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Face Off: Joaquin Phoenix vs. Ryan Gosling

01.09.2014by: Dave Davis
In last week's Face-Off, the movies of 2013 were put up against the releases of 2012, and you were overwhelmingly in agreement with the verdict that 2012 provided the bigger bang, in no small part due to blockbusters like THE AVENGERS. Good luck, 2014!

This week's showdown features Joaquin Phoenix (star of HER, in wide release this week) and Ryan Gosling, a pair of versatile actors best known for their eccentric selections and quiet intensity. Both are deserving of accolades, but when pitted against each other, who comes out on top?
Mainstream Efforts
Though he worked since a young age in a variety of generally unorthodox roles, Phoenix gained mass attention as the vexed villain of the Oscar-winning GLADIATOR.

He then further "normalized" to join Mel Gibson in M. Night Shyamalanís smash SIGNS and the filmmakerís follow-up THE VILLAGE before fighting fires with John Travolta in LADDER 49 and lending voice to Disney for BROTHER BEAR. His portrayal of Johnny Cash in WALK THE LINE was both a commercial and critical success.
After playing a devious young murder suspect pursued by detective Sandra Bullock in MURDER BY NUMBERS, the former Mouseketeer won all the hearts by romancing Rachel McAdams in the weeper THE NOTEBOOK (his biggest success yet).

Following a few smaller films, he attempted to sculpt Steve Carell into a stud in the comedy CRAZY STUPID LOVE, slipped into a satin scorpion jacket as the reticent wheelman in Nicholas Winding Refnís stylish DRIVE, managed Governor George Clooneyís campaign in the political drama THE IDES OF MARCH, and joined Josh Brolinís 1940s LA crimefighting unit in GANGSTER SQUAD.
Major Award Recognition
Golden Globe nominations for THE MASTER, GLADIATOR and HER, Golden Globe winner for WALK THE LINE

Oscar nominations for THE MASTER, WALK THE LINE and GLADIATOR
Golden Globe nominations for THE IDES OF MARCH, CRAZY STUPID LOVE, BLUE VALENTINE and LARS AND THE REAL GIRL

Oscar nomination for HALF NELSON

And...

MTV Movie Award winner for "Best Kiss" in THE NOTEBOOK
Offbeat highlights
As a teen, renamed himself Leaf (inspired by the nature-themed names of siblings River, Rain and Summer) and played a porn-watching juvenile delinquent in PARENTHOOD. Played a teenage delinquent seduced by Nicole Kidman in TO DIE FOR, a greasy jealous hoodlum named T.N.T. in Oliver Stone's U-TURN, a greasy porn purveyor in 8MM, and a damaged WWII vet drawn into a charismatic philosopher's new religion in Paul Thomas Anderson's THE MASTER.
Played a drug addicted teacher in HALF NELSON, a man obsessed with a sex doll in LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, an abusive boozer in a messy marriage in BLUE VALENTINE, a motorcycle stuntman turned bank robber in THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, and a revenge-seeking criminal with a severe Oedipus complex in ONLY GOD FORGIVES.
Memes
"Downvoting Roman", featuring an image of Phoenix's scowling GLADIATOR emperor casting execution judgment, with user-added phrases for applicable situations in comment sections and forums
"Hey Girl", featuring dreamy images of the actor accompanied by sensitive captions (starting at the FuckYeahRyanGosling Tumblr before the formula jumped to various places like Feminist Ryan Gosling and the image-swapping website reskinner heygirl.io )

"Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal", a series of Vine videos showing clips of the actor flinching from superimposed spoonfuls of breakfast goodness

And whatever THIS is
Mythology connection
Guest-starred as "Billy Hercules" on an episode of the late-80s syndicated "Superboy" TV show
Played the title character on the series "Young Hercules", a spinoff of the syndicated Kevin Sorbo show "Hercules: The Legendary Adventures"
Retirement from Acting
In 2008, Phoenix retired from acting to supposedly pursue a career in rapping. He then made several appearances in an unkempt and incomprehensible state, only to reveal two years later that his "retirement" was a ruse for director/brother-in-law Casey Affleck's mockumentary I'M STILL HERE.
In March of 2013 Gosling stated "Iíve lost perspective on what Iím doing. I think itís good for me to take a break and reassess why Iím doing it and how Iím doing it." Two months later he was behind the camera on his feature directing debut, the fantasy noir HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER, which he also wrote.
Joaquin Phoenix
Both actors have done extraordinary work in their careers, with a wildly diverse mix of mainstream and idiosyncratic project choices. Though Gosling scores higher in hunk points, Phoenix has been in the game slightly longer and hence, has a slightly more favorable filmography. Additionally, while Gosling's acting hiatus appears ongoing, Phoenix continues to mesmerize in Spike Jonze's HER and stands amid rumors of being sought for blockbuster material like BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN. The Phoenix rises!

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