I was recently thinking about George Clooney. For the past few years he seems to have been in a movie almost every year that has been hailed by critics as “one of the best movies of the year.” I write that facetiously as my wife and I often joke about this type of shameless marketing. Nonetheless, he is now getting praise for his performance in Up in the Air, a film being hailed with platitudes like being “one of the best movies of the year.” If you don’t believe me, just check out the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
I haven’t seen the movie so I don’t really know if it’s deserving of the praise. What I find interesting though is that there hasn’t seem to have been an actor in a long time who is approaching a sort of Tom Hanks-like popularity for both a substantial portion of the population and film buffs alike. If you don’t remember the Tom Hanks era of movie dominance, you are probably pretty young.
Is George Clooney the new Tom Hanks? I’m starting to wonder if that’s the case. Now I know that some readers are going to say that being in critically-adored movies doesn’t constitute popularity. That might be true. But when the famous actors of today come to mind who do you think of? Who is most on your mind?
Brad Pitt? Maybe, but he’s not really a versatile enough actor in my opinion to have as strong of a case and following. I also think (perhaps incorrectly) that he has not been in as many critically praised movies. What’s odd is that Brad Pitt and George Clooney have been in so many movies together recently that you almost have to wonder if they are competing with each other to be America’s favorite (or at least film critics’ favorite).
But then there’s Will Smith. He has also been in a lot of popular blockbusters and has attempted some serious movies. He might be more popular than Clooney at this point in time among the overall public, but his choices in non-blockbuster films have been lackluster. He doesn’t seem to have as many film critics drooling over him as does Clooney.
For whatever reason Denzel Washington doesn’t really seem to generate the buzz he used to, and so I don’t think we should really consider him. Although I should mention that a recent online poll suggests that for 3 years in a row he has been “America’s favorite movie star.” It’s an online poll so we have to take it as pretty unrepresentative I think. I never hear about Denzel’s movies much anymore either. Maybe he just isn’t as willing to promote them as much as other actors are or critics have decided he just doesn’t impress them much anymore.
Probably the chief competitor I can think of is Johnny Depp. He might be the most popular actor of all today (even knocking off Will Smith) with a combination of independent favorites and commercial films, but the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were so debatable as spectacles of entertainment that his reputation seems somewhat tarnished by the polarity of opinion those movies inspired. I actually liked the second movie, but the first and third were pretty dull for me.
So what do you think? Is George Clooney just really good at choosing which films to be in? Is there something about his acting that makes him special? Why do critics seem to like him and his movies so much? Are there any actors I have forgotten who are major challengers to his critical popularity?