You've probably heard that Looper was a pretty good movie. You know who agrees with you? Jason Reitman, director of Juno, Up in the Air, Young Adult, and the son of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman. Jason took time out of his day to pen a lengthy essay for Entertainment Weekly why Looper is not only one of the year's best films, but deserves to be recognized as such with an Academy Award.
Here's a fun fact… you know what Alien, Blade Runner, Close Encounters and The Matrix have in common? I mean, outside of being timeless groundbreaking movies that changed the way we watch cinema. None of these films were acknowledged for their screenplays - which makes me wonder, is it just because they have flying cars and hyperbaric sleep chambers and creatures with acid in their blood? Perhaps we're so thoroughly engrossed that we dismiss how these films triumph in their examination of complicated ideas. Or maybe, as writers, we have some sort of prejudice against futuristic costume and production design.
If you break it down, at the center of these great science fiction movies are traditional writerly themes: mid-life crisis, motherhood, gender equality, and the fragility of human experience. Alien asked ground breaking questions about eco-politics and female empowerment. The Matrix delved deeper into the concept of perception versus reality than perhaps any other film I know. But for some reason, we tend not to remember the significance of their writing.
Looper isn't a film about time travel. It isn't a film about telekinetic powers. It isn't about flying motorcycles or eye drop hallucinogens. It uses these concepts as well as any science fiction film I've seen, but it also knows the difference between a prop and a story. Time travel is a prop. Looper is about what your 55-year-old self would tell your 25-year-old self over a cup of coffee. It's about finding love in the third act of your life. It's about overcoming trauma and the idea of true sacrifice.
Looper is so deftly told that it's easy to forget how difficult the maneuvers are that Rian Johnson is pulling off with grace and sophistication. His screenplay employs unparalleled structural fluidity, complicated and moving visions of the future, and a language of its own invention that is somehow foreign and yet just in our grasp. It's size and ambition slip by the eyes and ears so stealthily and by the way … it's an independently made film! Never has it been more important to consider the unique routes innovative stories take as they navigate their way to the big screen. One can only imagine what might have happened to Johnson's screenplay had it been forced to pass through more hands.
There's an unfortunate probability that the most original of the original screenplays this year has a chance of being overlooked. Rian Johnson's Looper is inventive, entertaining, and thought-provoking in every way a movie can be. It is in fact the kind of movie that reminds us why we watch them and make them. A beautifully told story that deserves to be not only remembered, but acknowledged for its writing.
I personally trust the power of the Academy to bestow awards on dserving films as much as I can throw them, and since the Academy is an organization of people, I can't throw them at all. Still, it's nice when artists like Reitman go out of their way to praise the works of their peers.
[Via First Showing]