Many respected and highly paid professions require their practitioners to be highly skilled and reliable at performing the basic aspects of the craft.
In fact it is fair to say that the better remunerated the profession the greater the expectation of quality and superior performance.
You gotta learn your ropes. Crawl before you walk. That sorta stuff.
And in terms of actors you have to appear in some dogs in the early days…
You wouldn’t go to see a doctor that you knew to be unlicensed – unless you were shot while committing a crime I guess – nor would you opt for a flight piloted by someone who flies as a hobby over a trained airline pilot.
I don’t see why one of the most overpaid career choices on the planet get away scot-free again and again. So the other day in a turbulent bout of genius-ness I came up with a revolutionary concept.
From the guy who gave the world B-Movie Haiku Reviews and more bad Lindsay Lohan jokes than a late night TV host, OGR proudly presents:
Hollywood Star Acting Demerits
That’s right folks. From now on box-office and Metacritic scores be damned, I am personally making some of the Hollywood lollygaggers accountable for poor decision making and for phoning in performances. Whether the film was straight to DVD or unfairly made a bazillion, if one of the leads screwed the pooch we shouldn’t have to stand for it.
This process is not designed to worry about the poor hardworking paycheque to paycheque character actors or supporting cast members, if you don’t make the poster on most films in which you appear then the system should eventually either eject you or elevate you to Buscemi-like status (more respected / lower paid). This process is for the guys ‘n’ gals who normally appear smack dab in the middle of the poster, the guys ‘n’ gals who are interviewed on red carpets and are driven to various premieres and public appearances to stare blankly at your gushing fans unless cameras are pointed at you.
The system is harsh but fair; everyone starts with the same number of points in the black, a bad performance costs you points depending on factors including:
- the general stinkiness of the movie
- whether you were trying or not
- whether the movie was taking a chance or not
- what was expected from the movie, a big budget stinker counts worse than a low budget indie stinker
- how long it has been since your last bona fide quality film
- whether you are Shia Le Bouf
Once you lose a point or points there is only one way to make it back – no regaining points after a period of time here – the only way to regain points on your license is to earn them through solid performances in decent films. Again being ‘adequate’ or even merely ‘good’ isn’t going to cut it here in the real world, adequacy and goodness are expected not lauded, you really need to pull something out of the bag to justify me tacking a point or two back onto your sheet.
To summarize; everyone starts with a clean sheet and twelve shiny points, the early movies in a star’s career are treated as Learner’s permit freebies. It is only when they strike big that the burden of consistent worthiness comes crashing down upon their shoulders.
Last time around I picked on an old guy. Of course the old guy was Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the man has sat out of the industry for a decade or so to make a mess of a major American state. But I realised that thus far I have threatened the license of many prominent names so far but never a woman. (And if the stereotypes are correct aren’t they the bad drivers anyway?)
Here is a woman who has the blend of commercial appeal and critical acclaim. Someone who seems to have a movie coming out all the time but never actually one in the cinemas.
Then you realise it came and went and no-one cared, and you wonder why she continues to get work…
Ms Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman rose to prominence in the 90s thanks to her willingness to go the extra mile for a role. Whether it was nudity, dressing down or marrying Tom Cruise, Kidman would do it if it meant credibility or authenticity.
Universal respect followed, as did a further branching out into smaller more adventurous films in between the bigger budget stuff.
The only problem is, while punters and critics alike admired her bravery and acting ability, it never seemed to result in top quality films or top level box office. For a while this didn’t seem to matter – this was Nicole Kidman after all. One of the highest paid actresses working in Hollywood. She’d bounce back and get making classics and big hits like… and… wait she was in one of the Batman’s wasn’t she?
The Rise to ‘Mega-Stardom’
Actually let’s start the calculations from Batman Forever, the film that validated Kidman’s bona fides by casting her in the series that captured every 90s mega star at some point or other. And Val Kilmer. This arrived on the back of Days of Thunder, Billy Bathgate, Far and Away, and To Die For, a film that would garner critical applause but take nothing at the box office.
Get used to that. At best.
Something that became more prevalent as Kidman’s career progressed. Or stalled. Whichever your viewpoint, Kidman is an actor unlike most in Hollywood, seemingly disinterested in what others thought of her or her choices.
To this end I decided to assess her career differently from all others. To make allowances for her idiosyncrasies. I decided to track the success or lack of in Kidman’s films since Batman Forever by one of three measures.
A pass mark is granted if they do any one of these three things:
- Make money – you are paid to create a profitable product after all. The last half dozen years the top 50 grossing films of each year have all made 60M or more. Seems reasonable to crack the Top 50 if you really are one of Hollywood’s Mega-Star elite?
- Gain critical success – or to be part of artworks that prove your undoubted talent. 60% plus on Metacritic and a Rotten Tomatoes ‘Fresh’ oughtta prove your cred.
- Or at least cover the spread – do a little of one or the other will ya?
I am ignoring Eyes Wide Shut because I haven’t seen it for over a decade and can’t generate the energy required to rewatch it and take a side. Let’s pick things up from 2000…
A Baz Lurhman musical featuring an all star cast which was both well received critically and commercially. While I would never ever bother watching it myself I’ll allow it.
Pass: Category 1 & 2
Kidman is adequate in a creepy little horror movie about a haunted house in which she and her young kids reside. The film was well received AND made more money that Moulin Rouge. More importantly I thought it was pretty good.
Pass: Category 1 & 2
Righto Ms K. You’re two for two in the post Batman era so far. That’s wayyyy better than Chris O’Donnell fared. Well done.
Let’s see how you go from here with this new whiz-bang mega-star license now that Hollywood studios are at your beck and call…
A Stalled Career
A film that made practically nothing and got mixed reviews. Kidman played a Russian
hooker… oops I mean mail order bride, who arrives with far more than just a bunch of stamps.
Fail: Sub 50 on Metacritic, Rotten on RT. Made nothing.
One of those dreary films that tell the story of the boring life of some eccentric/intellectual/prominent individual. Made a few bucks so well done. Also got the critics nod – a given seeing Meryl Streep was in it.
Pass: Kept the critics happy.
A love story set amid the grit and grime of the civil war. It made money. Pass. (Who watches these things?)
Pass: Category 1 & 2
A three hour art film about a woman who seeks refuge. Or something. Got awards. Really?
Fail: RT might like you but a ‘meh’ Metacritic and zero box office means doom.
A social commentary about racism and bigotry that… Ugh. Just writing about Nicole Kidman’s films is so very boring.
Fail: Nope, nope and no chance.
A genuinely weird film that was nearly commercial, nearly original and nearly interesting.
Fail: Nada, zip, zero. (I might be the only guy who actually thought this was OK.)
A remake of an earlier flick about robot wives. Is it a horror or a comedy? No-one watched it so we’ll never find out.
Fail: Triple fail again.
Another remake. This time of a TV series. Will Ferrell ‘helps’ by ensuring enough morons will buy a ticket to make a few bucks. I am exercising discretion by disallowing box-office here, because having a Sandler or Ferrell on board can’t be used as a crutch for suckiness.
Fail: Made Ferrell ‘opening weekend’ bucks, but it suuuucked.
A ‘serious’ drama thriller with a top notch cast, but one I can’t remember hearing about at the time.
Pass: Mixed feedback from RT and Metacritic, but it made a few bucks as well so I’ll allow it.
Fur? The full name is actually ‘Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus’. I guess even ‘Fur’ is better than that.
Fail: If they can’t get the name right what chance do they have?
Get Daniel Craig for some Bond crossover potential, add Kidman for Kredibility and make a mediocre sci-fi flick about aliens and viruses and such.
Fail: Simply over-flowing with failingness.
Here we go surely? On the heels of the Harry Potter, Narnia, Lord of the Rings love affair with fantasy book adaptations. How could this big budget effort not nail everything? I mean it has Nicole Kidman in it!
Fail: How unfortunate. Look it made 70M, but with that set up Pirates of the Caribbean money should have been assured.
A mojo-finder. Old Nic teams with fellow Aussies Baz Luhrman and flavour of the minute Hugh Jackman to make a big red dusty epic.
Fail: Ouch. Three times ouch.
To be fair I know nothing about this. I thought for a second that Kidman was a voice in the cool and under-rated post-apocalyptic animated flick.
Fail: Turns out that there’s a reason I haven’t heard of Nine. Seems No-one has…
It seems that even exceptional dramas about parents losing kids are hard to promote. I remember watching the cast spruik this on talk shows, read that it was very good, but ultimately as a parent I don’t go tracking down stories that will undoubtedly make me sad.
Pass: Critically adored, but I guess parents like me don’t pay for sadness.
Adam Sandler is in it. Jennifer Aniston is in it. They cast a non-acting supermodel for novelty value. Comedian Patton Oswalt has a great bit about Aniston movies making the same money regardless of content. You might call this trash ‘Exhibit A’.
Fail: I invoke the Ferrell/Sandler/Aniston rule. Kidman cannot claim credit for the moron effect that these Pied Piper’s of mediocrity have on the box-office opening weekend.
Wow a Kidman film I actually watched in the last couple years. I noted the direct to DVD status despite both Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman. I dubbed it worthy of the ‘7th level of Suck’ status.
Fail: So did everyone else…
I normally have a few other sub-categories after ‘a stalled career’, ‘the revival’, ‘the middle-aged spread’, ‘just pay me’. But the fact is that at least Kidman defies categorisation. She’s never seemed to take the easy money, nor has she focussed purely on being a credible critical darling like say a Streep or such. The more commercial looking films often tank, and some of the potential critics’ choice flicks suck too.
You would think if you allow yourself to sell out that the film should make money. You would think that if you make personal arthouse films that they are well received by the small audience that you are lucky enough to get?
This is rarely the case with Nicole Kidman. Maybe her face is so full of botox that it is hard to keep your eyes open to read scripts? Maybe the permanently stretched lips can only say “Yiss” and never “No”. Whatever the reason, 13 of the last 17 films in which Kidman has starred in the last dozen years have failed at achieving their goals – whether they be commercial or critical. That’s a success rate of under 25%.
MEANWHILE: In Hollywood…
One Hollywood mogul to another. (Looking at paperwork): “I mean how after this run of constant failure, can this person keep getting plum roles in films that she cannot possibly make work. Action films, commercial dramas… The Golden Compass!
Wait… just looking at the records here it shows that your ‘commercial’ license was actually taken a decade ago, and it’s only thanks to an administrative error that you didn’t get the paperwork. You mean no-one told you that you’re not a commercial actress anymore? Oh how embarrassing for you, flailing away with no chance of success. No Ms Kidman it says right here that you are only licensed to drive big clunky low budget critic’s faves, things no audience could ever possibly choose to watch.
I mean look at you. Look at your CV. Look at what you have done to yourself. Look at your test results in recent years. How could you possibly carry on thinking you have a future on the big screen?”
THAT’S A BIG FAT BOTOXED FAIL…
I’ll usually try to review a couple of back catalog films before I do these things. Just looking up and down Kidman’s CV made that feel like more work than it was worth.
Stoker is next up in September and possibly the one film on the list that I will make an exception for. Not because of her presence, in fact I have hopes for this film despite Kidman’s casting as it is the English language debut of director Park Chan Wook.
I want this film to do well. The fact is that Kidman can act, but she boasts zero charisma and apparently her ‘bubbly’ personality that she was initially famous for lost all carbonation through the Tom Cruise era.
And without a personality what is left? Her sex symbol days ended with Eyes Wide Shut – and for me well before that. Her ‘comedy’ days… never existed. Neither did her action days.
This really only leaves roles where she plays a prim and proper character who never smiles or displays emotion. Maybe two or three of those make a buck each year, but until Streep retires the plum roles there are already earmarked elsewhere anyway.
Nicole Kidman was one of the Top 3 or 4 Hollywood actresses for well over a decade despite no real evidence as to how this came to be. Based upon the last dozen years and her current situation I see no way known that she is scaling those heights once again.
And Ms Kidman; Don’t forget your roots…
For mine, watch The Others, forget the others…