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The Forgotten Oscars 2013: Our annual celebration of unsung sci-fi, horror, and action films

By MICHAEL NEEL  |  February 27, 2013

Best Actor: Pierce Gagnon for Looper
Release Date: September 28

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen Looper and want to, don’t read any further. Ignore my warning, and suffer the consequences.

Time travel is a frequent plot device for movies, inevitably causing sci-fi nerds everywhere to break into arguments about the space-time continuum, the butterfly effect, or other reasons why the logic on screen is flawed according to the laws of science, and therefore the movie sucks. If you are one of these people then 1) I feel sorry for you and 2) stay the hell away from Looper.Looper is set in 2044, where mobsters of 2074 send their enemies back to 2044 to be killed by assassins named Loopers. Said nerds would question why this is easier than giving someone concrete shoes and having them sleep with the fishes, but my reasoning is that time travel assassination is so cool that any futuristic mobster would be foolish not to use it. If Tony Montana lived in 2074 I’m sure he would have loved it. Loopers live very well — money, drugs, cars, chicks — but there’s a catch: when the future mob boss decides to “fire” you he sends you future self back in time, and you must kill him or die yourself. After killing your future self, you have thirty years of life, partying, and fun until you get sent back to your old self to be killed. Sounds trippy.

>> READ: Phoenix review of Looper <<

The film focuses on a looper named Joe, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is supposed to kill his future self, played by Bruce Willis — but of course something goes wrong and Future Joe escapes. When I was watching the film, I could practically hear the nerds whining in my ear, but you know what: I don’t care. I want to come to the movies for a good, entertaining story and I really couldn’t give a shit if it’s possible or not. I’m pretty sure that wookies aren’t real (although I’m not positive) but I still love The Empire Strikes Back. As Future Joe says to Present Day Joe, there are maps and diagrams he could draw to explain the ins and outs of time travel, but it doesn’t really matter. Damn right.

Okay, so here’s where we get into spoiler territory. There is no possible way to discuss the Best Actor Forgotten Oscar without spoilers. Seriously, if you want to enjoy this movie then don’t keep reading.

Of course there’s a reason that Future Joe thwarted his own assassination (aside from not wanting to get assassinated), and, as in many time-travel films, it has to do with stopping some awful fate that will befall him in 2074. He teams up with Present Day Joe, and their search inevitably leads them to a farm in the countryside, where Sara, played by Emily Blunt, lives off the land and cares for a very peculiar young boy named Cid, played by five-year-old Pierce Gagnon. Looper is full of fine performances from Gordon-Levitt, Willis, Blunt, and the rest of the cast, and Gagnon holds his own with all of them (check out this article on to hear it from the actors themselves). He has some long dialogue scenes with Gordon-Levitt and Blunt where he must be vulnerable, assertive, curious, indignant, mature beyond his years and as immature as a young child, and he does all these and more. Gagnon enters the film at a critical moment where these nuances are essential to drive the plot along — if the emotional notes he hits are off, or if he can hit some but not others, then the entire third act has no impact and becomes merely the finishing of a story and not a satisfying, emotional ending. Like any great performance, Gagnon makes you feel as though this character has led a fully-formed life and isn’t just a character on a page. The more time Gagnon is on screen the more his talents become apparent, and as his role becomes more demanding, he just gets better. It’s only one role, but if he really is this good an actor, then I have high hopes for him for years to come.

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