Cinematheque honors Samuel L. Jackson

John Singleton, Justin Timberlake among tributes

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 like chicken feed 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."

Jackson also offered support to Bollywood and those affected by last week's Mumbai terrorist massacre.

"There are some nasty people who want to keep us from not socializing and indoors," he said. "We can't let that happen."

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" -- and breathlessly entered into story about seeing Jackson "nekkid" in a movie and then trying to talk to him at a premiere. 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 continually brought up. 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."

Also making speeches were Earvin "Magic" Johnson who used basketball terms to describe Jackson as unstoppable as Kobe Bryant, versatile as Larry Bird and smooth as Michael Jordan; John Singleton, who told anecdotes from the set of "Shaft"; and Jackson's wife, LaTanya, who talked of the movies Jackson made with Spike Lee. Jackson, one of the town's most consistently working actors, later thanked his wife and daughter for their sacrifice of having him be on location for sometimes more than 300 days a year.

The evening also saw Cinematheque chairman Rick Nicita present the inaugural Sydney Pollack Award to Sundance Institute director Geoffrey Gilmore.
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