Beneath the surface, everyone has a secret.
Directed by: Jacob Aaron Estes
Written by: Jacob Aaron Estes
Starring: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder
Primary Genres: Drama
2004 Cosmique Movie Awards
When a bully (Josh Peck) finally takes things too far, a kid (Rory Culkin) and his friends lure him onto a boat trip to teach him a lesson.
Independent films have a hard time getting enough exposure to Cosmo voters to get important nominations - but concerted lobbying (especially when the video is released before the end of the nomination process) can help them achieve recognition when they might be overlooked by the major awards shows. Mean Creek earned four nominations at the Fifth Annual Cosmique Movie Awards. In addition to a Best Ensemble nomination, Scott Mechlowitz was a surprise nominee for Best Supporting Actor. The cello-rich score by tomandandy (who previously did the score for the Cosmo-nominated film The Rules of Attraction) also scored a Cosmo nod. And perhaps most controversially, Scott Mechlowitz' performance of the troubled teen Marty earned a Best Male Villain nomination.
Much of "Mean Creek's" plot is entirely predictable - but the strength of the film is not in suspense or plot twists, but in the powerful performances by the young cast. Rory Culkin is living up to the legacy set by his older brothers Macauley and Cosmo-winner Kieran. But it is Scott Mechlowicz, whose previous screen credits were limited to the barely-released "Neverland" and the lightweight (but under-rated) "Eurotrip," that delivers the real surprise.
Mechlowicz' portrayal of the somewhat bitter and angry older friend who keeps the revenge prank alive when the others are ready to call it off is more complex and dramatic than one would expect. It's a bit simplistic, perhaps, to label his character as a villain. It's easy to see how his character, who in the end is just a kid, controls so little in his painful life that he seizes the chance to aggressively and violently get even. Misdirected and misguided, but understandable. And villains don't necessarily have to be one-dimensional cutouts motivated by a simplistic desire to "rule the world" or something silly. Mechlowicz portrays Marty as human and sympathetic, but one that could be legitimately dubbed a villain nonetheless. (One could argue that everyone in the cast - ever last one - is a villain in one way or the other. But if so, Marty is clearly a ring-leader.) For that, Scott Mechlowicz will not only make my list for Best Male Villain but may well also make my list for Best Supporting Actor.
My Rating: 9
Villains tend to be seen as either cartoon characters or madmen - witness some of the previous winners (Margaret Hamilton for The Wizard of Oz, Anthony Hopkins for Silence of the Lambs, John Lithgow for Shrek, Ian Holm for From Hell, Robin Williams for One Hour Photo, Andy Sirkis for Return of the King, and Charlize Theron for Monster). In this vein, Scott Mechlowitz stands out as an unlikely choice. Though his character may take actions that may seem mean to some, we understand them: his unstable home life gives understanding to his efforts to take control elsewhere, and his efforts to defend his friends are almost honorable. In addition, his prank was never intended to be taken to such an extreme; he is, in fact, almost as much a victim of a horrible accident as the victim himself. But ultimately, we are judged by the choices we make and how we react under adversity. Villains don't need to be cardboard cutouts, and they can invoke our sympathy - but their actions may nevertheless mark them. Last year, Uma Thurman was nominated for Favorite Female Heroic Character, but she came close to also earning a nomination for Best Female Villain as well. And both interpretations would have been appropriate. In this light, Scott Mechlowitz' character may be the most complex and difficult-to-characterize Villain nominees in the history of the awards, but it's a characterization that isn't necessarily undeserved.
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