I have to see about a favorite kid.

In college there was this guy we’d always see in the dining hall; he was a freshman and my friends and I were juniors.  My friend Adam claimed he looked like Matt Damon.  This was somewhat disputed, but sometimes we could see it.

Regardless, we all referred to him as “Matt Damon,” and talked about him kind of a lot — not because he was doing much of anything notable, but because we could call him “Matt Damon.” “Matt Damon almost bumped into me at the salad bar,” for instance.  It was a strange complication when we learned his actual name was Carlos.  That didn’t seem to fit.

He was good friends, it seemed, with this kid we called “Favorite Kid.” Favorite Kid was obviously everyone’s favorite kid. He always had a smile on his face, and was always at a table overstuffed with his new college friends. His dorm mates would light up when he entered the room. (Favorite Kid doesn’t fit in anywhere in the Good Will Hunting scheme of things, but is notable for simply being friends with Matt Damon.)

Driscoll Dining Hall
Driscoll Dining Hall, via Flickr

Last year Ted and I started seeing Ben Affleck at our gym, here in Cambridge.  He is a trainer, and is actually not Ben Affleck — similar to Carlos’s Matt Damon qualities, the distinct Affleck-look isn’t always obvious.  He is, for lack of a better term, “huskier” —  Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting is to Vince Vaughn in Swingers as Ben Affleck at the gym is to Vince Vaughn in The Break-Up, but I suppose that analogy breaks down when regarding the extra poundage in The Break-Up as due to fatty-tendencies, not from being a gym trainer.

Occasionally, though, one had to do a double take, because BEN AFFLECK IS SPOTTING SOMEONE AT THE BENCH PRESS!

Somehow these Fake Celebrity interactions are much more satisfying than actual celebrity run-ins.  (Okay, I made eye-contact with Jerry O’Connell at the Whitney Biennial — it’s my finest achievement and just a wonderful sentence to say; I would never say anything to discount its effect on my life.)  Anyway, the point is, Fake Celebrities don’t disappoint; they don’t make Daredevil.

Though I think we did once see Favorite Kid on campus one night, very wasted, yelling while stumbling, with not a smile on his face.  I suppose that was Favorite Kid’s Gigli.

NEWSFLASH: New Matt Damon & Ben Affleck movie title announced!

Or at least that’s what I thought.

All these Twitter posts about Boys Poker Night were actually about Damon and Affleck playing poker. Like, with Brad Garrett. 140 characters, your tendency to lack clarity strikes again!

Boys Playing Poker is a stupid name for a movie anyway. It’s no “Rounders”.

Time to Re-Team?

IMDb is predicting a 2011 release date for an Untitled Ben Affleck/Matt Damon Project. Good Will Hunting Devotees have been wondering — why so long, Matt and Ben, to follow up your roles as Oscar-winning screenwriters? Sophomore slump? According to People Magazine (you heard me):

In terms of professional projects, though they’ve costarred and shared cameos in various films and collaborated as producers on different projects, Affleck and Damon haven’t been paired together on screen for five years. Affleck says the timing now feels right to re-team once again. “Supposedly we’re doing this thing next year” once their busy schedules dovetail, Affleck said. For his part, Damon has to complete three films – including a fourth turn as Jason Bourne – while Affleck, who received warm reviews for his 2007 directorial effort Gone Baby Gone, will be directing and starring in The Town, which Variety reports is an adaptation of the Chuck Hogan novel The Prince of Thieves. “Matt is always pretty busy but claiming that he’s going to try and slow it down a little bit,” says his buddy. “He doesn’t mind taking a year to wait. I would love to, it’s great, and we’re both busy. Matt lives in Miami, so it’s hard to get a chance to see him. If we work together it’s an excuse to hang out.”

So they’ve been busy. Too busy to make a movie together, apparently. This begs the question, though… not too busy for best friend surfing safari?

Surf's up!

Ben Affleck, Pink Hats, and the Perceived Loss of Authenticity

How strange it was to glance up at the television screen during Tuesday’s Red Sox game to see NESN repeatedly zoomed in on none other than Good Will Hunting’s and Cambridge, MA’s own Ben Affleck. This is nothing new, I suppose. His presence has been documented in his sweet dugout-hugging seats before.

Actor Ben Affleck leans in to speak to players and coaches in the Boston Red Sox dugout during their baseball game against the Florida Marlins at Fenway Park in Boston Tuesday, June 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Actor Ben Affleck leans in to speak to players and coaches in the Boston Red Sox dugout during their baseball game against the Florida Marlins at Fenway Park in Boston Tuesday, June 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

But let’s step back a minute and observe how far we’ve come from Southie (and Cambridge Rindge & Latin)….

Brown-bagging spectators at Little League.
Brown-bagging it at Little League.

One of the many safe and stable realms of male bonding that Good Will Hunting establishes is baseball. This is of course a recognized Bostonian phenomenon: the Sox, the Curse, the brotherhood of “Red Sox Nation.” There is a key sequence in the film that invokes this (occasionally) unspoken bond among Bostonians — Will and his therapist’s nostalgic recollection of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Director Gus Van Sant intercuts archival footage, so soaked in nostalgia it has gone grainy and soiled, with the boys’ energetic reenactment of the game’s climax.

"Thirty-five thousand people went crazy. And I wasn't one of them." -- Sean (Robin Williams)

I can’t help connecting the dots from Good Will Hunting‘s grimy nostalgia for 1975 into the future to the Red Sox “Dirt Dogs,” mucked-up helmets, bunch-of-idiots, dirty-water sensibility. This aura clung to the authenticity of the true fans, sitting in the stands in rain or sleet or heartbreaking loss for decades.

That said, recent years have lent the franchise a slew of other connotations, many not in keeping with the underdog mentality so many have cheered for.

So here we are, back from 1975 and 1997, on June 16, 2009…

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Affleck and Kevin Youkilis (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

How weird and false and inappropriate it is to see a dashing, cleft-chinned version of Chuckie Sullivan on Boston’s plasma screens, in Fenway’s front-row, coyly sporting a Celtics t-shirt like an expatriate with something to prove.

How strange it is to see Kevin Youkilis (his shaved head distinctive though out-of-focus) and Affleck in the same AP photograph, their worlds-colliding romantic-histories seeming so much more Hollywood than Boston. (Youk is married to former Affleck beau Ezna Sambataro. Just please, don’t call them Kevezna).

(And Ben and Youk, encountering on this public stage…. Awkward!)

There is a real cognitive dissonance in seeing Morgan in the Little League stands and then Ben at Fenway. Affleck is such Glossy Movie Star these days (but hardly even in movies people sees anymore) and it invalidates that grainy authenticity of Southie, the unrefined Morgan Sullivan, and good ole Will Hunting’s modest dream to grow up taking their kids to little league together.

Affleck’s post-GWH transformation into Tabloid Cover Boy is paralleled by the Fenway Faithful’s transformation into “Pink Hats” (as lamented by tried-and-true Sox fans).  Are we mourning the loss of authenticity?  Has the Dirty Boston in Affleck been reduced to a crisp Pink Hat? Is the Matt & Ben we-won-Oscars-for-a-middling-screenplay-but-we’re-best-friends-so-it’s-adorable fairy tale just marketing hooey?

I don’t know, but I do know that the photographer at Tuesday’s Red Sox game should have been focusing on Youk (the first-baseman! leading the team in on base percentage and helping kids and awesomeness!); not on some Supertramp fan in the front row.