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December 17, 2008

'The Wrestler' busts out


Darren Aronofsky didn't set out to make an homage to professional wrestling in all its choreographed, performance-art-that-can-maim-you glory. But that's what happened, the filmmaker said Tuesday night at the premiere of "The Wrestler," a drama that looks likely to score star Mickey Rourke an Oscar nomination.

"My main goal was to do something all about acting," Aronofsky said.

And, he said, something that was close enough to reality that it didn't make the muscle-bound grapplers in the audience want to kick his arse.

For the record, one of the sport's legendary figures, Rowdy Roddy Piper, has already endorsed the film and repeated the praise -- it's well researched, it's a true representation of the hard-knock life -- to your resident Gold Rusher at the post-screening cocktail party. And then he clothes-lined us for slowing down the buffet line. Just kidding.


There was a solid wrasslin' contingent at the event, with Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Brutus Beefcake, Rick "The Nature Boy" Flair, and Diamond Dallas Page flinching a lot less than the rest of us while Rourke's character was barb-wired, staple-gunned and beaten bloody in the bleak New Jersey-set movie. They're used to the these occupational hazards, after all. The emotional gutting that Randy "The Ram" Robinson took might've hit them just as hard. Tough to say because, well, they're tough guys.

Luminaries of the non-beat-down variety were there, too, like Oliver Stone, Aronofsky's wife Rachel Weisz, 50 Cent and everybody's favorite porn king, Ron Jeremy. (Don't think we didn't start a conversation. More on that later).

After winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, "The Wrestler" has been on a roll with U.S. critics groups and best-of lists. Rourke, playing a wrestler 20 years past his prime, has a Golden Globe nod under his belt already, as does co-star and past Oscar winner Marisa Tomei for her stripper who could've fallen for the big lug. Both have Oscar potential.

That has to be music to the ears of Fox Searchlight honcho Peter Rice, who called it the quintessential American indie film that the corporate purse-strings-holders gave him the go-ahead to buy and distribute during an inhospitable climate for such fare.

The New York Times review is one of the most astute we've read on "The Wrestler," pointing out its flaws but coming to the conclusion that "like its hero, the movie has a blunt, exuberant honesty, pulling off even its false moves with conviction and flair." Couldn't agree more. It's a must-see.


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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

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  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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