Monday Morning Critic – 1.9.11 – James Cagney – Mark Wahlberg, Contraband and Gettin’ Dat Paper

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

One of the more amusing things about the upcoming weekend in new releases is that of Mark Wahlberg seemingly officially giving up and cashing in on his post Departed Oscar nomination. How so? He’s officially reached the point in his career, like many actors, where he chooses to GDP over anything else. What’s “GDP” mean? I first heard then it attributed to something then Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal” would say by Ben Fowlkes of MMA Fighting.com.

I found a song to help better explain it, for those unfamiliar with the general concept.

In other words … Marky Mark is off to “Get Dat Paper” over anything else now that he has his Oscar nomination.

I realize as being both white and lame that using urban vernacular is unbecoming in many ways; it only accentuates my whiteness as opposed to giving me some sort of credibility amongst the street population I will never achieve because of both my whiteness and my lameness. However, it’s the only way I know of to express this particular moment in Wahlberg’s career. And considering he used to be a rapper, way back when anyone with a good beat and some attractive women could have a hit song and video, it feels appropriate in this odd context.

Sometimes an actor has achieved a certain amount of prestige and visibility in their career they never thought they would have. At this point, once a certain amount of fame and respect from your peers and the movie-going audience has been achieved, there’s only one thing left to do: make as much money as possible to retire early. And I can see why an actor would want this; being a full time, working actor is tough and few can do it and be genuinely successful at. It’s also the one most critiqued, as well, and there’s only so much one can do in film before reaching a certain point.

Sometimes it’s more important to be comfortable than it is to be challenged; to be content is often more important than to be happy. And I get why someone like Wahlberg would take a film like Contraband: five years ago he hit that point where getting paid became more important than the respect of his peers. Once the bonafides sank in for his Oscar nominated turn in The Departed sank in, and that no matter what he can always refer to himself as “Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg.” There comes a point when the bulk of the work you want to do helps maintain a lifestyle and gets you nice stuff.

Some actors and directors, et al, never reach this point. Look at someone like Paul Dano; the guy is in tons of films, mainly working the indies of the world, for good and challenging parts obviously not paying him remarkably well. He takes a studio film every now and again to get a big enough paycheck to allow him to continue this lifestyle. It’s respectable in a way. He values his tradecraft to the point that taking roles off the beaten path to continue to become better at it is more important for him than it is to get the biggest check per film.

Dano might end up at a point sometime in the future when the dollar signs overwhelm script quality, etc, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising. Sometimes the perks of a studio film, including the better pay and treatment, become more important than the project itself. I imagine that there comes a point when someone shows you “eff you” money for a handful of projects that sometime you’ll wind up deciding to take it. The big bank account and high net worth can be worth it, especially in the entertainment field where big money offers aren’t around forever.

Mark Wahlberg – Shooter, We Own the Night, The Happening, Max Payne and Contraband aren’t the recent calling card of an actor looking for awards, honestly. The Fighter is an outlier, mainly because it was a passion project, but it’s not like he was all that good in it. I think everyone in that film besides him got nominated for an Oscar. It was like “Extra #2, step forward to get your nomination. Not so fast Mark.” It’s like ever since he got his Oscar nomination he said “I peaked, time to make some money” and thought that challenging Jason Statham for action hero status was more lucrative.

Ben Kingsley – After House of Sand and Fog, look at the massive amounts of films that clog his resume. Thunderbirds, A Sound of Thunder, Bloodrayne, The Last Legion, The Love Guru and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. He has enough quality to make you overlook the volume of crap, but you have to think sometimes that when Kingsley isn’t doing an indie he doesn’t read scripts. He looks at how big of a check he’ll get, which is taped over the script title, and decides from there. Yeah he can hold his head because of films like Hugo but let’s be honest; nothing about The Love Guru screams of anything but Ben Kingsley going “How much did they offer? No way. I’m in.”

Nicolas Cage – Is there anything this guy won’t do for money? Honestly … I think Cage isn’t sent scripts anymore. He’s sent hairpieces with checks attached to them. He goes through them, figures out which one he wants to wear, and then compares it with the salary he’ll get for wearing it, then makes his choice. Honestly, look at his resume in the last decade. Outside of a trio of solid films (Kick Ass, World Trade Center and Lord of War) and National Treasure, everything since Matchstick Men has been schlock to the highest degree. Some of it has been entertaining, some of it not bad, but one thing you can’t say about a guy who does the American remake of Bangkok Dangerous is that it’s not exactly the first choice material for an Oscar winner. It’s the first choice of an Oscar winner going “show me the money.”

Kate Hudson – She had her big moment in Almost Famous where she crushed it. You can’t top what she did in Almost Famous in some aspects: she created one of the more memorable characters in film of the first decade of the 2000s and gave my favorite performance of the decade of any actor or actress. And what did she do after this moment, this singular film that could’ve established her as the next great actress of her generation? Romantic comedies nearly every year, almost like clockwork. When Bride Wars and Something Borrowed, perhaps the two peaks films of her post Famous career. Kate Hudson immediately thereafter went out and Got Dat Paper, for sure.

Anthony Hopkins – Since 1997 or so, Sir Anthony Hopkins has kind of gone the Marlon Brando/Orson Welles route. Instead of humiliating himself, though, he’s managed to not be embarrassing despite being in a truckload of horrid films. There’s no other way to describe Bad Company, Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon , a Zorro film, Fracture, The Rite and The Wolfman. He has a handful of films to his credit aimed for the prestige audience but let’s be honest; the CBE holder has opted to cash checks much more often than he has taken challenging roles.

That’s all I can think of for now. Anyone else care to offer up someone who’s at the Gettin’ Dat Paper stage in their career?

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – White Heat

One of the downsides of gift certificates is that sometimes it’s not to stores I’m likely to frequent. Barnes & Noble is one of them; I love their book section but I have more books than movies to catch up on and as such haven’t bought a book in eons. Movies, though, are an entirely other beast and as such I have no problem getting more despite the entire DVD rack devoted to just stuff I haven’t watched yet. The time commitment for a film is way easier than that of a book as well; I can mow down a book while I’m waiting at the car dealership but the two hours to watch a film is easier to find than more than that to read a book. Plus Barnes & Noble has a crappy DVD selection that’s insanely overpriced; $25 there doesn’t go as far as it does on Amazon. But I was fortunate enough for one thing when I opted to use it the Monday after New Year’s.

Post holiday sales.

Thus I was able to pick up White Heat and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf for the gift cert, the remaining amount on one of those Visa check cards and a couple bucks in cash. Not a bad deal considering I’ve wanted to pick up White Heat for a while and Woolf demands a home on every film buff’s shelf.

White Heat stars James Cagney as Cody, the mastermind behind a train heist of spectacular portions. With Cody taking the rap for a crime in Illinois to get out of shooting a federal agent after him, and killing a member of his own crew sealing up a date with the gas chamber for him. As he goes in and out of jail until the big blood-soaked finale, it becomes an interesting character study about a violent sociopath with a soft spot for his mother.

Heat is an interesting film, historically, in that it’s not the most influential one of Cagney’s career but certainly the most famous. You could argue that Public Enemy and Angels with Dirty Faces were more influential to the genre but White Heat is the most famous of the immense number of gangster films Cagney did.

It’s also one of the films whose influence you can still see in both character and story. It’s one of the quintessential Cagney films for understanding how he influenced genre acting on a historical level. Cody is a despicable villain, and the film follows him throughout the end game of his life. It’s a film that gives you the best lines for any Jimmy Cagney impression, as well.

Strongest recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Beauty and the Beast (3D) – A beast kidnaps a hot chick, shenanigans ensue … IN 3D!

See It – It’s a Disney animated film and much like The Lion King it’s an opportunity for parents to share their love of this film with their kids.

Contraband – Marky Mark has to run something illegal for Giovanni Ribisi or else his wife (Kate Beckinsale) will die.

Skip It – Looks solid but it is January, after all. Add this to the serviceably bad action library Wahlberg is slowly accumulating.

Joyful Noise – Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah engage in wacky shenanigans as they both try to lead a choir to win a national competition.

Skip It – Queen Latifah’s record of success of films she headlines isn’t all that good. Don’t expect it to get better anytime soon.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

Tags: , , , , ,

Join our newsletter

never miss the latest news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary for Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games!