Ben Stiller

Buy Me Love

As we approach this weekend’s Oscars, there are two predominant takes on the Best Picture category: Either it will be a close race between James Cameron’s 3-D (and nearly 3-hour) money-mill Avatar and Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq indie The Hurt Locker, with the latter a slight favorite (as this gambling site submits); or Bigelow’s picture already has the award in the bag.

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I'm on break this week and next, so readers will be (mostly) spared my cinematic exhortations until the end of the month. But I did want to weigh in briefly on Tropic Thunder, which opened yesterday. First, a few words about the Robert Downey Jr. minstrel-show "controversy." Downey is not acting in blackface (except in the literal sense); he's playing a character who is acting in blackface. Anyone who fails to grasp this distinction should probably also conclude that playing Archie Bunker made Carroll O'Connor a racist.

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Along Went Ben

Ben Stiller has the rare distinction of starring in two of the funniest American films of the last decade, the Farrelly brothers' There's Something About Mary and David O. Russell's lesser known Flirting with Disaster. Stiller also has the rather more common distinction of starring in a lot of utter rubbish. It will probably come as no surprise that Along Came Polly, out on video this week, falls into the latter category. In Polly, Stiller plays Ruben Feffer, an insurance risk assessor who is predictably terrified of any risk in his personal life.

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