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Established 1995 serves and documents relentless the festivals community, offering 92.000 articles of news, free blog profiles and functions to enable festival matchmaking with filmmakers.


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The Rehabilitation of Ben Affleck

Some actors have nine lives, other sink like a stone. And then others are presumed to be "missing in action" after a series of flops at the box office. Some win fame early on, while others find it when they ripen in their later years. Some are blissfully ignored by the tabloids, and others are their bread and butter. Some are famous for what they do, and others are famous for who they are.

All of the above (contradictions intact) describe the journey of Ben Affleck in the world of film. A journey he shares with audiences this evening at the Walter Reade Theater in New York City. The program is presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The Film Society's Kent Jones will interview the actor, following the screening of HOLLYWOODLAND, which just may win Affleck his first acting Oscar.

It is not too unkind or inaccurate to say that Ben Affleck's career is in rehabilitation after several years of baffling decline. He found fame early, with a shared Best Screenplay Oscar win with boyhood pal Matt Damon, for the film GOOD WILL HUNTING. Affleck and Damon were the "it" boys of the 1990s. Everything they touched turned to gold. But in the past few years, Affleck seemed to lose his way.

With his re-packaging by the studios as an action adventure hero, a string of box office disappointments, drubbings by once-kind critics and an avalanche of publicity as the Ben in "Bennifer" (along with Jennifer Lopez), the actor became an overexposed, overheated personality, a National Enquirer cover boy.

And then a role perfect for his moment came along....Affleck has surprised critics and audiences alike with his powerfully mature portrait of the actor George Reeves, 1950s television's Superman, in the film HOLLYWOODLAND.

Looking pudgy, noticeably older and tapping into extreme emotional depths, the actor gives a sly and ferocious performance. When he won the Best Actor prize at the Venice International Film Festival in September, it was clear that Affleck had regained his acting chops and would be in the Oscar playing field. His visible support for Democratic candidates in a successful congressional election has only increased his current cool "cred".

In some ways, Ben Affleck is only now emerging as a distinct personality. In his first brush with fame, he seemed permanently linked to the persona of Matt Damon. They were a kind of cool Mutt and Jeff, who had known each other since grade school, both growing up on the hardscrabble streets of South Boston. Clearly, these were boys with dreams beyond Southie. They had an on-screen chemistry that reflected the close bond behind the scenes.

He perfected his image as the confused contemporary man with great performances in the films DAZED AND CONFUSED, MALL RATS and CHASING AMY, and even made being in tights for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE look credible. With his screen popularity growing, and with a desire to emulate the careers of such actors as Harrison Ford, Nicolas Cage and Mel Gibson, Affleck embarked on a series of mega-budget films like ARMAGEDDON and PEARL HARBOR. The films were huge hits, both in the US and overseas, increasing Affleck's international appeal.

When his private love affair with Jennifer Lopez became a public circus, Affleck became a tabloid sensation, with the press dubbing the affair "Bennifer". Suddenly, all the press around Ben Affleck did not have to do with his acting, writing or producing talents, but in speculations of the intimate details of his private life. This development coming in tune with a round of disappointments (including the laughably bad GIGLI, a Bennifer love valentine) put Affleck into a career and personal tail spin. When news of his seperation from Lopez came, immediately followed by his seeking professional help for an undisclosed addiction, his first rehabiliation had begun.

But Hollywood loves a comeback story (although Affleck was never technically away). And it is having one this season with Ben Affleck. No matter what the ultimate decision on Oscar night, Affleck's inclusion in the list of nominees (which seems all but certain) is a high water mark in the rehabilitation of this Oscar contender, whose best performances and work may be ahead of him.

Sandy Mandelberger
Awards Watch Editor

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