First off, I would like to take a moment to publicly thank Ben Affleck for giving me something other than the coronavirus to think about. I’ve been getting a kick out of his recent outings with his new lady love — Knives Out actress Ana de Armas — which are so clearly staged for the paparazzi that it’s comical. Matching face masks, matching heart necklaces, making out in rapper Residente’s new video, slow dog-walking to ensure the cameras get a ton of shots … it would usually be too much cheesiness for me to handle, but these days? It’s exactly what I need. WHAT *AMERICA* NEEDS!!!

But in addition to that kind of entertainment, Ben is also keeping our spirits up in the more conventional way: his movies. New to the Box and Redbox On Demand this week is his latest film, The Way Back. Drawing from his personal experience, Affleck plays a down-and-out alcoholic who’s separated from his wife and who’s family is deeply concerned about him. But then he’s offered a second chance of sorts in the form of a job offer from his old high school, where he was a star basketball player. They want him back to coach the team. You can probably guess how this movie is going to go, but that doesn’t make it any less moving or enjoyable. Affleck earned high praise from critics for his performance, and honestly it’s a shame this film didn’t get more publicity when it came out in March … just as COVID-19 started shutting everything down. But the bright side is that now even more people can see it from the comfort of their own home. Make sure you’re one of them!

When I was pulling together this post, I had to marvel at just how expansive and kind of all over the pace Affleck’s career has been. He burst onto the scene with his BFF Matt Damon in 1997 as Hollywood’s It Boys, thanks to them writing, starring in and winning Oscars for Good Will Hunting. They’d both been in movies before that point, but that was the film that launched them into the big leagues and made everyone fall in love with them.

Since that point, Ben’s done everything from the superhero grind (Daredevil… with his eventual wife/now ex-wife Jennifer Garner; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; Justice League), to dramatic thrillers (The Accountant, Argo, The Town, Gone Girl), to comedies (this year’s Jay and Silent Bob: Reboot, among other Kevin Smith films). And, of course, whatever Gigli was.

Speaking of Gigli, his co-star was his eventual fiancée Jennifer Lopez (who he starred in a music video with, too…) — though they never ended up getting married. Longtime celeb-watchers may recall that he also once dated his Shakespeare in Love and Bounce co-star Gwyneth Paltrow. And now he’s with de Armas, who he met on the set of the “erotic thriller” (yes, really) Deep Water, which is hopefully/maybe/we’ll-see/who-knows-really due in theaters later this fall. It’s about a couple who go to twisted lengths to mess with each other.

Also possibly out later this year or early next year is The Last Duel, in which Ben plays King Charles VI in a true story about two French knights who are ordered to duel to the death after one accuses the other of raping his wife. The two knights? Matt Damon and Adam Driver. It’s definitely gotta be an Oscar contender, but I guess we shall see if awards season actually happens this year…

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I’ll remind us all that these days it’s best to live in the present. And in the present we have a new excellent Ben Affleck film to enjoy AND shameless gossip-rag pics, so I’ll count those as two things I’m thankful for.

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