Ode to Jolie

There are a lot of people in Hollywood who deserve special thanks for making 2004 a happy time for me: Ben Affleck, for his downward spiral—getting puffy, tanking at the box office twice, and dating Jennifer Garner; Madonna, for changing her name to Esther, because I fantasize about seeing her on the street one day and telling her, "I've always loved that song on Erotica you wrote about your vagina! Hot stuff, Esther!"; Brad Pitt, for getting soiled and disrobing in Troy, a vision that caused one of my lungs to collapse (but, hell, who needs two lungs?); and Colin Farrell, for wearing bad wigs in both A Home at the End of the World and Alexander, yet still pretending he has any hope for career longevity. But looking back over the last 12 months in popular culture, it's obvious that the only person who has made me consistently elated is Angelina Jolie.

What can I say about Angelina Jolie that hasn't already been encapsulated in that little vial of her blood that Billy Bob Thornton must still be keeping somewhere on the dresser next to his cuff links? The woman is the life force itself. She is meant to be gamboling exultantly across verdant fields, beckoning free spirits everywhere to join in her glorious emancipation. Isadora Duncan had nothing on this woman.

The past year in movies gave Angelina scant opportunity to fully exploit her goddesslike powers, yet, in typical fashion, she seemed to relish every moment—even if it meant voicing a bottom-feeder in the animated Shark Tale, or co-starring with one (Ethan Hawke) in Taking Lives. Angelina in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow made flesh and blood the most compelling quality in a movie meant to trumpet the triumph of CGI. Who will ever forget Angelina's Capt. Francesca "Franky" Cook turning to her gathered troops and commanding, in the single best line of 2004, "Alert the amphibious squadron!"?

I've written much about Oliver Stone's Alexander debacle, but not nearly enough about Angelina's visceral contribution to its otherwise humdrum horrors. Angelina played Colin Farrell's mother. That would be genius enough because—need I say it?— Angelina gave a performance that not only didn't question the fact that Colin is in reality just a year her junior, she played it as though it might be really sexy to have a son just a year her junior. As Alexander's conniving mom, Olympias, she had some kind of Russian accent and was constantly draping live snakes around her arms. Angelina is the only major Hollywood actress I can think of who can drape live snakes around her arms and have you worried about whether the snakes will be OK.

This is not to say that Angelina can't be real, that she can't act in a manner that suggests a shared humanity. During her most melodramatic moment in Alexander, she clutches painfully at her stomach and howls at Val Kilmer. I can't tell you the number of times I've clutched my stomach and howled at Val Kilmer, though I know I started doing it sometime around The Saint.

What's next for this savior of the cinema? Playing Mrs. to Brad Pitt's Mr. in the June married assassins comedy/thriller Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I cannot imagine a more heartening sight in the summer of 2005 than Angelina working under, er, with the only man capable of making the Trojan horse seem underwhelming.


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