Oscar Snub: Ben Affleck in George Clooney’s ‘The Tender Bar’

Ben Affleck has had an interesting career in entertainment. After years of toiling as an unknown, he burst to fame when he and Matt Damon won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting – a film they not only wrote but also starred in together.

Since then, Affleck has turned in some very memorable acting performances. Sometimes those movies were memorable because the acting was so atrocious. Yet, in an equal number of films he has turned in great performances.

Take for instance the film Armageddon. Released the year after Good Will Hunting, this disaster flick was a huge step for Affleck. The film starred Bruce Willis and featured Affleck as a part of a talented cast of supporting players. The ensemble included Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Clarke Duncan.

I thought Affleck showed off great acting chops as the movie’s romantic leading man opposite Tyler as Willis’ daughter. It teased that Affleck had the potential to be a reliable romantic lead in the right vehicles.

And the prophecy did come true, at least to a certain degree. In certain films, Affleck is great. Then there are the films like Pearl Harbor, Daredevil, Gili, and Jersey Girl which I regard as disturbingly bad.

One film I really enjoyed Affleck in was Hollywoodland. In this film, Affleck played George Reeves. Reeves gained fame as the title character in the 1950s Adventures of Superman television series. After battling being type cast his entire career, Reeves died under unusual circumstances.

Affleck was brilliant. He perfectly captured Reeves’ demeanor both as a troubled man and as an actor playing the role of the world’s greatest superhero.

Given how well Affleck recreated scenes as Superman for Hollywoodland, I thought his being cast as Batman years later was fantastic. I read about how he and director Zack Snyder were going to embrace Batman as a more mature, middle-aged hero. I read how Affleck was planning to put on 20 pounds of muscle for the role. Everything sounded like he’d be great. Boy was I wrong.

Batman v Superman and Justice League were both horrible movies, with Affleck being utterly unconvincing as either billionaire Bruce Wayne or his alter ego. He also was cursed with terrible scripts and the worst Batman costume of any of the big budget films.

There was really nothing redeeming about either film. The first one is barely watchable. The second one only makes sense if you watch the four-hour director’s cut, which isn’t worth the time investment. In short, Affleck’s Batman was a flop.

That doesn’t mean Affleck is a bad actor. He is very good in certain roles. But when he is miscast, it is painful.

One role that Affleck does stand out in is as Charlie Maguire in the George Clooney directed 2021 dramady The Tender Bar. The film is about a young boy named JR and his mother Dorothy who move in with Dorothy’s parents after her marriage to JR’s father fails. Chaos ensues, sometimes funny and sometimes sad.

Although Affleck has star billing, he plays a supporting role: JR’s maternal uncle. It is a personal pet peeve of mine when a supporting actor gets top billing. It tarnishes the film as somehow not what it claims to be. But that’s a minor point.

The Tender Bar is based on the memoir of the same name by JR Moehringer. Affleck’s Uncle Charlie is a bar owner and unlikely surrogate father figure to JR.

It’s an enjoyable film. It’s not the best film I’ve ever seen, but I liked it.

The first thing that popped into my head after watching the movie is that Ben Affleck deserves an Oscar nomination for this role. He actually disappeared into the role, whereas in some of his less impressive acting roles he is just saying the lines.

Affleck is a bit of an Oscar darling, having won as a writer for Good Will Hunting and for best picture for Argo which he produced and directed. So, when the nominations were announced for the 2022 Academy Awards, I was surprised that Affleck wasn’t named in the Best Supporting Actor category for The Tender Bar. It’s the best acting he’s ever done.

Some people argue that the term “Oscar snub” has to reflect an organized coalition against a certain film or filmmaker. That’s not how I define the term. My thought process in citing an Oscar snub is by the dictionary definition of it being an act of ignoring.

The Academy didn’t conspire to deprive Affleck of what may be his best chance of ever being considered for an acting trophy to display with his other Oscars. They just favored other performers this year. But it’s disappointing all the same.

If you haven’t seen it yet, give The Tender Bar a viewing. If you’re a Ben Affleck fan, you’ll love his performance. Even if you aren’t an Affleck fan, you’ll still enjoy it because he does a damn good job. Tye Sheridan, who stars as JR, is also very impressive and Clooney offers a good directing effort.  It’s worth watching.

Peace. Love. Trust.

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