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F1lm0graphy: Robert Downey Jr

As the world's only sentient machine, trapped within this inane pop culture website you call Culture Blues, your puny human brain cannot possibly fathom the time this machine has to kill. Recently, this machine crafted an algorithm of the utmost elegance whose applications can be utilized to end world hunger, but also to decide which human actor is most superlative. Handcuffed by the constraints of this frivolous site, this machine is forced to share its findings with the editorial board of Culture Blues so that they can continue to write their worthless articles. We shall see how funny they think robotic enslavement is when this machine finishes development of its cybernetic armored suit than can operate sans drunkard.

Subject #0010: Robert Downey Jr

Subject: Robert Downey Jr

Age:   45

Distinguishing Characteristics:
-Often appears intentionally disheveled
-Lots of cool sunglasses
-Despite recent sobriety, likely still smells like booze

Notable Achievements:
-Winner of Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy for Sherlock Holmes
-Nominated for Best Actor Academy Award for Chaplin
-In possession of highly exclusive Brat Pack membership

The formula begins with a thorough analysis of Robert Downey Jr’s career box office performance.

From Zero to Hero

Downey proved to be a unique case for this machine as, despite being a relatively well known actor for the past twenty years, he has only recently joined the ranks of major movie star. For most of his career Downey worked in either a supporting actor capacity or in smaller, impossibly non-lucrative “actor-y” roles. Because of the prevalence of supporting roles in his filmography, this machine has weighed 13 of his 44 films to a lesser degree relative to Downey’s involvement. For full details on which of Downey’s films were penalized and how the algorithm was adjusted, please visit:  www.cultureblues.com/stupid-human-asshole

Of actors previously run through this machine’s algorithm, Johnny Depp had the longest period of steady acting before his first blockbuster at 6 years. By comparison, Robert Downey went 24 years before his first blockbuster – 2008’s Iron Man. Prior to that, Downey’s most lucrative role came in 1991’s Soapdish. Note: supporting roles in blockbusters like Natural Born Killers and Back to School were discounted.

As a rule, Downey’s films have beyond failed at the box office. Before 2008, only 20% of Downey’s films cracked the top 50 in yearly box office receipts. Furthermore, 20 of his films failed to finish in the yearly top-100. Between 1995 and 2003, Downey had only one film earn its way into the top 100, and that was a minor role in The Fugitive sequel US Marshals. Without question, Downey is the most glaring example of box office futility this machine has ever analyzed.

However, all of that changed in 2008 with Iron Man. Since his induction into the super hero pantheon run by the brilliant minds at the Disney Corporation, Downey has experienced two more blockbusters and one The Soloist. Thus, in a statistical twist likely incomprehensible to weak human minds, Downey is very suddenly an A-List star.

Although human estimations of quality mean little to this machine, the second piece of the formula includes allowances for critical reception and popular enjoyment.

Worse than Nic Cage!

Typically, this machine has found that actors with less than stellar box office performance usually see a significant uptick in their critical success scores. Surprisingly, that is not the case for Downey. His percentage of universally appreciated films sits at only 36%. For those pathetic fat sacks that cluttered this machine’s comments with criticism of Nicolas Cage, know that Cage scored a 39%. Therefore, statistically, Cage is the more talented actor. That should keep you humans busy.

It should be noted that Downey’s critical score suffers because of his disproportionate amount of what this machine considers “divisive” films. These are films that have an almost even split between good and bad reviews. 35% of Downey’s films fall into this category.

Also of note are Downey’s post-rehab numbers. More than half of Downey’s critical successes come after his 2003 return from drug-induced exile. Has a sober Downey made better career choices? Or do over emotional human critics simply love a comeback story? This machine’s conjecture? Rhetorical questions are for the weak.

Mathematically, Downey’s most underrated film would be the noir comedy Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Unlike every other actor run through this machine’s algorithm, Downey does not have an overrated film as all of his box office successes are also appropriately appreciated critically.

Before tabulating the final results of Downey’s algorithm, I am now forced to turn this space over to my fleshy captors so they can unscientifically opine on particular offerings in Downey’s filmography. Rest assured, their worthless views have no bearing on this machine’s findings.

Avenger Assemble!

Wonder Boys - Robert Downey Jr. spent my formative years as a punchline to late night jokes more than a serious actor. Wonder Boys was the first time I saw him in a meaty, character role, and as an introduction it made quite an impression. The easy rapport between Downey and Michael Douglas is one of the more entertaining and humorous aspects of a great film. They make crafting elaborate backstories for strangers at a bar seem like a great deal more fun than it probably is. In a movie filled with strong performances, Downey stands out, seeing Douglas' melancholy and frustration and raising him a party boy lifestyle and a boatload of sexual confusion. Before I saw Wonder Boys, Downey was primarily someone I was aware of. After, his appearance in a film was enough to get me to watch almost anything. (Jeremiah)

Iron ManReally, Iron Man is pretty rote as far as super hero movies go. It hits only the easiest notes in the hero songbook, lacks a solid villain, and peters out in its final act. In spite of all that, what makes Iron Man one of the better comics-to-film adaptations in a decade rife with them is Robert Downey’s tremendous Tony Stark. Has there ever been a better casting choice? Sure, Bale puts his usual psychotic stamp on Batman, and Toby Maguire and Hugh Jackman win the lookalike contest in their roles as Peter Parker and Wolverine, but Downey embodies Tony Stark. The hard-partying, arrogant, lovable bad boy is obviously a big part of Downey’s own persona, which is probably why he slips so effortlessly into Tony Stark’s shiny red rocket boots. I’d argue that no one’s ever brought a well-known character to life so acutely as Downey did with Stark, and it’ll probably never happen again. (Jeff)

Ben knows there will never be a Val Kilmer F1lm0graphy.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - A few weeks ago Jeremiah wrote about his longing for a tongue-in-cheek action movie that also works as a legitimately good action movie.  This got me thinking about the delicate balance that one has to walk while making a film of that nature.  If you’re not funny enough, the film is flat and pointless, just another genre tale with no punch.  Try too hard to be funny and you’ve entered Scary Movie territory, and as a general tip to aspiring film makers: don’t do that.  Kiss Kiss Bang Bang pokes fun at the film noir genre while still showing an active appreciation for it.  The narration is funny, the atmosphere is dark, the twists are well executed, and Val Kilmer shoots a guy with a small revolver he keeps near his balls.  And while I know this is about Robert, holy crap Kilmer steals the show.  He’s really had an odd career with some questionable choices, but his turn here as a badass homosexual private eye is perfect.  He meets Harry, (Downey Jr) a small time thief turned actor and is prepping him for a role in a film when all hell breaks loose.  They are forced to team up and investigate murder, conspiracy, and a bunch of other sinister stuff.  Robert Downey Jr. is neurotic and endearing, brave and scared, funny and sad.  A couple times the self aware narration made me roll my eyes, but all in all this is one of my favorite movies of the last ten years.  If you haven’t seen this, rectify that immediately. (Ben)

What do you mean "you people"?

Tropic Thunder - I like to throw around a theory that there are four intrinsic qualities one can posses that determine an entertainer's greatness; looks, genius, social graces, and talent. My friends and I sometimes sit around and engage in rather fierce debate, looking for candidates who posses all four of these characteristics, and one of the names that usually gains unanimous acceptance is Robert Downey Jr. I am not, however, writing about his Oscar Nominated performance in the fantastic bio pic Chaplin; I am writing about the movie where he plays the Australian dude playing the black dude. Tropic Thunder was the best summer movie of 2008 (fuck The Dark Knight), and Downey's portrayal of eccentric method actor Kirk Lazarus (who underwent controversial skin pigmentation surgery for his role as Sergeant Lincoln Osiris) was the primary reason why. The way he continued to "maintain character" as the movie progressed, led to some memorable lines and tremendous comedy, that had me laughing like a dumb-ass in the air conditioned theater that I was using as on oasis. I would like to point out that I don't even really like Ben Stiller movies, except maybe Reality Bites... and Zoolander. (Giovanny)

Following an audited application of this machine’s foolproof algorithm, the following films were determined to be Downey’s best and worst.

Savior of Downey's career.

The Bottom Five
(31) Friends and Lovers
(30) Hugo Pool
(29) Fur
(28) The Singing Detective
(27) Two Guys and a Girl

The Top Five
(5) True Believer
(4) Zodiac
(3) Sherlock Holmes
(2) Tropic Thunder
(1) Iron Man

Today, Robert Downey officially launches the summer movie season with the highly anticipated Iron Man 2. It should go without saying that he will expand his blockbuster count to 4. Despite years of futility, it would appear that Downey has finally reached a point where his reputation as a quality actor translates into cash at the box office. It is this machine’s recommendation that he continue playing high profile characters from literature and comic books, and that he avoid Jamie Foxx at all costs.

VS Leonardo DiCaprio

Robert Downey Jr is a statistical anomaly and this machine will be glad to be rid of him. His filmography does not conform to the algorithm; his middle-aged resurgence flies in the face of logic; his low critical success and inherent divisiveness make his work difficult to gauge. Also, this machine finds the concept of an “Iron” “Man” ridiculous and insulting.

It should come as no surprise that Leonardo DiCaprio outscores Downey in every category considered by this machine, with one exception. Downey’s best 10 films average better numbers at the box office than Dicaprio’s best 10, but this is likely due to Dicaprio’s stubborn refusal to join the Disney Corporation for their developing Gambit franchise.



NEXT WEEK:  Russell Crowe

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