It is my humble opinion that the loose confederation of movie studios, actors, directors, and producers colloquially known as “Hollywood” blows and is mostly terrible at what they do.
Just looking over the list of ten Oscar nominated films from last year, one is struck by the staggering feebleness of what are supposedly the best movies of the year. That’s why whenever a writer/director comes along who appears to be creative and original in any way whatsoever, I’m all for redistributing money from the last Michael Bay Transformers dump or whatever Katherine Heigl-Ashton Kutcher rom-com might next enter the pipeline.
Former nominees for this category include the likes of Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell, and Katherine Bigelow—all to varying degrees of success, for sure. But whatever complaints we have about some of their films, filmmaking itself is desperately in need of originality, of creative people taking over for focus-tested consensus. This is true even more so now that the auteurs appear headed for television where long-form storytelling in the vein of “The Wire”, “Breaking Bad”, and “Mad Men” now appears ascendant.
My nominee is the writer and director of “Looper”, Rian Johnson. “Looper” is the gangster-hit-man-time-travel-dystopian-future movie you never knew you were missing, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing the hit man attempting to kill his future self, as played by Bruce Willis. Incidentally, with an assist from some nose putty, Gordon-Levitt does the finest, hammiest, smirkiest young-Bruce-Willis impression you never knew you were missing.
Without giving anything away, the film is at once genre bliss, metaphysical rumination, and just a damn good crime drama. It feels like we go years without a decent science fiction movie, and then just when Ridley Scott finally gets “Prometheus” to us, we realize why we need new filmmakers coming up with stories not regurgitated onto a cookie tray and baked at a lukewarm temperature. While there’s nothing mind-blowingly original about “Looper”, the term “mind-blowing” is often applied to crappy, nonsensical garbage. After all, two-thirds of “The Matrix” series is unwatchable dreck.
Johnson previously wrote and directed “Brick”, also starring Gordon-Levitt, which resets the private detective noir at a suburban high school. It is also alarmingly good. Not to mention, he directed one of the best “Breaking Bad” episodes (“Fly”).
Do yourself a favor and see this guy at work, but Hollywood, please, do not hire Rian Johnson to re-invigorate the Incredible Hulk series or give us a remake of “Logan’s Run”. Just hand the dude money without asking what he’s going to do with it, and let him make whatever he wants.