WEIRDLAND: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Stiller: American Way

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Stiller: American Way

Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal in New York Times portraits (7th Annual Great Performers in Film).

"The film of course is clearly buying into that “homosexual films for straight people” genre that was popularised first by Brokeback Mountain, and the casting highlights it; Lazarus is the blonde and brooding Australian, Tobey Maguire is the innocent-faced Jake Gyllenhaal lookalike"

"Stiller does a good job of spoofing all things Hollyweird. He stars as Tugg Speedman, a fading action star assigned to play the lead in the screen version of Vietnam vet 'Fourleaf' Tayback's (Nick Nolte) war memoirs.There are plenty of laughs at the excesses of Tinseltown, with the devil being in the detail: Lazarus' back story as a serious actor is highlighted by a wonderful trailer for Satan's Alley, a Brokeback Mountain for monks in which Tobey Maguire plays himself". Source:

Interviewer: A year ago, Entertainment Weekly spoke to a lot of people for a piece about Heath Ledger. The screenwriter, producer and cinematographer of Brokeback Mountain all talked. You were conspicuously absent. Are you uncomfortable remembering him in public?
Jake Gyllenhaal: Yes. Brokeback was painful. Any time you go into pain, I don't think you necessarily want to go back. But the results of that film, and how the public responded to it so hugely, were worth it. Walking through any kind of pain is usually worth it. As close as we all became making that movie, for all those other people, it didn't extend much farther than [the movie itself], so that experience of work could be easily talked about for publications. The experience Heath and I had was also shared publicly with all the press and publicity we did. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger attending Brokeback Mountain: Venice Film Festival Screening

But what we shared as friends, though I respect the interest so many people have in the mourning and grieving process and how it feels to other people, I feel like - and I don't mean this in an unkind way - but I don't think it's anybody's business but his and mine. So in that sense, to really respect him - and also the way he felt about his life and his private life and what he cared about, because he was a deeply caring and loving human being - every time anybody asks me any question about him, it would be like he is sitting next to me, and I know he would roll his eyes, because that's the way he was. It was between us.
Interviewer: Your former girlfriend, Kirsten Dunst, apparently said that you were the love of her life.Jake Gyllenhaal: Oh, really?Interviewer: That's what I read. Would you consider getting back together?
Jake Gyllenhaal: I'm going to leave that one for next time.

Jake Gyllenhaal in "American Way" magazine photoshoot, June 2010.

Leslie Mann in "American Way" magazine, July 2009

Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow with Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor at the L.A. premiere of 'Knocked Up' on May 21, 2007

"Judd has previously said that he can’t believe he landed you. Tell us -- how did he? At the time, we were both on our first big jobs, [the 1996 movie The Cable Guy]. I read with him [for the audition], and I don’t even remember it. When I walked out, he said to Ben Stiller, who directed the movie, “There goes the future Mrs. Apatow,” so I guess he knew. Then he stalked me for a couple of months, and then I went out with him. At first, I had a crush on Ben, which would have been a huge mistake. So, thank God".

"The generation was traditionally begun at 1965, taking off from the birth-rate-based Baby Boom span of 1946-1964, but since many notable people who are normally thought of as clearly Gen-X, such as Courtney Love, Janeane Garofalo and Eddie Vedder, were born in 1964, this year is often preferred as the beginning of Generation X. In their book Generations William Strauss and Neil Howe called this generation the "13th Generation" because the tag, like this generation, is a little Halloweenish, and it is the thirteenth to know the flag of the United States (counting back to the peers of Benjamin Franklin) and set its birth years at 1961 to 1981".

Gen-X celebrities - Celebrities born 1961 through 1981 include:

Quentin Tarantino, filmmakerJeanne Tripplehorn, actorRobert Downey Jr, actorBen Stiller, actor/directorJohn Cusack, actorKurt Cobain, musician (died 1994)Patricia Arquette, actorMolly Ringwald, actorJennifer Aniston, actor
River Phoenix, actor (died 1993)Cameron Diaz, actorRose McGowan, actorLeonardo DiCaprio, actorDrew Barrymore, actor/producerAlicia Silverstone, actressReese Witherspoon, actressBrittany Murphy (died 2009)Jake Gyllenhaal, actor

Wynona Ryder and Ben Stiller in "Reality Bites" (1994)

"Ben Stiller's 1994 tribute to Generation X, Reality Bites, provides an excellent example of this second wave of Generation X media. Starring Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo, and Stiller himself. Reality Bites is about a group of friends negotiating their ways through contemporary urban life after graduation from college. Getting this film takes more than merely being a member of the X-er age cohort, or even a member of the more specific X-er description I mentioned earlier. Stiller assumes an audience which has been well-trained by the media.
'Getting' Reality Bites represents a culmination of years of media training. Stillers audience is not only aware of Generation X signs and hails, but also the language of product placements, 'hip' consumerism, and music videos. Stiller can then use these tools first to engage the viewer, and then create an alternative consumerist ideology for Generation X.
We can see examples of fetishized products throughout the film, but one seems particularly fitting. 'The Big Gulp,' explains Lelaina in Reality Bites, 'was the most profound invention of my generation.' She then goes on to describe the mythic, almost magical, meaning of this 40 oz. drink: 'it provides all your essential nutrients', 'makes [her] happy', and represents her appreciation for simple, cheap commodities. In effect, she offers what we might call a Barthesian analysis of the myth of the Big Gulp. By including a self-aware and ironic explanation of a myth creation, Ben Stiller gives Roland Barthes take on ideology a curious challenge.Lelaina, Troy, and Vicki constitute a community of slackers who offer campy and cynical interpretations of commodities. Take Vicki's cynicism in the convenience market: Since the slackers lack the cash for a pizza, Lelaina suggests that they eat what she can acquire using her father's gas card. Vicki calls this 'eat[ing] gas.' Vicki's comment at once makes fun of the absurdity of this consumer transaction, as well as celebrates Lelaina's creativity in finding an ironic strategy for dealing with hunger. Lelaina's father, of course, had intended that the card be used only to buy gas.
As the happy, but knowingly ironic, consumers bring their hyper-commodified food to the register, Vicki quips 'Did you know that Evian is naive spelled backwards?' Here, Vicki undermines the myth of bottled water — i.e., that imported water is of a higher quality than domestic; bottled water is better for one than tap water — by pointing out the hidden message behind the consumer ideology of buying water. Although she still buys the water, she makes it clear that she is better than the supposed 'naive' consumer (later personified by Mike) who would believe the myth. Obviously a foil to Ethan Hawkes incessantly cynical Troy, Ben Stiller's Mike shows us consumerism without cynicism. Mike the yuppie is unable to understand the 'secret handshake' which would make him part of the group. He is the repulsive Other, the 'they' of Lelaina's angry valedictorian speech.Unable to perceive a life outside of consumerism, Stiller tries to show us the best kind of consumer to be. The film sends a message that life can be hard, but the best way to deal with it is by *embracing* consumerism with the awareness that the world is crumbling. As Troy puts it, 'Life is a series of chaotic tragedies and near-misses, so I take pleasure in the details. A quarter-pounder with cheese. Those are good.' Here, Troy explains the motivation of camp lite: addressing the problems of the world is futile, so one should simply enjoy little commodities. Troy, who is highly cynical about consumerism — advertising in particular — is positioned above consumerism in two ways: the cynical spectatorship mentioned in the earlier part of this essay and camp lite, a softening re-folding of cynicism back into not just consumerism, but consumer desire". Source:

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