The man who would destroy Hollywood
Conan O’Brien introduced his lead guest tonight with these words: “Our next guest is an Academy-Award-winning actor who’s now appearing in the Eddie Murphy film Norbit. Please welcome Cuba Gooding, Jr.!”
I think that pretty much says it all about Cuba Gooding, Jr. How can he hear those words and not think ruefully, “I won an Oscar, and now I’m in Norbit. How did I screw up my life so badly?” It’s like being a Nobel Peace Prize winner who ends up on death row for a string of prostitute murders. Snow Dogs, Boat Trip, Rat Race … each role he’s chosen since his Academy Award-winning role in Jerry Maguire has been worse and more inexplicable. (Incidentally, I once read a Q&A session with baseball player Albert Pujols in which he cited Radio as his favorite movie, which I still find a hilariously mediocre choice for a favorite movie.) Why is Cuba Gooding, Jr. doing this? Being his agent must be like Colin Powell’s tenure as Secretary of State: living in a constant state of heart-sinking dismay as every attempt to exercise prudence and reason is ignored and overridden by a half-wit hell-bent on exercising his own recklessness and poor judgment.
I can only conclude that Cuba Gooding, Jr. is doing it on purpose. He’s on some sort of kamikaze mission to completely destroy the credibility of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, one awful comedy at a time. Who knows why? Maybe his excitement over winning the Best Supporting Actor in 1996 turned into shock and outrage when Robin Williams won the same award the next year. Possibly he was driven to madness. Suddenly, the award that had meant so much to him — a prize previously won by such giants of thespiancraft as Sir John Geilgud and Robert De Niro — had been utterly devalued by being handed over into the grasping paws of a coked-up gorilla. Suddenly realizing the award meant nothing,* an embittered Gooding set out to show its meaninglessness to the entire world by deliberately choosing the worst possible roles he could find. He became an apostate. He turned to the dark side.
The Academy Awards are a sham. Of course they are. It’s plain to see. But it’s rare to see an actor who not only realizes this but is in fact out to singlehandedly destroy the entire institution by waging a one-man campaign of cinematic suckitude. For taking Hollywood down with you, for stabbing at it from Hell’s heart, for spitting your last breath at it for hate’s sake, I salute you and your lonely war, Cuba Gooding, Jr.
* This is incontrovertibly true. After all, Norbit star Eddie Murphy is himself nominated for the Best Supporting Actor award (albeit for Dreamgirls, not Norbit). That a movie featuring a black male comedian doing drag in a fat suit, an unamusing premise already beaten into the ground by Martin Lawrence, Tyler Perry, and Murphy himself, can be advertised as starring “Academy Award nominee Eddie Murphy and Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding, Jr.” both devalues the award and boggles the mind. This is not what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences intended. Rather, it is a clear sign of the increasing need to simply call the entire film industry off and start it over again, going back to making five-second Kinetoscopes of lab technicians sneezing and working forward from there.
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