The James Clayton Column: J-Law versus J-Law
With Dom Hemingway and Catching Fire in cinemas, James pits their J-Law stars, Jude Law and Jennifer Lawrence, in a virtual deathmatch...
If you go to the cinema today you may find that you're able to see Dom Hemingway, which stars Jude Law. You'll also find that you're able to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire which stars Jennifer Lawrence.
They are very different films - one an indie Brit black-comedy crime flick and the other an American dystopian adventure franchise sequel - but they have one crucial similarity: they are both fronted by a J-Law.
Law and Lawrence share a nickname bestowed on them by fans and lazy journalistic types who have no respect for formal standards. This is problematic because the rules of nicknaming are similar to the credo of Highlander. "There can be only one", so we need to work out who that one is. The last thing we want is ugly off-screen acrimony breaking out on some red carpet during Awards Season. We don't want bloodshed at the multiplex. I'm sure we can settle this in peaceful fashion so that the no harm comes to the real people involved - namely Lawrence and Law.
Trying to find a solution I've come up with a few alternate available nicknames for the pair - Jenesis, X-Jen, Judebacca, Jude Ben Hur - but they're all terrible. Everything looks clunky and uncool next to J-Law, because aside from wrestling aliases it's true that the best nicknames are hip hop handles. It's for this reason that you'll find him noted down as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson in the credits and why you'll never see O'Shea Jackson (Ice Cube), Calvin Broadus, Jr. (Snoop Dogg) or Robert Diggs (The RZA) on a cast list.
In conclusion, the J-Law title is the coveted tag and, I repeat, "there can be only one". Ideally neither Jude Law nor Jennifer Lawrence die in the battle for 'The Prize'. Back in the day we'd decide this fight by rendering the pair as claymation figurines and forcing them to duke it out in an episode of MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch. Sadly that show got cancelled in 2007 so we need to find another route to an effective resolution.
Once more, we don't want the actual actors themselves to get hurt because we really like them and appreciate them as human beings and as highly skilled dramatic performers of considerable range. It'd be fine if fictional people perished though, so how about we get some unreal protagonists to have it out, fighting to the death for the honour of the people who actually portray them?
'The Prize' is sole rights to the J-Law name. The contest is played out in a series of one-on-one bouts between Jude Law characters and Jennifer Lawrence characters. After all the individual encounters have been fought and lost or won we tally up the results and see which J-Law comes out on top. Beyond that there are no rules beyond any rules I might care to make up and subsequently break on a whim. I'm accountable to no governing body. I do what I want.
I figure this method to be more in the spirit of The Hunger Games and it will save us all an arduous court case and the kind of real life violence that we've already decided is undesirable. It also allows us to go back and appreciate some superb performances and acknowledge Lawrence and Law's rich characterisation in a series of excellent films.
The male combatant in this clash has an advantage considering that he's had a longer career and, thus, has a larger arsenal of characters to mobilise for his cause. Nevertheless, youth may be on Lawrence's side and she's riding high with confidence on the back of a Best Actress Oscar win and the phenomenal success of the franchise she's leading.
Who will be the one - the one who rises to victory over their namesake so that they may definitively claim the J-Law title? Let's find out and enjoy the spectacle as several avatars of J-Law and J-Law bring da ruckus. Let the games begin...
Raven Darkholme/Mystique (X-Men: First Class) vs Brad Stand (I Heart Huckabees)
At first the charismatic corporate exec thinks he's got the measure of the mutant. She's young and she's attractive - he can use her in an ad campaign. He flirts around a bit, makes a few lip service promises and drags out a tired anecdote about the time he gave country singer Shania Twain a chicken mayo sandwich and told her it was tuna. Bored by the smug blowhard, Raven decides to shock him by morphing into her natural form - blue, scaly and not what Stand would consider attractive enough to appear in commercials for a supermarket.
Repulsed, Brad recoils and fires abuse at the mutant, but she shouts him down with firm statements of "mutant and proud" and "You can't deal with my infinite nature, can you?" As Mystique screams "Wake up pretty girl, the joke's on you!" Brad comes to realise his superficiality and spiritual emptiness. His sense of self is swept away as Darkholme disentangles the curious fictions he's fabricated around himself and he drowns beneath a flood of existential anguish he'd never had the conscious awareness and courage to face before. Brad blubbers "How am I not myself?" over and over and namechecks Shania and the tuna sandwiches a few times before Mystique puts him out of his misery with a firefighter's axe.
Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) vs Ted Pikul (eXistenZ)
Having slipped the icky UmbyCord of a fleshy game pod into the bio-port on his back, Ted is enjoying time in the virtual reality world of eXistenZ. Actually, he's not enjoying it that much because he's found that he's playing a very dreary and disgusting game of Trout Factory. Suddenly a woman, Katniss, Everdeen, comes forward and exclaims in very mechanical fashion, "I volunteer as a tribute!" After a few perfunctory formulaic dialogue exchanges the characters move into the woods to play 'The Hunger Games'.
Pikul and Everdeen stalk each other through the environs of the arboreal arena and this war of attrition goes on for days. Eventually Pikul gets the jump on Katniss and shoots her with a flesh-and-bone pistol that fires baby teeth as bullets. Discombobulated as a result of her wounds and the constant difficulty of discerning simulation from reality, Katniss rages and rashly sets off a stockpile of landmines. The explosions are out of control and soon the entire forest is in flames.
Pikul wakes up out of game mode, relieved that he hasn't actually perished in an inferno. He caresses his game pod, then looks up and finds that he's looking right at an arrow head. Katniss kills him because he injured her in a deformed reality and because the watching citizens of Panem want to watch death, not gamers indulging themselves in a sleeping virtual reality coma.
Winner: Lawrence (though the real winners are always the designers of the game).
Ree Dolly (Winter's Bone) vs Dr. John Watson (Sherlock Holmes)
Watson has survived the hardships of army life in Afghanistan and cohabitation with 19th century London's most impossible and mercurial genius. Dolly has survived the hardships of an impoverished life in the Ozark Mountains with no help from her missing father. This encounter starts quite tamely with the British Doctor patronising the young woman, underestimating her as an opponent. She responds to his small talk by murdering a passing squirrel and drawling something that can be understood as a warning to back off.
Watson is terrified, his stomach turned as he watches Dolly gut the dead rodent. He figures that he must do something to stop this horror but he doesn't like the idea of shooting the lady - though she be a very 'unladylike' lady - because he's a Victorian man with parochial ideas about gender differences. He acknowledges that he's out of his depth and completely lost when he's not operating alongside his eccentric partner in solving-crimes. He also sees that Ree is a lot stronger than him considering that she's raising her younger siblings and caring for her mentally ill mother in a cruel, unforgiving rural community without any assistance. He cedes the battle to her and retreats humbled, leaving Ree to celebrate over squirrel kebabs with her kin.
Tiffany Maxwell (Silver Linings Playbook) vs Dr Jonathan Banks (Side Effects)
A psychological slugfest full of surprises, the cocksure Dr Banks starts out confident. He presumes that he can throw some pills at the problem and get a nice paycheque from big pharma but instead he discovers that Tiffany isn't a typical, passive specimen for his case book. Tiffany - "crazy slut" widow with a strong personality - soon gets the upper hand through sheer force of will. The Doc soon finds things spiralling out of control, his emotions and neuroses exposed as the sense of mastery he'd worked so hard to cultivate over his professional career slips away.
He finds himself completely confused. He loses track of his goals and purpose. Who's he fighting against, why is the world fighting against him and what's happened to his life? Why is he running around in a bin bag? How did he end up as Tiffany's partner for a dance competition? It's a happy climax though - they dance well and a few onlookers who bet that this encounter would end with zero deaths and an average score of 5 from the judges win big.
Winner: Lawrence, though there are silver linings for Law. Excelsior!
At 4-0 Jennifer Lawrence wins and thus claims the J-Law nickname as her own. Congratulations to her and commiserations to Jude Law. It's also true that The Hunger Games eclipses Dom Hemingway at the box office so, really, Jude Law is losing out to Lawrence at every end. As a closing crumb of comfort for Hey Jude, I'll say this - his performance as Dom Hemingway is absolutely belting, and I like I Heart Huckabees more than The Hunger Games anyway.
There's the sweet consolation prize for Dude Law. Now, let's go and re-animate Bullitt actor Steve McQueen and make him fight against Shame director Steve McQueen in order to decide who gets to be the one and only Steve McQueen.
You can read James' last column here.
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