Wednesday, August 17, 2011

James Spader: By The Numbers

I first knew James Spader from Stargate. Being a sci-fi geek of a kid, it was a great first impression. When I got older and wanted to see more of him I came to realize that quality and his name rarely go together. Even still as I was running the numbers I found myself pulling for him to score decently.

First a quick rundown of how this all works for anyone new:

I take all the films an actor or actress has been in and break them down into three categories, 'Good' 'Bad' and 'Okay.' I do not count TV appearances or Made for TV movies. Afterwards a quick analysis will show whether or not they're a good actor by the numbers. Invariably there is a 2-3 +/- point bias on a person to person basis. Also, since 'ok' movies are not bad they count towards the positive column in the overall figuring. If, by the numbers, they fall in the 50 - 60% range, they're a bad actor; 61 - 70% good actor, and 71 - 80% great actor. Anything higher is unlikely, but will be classified as "elite."

Now let's see how he did:

The numbers... She be a cruel mistress. This is one of those ones where I feel people will argue the system as I know a lot of people love Spader. Though, from what I've seen a lot of that is from Boston Legal, and remember, I don't measure TV as I view that as a different scale of acting. For me it really has become a love hate thing. There are some roles where he's just been fantastic. But for every 2 Days In the Valley there's a Supernova and a Keys to Tulsa. And than there's the fact that some of his movies are practically softcore porn. Honestly, if you look through his resume, one begins to wonder if he would have preferred going into adult movies. Though I'd discount Secretary as, despite its subject matter, it was a pretty funny movie. I'll say this for him, at the very least, he has and always will be, one of the best at playing sleazy characters. Still, with a pathetic 54% negative over 46% positive he officially falls under the category of Bad.

Thanks to Sarah over at Geek Beaks for this week's pick!


  1. Where did Pretty in Pink land? I know where I would place it...

  2. *squeal* You just made my day!

    I was worried this would be the results for him.

    I think you're right on the money with him and playing the sleazy characters so well. He's my favorite naughty boy and between Sex Lies & Videotape and Secretary, someone who's participated in my fantasies. Crash...not so much (not the award-winning Crash but the other one) but you can't win them all.

    Of course his role on Boston Legal just makes me love him more! His no apologies attitude that teeters on the edge of sexism but somehow manages to be complimentary in a backwards way somehow renders my inner feminist mute and makes the darker side go "yum".

    It's too bad TV isn't weighted in these numbers because I think BL would have tipped the scale from Bad to Good.

  3. This is an example of where your system fails. You really are not measuring an actor's talent, rather you are measuring the amount of good films they have appeared in or their ability to choose good scripts. You are taking apples, squeezing them and trying to have the process turn out to be orange juice. In this case you were unable to factor in the eccentricity of the actor. Here is an actor who basically would take roles when his money was running out. Spader seldom would work over the summer because that was his time to spend with his children. He would try and get the best thing available (both script and monetarily) at that moment, but that is not the process needed for getting great scripts. One other aspect you did not entertain is the fact that in most of his performances he got good to great reviews for his performance even when the film was not so good. Your system may hold up in most cases when the actors follow the normal procedures for choosing roles...but it fails if the actor's process is as eccentric as James Spader's.

  4. as a good actor that picks bad roles he is effectively a bad actor though. That would be like being a good technical writer that picks bad plots. the one negates the other.

  5. Alex, I Grew up with my older sisters loving Pretty in Pink, how could I not count it as a good film?

    Sarah, He's done some good things TV-wise, I've considered doing BTN just for TV acting. I remember I liked a made for TV film he did some years back.

    Anonymous, I was going to write a long answer but Budd's is simple and to the point.

    Budd, That is a great way of looking at it. I mean if someone continues to do bad films, regardless of talent, it can spoil the acting in ones eyes.

  6. So he's pretty borderline. I'm neutral on the matter but I trust your system. It's the best out there.

  7. I like James Spader...and Stargate was an awesome movie. I've lost count of the number of times I've watched it. I love it when he plays a good guy...hated him in WOLF...althought he did play the part of werewolf well alongside Jack Nickolson. :)

  8. Personally I thought he shine in Mannequin. Very smarmy.

  9. screw the numbers....he rocks!! ha

  10. Robyn, Thank you!

    Laila, Stargate was the first movie I walked out of as a kid and wanted to go right back in and see again.

    Copy, Mannequin is classic.

    Stacy & GADAFINY, I still like him in certain roles, I just think overall, he's not so great.

  11. I have to say I like James Spader...a lot! In my eyes he only has a couple of movies I view as bad: Shadow of Fear, Alien Hunter, Slow Burn, Keys to Tulsa, The New Kids, and Mannequin. I like, to varying degrees, all of his other films. So I guess according to your system he is a great actor in my personal world of reviews. :) Thanks for doing him today even if he didn't fair well. I knew he wouldn't the first time I read your system. Oh well, I still will watch anything with him in it multiple times...except for Slow Burn (hate that movie, and his performance).


  12. Spader is good as a lawyer with something up his sleeve or a scamp who sneers at authority while acting like some noble Robin Hood like legal character. I can't see him in anything but a 3000 dollar suit. Even 'Secretary' benefitted by his 'style' of acting. His is annoyingly aloof.

  13. Spader is one of those actors that causes me to watch a movie just seeing his name in the credits. Knowing that most times it is going to be that smooth, sleazy character he so greatly portrays. Even the attempts at comedy are good. I have to respectfully disagree with your ranking. However, Boston Legal was the perfect vehicle for him. Hell, I want him as my lawyer!

    PS. Have you Christopher Walken? I may have missed it if you did.

  14. I love these matter what anyone else thinks. Please carry on with your bad self. :)

    Oh, and I'm giggling because copyboy used the word "smarmy". I thought I was the only one who still used that word!

  15. Spader had his moments but I think in the end of the day your numbers are accurate

  16. Louise, too some degree it is subjective I guess, but I try to be impartial as to whether or not I liked a movie versus if it was actually good.

    Kal, You're right, he should always live in a suit. haha

    Chuck, I haven't yet, and I think he's been suggested before so I'll have to run his numbers soon.

    Marlene, Thank you. Oh, and I use smarmy too. Maybe we should start a club. A smarmy club...

    Major, I try, thanks.

  17. When he is in a good movie I always enjoy Spader, but I don't think of him as a great actor. A good actor? Yes.

  18. Oh, I love James Spader. But numbers never lie so sadly he has to be a bad actor. Maybe a good actor with a rubbish agent?


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