Movies

The Rundown: Should There Be An Oscar For Best Action Movie?

The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items could vary, as could the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest, or from this week. The important thing is that it’s Friday, and we are here to have some fun.

ITEM NUMBER ONE — Just hear me out

The important thing to begin with here is that I’m not an idiot. Not this time, at least. I’m trying to make a real point. It’s going to sound like I’m an idiot at times in this discussion, I’m sure, because a zebra always shows his stripes at some point, but still. It’s a fair question. Should there be an Academy Award category for Best Action Movie?

Let’s break this down.

CASE FOR — The case for adding a category for Best Action Movie, like a wobbly barstool, stands on three legs.

The first and most important is that there should probably be some way to recognize excellence in more forms of filmmaking. The Oscars has kind of split itself off from the rest of Hollywood, moreso in recent years, to a degree that only a very limited set of kinds of movies get nominated. Yes, sometimes a Joker or a Black Panther slips through, but for the most part, the Best Picture and Best Actor/Actress categories are loaded with smaller, lower-budget movies that most people haven’t seen. Which is fine! It’s good, even, because the recent heavy reliance on blockbusters and existing intellectual property has pushed most of those serious/smaller/artistic films out of the large chain theaters and into independent venues and VOD. That stinks. None of this is meant to advocate taking one more thing away from those movies. We’ve already stripped them down to the frame.

But a well-made action movie is still an impressive feat. Just the coordination involved to pull it off, to nail the pacing and keep audiences riveted for two-plus hours. It’s almost an entirely different skillset than making, say, Marriage Story, which has about as much in common with a Fast & Furious movie as I have in common with The Rock. We’re both humans. We both have bones and muscle tissue and hope and dreams. But that’s about it. The Rock’s neck is thicker than my legs. Plural. This is a good analogy, the point of which is that filmmaking is filmmaking and there’s just as much honor in all the people working together to make an enjoyable summer movie as there is in jetting off to the woods and shooting a searing indictment of capitalism on your iPhone. Everyone is working hard, they’re just working differently.

This brings us to the second prong: We’re already okay with separate awards for separate kinds of movies. There are trophies that get handed out for animated films and short films and documentaries. Not to drill home the same point twice, but a movie like John Wick 3 is as different from a movie like Little Women as either of them are from a movie like Paddington 2. All three are great in different ways. Asking them to compete in the same category would be ridiculous. The Emmys, also a disaster in its own way but for different reasons, gets this by splitting up drama and comedy and limited series. Think about a category where Fleabag competed against Game of Thrones? That would be weird, right? Exactly.

And the mention of John Wick in the previous paragraph brings us to the third prong, which is that I would really like it if Keanu Reeves had an Oscar. Come on. Let Keanu have an Oscar. He’s doing so well! And he has been for a while! Don’t make him take a year off from cool movies about assassins to make a period movie about, like, the Great Depression or whatever. He’s great at the thing he does. Maybe better than anyone alive. Give Keanu an Oscar! Do it!

CASE AGAINST — For our case against, we turn to the wisdom of a noted problem drinker whose entire life is built upon a foundation of lies and misdirection.

That is what the money is for. It’s an art versus commerce thing, and the former is already losing that battle in a bloodbath of epic proportions. It doesn’t hurt to have one night — JUST ONE NIGHT — when the grown-ups get to put on fancy clothes and celebrate grown-up stuff. And there’s nothing that’s stopping an action movie from aspiring to the greatness that would get it invited to the ceremony on its own merits. Again, Black Panther was there just a little while ago. Titanic isn’t really an action movie but it is the biggest commercial hit in history and it won a mess of awards. There’s no need to dumb down a tradition just to make concessions for a genre that doesn’t always try as hard as it could. Do better. Don’t paint by numbers. Work outside the Extended Cinematic Universe constraints sometimes. Don’t curse the darkness, creators of action movies. Light a candle.

VERDICT — Ehhhhhhh I dunno, just give Keanu an Oscar. Just one.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Speaking of excellence in film…

Getty Image

… let’s all take a minute or two to celebrate the master. Nicolas Cage, Oscar winner, star of some of our greatest action movies and a slew of movies that are… not our greatest action movies, has finally done it. He’s passed through to the other side. He’s crossed over and become a part of something so powerfully tongue-in-cheek that its tongue risks bursting through its flesh prison to start wagging out the side of its face.

Reportedly, according to THR, Cage is zeroing in on a role in a movie titled The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. I must insist that you click on that link to read the full explanation of the film, but I will give you a few highlights. Cage plays, basically, himself, with his real name, in debt and taking questionable roles, with a version of himself from the 1990s appearing every now and then to mock his current self for where his career has gone. At some point, he agrees to make a movie with/for some mysterious billionaire. That’s where things really get wild.

While he bonds with the man, Cage is informed by the CIA that the billionaire is actually a drug cartel kingpin who has kidnapped the daughter of a Mexican presidential nominee and Cage is subsequently recruited by the U.S. government to get intelligence. The situation spirals even more dramatically when the billionaire brings over Cage’s daughter and his ex-wife for a reconciliation, and when their lives are on the line, Cage takes on the role of a lifetime.

This is just wonderful. It’s the role he was born to play: himself, but more. It’s also really close to the plot of JCVD, a short-lived Amazon series that starred Jean-Claude Van Damme as a version of himself that was also a spy, and a show that once sent critics a promo package that contained a solid chocolate fist. That last thing is not the biggest takeaway in all of this, but I still think it’s important information that you deserve to have.

Anyway, yes, Cage read the script and apparently loved it, because of course Cage would love this movie. More from THR:

According to sources, the script was shown to Cage along with a letter that Gormican wrote, pleading his case and saying how the piece was a love letter to the actor, not something that made fun of him. Cage was convinced and became attached in recent weeks.

The interest in the project was so high that sources say Cage is lining up to achieve a payday that would put him in the same range he was in when making such studio hits as Con Air and National Treasure.

That last paragraph has a whiff of “Nic Cage’s people were the people pushing this story and would like you to know that he’s still very important and should be compensated as such,” but also, I mean, he really has everyone in checkmate here. The movie only works with him in it. If they really want to make it, they need him to sign on. Unless… hold on.

Consider this: John Travolta as Nicolas Cage. Everything else stays the same. Travolta as Cage has worked before. And you know he’d take the role because he will take any role these days. He starred in Gotti and a speedboat movie and Fred Durst’s directorial debut. I still want Cage (I NEED Cage), but if nothing else this could even things up at the bargaining table.

Oh, and speaking of wild man actors I enjoy playing dual roles in upcoming films or television projects, allow me to pass along this paragraph from a press release for a new series starring Tormund from Game of Thrones.

One part thriller, one part character driven drama, TWIN is the story of Erik and Adam (both played by Kristofer Hivju), identical twin brothers, who live completely different lives. Erik is a broke surfer bum. Adam is a successful family and business man And when Erik seeks out his brother for the first time in 15 years, a quarrel ends with Adam’s wife, Ingrid (Rebekka Nystabakk), accidentally killing her husband. To avoid getting arrested for murder, and save his brother’s family, Erik takes over Adam’s identity. However, it soon turns out that the biggest challenge is not avoiding getting caught – it’s pretending to be someone you’re not.

There are dark and scary things out there in the world, sure. It’s smart to be aware of them. But there’s also stuff like this. Please remember that.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Congratulations to The New Pope

HBO

Well, they did it. This week, in the show’s fourth episode — and please do note that the title of the fourth episode was “The Fourth Episode” — John Malkovich, the new pope on The New Pope, went right ahead and said the phrase “I’m the new pope.” I whooped. I whooped out loud. I did so in part because I love any movie or television show in which a main character says the title of that particular movie or television show, and in part because this marks the second time they’ve done it.

HBO

That, as you’ve probably figured out, is Jude Law, the young pope in The Young Pope, saying “I am the young pope” in the first go-round with all of this. I’m so proud of everyone involved. I want to show up and hug all of the people who made this happen. I’m so excited about it that I almost forgot the best part. I almost forgot to tell you who Malkovich’s character was addressing in the scene where he said, “I’m the new pope.” That would have been a shame. Because…

HBO

Yes, that is Marilyn Manson, as himself, having an audience with the pope, who is being played by John Malkovich. I refuse to explain this any further. What a tremendous television program.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — The brand is strong

Some notes here:

  • This is the extended version of David Letterman’s appearance on the season two premiere of Desus & Mero
  • It is a blast to watch
  • Desus and Mero rule
  • It’s very cool to see how excited Letterman is to be there, and how pumped he is that a younger generation is doing new and fun things with a format he didn’t technically invent but certainly tinkered with a lot
  • It’s also very cool that Letterman still can’t help himself from being a rascal sometimes, bringing up their old show on Viceland a bunch and talking money every five minutes or so
  • Desus saying “a diverse sleep apnea commercial” damn near killed me

Take 30 minutes to watch this clip over the weekend. You deserve it.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — I’ll miss you, BoJack music

I have, in the past, described the opening theme music from BoJack Horseman as really great “driving around the city in the rain at night while you’re trying to solve a murder case or figure out just how high the corruption goes and whether it ends before or with the fat cats in City Hall” music. I was actually driving around in the rain last night when it popped up on a playlist I made. This was the first time I listened to the song in these ideal conditions and I can confirm that, yes, I was correct, and yes, I did consider pulling up to City Hall and shouting at people about how the rain will wash away the scum that’s infested the current power structure. But then I just went home instead. Still. Good theme music. Good show. I’ll miss them both very much.

READER MAIL

If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at brian.grubb@uproxx.com (put “RUNDOWN” in the subject line). I am the first writer to ever answer reader mail in a column. Do not look up this last part.

Lee:

I found this great song by Telly Savalas and I love the idea of him sitting down to write and thinking “I’ll sing about the catchphrase of that show I’m on! Yeah!”. Which actors today are most likely to sing the equivalent of “Hey, I’m the Guy From”? Which actors SHOULD sing songs that are just references to great roles/shows they’ve done?!

Lee, goddammit. How am I supposed to use my brain to answer your questions now that I have Telly Savalas singing a song about Kojak open in another tab? This is not fair. It’s mean. It’s almost cruel, really. My only worry in answering this question is that some of the other readers might not know who Telly Savalas is. But then they get the pleasure of learning who Telly Savalas is. So… win-win, really.

As far as answers go, the one that’s jumping out at me right now is Bosch, with Titus Welliver singing a song about his loose-cannon, results-getting detective character. I think it’s jumping out at me for two reasons: One, because this tweet has been living inside my brain since the instant I read it…

… and two, because it’s been too long since I posted a picture of Bosch doing a terrible job of putting his hands in his pockets.

Amazon

Yeah, I feel better now. I’m sorry for yelling at you earlier, Lee. I was just a little overwhelmed.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To South Philadelphia!

Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty is no longer facing possible assault charges.

For those of you who don’t follow the trials and tribulations of bright orange googly-eyed hellmuppet hockey mascots from Philadelphia, some quick background: Gritty, the internet’s favorite fuzzy rascal, was being investigated for punching a 13-year-old boy in the back. Specifically, the boy’s father claimed that Gritty got a full running start and punched his son in the back after the mildest of provocations, which — with the obvious caveat here that you should not punch anyone, especially children, especially not in the back when they’re not looking — is a really hilarious visual to work up in your brain for a few minutes.

Anyway, FREEDOM.

The Flyers said in a statement at the time, “We took Mr. Greenwell’s allegations seriously and conducted a thorough investigation that found nothing to support this claim.”

FREEEEDOM.

Police say after further investigation, the case is no longer active.

Things worth noting as we close this case:

  • It is profoundly funny to me in a deep and soulful way that at no point in any of the news coverage of this investigation did a single person refer to the accused as anything but “Gritty,” as though there is no person in the suit, as though Gritty is a sentient being, as though we’ve all just decided to accept the fiction as fact to have one little piece of magic to believe in to get us through our bleak human existence
  • Gritty celebrated his exoneration by, you guessed it, trolling some nuns on a basketball court

Let’s go to the tape.

Gritty just loves chaos and goofing around. We must protect him. Give him diplomatic immunity, I say.

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