This is the fourth definition listed in the Urban Dictionary under the term “tool”:
“A person, typically male, who says or does things that cause you to give them a ‘what-are-you-even-doing- here’ look. The ‘what-are-you-even-doing- here’ look is classified by a glare in the tool’s direction and is usually accompanied by muttering of how big of a tool they are. The tool is usually someone who is unwelcome but no one has the balls to tell them to get lost. The tool is always making comments that are out-of-place, out-of-line or just plain stupid. The tool is always trying too hard to fit in, and because of this, never will.?
Here is my definition of the term “tool”:
Now, which of those definitions applies to Ben Affleck? I say neither.
People who watch Orlando Bloom act and find him to be bland have sufficient reason for feeling so. Fact is he’s bland; there is a void of charisma when he’s on screen. Low-minded people who think Keanu Reeves is a sucky actor could probably make a case that there have been a few bad performances in The One’s illustrious oeuvre (Dracula comes to mind). Britney detractors could form a solid argument on her lack of singing ability simply by having eyes, ears, taste and an aversion to Cheetos dust (the last one is harder than you’d think).
But where do people get off thinking Ben Affleck is a tool?
Is he the best actor in Hollywood? No, far from it (though he has gotten good reviews before, hello Changing Lanes). Has he been involved in a completely annoying celebrity couple? Absolutely, but Bennifer was no more or less intolerable than Brangelina, Vaughniston, TomKat or Nick and Jessica. Has he made way too much money starring in a slew of crappy movies? I think Forces of Nature, Surviving Christmas, Paycheck, Man About Town, Bounce, Reindeer Games and Pearl Harbor speak for themselves. But has he really done ANYTHING worthy of lumping him in with Carson Daly, K-Fed, Criss Angel and any white guy out on the town in a striped shirt? I aim to prove he hasn’t.
It’s a hard climb to the top of “Ben Affleck is NOT a tool” Mountain, so let me get the biggest obstacle out of the way right now: Gigli.
Picture this: You’re a well-known talent in Hollywood. A producer comes to you and says “Hey guy, I have a movie for you. It’s a love story between you and Jennifer Lopez where you get to make out with her on set and watch her do yoga in booty shorts. But you’re also a gangster, so you’re gritty and tough and get to rough people up. We got Al Pacino coming in to yell at you in a scene and be creepy. And we’re flying in Christopher Walken to do one of his patented loopy speeches while you writhe on the floor in pain cause he just shot you. It’ll be just like that awesome scene in True Romance. Marty Brest is directing. He’s done Beverly Hills Cop and Midnight Run, and he got Pacino his only Oscar. Also, we’re gonna pay you TEN MILLION DOLLARS!” What do you say to that? You’re saying hell yes!
So Gigli is not his fault. He’s looking a lot less tool-y now, isn’t he?
You can’t say he’s untalented. Despite what urban myths would say, he wrote an Academy Award-winning screenplay. That happened. He’s won several significant awards for acting. And his directorial debut, “Gone Baby Gone” is getting filthy good reviews. I saw it and thought it was light years better than Mystic River (mostly because at no point in the movie did anyone melodrama into the camera “IS DAT MY DADER IN DERE????”). So the only real reason you could call him a tool is because of his relationship with J. Lo. Take that way (and I’ll explain why you can in just a minute) and the only mark is a few bad movies. If making a few bad movies makes you a tool than you can slap that label on George Clooney (The Peacemaker), Matt Damon (The Legend of Bagger Vance), Johnny Depp (Secret Window), Jude Law (his entire 2004 slate), and pretty much any male actor who’s toplined a few movies in his career.
Fact is Ben Affleck gets a bad wrap because he’s a fun, funny guy who dated one wrong girl, made a few bad movies and was a bit too omnipresent a few years back. I say he’s also made a slew of great movies, always makes me laugh on SNL, learned from his mistakes and settled down away from the tabloids with a nice girl and is well-liked by all his peers. For that and the following forty reasons, I think it’s preposterous to call my boy Affleck a tool. Let me prove it to you…
35 Reasons Why Ben Affleck Is NOT A Tool
1. The man has a very good chick stock portfolio. He sold high on Gwyneth, broke even on J.Lo and picked up a very dependable Jen Garner IRA. And he was never tempted by a risky celebritard-IPO (Britney, Lindsay, Paris, Brittany Murphy).
2. Created Project Greenlight as a way to develop new filmmakers. Not his fault that the contest winners sucked balls and their movies polluted theaters and DVD shelves worse than Forces of Nature. Although Gulager was fun to watch in a rubbernecking traffic accident kind of way.
3. Nominated for a Golden Globe for his role as George Reeves in Hollywoodland. Won the Best Actor Award at the Venice Film Festival for the same performance. Not to mention getting rave reviews for his work in Changing Lanes, Shakespeare in Love, Chasing Amy and Smoking Aces. So you all can shove it with that “crappy actor” nonsense. Have you ever thought it might not be him, but instead be the movie, or the director? I swear, Ben could be Keanu’s spiritual cousin.
4. Unlike, some other fake sports bigamists (ahem, unfunny Dane Cook), Affleck is actually a TRUE fan of his favorite sports team (the Red Sox, if you didn’t know).
5. Gave us the chance to see Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman chew scenery together in Gone Baby Gone. Gotta love that.
6. He’s not nearly as skeezy or douchebaggery as Colin Farrell, a guy who’s made just as many awful movies as the Fleck (Hart’s War, Ask The Dust, Miami Vice, Alexander, American Outlaws).
7. More on the point of acting, a person’s relative talent level is fairly fact based. Either he’s good or he isn’t. But that has no relation to his relative tool level, which is entirely subjective. So he not being great in a couple of movies has no bearing on his perception of being a tool. I don’t judge Carson Daly’s toolishness on his Last Call monologue. I judge his toolery on his poser black fingernails, his manorexia, his goofball name, his propensity for dating idiots (hey Tara Reid!), and the fact that, you know, he’s a tool.
8. Can speak extemporaneously on a wide-range of topics, which makes him light years ahead of most of his Hollywood generation, and a good portion of our government officials. And by “a good portion”, I mean our President.
9. Gave his kid a relatively normal name (“Violet”). It could have been worse. His Chasing Amy co-star Jason Lee named his kid “Pilot Inspektor”. Hell, his ex named her kid “Apple”.
10. Brought his Mom to the Oscars when he won for Good Will Hunting. That’s class, kids, c’mon!
11. Made a tightly-constructed, soulful, gripping detective movie starring a group of fantastic actors and never once called attention to his personal baggage in the process. In other words, is not Bret Ratner.
12. Harrison Ford signed off on Affleck replacing him in the Jack Ryan series. If he’s good enough for Han Solo and Indiana Jones, he’s good enough for me.
13. Why is he a tool because his head and face are kinda simian-esque? McConaughey has T-rex arms. Damon has a fratboy pig nose. Brad Pitt is notoriously smelly. Orlando Bloom is a chick. Keanu is grody to the max. But Affleck is a tool because he has a square jaw? I don’t get it.
14. Even if he DOES wear a hairpiece, who cares? So have Sean Connery, Burt Reynolds, and Bruce Willis, and those guys rule.
15. Like Brad, Matt, George, Matthew or Jude was gonna pull off the animal crackers scene in Armageddon, any better? He had to drag crackers across Liv Tyler’s pudge and make it look sexy. That’s a Herculean task. Laurence Olivier would have been flummoxed. Cary Grant would have called in a stunt double.
16. Campaigns excessively for the Democratic Party, but never once comes off like a Baldwinian hypocrite-twit. Spends time at phone banks doing voter registration, makes speeches at rally’s and works to diminish lobby-influence on politicians. Said this about his own political aspirations: “My fantasy is that someday I’m independently wealthy enough that I’m not beholden to anybody, so I can run for Congress on the grounds that everyday people — be they singers or poets or bankers or lawyers or teachers — should be in government.” That’s honest activism I can get behind.
17. And is an actual TRUE activist, not to mention a good sport.
18. Morgan Freeman likes him (and he’s God!). That’s enough for me.
19. The man may not have the most range, but he can pull off a speech. A couple more You Tube-worthy monologues and he might just be our next Alec Baldwin.
20. Deflected most of the Bennifer hatred by immediately dropping off the tabloid circuit the minute he cut ties with La Lopez. Makes you wonder how much of the Bennifer nonsense was J.Lo’s fault, and not his. After all, do you EVER read Ben and Jen Garner pieces in Us Weekly? (see, I told you I had a good reason for eliminating this foible)
21. And now shows contrition for the hoopla surrounding that relationship and the negative impact it had on his acting career. Contrition! Would a true tool show contrition? I don’t see K. Fed apologizing for Britney. Or Carson Daly apologizing for himself.
22. This is from a report of Ben Affleck at the debut of his wife, Jennifer Garner, on Broadway with Cyrano De Bergerac: “Ben Affleck fought back tears of pride as he jumped to his feet to give his actress wife Jennifer Garner a standing ovation at the close of her official first night on Broadway recently.” The man loves his celebrity wife. How often is that true. Did K-Fed ever cry tears of pride when “Toxic” came on the radio? Does Chris Martin get teary when he watches Gwyneth be bitchy onscreen? Did Ryan Phillipe ever go ballistic in support when Reese would win an award? OK, that last one happened, but only because he was drunk. And is an idiot.
23. Is a great sport about people making fun of him. Example 1: The SNL Mango “Ben Whoffleck” sketch. Example 2: South Park’s skewering of Bennifer: “Taco flavored kisses for my Ben!”
24. Is an open and generous supporter of his homosexual cousin Jason, and has done work for the organization “Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays”. That puts him ahead of Kevin Spacey in my book.
25. Is considered one of the most loyal actors in Hollywood; why else would he agree to do Jersey Girl?
26. Speaking of, can laugh at his own limitations: Apple Sauce, BITCH!
27. His directorial debut was a short film titled “I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her On A Meat Hook, and Now I Have A Three-Picture Deal At Disney”. C’mon, that’s just awesome!
28. Was named People Magazine’s 2002 Sexiest Man Alive. George Clooney’s won twice. So have Brad Pitt and Richard Gere. McConaughey and Damon both have one win. So why is Affleck the tool in the bunch? They’ve all done their share of shitty movies and dated their share of questionable women. At least Affleck has the good grace to seem bemused by the whole thing.
29. His work as Big Bad Donnie Bartalotti in the Boston Teens sketches on SNL. (“I would never zap your lady. For serious, bro!”)
30. If you’ve never heard him do an audio commentary before, remedy that ASAP. He makes sitting through Pearl Harbor a breeze. I particularly like his commentaries for Chasing Amy (“I put on a clinic and my skills are free.”) and Mallrats.
31. Sure he’s made some shitty movies, but hell, it’s not like he’s Nicolas Cage!
32. Just to insure that his stint in rehab for alcoholism would stick, Affleck had legendary abuser Charlie “Ma” Sheen drive him to rehab. The MaSheen behind the wheel would get me to quit drinking, let me tell you. Moreover, has not publicly relapsed like some other celebrities we know and love (ahem, Lindsay). (btw, can you imagine the stories MaSheen must have told him to help him quit drinking. I quote John Turturro from Mr. Deeds: “The hideousness of [MaSheen] will haunt my dreams forever”.)
33. Has realized his time as a bankable leading man have passed him, and wisely decided to do smaller roles in cool ensemble films. Affleck is much more tolerable and likeable in small doses. And with a handlebar mustache (see Aces, Smoking).
34. Started supporting the non-profit organization A-T Childrens Project after he befriended Joe Kindregan, a wheelchair-bound child diagnosed with ataxia-telangiectasia, a rare genetic disease that causes neurological deterioration. Goes above and beyond to improve Joe’s quality of life, including paying for medical bills, taking him to premieres, and sending his family on vacations. Affleck even lobbied Congress for increased research funding. We call Tom Cruise a hero for changing some schmoe’s tire. Affleck is changing this kid’s life. Let’s show some respect.
35. You gotta admit that, regardless of everything else, he was the bomb in Phantoms, yo!
(Follow me on Twitter @jasonamatthews)