Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Top 5 Movie Guide: Matt Damon

For the latest edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we take a look at the co-writer and star of this weekend's "Promised Land"Matt Damon. Damon was born in Boston, MA, but when his parents divorced, he moved to Cambridge with his mother. It was there that he met his friend and eventual collaborator, Ben Affleck. Damon had a strong interest in acting, appearing in nearly all of his high school's drama productions. Always very smart though, his parents did not want him to pursue an acting career. After high school, he was accepted to and attended Harvard University. He majored in English, but ultimately dropped out only one semester before graduation to focus on auditions.


Damon appeared in a few minor roles before garnering high accolades for "Good Will Hunting" (1997), which was written by both him and Affleck back when he was still at Harvard. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards and earned Damon his only Oscar to-date for Best Original Screenplay. From there, Damon was a hot commodity and has since appeared in a multitude of high-profile roles, including three each from the Ocean's and Bourne franchises.

Most of the roles in which Damon ultimately turned down or was removed from ended up working out for the best, but there are a few notable miscues. Damon was originally set to star alongside Denzel Washington in "Training Day", but decided to drop out (Ethan Hawke was eventually nominated for Best Supporting actor in the role). He was selected by the studio to appear as Jake Sulley in "Avatar", but director James Cameron vetoed the decision and instead opted to go with a lesser-known actor in Sam Worthington. Finally, in 1999, Damon had agreed to star in an adaptation of Daredevil, which at the time was being produced by Miramax. Kevin Smith had agreed to write the script and Robert Rodriguez to direct. But the studio decided to shut the project down due to budget complications.

There are so many great titles to choose from for this list, so hit the jump to see which ones made our lists!

Alex Schopp -
Two things I want to note: 1) I've long considered Matt Damon my favorite actor; that doesn't change today. 2) While I enjoy the Bourne movies, ultimately, they're really just action movies to me, and action movies never really stick with me.

     1. Rounders (1998)

The first of two Matt Damon movies to grace my Top 10 of All-Time. Got into this one back in high school and have loved it ever since. Love the tone and style of the film, and Damon's character is great. It doesn't hurt that I am incredibly fascinated by the game of poker, though I don't think you need to be to appreciate this film.
     2. Good Will Hunting (1997)
I always think about this film when I'm trying to write a screenplay. Just a couple of Boston boys who wanted to make movies, and the first one they write wins them an Academy Award. As for the film, I just love the relationships and characters here; nothing beats a good character drama. Also, films about lost genius really interest me.
     3. The Departed (2006)
Quite the amalgamation of so many of my favorite actors - Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin. While I'm not saying he hasn't deserved more, I'm glad this is the film Scorsese won his Oscar on because I think it's my favorite of his films.
     4. True Grit (2010)
While Matt Damon isn't nearly the draw that Jeff Bridges is in this film, Damon's character still has a good redeeming nature. I love the modern western, and again, just a great character drama here.
     5. The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
So many good films you could go with here, but I'm going to mix it up a bit. While its presence is definitely aided by Emily Blunt's inclusion in the film (love her), overall I had plenty of fun with this movie. It's an interesting and unique story, and I was entertained the whole way through. If you didn't give this a watch last year, it's worth checking out now.

Ben Foutch -

     1. Rounders (1998)

     2. The Departed (2006)

     3. Good Will Hunting (1997)

     4. The Bourne Ultimatum ( 2007)

     5. True Grit (2010)



Derek Clem -
Sure he's been in better movies, but these are the characters I've most enjoyed watching him play. This ranking mostly takes into account how much I enjoy the character.

     1. The Informant! (2009)

Slightly biased because I'm a teacher in the same town this movie takes place, Decatur, Illinois. But in all seriousness I think I enjoy Matt Damon most when he's overacting. I can't believe this role didn't garner him an Oscar nod. I think I would've handed him the win.
     2. Rounders (1998)
Back in high school I was seriously considering changing my favorite movie from "Hook" to "Rounders". I'm glad I never did, because when Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker, poker became sooo overblown! That poker eruption turned me against poker and this movie. It all became so exhausting. "Rounders" became my "Donnie Darko". I started to hate it because everyone else loved it wayyy too much. It's still a good movie though, which is why it earns my #2 spot.
     3. Dogma (1999)
"But you didn't say God Bless you when I sneezed!" Such a great over-the-top character for Damon. He's really great here.
     4. The Departed (2006)
Such a greasy slimeball in this movie. I love to hate him.
     5. Titan A. E. (2000)
I really wanted to give this to his rocker cameo appearance in "Euro Trip" (2004), but a dark palette sci-fi toon will always win that battle.

Nathan Hinds -
This guy's filmography is stacked. He's one of my absolute favorite actors, and I can't think of a single bad role he's ever had. Even in some of his "bad" movies, I've always thought his roles have been great. It's not a question of if Damon will win an Oscar for acting, but when.

     1. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

These were really hard to rank because I love them all pretty equally, but I've always said that Ultimatum is the greatest spy movie ever. For that alone, I'm fine putting this in the top spot.
     2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Look, I don't want to beat a dead horse, but does anyone really look back on 1998 and say 'Yep, I still think "Shakespeare In Love" should have been the recipient of Best Picture that year.'? Hell no. This film not getting the win is arguably the biggest snub in the history of the award. I hope there are people who feel ashamed of themselves that they didn't vote for "Saving Private Ryan".
     3. Ocean's 13 (2007)
I love this entire series, but this is the most entertaining movie for me and is definitely the film that Damon shines in the most.
     4. Rounders (1998)
Would the poker craze of the early 2000's have happened without this movie? Probably not. Similar in some of his other roles, Damon plays the role of the humble, reserved genius better than anyone.
     5. The Departed (2006)
I feel like as time goes by, people try to downplay just how good this movie is. Well don't do that people. It's amazing.

Andy Schopp -
Matt Damon is a consistently great actor. He can handle almost any type of role - plus he's a great writer on top of that. You'll be hard pressed to find a better jack-of-all-trades in Hollywood.

     1. The Departed (2006)

     2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

     3. Dogma (1999)

     4. The Informant! (2009)

     5. The Bourne Identity (2002)



There we have it, folks. Eleven different films made an appearance this week, and eight with multiple selections. A couple of titles really stood above the rest, but overall, it's clear that Damon's entire filmography is strong, and there are a lot of great films worthy of recognition. We'll start with the best though. "The Departed", Martin Scorsese's Best Picture winner from 2006 was the only film to appear on all five lists (it only appeared on one list in the #1 spot, however). Obviously the overall quality of the film is very high here, but Damon's role is also quite strong. This one is a gritty crime/mob drama, but if you ever missed it, it's definitely worth checking out.

"Rounders" was the only film to appear on four lists, and earned two first-place votes. This film helped spark the poker craze of the 2000's, but even that aside, the film is quite entertaining and Damon offers one of his better performances in a leading role. It's crazy that this film is now 15-years-old - there are people possibly reading this site who were born after this film first released. Other than its assistance with the poker revolution, this one never got much critical attention, so if you weren't around for that, you could have missed it. Do yourself a favor and give it a watch.

Otherwise, we're looking at six films with two selections apiece, though you could give the Bourne series three, if you want to sort it out that way. But "The Bourne Ultimatum" officially received two picks, along with "Saving Private Ryan", "Dogma", "True Grit", "Good Will Hunting", and "The Informant!" All of these are excellent films, and if there weren't such great titles already ahead of them, most of these feel like they should be on all lists - there are even a few films from Damon's filmography that didn't show up at all that you could make good cases for! Regardless though, the point of this post is to get you on the right track, and get you started with the best of the best; from there, it's up to you to discover the rest.

So as always, we hope that each of these selections helps you to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films that Matt Damon has provided over the years, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!