Loving (& hating) Alec Baldwin
I don’t really know what to make of Alec Baldwin. Arguably, when it comes to his public pronouncements he is one of the most annoyingly offensive, jerk-like and consistently rude celebrities on the planet. Honestly, he makes Sean Penn look like Fred Rogers. It’s almost like he takes some sort of perverse pleasure at stretching the outer limits of his personal douchebaggery. Still, what confounds me the most is that when it comes to his acting I cannot turn away when he is on-screen. The man is just so darn good.
Now I don’t know if his talent is related to the fact that he has a screw loose or in spite of it, but Alec Baldwin has been reinvented as a modern comic genius. It’s like Brando suddenly realized what a knob he had become and decided to routinely puncture his own balloon of Method-ness. Which would have been preferable to eating himself to death but I digress. Without a doubt, Mr. Baldwin fascinates me due to the very fact that every time he opens his mouth in a public or non-professional situation my hope is that he gets it smacked shut with a shovel even as his film or TV appearances leave me wanting more. Conundrum anyone?
So when a company has the cojones to hire an individual as polarizing as this to pitch their product I am obligated to lift my head up and take a look. New Era, the company that supplies the pro-fit ball caps for Major League Baseball, decided after several years of less than memorable ads that they needed a change. Baseball exemplifies passion, loyalty and commitment. In short, they needed a guy like Alec, who possesses those traits in spades. And the ads they got are near comic perfection.
Shot in black and white (which, oddly, kind of works), the spots star Alec Baldwin along with John Krasinsky (Jim from The Office). Each man possesses a love for baseball that borders on dangerous obsession, and support teams that have long been marked as eternal enemies. Alec for the New York Yankees and John for the Boston Red Sox.
Each spot revolves around the near-insane rivalry baseball fans in general – and Yankee/Red Sox fans in particular - have toward each other. And if team-based hatred could truly be considered eternal, these spots are destined for a time capsule.
In one ad, Alec jogs what we are told is a distance that would better be driven to do nothing more than punch Krasinski in the face because his team beat Baldwin’s team. Informed that his team actually won (and that he has the hands of a plumber) Baldwin apologizes and hands over twenty thousand dollars cash so John can “fix [his] face.” John says it’s not that bad but Alec demurs, suggesting his face does indeed need fixing, punched out or not. How Baldwin can maintain such a level of dead-eyed pettiness is performance magic.
Another spot shows Baldwin taunting Krasinski by threatening to torch a handful of Red Sox tickets. Inevitably this leads to the destruction of Baldwin’s entire apartment building. The gem in this spot is Baldwin’s plaintive cry when the fire is at its apex. “Call 912!” “What’s 912” asks Krasinski. “It’s 911.....for rich people” yell-whispers Baldwin.
According to AdWeek, the advertising firm in charge of the spots did its level best putting together scripts but Krasinski knew better and immediately tossed them, going with writers from The Office to punch up both the humor and the raw aggression contained within each piece. The results are stunning, creating a mini-series of ads that has at least as much depth as Curb your Enthusiasm, which isn’t saying much but Larry David has thirty minutes to these guys’ thirty seconds.
So witness my confusion. A distaste for a public boor of a man that seems to take great joy in trashing and berating those he disagrees with crossed with my perverse affinity for his unique combination of lumbering aggression, intensity and that bizarre, throaty whisper designed to lend gravitas to even the most ludicrous of lines ever written.
While I am certain the only way to ever reconcile my confusion would require getting to know the man personally I’m fairly sure it would more than likely end with me getting screamed at and then punched in the face. And while I am curious to a fault, I really don’t like getting punched in the face, which means for me Alec Baldwin will remain a crankily damaged superstar best observed from afar. Very afar.
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Chicago, Illinois, United States