrations' about it. I've been predicting it for the Oscars since April. That was entirely due to its status as a true story and boxing drama, since Oscar loves both. That was not due to it being a reunion of director David O. Russell and Wahlberg, despite their previous and quite awesome collaborations (see: Three Kings and i ♥ huckabees. No, really, see them if you haven't. They're fantastic).

Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter (December 2010)

But I'm thinking too hard over this. Let's simplify. Can Mr. Wahlberg act or not -- answer that eternal question, would ya?


Lucky said...

Well, I think everyone who has seen i ♥ huckabees can tell he can act. Maybe he just doesn't try in his other films, although he was really good in The Departed as well.

I watched The Lovely Bones yesterday and was interested in seeing Wahlberg in that kind of role. I think he was ok, but I had problems with the film... (I didn't want to believe it was as bad as people and critics said)

Unknown said...

I've seen 15 of those and Im damn proud of it. Yeah... I can feel it baby. Marky Mark shoulda won an oscar for I Heart Huckabees imo

my brother was an extra on The Fighter. he said Wahlberg and Bale both seemed on their games and Melissa Leo nailed the accent. we're from Boston so I'll take his word for it.

He also said there was a stupid extra knitting at ringside in plain sight of the camera so David O Russel walked up to him and just said
"Knitting? Really? Are you fuckin' kidding me?"
apparently hilarious said...

I'll give him Boogie Nights, I Heart Huckabee's, Three Kings, and The Departed. He's good when his knuckleheaded earnestness is either played for laughs, or as an ironic counterpoint - take those elements away and you're left with `the happening', `planet of the apes; and `the lovely bones', in which he's just wallpaper bland. He looks hilarious in the other guys, so maybe he really should stick to comedy.


I am relatively shocked at how few of these i've seen. I normally do much better. I'm well under 1/2 !


casey -- i love that knitting story.

Paolo said...

Basketball Diaries, Boogie Nights, Three Kings, Planet of the Apes, I ♥ Huckabees, The Departed.

Although which one's the one where he and Lou Diamond Philips have a death match, because that would be 7.

And I remember when we were living in LA and my mom was trying to apply to Paramount and Four Brothers was their centre piece for the summer, and nobody talks about it now.

Unknown said...

Glad I could contribute, Nathaniel.

Roark said...

I'd say he's a very good actor, but he makes a lot of bad movies and he's usually bad in them.

As for the James Gray films, We Own the Night is a peculiar film - to me it has always felt like ten or twenty minutes got cut out of the middle, and not for the good. But I'd recommend The Yards without hesitation. If you have any kind of affection for classically rendered crime dramas (a la The Godfather, though its certainly not on that level), The Yards is the best modern example out there.

Bia said...

I'm surprised he wasn't nominated for Boogie Nights, it was definitely a huge moment for him but maybe he still had the Calvin model stigma.

The Pretentious Know it All said...

I don't even like Fear but one of my more vivid movie-watching experiences from my childhood involves watching him tattoo Reese's character's name across his chest...

And Mark Wahlberg in Date Night...I mean, talk about single-handedly making a movie worth the admission price.

If we must have the ridiculously ubiquitous 3D craze for the next half-decade or whatever, all I ask is that it just once involve Wahlberg's pecs.

FranklinBluth said...

heh heh... Fear...

"now I've popped both your cherries"


Ryan T. said...

I've seen 13! Not too bad.

Glenn said...

I've seen 12. Hmmm. Not many of them have been good, but I Heart Huckabees and Boogie Nights are definite brilliant films, whilst Three Kings and The Departed are solid, too. The rest? Disposable.

4n6 said...

Hmm, he's just not versatile. When he has a good director (or a role that requires solely on anger and toughness) he puts in a fine performance but usually I'd say he's mediocre which is why so many complain about him. He's popular but why? He's hot but his talent isn't exactly worthy of his fame. It's just a backlash. Personally, I really don't know what's the deal about his The Departed performance. I mean, c'mon, the writing did the job for him. I thought he was bangin' in Boogie Night but he's definitly turned worse perfomances than good ones but maybe he's changing for the better as he matures.

Anonymous said...

After watching the film again I have to agree that the writing in The Departed was more beneficial to him than his actual performance.

In Boogie Nights, however, he really shines.

Danielle said...

I've seen 21. Not ashamed. Marky Mark's so great. He's one of those rare genuinely talented badasses. Christian Bale is another, so I'm excited for The Fighter.

cal roth said...

You know how much I love Boogie Nights, don't you? (Did I ever mention that? I love that movie) That said, it's not the best film of his career. It's The Yards.

It's not generic, it's not common, it's not usual. It's one of the most compelling movies about a family since The Godfather, and it is also a movie by a director that is absolutely in love with Luchino Visconti.

You can catch Rocco and His Brothers in every scene. Even the casting of Wahlberg seems to point a reference to Renato Salvatori (but Simone, here, is Joaquin Phoenix, and Wahlberg would be our Rocco).

It's a masterful and painful tragedy, told by a director with incredible narrative skills. He should try opera, definitely. We Own The Night is another masterpiece, I must say.

Two Lovers, by the way, is almost a new version of Visconti's White Nights, with Mastroianni and Maria Schell. Plot has several changes, but the mood is basically the same.

Ok, this comment is here to say that James Gray is one of the best directors today and it's a shame that, one more time, the French discovered the gold before Americans.

I love James Gray. He is fantastic. I am not a "smart" anything. I just love his movies.

Kyle said...

I've seen most of these movies, all of them I believe...maybe not Fear...anyway, Boogie Nights is my all time favorite film (only slightly challenged by Memento depending on how I feel on a given day), so he gets a lifetime pass from me.

James Gray though...ehh....I really despised We Are the Night, movie just bored me to death.

Rockstar is one of those odd so bad it's good movies that I have to watch at least for a few minutes of Dominic West and Jennifer Aniston actually trying to pull off 20 or whatever she's supposed to be.

G.ShaQ said...

The most popular person that people still complain about for bad acting is hands down Jennifer Aniston. Much like Marky, I think she can act if she feels like it.

/3rtfu11 said...

David O Russell brings out the natural actor in Mark Wahlberg. Boogie Nights should’ve been his first nomination. His Departed nomination feels like one of those random nominations given to actors for being in a Scorsese picture.

According to his IMDB bio, “The Truth About Charlie” is his personal worst movie. Apparently he doesn’t remember “Fear”; one of the greatest unintentional comedies!

Kyle said...

And of course I meant, We Own the Night...sigh...long night of having to watch Kick Ass

pomme said...

I saw 19 movies.
My fav may be "the departed" or one of David O Russel movies but i don't understand why he was nod and the worst may be "fear" or "max payne" or "the happening"
my trouble with him is he's inconvincing usually by what he says
AND i want to see "the other guys"(look funny)and "the fighter"(the screen tests are very good)

Derreck said...

I've seen 8. Not too shabby. I like him as an actor. He does tend to stick to tough-guy/abrasive roles, but every now and then he goes outside of his comfort zone.

He was a big bright spot in Fuckabees and the Departed. I loved both of his performances in each.

But he was unintentionally hilarious in the Happening. His vocal intonations were so weird and every line of dialogue he spoke sounded like it was in italics. Gah, i love that super hot mess of a movie. lol.

Plus, i do kinda drool over him. Yeah, that's right. Those CK days left an impression on me. The attitude, the crotch grabbing, pants-dropping.


vg21 said...

I saw only 2 of those, i ♥ huckabees and The Lovely Bones. It's a shame I didn't manage to go to the cinema even for Date Night, despite the fact that with this film you don't have to be in an extra receptive state of mind as, for instance, for i ♥ huckabees. (I liked it very much, but it wasn't easy to make sense of it. It certainly needs revisiting.)

I definitely think he can act, that's beyond doubt. The reason why I haven't been a fan (=watching his every movie, possibly on opening night) may be that he is too young for me :P. I watched Huckabees for Dustin Hoffman, so that says a lot... No, I'm kidding, it has to do with his films as they are not really my type, though I have The Departed and Boogie Nights on my list.

Daryn G said...

I think there are different kinds of "can't act."

1. Hopeless case: not even an auteur can make you look good. Ex. Sofia Coppola, Madonna, Shaquille O'Neal (in Blue Chips).

2. Non-actor who looks the part.

3. Limited range: Tom Cruise, Gary Cooper.

4. Only good with a good director: John Wayne, Mark Wahlberg.

mrripley said...

he thrives under good directors and is v funny.

i also see ther fighter doing well esp in supp actress for adams and leo.

Sheila Kind said...

Guess I'm the only one here who wasn't impressed with I (heart) Huckabees. I just don't get the Wahlberg love in that one or for anyone else. Maybe he's nominally better because he plays more sympathetic than most any of the other characters present. Couldn't stand that movie, period. The Three Kings was much better and he was better in it. He's a limited actor who has a definitive range but works very well when he's there. Very nicely put together bod. He excels when he's working with generous actors (i.e., DiCaprio in BD and Departed). An illustrative scene was in The Departed when Dignam first meets Billy and gives him a terrible time -- DiCaprio is seething but unable to really respond to a cacaphony of insults, forced to hold back and he does so very convincingly. The two actors work in that scene because they both have something solid to respond to, but Wahlberg has the pro-active role and dialogue so he really gets to shine while he's verbally beating DiCaprio to a pulp. He should do very well in The Fighter because he'll have Bale to bounce off of and because he's a very physical actor.

Mierzwiak said...

I've seen 12: Boogie Nights, Three Kings, The Perfect Storm, Planet of the Apes, Italian Job, I ♥ Huckabees, The Departed, Shooter, We Own the Night, The Happening, Max Payne and The Lovely Bones.

Best role? Boogie Nights.
Worst role? That must be The Happening.

Is he a good actor? Well, he certainly CAN be good, but most of his roles (at least those I've seen) are just... I don't know. He isn't good, but he also isn't that bad. He's probably one of the best examples of mediocre actor.

Paul Outlaw said...

I've seen ten, never because he was in them. Because....he can't act. ;-)

He has been used (i.e., cast or directed) very well several times, most notably in Fear, I ♥ Huckabees and The Departed, but if you look at Boogie Nights, Planet of the Apes, The Perfect Storm and The Lovely Bones (to name a few), it's just horrendous. Keanu Reeves territory. Tom Cruise without the passion. No thanks.

Nice to look at, though.

Unknown said...

He's aces in:

Boogie Nights
The Departed
I Heart Huckabees
Three Kings

I think he should've easily scored nominations for the first three (and arguably for Three Kings, too). He should've won for The Departed.

In my opinion, anyway.

Arkaan said...

What cal roth and Daryl G said. With good directors, Walhberg blooms. James Gray is an amazing director and I hope that he continues his association with the actor. More curious about the O'Russell project since that oddness of Huckabees (a movie I adored, but I'm referring to the off-camera stuff that became legendary.)

pomme said...

and there is worse than him:there is Keanu Reeve,this guy is "dead" or empty or no light in the bulb

Anonymous said...

You know how sometimes you see some really pretty gay porn stars and think, "In an alternate world, they would probably be huge movie stars..."?

Just reverse that in this situation. Not for any merit regarding his acting (lol) but he just has that LOOK.

Wayne B said...

Wow, can't believe that I've seen 18 of the selections. Have to say that the man CAN act and well when paired with the right directors. Have to agree that Boogie Nights, I <3 Huckabee's, The Departed and Three Kings are his best work so far. Hopefully The Fighter will make it a fifth.

Peggy Sue said...

I've only seen 8.
He can be good but he really needs a good director. Same happens with most stars these days.

I'm very into James Gray. May be an european thing?

Ásta said...

I have seen 8. The presence of Mark Wahlberg was never a factor in me seeing or enjoying them. And not really detrimental either except for The Happening which managed to showcase both Wahlberg's shortcomings as an actor and Night's shortcomings as a director. He is definitely an actor who needs a good director to guide him every step of the way.

Gayle said...

I think he's a good actor that has chosen many bad movies. His acting in The Departed was stellar. He was terrific in Shooter and We Own the Night too. While I didn't enjoy Boogie Nights because it wasn't my kind of movie, I still need to confess that it was a good movie and his acting was great in it too. I saw The Other Guys this past weekend and was suprised to find that I actually liked it. I currently have The Corruptor on and it's an awful movie, but his acting isn't bad in it. I just think he chose wrong when he decided to do Fear, The Happening (another awful movie of M Night...the guy should just stop making them) and The Lovely Bones. I can't wait for The Fighter though because, to me, it's got two great actors (Wahlberg and Bale) and is based on a true life story.

Volvagia said...

Eight. Boogie Nights, Three Kings, Planet of the Apes, I HEART HUCKABEES, The Happening, Shooter, The Italian Job, The Departed. Only 1 was completely worthless as a cinema and acting exprience and, to give a big hint, it wasn't the Shamylan. That one was funny in it's own way.

jazz said...

11 films. i'm cool with that.

Maybe Nathaniel you need to set a deadline to go the full 25 :D

how funny that E! just showed his Marky Mark days.

Was the funky bunch really 18 years ago?

He's done some good films and his music isn't bad either

Animalant said...

Just got back from watching the fighter and I have to say Wahlberg was very good; although Bale may have outshone him on some occasions throughout the film.
I've always been a fan of Wahlberg and personally I think the Fighter is his best performance to date