Monday, March 3, 2014

All American Guy

So is Matthew McConaughey the new all-American, everyman? Is he now the guy that women love and men want to be like? Did the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club cement that? 

Every generation has a few actors who are almost everybody's favorite. They are the guys who play all different kinds of roles and yet always play themselves too. There was Humphrey Bogat, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper and Henry Fonda in the 40's and 50's. There was James Dean and Sean Connery in the 60's. Burt Reynolds dominated the 70's. Of course John Wayne from the 20's to the 70's. And on and on through now. I'm not necessarily talking about the best actor or the one with the with the biggest blockbuster hits. I'm talking about the guy who people want to go see in films and also seems like a real person. Guys you enjoy seeing even in a bad movie. These are the top ones who met that criteria for me.

I haven't gone to that many movies since I was a kid. Of course I went to the local theater on Saturdays when I was a tween to meet up with my friends and maybe my new "girlfriend". That was a social event, not a film event. I also went to the drive-in many times in my high school years, We almost never watched the movie. If I was with the boys, we were drinking and searching the grounds for girls. If we had a date, we were hopefully busy with romantic activities. Remember, some of those old cars were almost as big as a house. For the rest of my life I've seen probably fewer that two movies per year at an actual movie theater. That doesn't mean I haven't seen a lot of films, it just means that I see then on TV or DVD several weeks, months or years after their theater release.

I went through the normal cowboy phase with my movie/TV heroes. Roy Rodgers, Hopalong Cassidy, Cisco Kid and others during my youth. That's not what I'm talking about though. I mean the guys you want to be like who you notice in your teens or early adulthood. 

The first guy I admired as got a little older was James Garner, I thought Bret Maverick was the coolest guy going. I kind of lost track of him for a few years but always enjoyed him whenever I saw him in a movie. He made a slew of movies in the 60's but I didn't see most of them until years later although The Great Escape was a classic. Then he came back to TV as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files. Rockford wasn't your typical TV hero. He was an ex-con schemer who often operated outside the law but he was damn charming. He came across as a regular guy. 

In the meantime, I discovered Paul Newman. He was always cool. I enjoyed his earlier movies like The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke and others. I noticed him more in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. Then I really became a fan in the 80's when he did Absence of Malice and The Verdict. He was also an exceptionally cool guy outside the movies. He owned and drove race cars, he gave millions to charity and he drank beer. I can even forgive him for drinking Budweiser. He was also relaxed, matter of fact and unassuming in interviews and TV appearances. 

Funny, in my mind Newman always seemed much older than Garner. In fact, they are only about three years apart in age. Maybe it is because Newman was a big star first or the grey hair. It turns out they are much alike. They both started as pretty boys and wound up extremely accomplished actors. Neither got the recognition they deserved during the prime of their career. Newman died in 2008 and Garner, now 85, hasn't done much in the last few years.

There were others in this category. Steve McQueen (the actor, not the British director) was as cool as it got but he always seemed aloof. Burt Reynolds was top dog for a few years but flamed out and had some uncool personal episodes. Garner and Newman were solid their whole career and life.
Dallas Buyers Club

So that brings me to Matthew McConaughey. He seems to be in the same mold as Newman, Garner, Reynolds, McQueen and others. He started in show business as the young pretty boy. The joke was that he always found an excuse to take his shirt off. He made some bad movies but somehow came out OK. For the most part he kept making better movies although he didn't get much critical acclaim. Then in the last couple of years he seemed to be discovered as an actor. He has gotten good reviews in Lincoln Lawyer, Mud and Magic Mike. Then he hit the jackpot with Dallas Buyers Club. It was a fantastic performance in a low budget movie about a socially important subject. He wasn't so pretty in this film. I've seen the movie and it is not a fun or easy to watch film. Nevertheless, you will believe McConaughey as the character. Apparently so did a lot of others because Matthew just won the Oscar for best actor. He also comes across as a fun, regular guy. He seems to take his work seriously but not himself. 

I think Matthew McConaughey might be the successor to Newman and Garner. A very cool personality who also happens to be a terrific actor. We won't know if Matthew lives up to his new found fame for 25 or 30 years but he is off to a good start.  

Alright, alright, alright!


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