I’m pleased to announce the winners of the Ben Stiller essay contest.
The runner-up entry came from Jenny T. of La Palma, CA, who wrote about the Ben Stiller project that deserves more recognition:
“People always ask, ‘What’s the worst thing heroin drove you to do?’ I always answer, ‘showing up on Maury.’” This was the little-known and overlooked dramatic turn that Ben Stiller did back in 1998. This dramatic masterpiece shows just how much Ben can do. This is Permanent Midnight. People who have not seen the movie think that Ben is entirely incapable of acting in or directing any drama whatsoever. Several internet couch-potatoes are outraged after hearing that someone by the name of Ben Stiller, a comedy king, is going to direct The Trial of the Chicago 7 or star in Greenberg, declaring that he cannot pull it off. However, the few people who have seen the movie say that he portrayed Jerry Stahl perfectly. And in reality, no one could have done it better than Ben. He said himself that he lost weight for the role and ate dried sardines on the set so he would feel “sick to his stomach.” Some might call this method-acting, but there is one word that unquestionably sums it up: commitment. The gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, jaw-dropping scenes show that commitment and would positively change the opinion of anyone who thinks this comedy master is unqualified for drama because he’s “never experienced it.” Ben is a funny guy, for sure, but he is also an incredibly serious person who deserves to show off his skills in both comedy and drama. And Permanent Midnight is one sure example of his talent that was, unfortunately, unnoticed by audiences.
From Esther K. of Los Angeles comes the Grand Prize, in which she reveals “The Star-Crossed Adventures of Ben and Esther”:
Ben and I have a long and storied history. Although I missed most of his television exploits, once he hit the big screen, it was a done deal: our paths would intersect. I didn’t know how or where, but when I saw Reality Bites, I knew it would come to pass. I knew the writers wanted me (as audience member) to fall in love with Ethan Hawke, but there was “something about Ben” who seemed to have an appreciation for funny non-blonde females like Janeane Garofalo (and perhaps, me?) Why would Ben’s character in There’s Something About Mary waste time with perky, giggly non-Jewish Cameron Diaz when he could be throwing a super seder with me and his parents on the Upper West Side? I made a note to query his papa Jerry next time I saw him at the bagel shop we both went to.
When I became an extra in Keeping the Faith, I spent more than six hours waiting for a glimpse of Ben, who was starring in the film. Director Edward Norton told us Yiddish jokes to keep us entertained between takes, but I was waiting for Ben. When he showed up, I was amazed to see how diminutive such a large talent was. We were denied onscreen time together (as well as offscreen time), but I still felt that a convergence of destinies was approaching.
Perhaps I moved to California this October to be closer to Ben’s production company, or close to Hollywood. Or perhaps it is my destiny to win this contest. I guess the judges — or maybe fate — will decide.
Thanks to all the participants who sent in great essays — choosing the best ones was a challenge!