February 9, 2014

GORDON & OKIN | The Cult of Cumberbatch

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By BRIAN GORDON and HARRISON OKIN

“That is correct. There are more apples than oranges” — Count Dracula

BRIAN GORDON: Benedict Cumberbatch can count to four.  The hottest actor in the world recently lent his celebrity to a segment of Sesame Street where he counts apples and oranges with The Count and what looks to be Elmo’s evil cousin.  The clip has gone viral.  As I type, it has garnered nearly four million in as many days.  How many other actors can stare at fruit with a couple of muppets for three minutes and pull 4 million views?  Gosling? Nope. Clooney? Nah.  Jim Henson could come back from the grave and he’d still need a least a week to reach this Cumberbatchian level of hits.  And the Cult of Cumberbatch extends far beyond Sesame Street.  He sat on a stool on Kimmell a few months back and the females in the crowd treated him like the Beatles on Sullivan.  Full on shrieks.  Grown women shrieked.  This was fangirl hysteria for girls who have mortgages.

HARRISON OKIN: With the risk of it sounding like a tropical disease, “Benedict Fever” has charmed the world into thinking the man is the best actor of our generation. This is a double-edged sword. Sure, I love the guy. I respect that he chooses characters that value intelligence, satisfying an audience craving for whip-smart dialogue and clever twists in film. Sherlock, the sociopathic genius. Khan, the deceitful genius. A wise man even called Smaug the Dragon the “Hannibal Lecter of Middle Earth.” (Okay, maybe that was me on my Twitter.)

But c’mon! He starred in five movies last year, plus a TV show. Next year he’s slated to portray mathematician genius Alan Turing. He’s rumored to be both the villain in Star Wars Episode VII and a hero in an unknown Marvel blockbuster. So what if Benedict’s booming baritone is what my internal monologue sounds like? I fear that Benedict’s popularity — which I dare say is a tad overzealous — will take the attention away from other well-deserving actors.

B.G.: I believe the man is perfectly rated. In fact maybe a bit underrated. Ask people at random around campus and I bet less than five out of ten know who he is. What other actors is he taking the spotlight away from? The dude who plays Watson?  What I want to know is why a man who describes himself as resembling Sid from the Ice Age movies is getting every third part in Hollywood and is currently co-running England with the Dutchess of Cambridge?

I get that the man perspirates charm.  He is self-deprecating (see that Sid/Ice Age comment),  and you surprisingly make a decent point about how Cumberbatch plays a lot of smart people on screen. British newspaper’s have called him “the thinking man’s crumpkin” which sounds pretty British and praiseful to me.  But does playing smart characters make you an interesting person?  Russell Crowe played Dr. John Nash in A Beautiful Mind and no one was hailing Crowe as a witty genius.

H.O.: In all fairness to Russell Crowe, he emanates the stereotype of a guy who gets drunk off whiskey and then brawls with some kangaroos. That sounds pretty interesting to me.

B.G.: Here’s a question for you.  Do you think the rise of Cumberbatch marks a larger shift in Hollywood?  Where the biggest stars will no longer simply be the well-built chiseled and traditionally attractive leading men?  Besides Benedict, the other example I can think of where an actor drew the ladies while looking rather dweebish was Adam Brody on The O.C.

H.O.: I hope that is a lasting legacy of Benedict’s ubiquity. For too long, the Gosling-type has dominated Hollywood. That man mumbles through a movie like he should be taking speech pathology lessons from my Mom (shameless plug). Then he removes his shirt and everyone forgives him for a terrible performance.

Instead, I’d like to see more widespread love for the goofy awkwardness of Miles Teller as a drum prodigy, or for ladies-man Jonah Hill redefining baseball analytics. Benedict started this trend, but he cannot be the only one to capitalize on it. I want the next generation to idolize passion, brains and resolve. After all, isn’t that what every average-height, average-looking schlub hopes to embody when he or she comes to Cornell?

B.G.:  I wouldn’t really know.  I’m pretty attractive Harrison.  But you don’t necessarily have to put down the Gosling-types to lift up the Cumberbatchs.  You can not like Gosling and his vocal inflections (I personally think the guy’s a real solid actor) but the world is big enough to fawn over those who look like a Hemsworth brother and those who think like a Cumberbatch.  Especially with the realm of television expanding and gaining great attention, I think more and more non-traditionally attractive actors (both men and women) will enter the fantasies of middle-age accountants and lawyers who are now more attracted by quick wit than a sharp jaw.

H.O.: Well, I was going to invite you to star on my new Netflix series, “House of (Unanswered Valentine’s) Cards,” but you just lost your chance. Frank Underwood would be disappointed.

B.G.: I put Glen Coco to shame.  Later.

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