Friday, January 4, 2013

Samuel L. Jackson REALLY Wants an Oscar

"I really don’t know many people who can not only remember Ed Wood, but remember what Martin Landau did in it,"

Samuel L. Jackson said that.

Classy, Sam. Classy.

I'll tell you what Martin Landau did in Ed Wood, he became Bela Lugosi. Every time I watch that movie, I am not watching Martin Landau playing Bela Lugosi, I am watching Bela Lugosi. In a career that had many high points (including a tremendous and heartbreaking performance in Francis Coppola's utterly brilliant Tucker: A Man and His Dream), it was likely the highest. In a film that also represented Tim Burton's best work, and, for my money, Johnny Depp's, as well.

I remember Ed Wood.

Ed Wood is a wonderful, sentimental, sincere film about a moment in time where a grab-bag of truly bizarre people came together and created something that is God-awful, but still lives on to this day. It was a film that put aside "being cool" to just embrace the bizarre reality of the people who are drawn to, and ultimately cannot escape, Hollywood. I'll take it any day over the slick strip-mining of 70's B-grade schlock that your buddy Quentin does. I'll also take Landau's embrace of  Lugosi as a deeply flawed, and deeply wonderful man, full of pain and joy, over your Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, who was interesting in his own right, don't get me wrong, but also, in retrospect, was another variation of the "badass" shtick you've been beating into the ground for over 20 years.

Somebody online said, "Sam Jackson is the black Jack Nicholson. Same character, every movie," now I will not dismiss either of you like that, because you're both capable of really tremendous work, but there are similarities. Both you and Nicholson obviously have two modes of operation, projects that will make you a lot of cash for trotting out "Jack Nicholson" or "Sam Jackson," and the projects that inspire you to bring your A-games. 

The difference is, as Nicholson has gotten older, he's made fewer films, but he's also made less garbage. Since 2000, he's made seven films, and only two of those (Anger Management and The Bucket List) are absolute dreck, and The Departed and, especially, About Schmidt rank with some of his best performances.

Schmidt is kind of a miracle, really, it's not even close to a "Jack Nicholson" performance. Great stuff. 

That could be you, but I think I have to go back to Changing Lanes in 2002 for the last time I really felt something uncalculated, honest and vulnerable from you. That's thirty-seven movies ago! You got close with Black Snake Moan, and I loved you in The Incredibles, but that was voice work. I'll admit I haven't seen everything you've made in that time, but my history with your performances leads me to believe that at least 75% of the time, it's not worth watching.

You thought Snakes on a Plane was a good idea, for Christ's sake!

Vulnerability, Sam. We all know you can be a "badass," but your greatest performances allowed vulnerability. Unbreakable, The Caveman's Valentine, Changing Lanes, The Negotiator, The Long Kiss Goodnight, A Time to Kill, Jungle Fever, the roles that made you a star, allowed us to see the human underneath the "badass" posturing.

I'm gonna give you a pass on Shaft, too, because it was fun as hell. The "what's my name" scene is an absolute classic. However, it also pretty much started this whole problem for you.

If you want to win an Oscar, find those roles again. Let us see something other than "I'm muthafuckin' Samuel L. Jackson!"

And , look...I find a lot of Quentin's stuff fun, I guess. I understand that you guys get along, and you enjoy working together. That's terrific, but I will tell you this, Quentin, and the way he repeatedly uses you as a performer, is part of the problem. I know it's made you an icon, and that's something to be proud of. 

However, if you really want an Oscar, it might be wise to think beyond the icon, and especially to stop trying to belittle an old man who deservedly won for a performance that is truly marvelous.

1 comment:

  1. He needs to get a disease, or a disability, or play a woman playing a man playing a woman.