Notes from the back row 

Oscar the Grouch

"I would feel trapped in this life if I didn’t know I could commit suicide at any time."

Hunter S. Thompson said that, many years ago, and late last Sunday night he decided the gig was up, taking his life the ballsy way, a gunshot wound to the head.

One of America’s greatest and most influential journalists, the outspoken, shit-disturbing writer was portrayed twice on film. First by Bill Murray in 1980’s Where the Buffalo Roam , a campy disjointed film that was overlooked by most people but is actually really funny and worth searching for. Bill Murray rules.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas , Terry Gilliam’s 2003 rendition of Thompson’s drug-fuelled, earth-scorching trip to Vegas in search of the American Dream, is perhaps the truest literature-to-film adaptation ever made. Johnny Depp stars and Benicio Del Toro gives one of the finest performances of his career as Hunter’s fat, demonic lawyer Dr. Gonzo. Fear and Loathing captures the savagery of Thompson’s writing and life perfectly and you can bet it’ll be tough to find at the video store this week.

Rumours are circulating about the release of a third Hunter Thompson movie based on his novel The Rum Diary. Set in a 1950s politically unstable Puerto Rico, it’s a bizarre jealous love story fuelled by tropical tension, rum, and ice. Del Toro and Depp are reunited for this picture, along side Nick Nolte, and Del Toro is given the director’s chair for the first time. Still considered "In production" it’s anyone’s guess as to when this film will be released but it could be sometime later this year. I’d wager Thompson, even from the grave, can still deliver a swift kick in the ass to get things moving along.

So watch Where The Buffalo Roam , or Fear and Loathing . Or better yet, read a book. Because the good doctor is gone now, and we are all that much more alone in the world, missing perhaps the greatest truth-teller we’ve ever had.

Speaking of killing yourself, it’s Oscar weekend: the four-hour mess of celebrity worship known as the Academy Awards. The "Academy" in question is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a 6,000-member group of film industry professionals whose purpose is "to foster co-operation among creative leaders for cultural, educational and technological progress." How they achieve this by oohing and ahhing over Brad Pitt’s suit or why he’s done tapping Jennifer Aniston is anyone’s guess.

Perhaps I’m just bitter the Academy didn’t give me a vote. So here: Oscar Predictions by a guy who hasn’t even seen all the films involved.

Best Picture — The Academy will probably give this one to Million Dollar Baby because they love Clint Eastwood so much, and last year he got beat by a bunch of hobbits. It’s a decent movie but, personally, I’d rather see Finding Neverland take the gold statue, or Ray , both of which are far less emotionally manipulating.

Best Actor — You gotta give this one to Jamie Foxx for his portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray. He became the character, even played his own piano for the film. Foxx is up for best supporting actor too for his role as a cabbie in Collateral . I didn’t think he was anything special in that but the Academy likes to be cute and a Foxx win in both categories is the kind of thing they’d go for. Don’t be surprised.

Best Animated Feature — This is actually one of the tightest races in the whole dumb show. The Increidbles is amazing and funny and touching and all the things a good cartoon should be. But Shrek 2 is most of those things too and it was incredibly popular in Hollywood because everyone down there was so happy to see Eddie Murphy do something that didn’t suck. I say Incredibles should win but Shrek 2 will probably take it by a donkey nose hair.

Best Director — a tough category because at this level, they’re all pretty good. I’d like to see the award go to Martin Scorcese for his Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator . It was a huge production and Scorcese’s been around long enough to deserve another little gold man. But the Academy does have a huge hard on for Clint Eastwood so he’ll probably take this one too.

Ah screw it. No more space. Just skip the Oscars and read the papers Monday morning.

AT VILLAGE 8 Feb. 25-March 3: Cursed; Man of the House; Constantine; Hitch; Aviator; Winndixie; Meet the Fockers; Million Dollar Baby; Sideways; Son of the Mask.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE Feb. 25-March 3: Hide and Seek.

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