Monday, October 6, 2008

Why Don't People Like Russell Crowe?

(If you want to see a picture for this post, please scroll to the top of the screen)

This is a serious question: Why don't people like Russell Crowe? And I actually want answers. Whenever I bring up my (completely rational) love of Russell Crowe, people seem to agree or at least sound noncommital. But when I'm in groups not aware of my Crowe-love, and I mention loving Gladiator or 3:10 to Yuma, or being excited about the upcoming Body of Lies, people often seem a bit surprised. Surprised that I, a person quite informed about film, could like movies with Russell Crowe in them. And everyone wants to immediately point out that Bale was better than Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma, which is frankly not even close to being true (Crowe is better, but he also has the much flashier role - sort of like Jackman in The Prestige. In both cases, I prefer the Aussie to Bale, but he seems to be deliberately playing the second fiddle).

There are only two reasons I can think of for disliking Russell Crowe: first, he seems to be kind of a jerk, with an extreme temper. Well, I've never believed that personal life is a reason to evaluate an artist...otherwise our great artists would include pretty much only Paul Newman. And if you disqualify people from making movies for being jerks with tempers, well, I would advise you not to vote for McCain.

The other reason I can think of for not liking him is just not liking him. He might not be to your personal taste. I personally can't fathom that; his combination of Brando-like raw charisma and ability to underplay make him (like a very small class of actors, ranging from Newman to, yes, Bale) equally able to dominate as a larger than life character (Maximus, Jack Aubrey, Ben Wade) or disappear into a subtler role (Jeffrey Wigand, John Nash, Richie Roberts). But if you don't like him, you don't like him.

So now that I've gotten that out of the way, here's some perfectly objective reasons why you should like Russell Crowe:

1.He only makes good movies. Since he broke out in 1999 in The Insider, he has only made one bad movie, A Good Year. Besides that, he has only made good movies; the average metacritic score for his movies since 1999 is 68. That is damn high for an actor, who should at least be occasionally handicapped by a bad script or director. The universally lauded Bale, by contrast, has, over the same period, a metacritic score of 56 as a leading man. If you don't like Crowe, it shouldn't be because he makes bad movies. He doesn't.

2.He doesn't make too many movies. If there's one thing I get sick of, it's being overexposed to people I don't like. Don't like Christian Bale? Sorry, you're gonna see his face everywhere. Batman Begins, The Terminator, 3:10 to Yuma, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, even I'm Not There; good luck seeing a decent number of movie in any year without having to look at his face. He's even in fashion magazines (and there's totally NOT a Bruce Wayne Armani ad up on my fridge right now). But Crowe makes only about one movie a year; from The Insider through Body of Lies, he's only made 10 movies. For whatever reason, he chooses his movies carefully, and doesn't make too many. As someone who loves him, that can be a bit vexing, but it seems like a great reason not to dislike him.

3.He revived the career of Ridley Scott. Different communities believe different movies are the greatest film ever made. IMDb says it's Shawshank, critics and academics seem to agree on Citizen Kane, your average cine-fan will probably say The Godfather, and any group of college freshman will choose whichever movie made the most money the preceding summer. If, however, I had to pick a movie most beloved in the Blogosphere, I think it would probably be Blade Runner - everyone seems to love it. But its director was hurting in the 90s;in the ten years previous to Gladiator, master filmmaker Sir Scott made Thelma and Louise, 1492, White Squall, and G.I. Jane. Yes, in the ten years prior to Gladiator, Ridley Scott made only four movies, only one of them good.

Since he got Crowe fever in 2000, Scott has made eight movies, and in that time he's made Matchstick Men, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, and American Gangster. I don't know why he was in such a rut in the 90s, but the invigoration generated by collaborating with Crowe has gotten one of our greatest living directors back into making great movies. That couldn't make me happier.

So now you've heard three completely objective reasons for loving Russell Crowe; I've spared you my subjective ones. Please, tell me what you think. Do you dislike him, as so many people seem to? Why? How? Let me know.


Jo said...

Well, I can't tell you why I dislike him, I'm afraid, because I don't. I know there are a lot of folks out there who seem not to like him as I read a lot of blog comments, but the comments from those people never seem to be backed up by...reasons. All they'll say is something like 'he's a jerk' and leave it at that. Sure, the man has lost his temper a few times (but not of late and I don't think you'll see that side of him again as he's too aware now that his sons are getting old enough to understand and more than anything in the world, he cares what they think of him) but that doesn't make him an all-round 'jerk' anyway. He's simply...not. He has a great sense of humor, is as loyal a friend as you can find anywhere, adores his family and takes care of the whole extended thing of it, well, the list goes on.
I've never understood why anyone has problems with him as an actor because the man is a master at his craft. It has to be because of some personal hang-up they have with him as a man (for whatever reasons they've decided are valid enough for them to feel that way) as if you look at his films purely from an acting viewpoint, you need to drop your jaw in awe at his ability. The man's simply got the hang of how to do this craft and he has right from the beginning, back in the days of "The Crossing" and "Proof".

Sharon Ferguson said...

Seems to me the people who say they dont like Crowe "because he's a jerk" are the very same people who wax...erm...orgasmic over people like Sean Penn and other personalities who are forever sticking their faces in the public eye with their awful tempers. I suspect these people are really saying that they don't like Crowe because he doesnt seem to care if they like him or not. He's enormously confident, and that intimidates a lot of people who aren't confident, which only breeds a certain immature kind of contempt.

And one of the reasons he's confident is because he is TALENTED...which is far more than can be said of the class of people in the film industry today. It ain't bragging if it's true, and it true that you can go from one character that Crowe has done to another and NOT SEE the same man. How often can we say that of other actors in the business?

Plus I think he's just smarter than the average bear in Hollywood...that ticks off a LOT of people...

tri(sarah)tops said...

I imagine some people just don't like his movies / the characters he portrays. I can't really say much personally to that, because I've seen exactly three movies that he's in (Gladiator, Master & Commander, and 3:10 to Yuma). For the record, I hate Gladiator, but I'm not sure that Crowe is specifically what I hate about it. I think I just tend to gag on the whole giant epic genre sometimes. I liked it when I was 15 or whatever, but when I watched it a second time a few years ago, I just couldn't get into it beyond some cinematography aspects. Master & Commander was mostly the same, but I barely remember that anyway. 3:10 to Yuma, however, I love, mostly because of Crowe, followed somewhat closely by Ben Foster and Christian Bale.

I guess I don't hate Russell Crowe. But I'm not convinced I should run out and watch everything he's in. So that didn't really get you any closer to an answer. Oh well.

Bridgid said...

I reckon Jo said it all. I think he's become a brlliant family man and as an actor he is one of the best of our generation.

blake said...

I realize I'm in the vast minority here (at least among commenters on your blog), but I don't like Russell Crowe, OR Sean Penn.

And here's where people will start attacking, but I don't think Crowe is that talented. It seems to me he plays the exact same character in the majority of his movies. He, like other overrated actors (Denzel included) have no range, they play themselves, in different movies, and, for me at least, it gets extremely boring.

Anonymous said...

I fall into the camp of those who don't like have an interest in him--personally--precisely because "he seems to be kind of a jerk, with an extreme temper."

And I will tell you precisely why; because I, myself, have been a jerk, with an extreme temper. It's ugly, and I don't like it, and I'm trying to get over it. If you have any conscience at all. I take strong exception to anyone who displays those qualities.

Also, I despise bullies. To death. If I had my way, every bully would be killed--in the most brutal, painful way possible--on the spot. Someone Crowe's size, with a horrible temper, has every likelihood of intimidating or pushing someone around at some point. It should never, never happen; whatever aspirations or ideals are infused in the concepts of "humanity," or "human-ness," or "civilization" are betrayed and corrupted in anyone who physically, sexually, psychologically, or financially intimidates another.

I do, however, appreciate Crowe's ability as an actor; I just don't like most of his projects. I found him fine in LA Confidential, excellent in Master and Commander, and competent but not inspiring in Gladiator.

Anonymous said...

I dislike him due to his anti-american comments he made a few years back. He doesnt mind taking our money, but he thinks we're all ignorant. So, I wont spend my money to see him. Ever...

Anonymous said...

I met both Russell Crowe and Sean Penn last year at seperate events and I was not impressed with either.
Loud mouthed, arrogant, critical but not ignorant. No, these are fairly intelligent men who speak their mind but its a pity just what it is they have to say.
Crowe is a back peddler too: not long after he said disparaging things about us he then said he would like to give avery American a million bucks.
Actually, yeah, thats pretty ignorant.
Penn is just a whiny bitch, complaining that all the good roles are going to Colin Farrell and Shia LeBouef and all the Aussie imports and not realising how fortunate he is to be still getting roles at his age.

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