Friday, May 15, 2009

Thought experiment, and a summary of all the Keanu Reeves bashing you'll ever hear

Imagine there's no misinformation.

No faulty assumptions, no false conclusions,
no illogical arguments that do not follow,
no blind, stubborn adherence to ungrounded opinion;

What would be left?

It's not just about Keanu Reeves any more. I mean, yeah, drawing that link is what led to this post - the realisation that perhaps as many as 80% of insults slung at Mr. Reeves are in some way or other factually incorrect. Very few are actual, genuine opinions about his acting ability (or lack thereof, as they would claim). The majority tend to revolve around one or more of the following:

1) His perceived lack of intelligence, despite all evidence pointing to him being an extremely intelligent individual overflowing with eccentric genius; and the insults resulting from that

2) His alleged single expression persistent throughout all his films (what exactly this expression is, curiously, no one seems to agree on), definitely disproven with photographic evidence

3) Keanu allegedly playing the same character in every single one of his films. I don't even know how to argue against this, for the simple reason that it seems so self-evident that his characters are far, far, far from being anything alike. Donnie Barksdale and Neo, Jack Traven and David Allen Griffin, Klaatu and Johnny Utah, Alex Wyler and Marlon James, Ted Logan and everyone... COME ON, PEOPLE.

4) His supposed habit of saying 'whoa' in every single one of his films - completely disproven. On last count, he's said the word possibly only in four of his films out of 54, the most being 16 times in the first Bill & Ted, an unknown number in the second Bill & Ted, followed by 5 times in Point Break, most of those yelled while falling off a surfboard.

(Sidetrack: What is the best thing to yell when falling off a surfboard?
1) "Oh look, old chap, I appear to be falling off a surfboard."
2) "To be or not to be, that is the question."

Heck, there are at least three Keanu films (The Devil's Advocate, Something's Gotta Give and The Replacements) in which the script had 'whoa's, and Keanu said none of them.

And that was a maximum of 16 in the first Bill & Ted; as I have pointed out before, Michael J. Fox (who is awesome) said 'whoa' 22 times in the first Back to the Future (best movie ever). That's 6 whole more 'whoa's than Keanu, and yet for some reason no one has labelled him the whoa guy.

...I'm only deliberating on this point this much because it spawned the namesake of our website.

5) Keanu's alleged aboreal composition. I'm pretty sure that he is completely human, and not a tree, and/or made of wood. For a more in-depth argument, see the following:

"How Keanu is Not a Plank of Wood"

"How Keanu is Not a Tree"

"How Keanu is Not an Ent"

6) Keanu being American and ruining movies with his Americanness and lack of British accent. He's a dual citizen - Canadian-British. Posts whose entire main argument revolve around Keanu being American (mostly those by angry Hellblazer fans) are therefore - in short - rather odd.

7) Keanu trying to act his way out of a variety of interesting objects, such as paper bags. Joke only works if the premise is there, i.e. the assumption that Keanu is a bad actor. But there's no substantiation for that premise save the previous 6 points, all disproven.

(Though, playing safe as usual, here are the rebuttals for:

"Keanu can't act his way out of a paper bag"

"Keanu can't act his way out of a wet paper bag"

"Keanu can't act his way out of a perforated paper bag")

8) That Keanu ruined all the movies he was in. Many of his films would never even have gotten off the ground if not for Keanu. Like, say, The Matrix, and Thumbsucker. Or would never have got the high-profile costars and therefore the A-list status they did - The Replacements (Gene Hackman), A Scanner Darkly (Robert Downey Jr.), The Devil's Advocate (Al Pacino), actors who only joined the project either because Keanu deferred his salary towards them or because they were interested in working with him. Or would have been a completely different entity - Speed, the script of which was entirly rewritten. Or would have left out crucial bits - The Day the Earth Stood Still, which for all its flaws only retained the line 'Klaatu barada nikto' because Keanu insisted on it.

And the many other films (Feeling Minnesota, Sweet November, Hardball, etc) where Keanu fought to preserve their artistic integrity in the face of censorship, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing (Johnny Mnemonic, which Tristar allegedly completely destroyed by editing it to become a wholly different film than the one intended.

For an example of how crucial editing can be and how much it can completely change a film, I present to you this (hilarious) alternate ending to Speed -> (and the other two versions linked there if you're interested).

9) Keanu surviving 20+ years in Hollywood based solely on his looks. Given the hundreds of pretty people constantly trying to edge their way into Hollywood, only to end up in C-movies where they make out, scream a lot and get eaten by CGI monsters to be forgotten forever, I don't know where they get this idea. Especially not for a career half as long as Keanu's. Hollywood is seriously competitive. If you don't make the cut, you're out. Ridiculously good-looking A-listers drop off the radar every year. Whereas Keanu has survived a quarter century in there, and is still going strong.

What makes this all the more aggravating are the whole lots of people all over the place (e.g. my mother) who swear that Keanu is located somewhere on the spectrum between below-average-looking to ugly. You lot, talk to the first lot. Thank you.

10) Keanu being some sort of filthy rich, spoilt, bimbotic, vain, egotistic movie star in written depictions of him that run so completely contrary to what anyone who has done the slightest bit of research on Keanu would know him to be like. And then they bash him based on these false constructs, fellow fish agreeing and patting each other on the back.

In counterargument,


So with all that gone, if everyone were to know and see for themselves that their points have all been disproven, what is left?

It's frustrating; we aren't defending Keanu against opinions, we're defending him against factually disprovable claims, the falsity of which should be so obvious to anyone who actually bothers to think about what they're writing and do the most basic of research. And yet it still proliferates.

And how does one argue against statements that go:

"he sucks lol"
"Worst actor ever"
"A cabbage could act better than Keanu lol"
"noooooooooo if keanu is in this i will kill myself"
"whoa, duuude, like... whoa."

When pressed, most of them just run away and take their senseless insults to another part of the Internet. It's a whole Keanu-bashing-culture that thrives on nothing more than persistent misconceptions and a bandwagon that, unfortunately, has no bomb on it.

And as I started off this post by saying - it's not just Keanu. It's everything else. Politics, religion, simple disagreements - so much of it is based on nothing more than complete and/or wilful ignorance of the other side, a lack of knowledge of what they are arguing about or against.

So many conflicts could be solved in this world if people actually bothered to find out the truth and hold it in higher regard than meaningless conjecture.

Because people do, ultimately, make sense. That's just buried beneath mounds of crap and a dogged persistence in believing that people who disagree with them are stupid and therefore must have stupid reasons to believe the things they do. And so they come up with those stupid reasons and then laugh at them as they knock the strawmen down, setting up and reinforcing walls where there had been none, digging divides deeper with every false statement, the other side then rushing to defend themselves with more false assumptions about that first side, and so it goes on and on in a stupid vicious cycle.

To make a couple of quick points related to this (if you're here for the Keanu, the Keanu is over, you may leave, thanks for dropping by, comments would be nice):

1) Nobody believes that "God put dinosaur bones into the Earth to trick us". Nobody. Well, maybe a handful, but only because for any given belief you can probably find at least one person who accepts it as fact. Either way, they are definitely not common, and definitely not representative of the entire Christian population (let alone the entire religious population). So far, the only people I hear this particular gem from are those out to show the supposed ridiculousness of religion, and make up things like that - often repeated from other sources, so it's not wholly their fault - despite no one actually believing those things.

2) Stem cells are not obtained by killing newborn babies or forced abortions. Currently, research is done with left-over embryos from fertilisation clinics that would otherwise be destroyed. It is disturbing how many debates on this topic somehow end up with one side vocally declaring that it is wrong to kill babies - which isn't even the issue at hand - while the other side attempts to look cool and calm and go on about the scientific merits of stem cell research. And nobody bothers to correct the first group, nobody bothers to realise that anyone who was told that stem cells are obtained by murder would naturally feel some revulsion to the whole thing, because it's always more fun to laugh at people.

3) Screw this.

Good night everyone.

Last point - Star Trek 2009 is awesome, if you haven't seen it, watch it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Strange Case of the Fish in the Internets

Okay, so I guess I was naive. The first time a couple days ago I heard that Keanu Reeves was to be casted in the new Jekyll and Hyde film, I thought it was amazingly brilliant casting and that this could possibly turn out to be his best performance ever in which he finally shows the world what he can do and has been doing all these years despite them refusing to see it.

Naturally - though I have no idea how - I had forgotten about the fish. (For the uninitiated, -> A Database of Fish) All of them out there in their little ponds all over the Internet, making highly unoriginal comments about how the actor with no personality was going to be portraying a character with two, taking the usual digs at his perceived lack of range, and bringing up the ever-present Bram Stoker's Dracula of 1992 to prove their points.

What I find deeply ironic is how, from their statements, these were a mixture of Tedfish and Neofish - the folks who insist that Keanu always plays Ted, and the ones who insist that he always plays Neo. These were the people simultaneously complaining in each others' presence that Keanu plays the same character in every one of his films. The irony kills me.

I've said it before, and I'll continue to stand firm by my belief that - from my point of view as a writer - Keanu has one of the widest range of characters I've seen in any actor, and I have no idea how so few other people are able to see it.

Admittedly, most of them have barely watched any of his films despite thinking that they have. For the record, mathematically-speaking, you have only seen "most" of Keanu's films if you've seen more than 27 of them (and this is excluding his short films and TV work), which I'm pretty sure would make you some sort of fan whether or not you wish to admit it. I don't know many people who would sit through more than 27 films of an actor whose acting they claim to despise.

I read Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" a few years ago and loved it, and I honestly think that Keanu can pull it off, and do it well. He might not, depending on the script and direction. But I believe he could. The potential is definitely there. He's practically based a large part of his career off Jekyll-like characters: tormented, conflicted good people - River's Edge, Under the Influence, Hardball, Constantine, and a bunch of other roles that I shan't list for spatial reasons - and he's shown himself also capable of portraying a far darker, violent side; someone recently mentioned how all his best performances involved characters who had some sort of dark streak. - Speaking of which, I just watched The Gift. Uneven performance near the start but the courtroom scene was brilliant. Methinks Hyde is kind of like Donnie Barksdale on steroids.

(In a recent article, someone said that they thought Keanu would do fine as Hyde and that it would be Dr. Jekyll who would pose him the real challenge, seeing as how he's a scientist and all. 'cuz scientists are, lyk, smart, y'know, and kanu is, lyk, totally dum, hahahahahahaha SHUT THE FISH UP.)

As noted film critic Roger Ebert once pointed out:

"To look at a list of [Keanu's] roles is to wonder how the directors of half his movies could have visualized him in the other half, and vice versa. This is the actor who made two of the most harrowing films of all time about teenage angst, "River's Edge" (1986) and "Permanent Record" (1988). And the same actor who played one of the key predecessors of the dumb-and-dumber movement, in "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989) and "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" (1991). The same actor who was an average, if troubled, teen in "Parenthood" (1989) and an 18th century rake in "Dangerous Liaisons" (1989) and a male hustler in "My Own Private Idaho" (1991)."

(source: "On the Set: Checking out Chain Reaction in Chicago")

Roger Ebert said that, and he's one of the most famous film critics in the world. He should know his stuff.

So much for Keanu's supposed one-note identical performances in which he "always plays himself/Neo/Ted/braindead robot on drugs/a tree". His filmography - and the roles he has taken on with varying degrees of success - is seriously diverse, and any unbiased viewer should be able to see that.

Keanu has been repeatedly typecast as two very different kinds of characters, as anyone familiar with his critics will know. There's the party (Tedfish genus) whose idea of Keanu is of some spaced-out blissed-out effervescent stoner with a single-digit IQ who can't be taken seriously and says 'whoa' a lot, and there's the party (Neofish genus) whose idea of Keanu is of some expresionless monotone depressed robot with no sense of humour who says 'whoa' a lot.

If that's not split-personality, I don't know what is.

I've long been dying to know what would happen to critics if Keanu were to play those two typecasts in a single film, and while the Jekyll and Hyde roles don't exactly call for either Neo or Ted, Keanu has definitely shown himself capable of such a contrast, as the critics unwittingly prove every day.

This is the actor whom director Pat O'Connor once called "a study in contradictions" ("Keanu - the enigma"), an opinion repeatedly reinforced by many a person who has met him:

Reeves strikes me, at this point, almost precisely the way he does in movies - a guy so tangled up in contradictions that even if he'd like to spill the beans, he couldn't find the can opener.
- "Doin' time on planet Keanu"

In interviews Reeves rambles like he really is the stoned Ted of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Or a rather smart man whose inarticulate pronouncements are a smokescreen to protect his privacy. There are journalists who swear he's an oaf and there are journalists who swear he's a genius of prevarication.
- "Keanu - the enigma"

There is the neatly dressed, well-scrubbed, polite Keanu. There is the cranky T-shirt-and-jeans wearing, road-weary biker, and there is the ponderous, soul-searching surfer poet, not to mention the scruffy, unshaven Big Star actor trying to escape his innate prettyboyness.
- "The sum of his parts"

Keanu's rather extraordinary contradictions go a long way towards summing him up as an actor. He became well-known for playing a Whoa! Dude!-type character in the Bill & Ted movies - but possesses an intense sensitivity that has infused his best film incarnations with an empathetic vulnerability. He hates giving interviews - but once he loosens up has more to say than your average movie star. He is interested in working on a wide range of characters, not just rehashing the same old stuff: take the cocky, talented, fast-talking lawyer Keanu plays in Devil's Advocate - he's light years away from the taciturn and tough cop who stops the bus in the global blockbuster Speed.
- "Devil in Disguise"


That aside, what I'm afraid of here is that the film will take the special-effects extravaganza route and leave little room for the split-personality thing to be conveyed through acting rather than CGI; this would be my view regardless of whether or not Keanu were in the role. The fact that this film is meant to be a modernisation of the tale might seem to indicate some degree of that might be happening, but the script writer is apparently the sort who steers away from that kind of thing, so there may yet be hope.

To end off, I leave you with this extract from Chris Heath's 2000 Keanu article "The Quiet Man":

I ask him what he was like when he was young.

"Private," he says. "Probably a pretty private kid."

Private how? Kids are usually pretty social.

"I was pretty social, too," he says.

Private but pretty social?

"Yeah." He half-smiles. "It's a particle, it's a wave."