Bruce Willis in "Looper," a film the actor calls a career-best… (Alan Markfield )
Yes, yes. We know what you're thinking. You looked at that headline and thought, "This man is daft. The academy doesn't honor that kind of movie."
Put aside for a moment what type of movie Oscar voters generally recognize and simply consider this question: What if best picture means just that? Best picture. And not best picture within a narrowly confined set of criteria that generally include characters with impediments or accents, preferably working in a historical epic that tackles an Important Issue or two and imparts Life Lessons just as the musical score reaches the sweet spot of its crescendo.
Rian Johnson's sci-fi time-bender, "Looper," was greeted with ecstatic reviews when it arrived in theaters last Friday. Among movies currently released this year, only "The Master" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" rank above it at Metacritic, a website that aggregates reviews and assigns them a numerical score. "The Master" and "Beasts" sit at 85. "Looper" and Wes Anderson's glorious "Moonrise Kingdom" come in at 84.
CRITICS: 'Looper' - Time well-traveled
Pretty heady company, no? But then, Bruce Willis, who costars in the film with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, says "Looper" is "better than anything I've ever done." And, just in case you need a reminder, Willis' resume includes "Pulp Fiction," "Die Hard" and "Twelve Monkeys." (He was pretty great as the small-island sheriff in "Moonrise Kingdom" too.)
When we interviewed Johnson and Gordon-Levitt a few weeks ago, they laughed nervously about Willis' pronouncement. "Superlative statements don't do anyone any good," Gordon-Levitt said, shaking his head.
What follows then probably won't come as music to his ears, but we're guessing he'll get over it. Sci-fi thrillers don't come any smarter than "Looper," a movie that follows the courage of its convictions to strange, interesting and unexpected places. Johnson is a gifted and imaginative visual stylist, capable of crafting slam-bang action sequences and getting the best work out of his actors. Willis and Gordon-Levitt are fantastic as the older and younger versions of the same haunted man, and Emily Blunt turns in a wonderful performance as the woman who comes between them.
If you want to know more about the movie, read Kenneth Turan's insightful review here. If you want to know why "Looper" just might connect with more open-minded academy members, consider that beyond the sheer strength of its vision and execution, this is a film of ideas. It examines the notions of fate and the future and whether it's possible to change one's path. It's a dark, violent movie possessing an optmistic heart. Amid all the action, there's a subtle suggestion or two about what's important in this here life. Take note, Oscar voters. "Looper" deserves your full attention.
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