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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.