Rewind Review: Legion

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Legion (2010)

If Legion had been released in 2009 it might have dominated the Most Asinine Shots of the Year list. It still might get to have its moment in the sun with doozies like: a flaming cross burned into the side of a building, the Incredible Stretching Ice Cream Man Demon, The Old Woman Crawling Up the Walls and an armored Gabriel walking through a glowing doorway. However, there are the occasional positives and conversely worse things than just those shots in the mix.
It’s a film which tries to walk the tightrope between blasphemy and gutsiness and falls off onto the wrong side. When there’s an overtly religious theme in a movie, and you challenge the conceptions that even the most lapsed Christian might hold, then you’re fighting an uphill battle and you’d better execute the story to perfection and make people forget that they have a hard time accepting the scenario you’re trying to portray. This is the ultimate suspension of disbelief because you’re taking one citation (Psalm 34:11) at the head of the film and asking the audience to accept that as the only gospel truth, for lack of a better term, when it’s about to change a lot.
Considering the story issues that exist, the execution both technically in terms of the edit, cinematography and on the part of the cast is rather good. It wasn’t great, especially in terms of the edit as the film could’ve been tightened up a bit but it certainly wasn’t as bad in that regard as it could’ve been.

legion-photo-41
The theology of this tale is ultimately very flawed, and yes it’s a fictional tale, however, when considering the implications it makes it’s hard to deal with. There are some spoilers ahead.
The story is about the Archangel Michael disobeying God’s order, which is to assist in the annihilation of mankind, including the murder of the woman who is the bearer of The Second Coming. It is certainly not unprecedented within the pages of the Bible to have gruesome and bloody stories, however, this tale not only portrays God, who is not seen but he is heard, as cruel but as one who is indecisive. Think of it eight months before He decrees this young girl will bring His son to the world anew, and then he decides “You know what? Never mind, people don’t deserve Him. I’m going to end the world instead.” This is literally end it, no Noah, no ark, nothing. This is problematic for one seeking to engage and be lost in this story.
As a side note where is the Vatican’s review of this movie? It seems like this is the kind of film they would want to deter people from viewing more so than Avatar. I mean there is a compulsory happy ending but the plot does infer that God Himself is trying to kill an unborn child, which last I checked, is a sensitive subject.

legion
There are other shots and images that are blasphemous but considering that the whole plotline is dubious at best, in those regards, they are hardly worth mentioning in detail.
Smack dab in the middle of the movie there is an overly-long expository sequence where the characters that are trapped in this Diner at rest stop are talking in pairs and exchanging their life stories. Granted I will not knock the film for trying to build character, however, this was a clumsy and uninteresting way to go about it. When a film is supposed to be horror/action a very long lull is harder to deal with than under-developed character.
The casting of this film was rather interesting full of people who left you wondering “What are you doing in this movie?” There is Dennis Quaid who is still as good as he ever was but has not done a really good film in a while and did this on the heels of last year’s painful Pandorum. There’s also Lucas Black, who was last seen by many in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but is more well known from Sling Blade. He is still quite good and never got a breakout and this might not be helping. Then there is Paul Bettany as good as ever as Michael but again “What are you doing here?” was what came to mind. Tyrese Gibson and Charles S. Dutton are also rather good in this film. Of course, the casting can’t be perfect with the inclusion of the freakish androgynous kid and the more-over-the-top-than-she-should’ve-been Old Woman.
In conclusion, this was a better film than expected but still had too many issues with the plot and concept that execution could not overcome. Even with that execution being better than average it’s still well worth missing.
3/10

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BAM Best Picture Profile: Sling Blade (1997)

Each year, I try and improve the site, and also try to find a new an hopefully creative and fun way to countdown to the unveiling of the year’s BAM Awards. Last year, I posted most of the BAM nominee and winner lists. However, when I picked Django Unchained as the Best Picture of 2012 I then realized I had recent winner with no write-ups. I soon corrected that by translating a post and writing a series of my own. The thought was all films honored as Best Picture should have at least one piece dedicated to them. So I will through the month of December be posting write-ups on past winners.

Much like my first selection, this film was one I first viewed on video and a year later than its initial release. Although, Sling Blade being a highly acclaimed film unlike my first choice, was a later-in-the-year release poised for awards season.

I have revisited Sling Blade again recently enough such that I didn’t feel the need to see it again to be able to write about it comfortably. One thing that bears noting is that since a fair amount of time has passed, and considering the trajectory of Billy Bob Thornton’s career; this is a film that deserves to be talked about and remembered. Trajectory more in terms of the kinds of roles and films Thornton has made more often since then. Sure, Sling Blade has its comedic and heart-warming moments but at its core there’s a classical dramatic arc to the story. He’s played a lot more straight comedies since this film than dramas or even dramedies.

All of that is meant to underscore the fact that Sling Blade may be one of the greatest “showcase” type films ever created. Actors often will, and at times are encouraged, to develop their own idea to showcase a side of themselves they can’t seem to in other films, or simply to prove themselves in a meaty role. They do happen, but few are this complete a film and as accomplished works by said actor in all phases he/she participates. In this case Thornton wrote, directed and starred in the film.

However, a film that exists merely to highlight one actor has a hard road to getting to “Best Picture.” What is needed is not only a great supporting cast, but also a great narrative. In story terms it’s not only a tragedy at its heart, but also a story of redemption and looking beneath the surface, there’s a Southern Gothic element.

The cast features great actors, both character and not, like Robert Duvall, J.T. Walsh and John Ritter, but it also features revelations like Lucas Black, whom was a virtual unknown since American Gothic was a very low-rated show; and the film incredibly impressive film debut of country-music star Dwight Yoakam.

What is also worth noting is that while more features than you realize are first born as shorts there’s not many you get to see, and fewer than are just a prelude. Sling Blade is one of those. I was lucky enough to find a copy of Some Folks Call It A Sling Blade and watched it and I was amazed that’s its really just the interview scene, one that’s emulated in the feature, and a great set-up for who Karl is and who he is perceived to be. You can watch it below:

If you can watch that and not want to see the feature if you’ve not there’s nothing else I can say to sell you on its greatness. I’ll close with perhaps the best one-line encapsulation of the film offered by Roger Ebert:

If “Forrest Gump” had been written by William Faulkner, the result might have been something like “Sling Blade.”

It’s sheer brilliance. Enough said.

Children in Films Blogathon: A Revisionist Look at the Juvenile Award

When I learned of the Child Actor Blogathon at Comet Over Hollywood, I had two ideas for it almost right away: the Jackie Searl spotlight and this one. Not too long ago I argued for why the Juvenile Award should be re-instated. In this post I will follow up on that notion to augment my case. It’s one thing to quickly cite who won while it was around and state it never should have left, it’s quite another to show you who would have had they never gotten rid of it. Now I have decided to illustrate that in three ways, including some omissions found when it was instated (it’ll make more sense when we get there, trust me). First, I will list the young actors who since the end of the award (after 1961) were nominated for an Academy Award.

These actors obviously, had there still been a Juvenile Award, would have won that. While on occasion they were awarded the prize, more often than not they didn’t have a realistic chance. Regardless, their nomination was deemed prize enough it would seem, but I disagree and as you will see there have been plenty of instances where the Juvenile award could have been handed out either in addition to or in place of the nomination.

Based on Academy Award nominations from 1961-Present:

Little Miss Sunshine (2006, Fox Searchlight)

2012 Quvenzhané Wallis Beasts of the Southern Wild
2010 Hailee Steinfeld True Grit
2007 Saoirse Ronan Atonement
2006 Abigail Breslin Little Miss Sunshine
2002 Keisha Castle-Hughes Whale Rider
1999 Haley Joel Osment The Sixth Sense
1993 Anna Paquin The Piano
1979 Justin Henry Kramer vs. Kramer
1977 Quinn Cummings The Goodbye Girl
1976 Jodie Foster Taxi Driver
1973 Tatum O’ Neal Paper Moon
1968 Jack Wild Oliver!
1962 Patty Duke The Miracle Worker
Mary Badham To Kill a Mockingbird

Personal Selections

Super 8 (2011, Paramount)

In 1996, when I was 15 and the young actors of the day where my contemporaries, I started making my own award lists. Being young myself at the time I wanted to recognize young actors where most awards excluded them more often than not. These selections reflect those that were my among my BAM award selections that were eligible and the Academy bypassed. Prior to 1996, I thought of significant performances that were worthy of noting and would’ve had a strong case for the Juvenile Award had it been around.

2012 Rick Lens Kauwboy

This one is highly unlikely as Kauwboy wasn’t shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film prize. However, the fact that it was the official selection for The Netherlands did make it eligible.

My young actress choice last year, Sophie Nélisse, was a year off from the Oscar calendar but also a strong possibility for Monsieur Lazhar.

2011 Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Ryan Lee, Riley Giffiths Zach Mills, Gabe Basso Super 8

It figures that both the best young ensemble, and perhaps individual performance, of the past 25 years got overlooked. So they are all honored here.

2009 Bill Milner Is Anybody There?

2008 Bill Milner and Will Poulter Son of Rambow

A slight wrinkle here from my original selection. Since the Academy set precedent of awarding tandems, why not do so here as well?

2005 Dakota Fanning War of the Worlds

2004 Freddie Highmore Finding Neverland

My 2004 winner was one where I was awarding a film from 2003, due to my stand on release dates, which is different than the Academy’s. Having said that I then had to factor in both my nominees and who the Academy would be more likely to pick and decided if they chose anyone it would have been Highmore.

2003 Jeremy Sumpter Peter Pan

2001 Haley Joel Osment Artificial Intelligence: A.I.

2000 Haley Joel Osment Pay It Forward

1998 Vinicius de Oliveira Central Station

1997 Joseph Ashton The Education of Little Tree

Here’s another interesting case: my winner was in a TV film which the Academy would never honor. Then two more nominees were either shifted due to my interpretation of release date rules and one erroneously in my revisionist phase. That leaves two eligible: Dominic Zamprogna in The Boy’s Club and Joseph Ashton in The Education of Little Tree. Some people besides me actually saw the latter so I’d put that one up as a winner.

1996 Michelle Trachtenberg Harriet the Spy
Lucas Black Sling Blade

Michelle was my actual winner in 1996. Sling Blade in my awards was shifted to 1997 due to its release date. It being an Oscar nominated film make it a more likely retrospective candidate.

My Girl (1991, Columbia Pictures)

This section marks personal selections prior to my picking extemporaneous year-end awards.

1994 Elijah Wood The War

I recall watching E! and hearing there was some buzz being stirred by the cast/studio for Elijah. I knew it would never happen, but it was deserved buzz.

1992 Maxime Collin Leolo

I have since expunged them but for a time I did backtrack BAM Award to back before they started. Some of these picks reflect those findings.

1991 Anna Chlumsky My Girl

1990 Macaulay Culkin Home Alone

Say what you will, but you know if the award was around that this would have happened.

1988 Pelle Hvengaard Pelle the Conqueror

1987 Christian Bale Empire of the Sun

1986 River Phoenix Stand by Me

1983 Bertil Guve Fanny and Alexander

1982 Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

1979 Ricky Schroeder The Champ
David Bennent The Tin Drum

1972 Nell Potts The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

Who Should Have Gotten One But Didn’t

No Greater Glory (1934, Columbia Pictures)

I honestly almost scrapped this section. However, looking back through young nominees I noticed the discrepancy that some young nominees did not get a Juvenile Award while there was one. So I figured while I was at it I’d list a few notable performances that didn’t get recognized. Those that “didn’t need one” since they were nominated as in their respective categories against adult competition have denoted those with an asterisk.

1956 Patty McCormack The Bad Seed*
1953 Brandon deWilde Shane*
1952 Georges Poujouly Forbidden Games
1941 Roddy McDowall How Green Was My Valley
1936 Freddie Bartholomew Little Lord Fauntleroy
1934 George Breakston No Greater Glory
1931 Jackie Cooper Skippy*