A man of character and great characters

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There probably never have been so many expletives used to show appreciation at an awards show as there were at the 23rd annual American Cinematheque Awards, which honored Samuel L. Jackson.

From Justin Timberlake to George Lopez and Andy Garcia to Sharon Stone, the F-bomb and the longform version of "mofo" were tossed around Monday night as the town celebrated the actor whose name has become synonymous with "badass."

The honoree, when the time came to accept the award from presenter George Lucas, was more pensive and measured by comparison. Jackson talked about how much the experience of going to the movies meant to him, when he would catch Saturday double features in a segregated theater in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tenn., and how important he thinks the Cinematheque's work is in promoting the social side of filmmaking.

"I felt a bond with everyone in that theater," Jackson said. "(It was) a kinship that opened up a whole new world."

One running theme throughout the evening was guessing what the "L" in Samuel L. Jackson stands for. Timberlake, who acted in "Black Snake Moan" with Jackson and who started off the evening, said it stood for "Love. Man love." Lopez said it was definitely not for "Latino."

In perhaps the most bizarre tribute, Stone strutted onstage and, with her hands on her hips, purred words such as "Luscious," "L'amour," "Ladies love Samuel L. Jackson." She eventually got serious, talking about the moral compass he brings to his characters, and saying the "L" stood for "Legend."

The complexity Jackson brings to his roles was a common theme. Denzel Washington said Jackson plays men who can be considered "the righteous who believe they are sinners and the sinners who believe they are righteous." Vin Diesel called Jackson "a poor man's acting coach," and Kerry Washington noted that the actor brings truth to his roles, making his "heroes so imperfect and (his) villains so lovable."

AMC will air "The Samuel L. Jackson American Cinematheque Tribute" at 10 p.m. Dec. 9. (partialdiff)
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