What If Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees: 2017 Edition

With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations. Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated. The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not. Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year. Winners are starred and listed in bold.

(You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.)

(Click on the links to see my nominations for 201620152014201320122011, and 2010!)

Best Picture

Baby Driver

The Big Sick

The Disaster Artist

*A Ghost Story*



Lady Bird

The Meyerowitz Stories

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Wonder Woman

Best Director

Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman

*David Lowery for A Ghost Story*

Martin McDonagh for Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Andy Muschietti for It

Edgar Wright for Baby Driver

Best Actor

*Sam Elliott in The Hero*

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out

James McAvoy in Split

Robert Pattinson in Good Time

Best Actress

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

Sally Hawkins in Maudie

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Cynthia Nixon in A Quiet Passion

Aubrey Plaza in Ingrid Goes West

*Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird*

Best Supporting Actor

Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Adam Sandler in The Meyerowitz Stories

Bill Skarsgard in It

*Patrick Stewart in Logan*

Jason Sudekis in Colossal

Best Supporting Actress

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Catherine Keener in Get Out

Sophia Lillis in It

*Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird*

Carey Mulligan in Mudbound

Ella Rumpf in Raw

Best Voice-Over or Stop Motion Performance

Will Arnett in The LEGO Batman Movie

Gael Garcia Bernal in Coco

Bradley Cooper in Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2

Doug Jones in The Shape of Water

*Andy Serkis in War for the Planet of the Apes*

Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast

Best Original Screenplay

The Big Sick

Get Out

A Ghost Story

*Lady Bird*

The Meyerowitz Stories

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Adapted Screenplay

Before I Fall

*The Disaster Artist*



Their Finest

Wonder Woman

Best Animated Film

Cars 3


*The Lego Batman Movie*


Best Documentary Feature

Karl Marx City




Strong Island

32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide

Best Foreign Language Film

First They Killed My Father




Best Casting

The Big Sick



Get Out

Lady Bird

*The Meyerowitz Stories*

Best Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049


*A Ghost Story*


Lost City of Z

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Costume Design

Beauty and the Beast

The Beguiled

Free Fire

Thor: Ragnarok

Victoria & Abdul

*Wonder Woman*

Best Editing

*Baby Driver*

Before I Fall


A Ghost Story


Wonder Woman

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Disaster Artist

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Lady MacBeth

Logan Lucky

My Cousin Rachel

*Thor: Ragnarok*

Best Original Score

Blade Runner 2049

A Ghost Story

*Good Time*


The Shape of Water

Wind River

Best Original Song

“Buddy’s Business” from Brawl In Cell Block 99

“Evermore” from Beauty and the Beast

“Friends are Family” from The Lego Batman Movie

“How Does A Moment Last Forever” from Beauty and the Beast

“Myron/Byron” from The Meyerowitz Stories

*”The Pure and the Damned” from Good Time*

Best Overall Use Of Music

Atomic Blonde

*Baby Driver*

The Disaster Artist

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Thor: Ragnarok

T2: Trainspotting

Best Production Design

*Beauty and the Beast*

The Beguiled

Blade Runner 2049

It Comes At Night


Thor: Ragnarok

Best Sound Editing

Baby Driver


Kong: Skull Island

Spider-Man: Homecoming

War For The Planet of the Apes

Wonder Woman

Best Sound Mixing

Baby Driver


Kong: Skull Island

Spider-Man: Homecoming

War For The Planet of the Apes

Wonder Woman

Best Stuntwork

Baby Driver



Spider-Man: Homecoming

Thor: Ragnarok 

*Wonder Woman*

Best Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Thor: Ragnarok

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

*War For The Planet of the Apes*

Films Listed By Number of Nominations

9 Nominations — Wonder Woman

7 Nominations — Baby Driver, Dunkirk, It, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

6 Nominations — A Ghost Story, Lady Bird, Thor: Ragnarok

5 Nominations — Beauty and the Beast, The Disaster Artist, The Meyerowitz Stories

4 Nominations — The Big Sick, Blade Runner 2049, Get Out, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Logan, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War For The Planet Of The Apes

3 Nominations — Good Time, Kedi, The LEGO Batman Movie

2 Nominations — Before I Fall, The Beguiled, Coco, Kong: Skull Island, Raw, Shape of Water

1 Nominations — Atomic Blonde, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Cars 3, Colossal, Detroit, First They Killed My Father, Frantz, Free Fire, The Hero, Ingrid Goes West, It Comes At Night, Karl Marx City, Lady MacBeth, Leap!, Logan Lucky, Lost City of Z, Maudie, Mudbound, My Cousin Rachel, A Quiet Passion, Risk, Split, Step, Strong Island, Stronger, T2: Trainspotting, Their Finest, 32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Victoria & Abdul, Wind River

Films Listed By Number of Wins

3 Oscars — A Ghost Story, Lady Bird

2 Oscars — Baby Driver, Dunkirk, Good Time, Kedi, War For the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman

1 Oscar — Beauty and the Beast, The Disaster Artist, The Hero, The LEGO Batman Movie, Logan, The Meyerowitz Stories, Thor: Ragnarok

Will the Academy be smart enough to agree with me?  Probably not.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow!


Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2017: The Hero (dir by Brett Haley)

It’s too bad that The Hero didn’t get that much attention when it originally released because, towards the end of the film, Sam Elliott has a scene that features some of the best cinematic acting that I’ve ever seen.

I’m not going to spoil the scene, because I think you should experience it for yourself.  I’ll just say that it’s a scene that will take you totally by surprise and force you to reconsider everything that you had previously assumed about both the film and the lead character.  I’m not ashamed to say that the scene brought tears to my mismatched eyes.  When you hear Elliott say, “I’ve wasted your time,” it will bring tears to your eyes too.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that scene.

As for the rest of the film, it’s a character study of an actor.  Sam Elliott plays Lee Hayden, who we’re told was one of the top actors in the world in the 70s.  He specialized in westerns, films and TV shows in which he always played the hero.  Of course, that was a while ago.  Lee is 70 years old now and both westerns and heroes are out of date.  At this point, Lee’s only steady work comes from doing the voice over for a series of steak commercials.  He spends most of his time smoking weed with his best friend, Jeremy (Nick Offerman).

It’s not a bad life though Lee certainly has his regrets.  For instance, he hasn’t always been the best father.  His daughter (Krysten Ritter) doesn’t seem to want much to do with him.  He misses acting.  As is made clear in the film’s opening scene, doing 6 different takes for a commercial voice over isn’t exactly the most challenging or rewarding way for a former star to spend his semi-retirement.  But he has his one friend and he has marijuana and what else does he need?

But then one day, Lee is told that he might have cancer.  He might be dying.  Lee starts to think about his life and his legacy.  He tries to reconnect with his daughter.  He accepts a lifetime achievement award from the Western Hall of Fame and, just when you think both the film and Lee are about to get snarky, they surprise you by treating the award and Lee’s aging fans with a poignant respect.  Lee also pursues a relationship with a much younger stand-up comedienne (Laura Prepon) and while I did arch an eyebrow at the huge age difference between them, the film itself actually addresses the issue in an unexpected way.

It’s not the most tightly constructed film.  Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler was an obvious influence but The Hero never quite matches that film’s fatalistic glory.  But no matter!  The Hero is mostly about celebrating Sam Elliott, an underrated actor who shows that, much like Lee, he’s capable of much more than most viewers assume.  Elliott gives a poignant, wonderfully human performance as a flawed man who still deserves to be known as The Hero.

Here Are the 70 Songs That Are Eligible For Best Original Song of 2017!


Today, the Academy announced the 70 songs that will be eligible to be nominated for best original song!  So, if you’re putting down bets and making out your predictions, here are your best song possibilities:

“U.N.I (You And I)” from “And the Winner Isn’t”
“Love And Lies” from “Band Aid”
“If I Dare” from “Battle of the Sexes”
“Evermore” from “Beauty and the Beast
“How Does A Moment Last Forever” from “Beauty and the Beast
“Now Or Never” from “Bloodline: Now or Never”
“She” from “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story”
“Your Hand I Will Never Let It Go” from “The Book of Henry”
“Buddy’s Business” from “Brawl in Cell Block 99”
“The Crown Sleeps” from “The Breadwinner”
“World Gone Mad” from “Bright”
“Mystery Of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name”
“Visions Of Gideon” from “Call Me by Your Name”
“Captain Underpants Theme Song” from “Captain Underpants The First Epic Movie”
“Ride” from “Cars 3”
“Run That Race” from “Cars 3”
“Tell Me How Long” from “Chasing Coral”
“Broken Wings” from “City of Ghosts”
“Remember Me” from “Coco”
“Prayers For This World” from “Cries from Syria”
“There’s Something Special” from “Despicable Me 3”
“It Ain’t Fair” from “Detroit”
“A Little Change In The Weather” from “Downsizing”
“Stars In My Eyes (Theme From Drawing Home)” from “Drawing Home”
“All In My Head” from “Elizabeth Blue”
“Dying For Ya” from “Elizabeth Blue”
“Green” from “Elizabeth Blue”
“Can’t Hold Out On Love” from “Father Figures”
“Home” from “Ferdinand”
“I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” from “Fifty Shades Darker
“You Shouldn’t Look At Me That Way” from “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”
“This Is How You Walk On” from “Gifted”
“Summer Storm” from “The Glass Castle
“The Pure And The Damned” from “Good Time”
“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman”
“The Hero” from “The Hero
“How Shall A Sparrow Fly” from “Hostiles”
“Just Getting Started” from “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast”
“Truth To Power” from “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”
“Next Stop, The Stars” from “Kepler’s Dream”
“The Devil & The Huntsman” from “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
“Have You Ever Wondered” from “Lake of Fire”
“I’ll Be Gone” from “Lake of Fire”
“We’ll Party All Night” from “Lake of Fire”
“Friends Are Family” from “The Lego Batman Movie
“Found My Place” from “The Lego Ninjago Movie”
“Stand Up For Something” from “Marshall”
“Rain” from “Mary and the Witch’s Flower”
“Myron/Byron” from “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)”
“Longing For Summer” from “Moomins and the Winter Wonderland”
“Mighty River” from “Mudbound”
“Never Forget” from “Murder on the Orient Express”
“Hold The Light” from “Only the Brave”
“PBNJ” from “Patti Cake$”
“Tuff Love (Finale)” from “Patti Cake$”
“Lost Souls” from “The Pirates of Somalia”
“How A Heart Unbreaks” from “Pitch Perfect 3”
“The Promise” from “The Promise”
“Kaadanayum Kaalchilambe” from “Pulimurugan”
“Maanathe Maarikurumbe” from “Pulimurugan”
“Stubborn Angel” from “Same Kind of Different as Me”
“Dancing Through The Wreckage” from “Served Like a Girl”
“Keep Your Eyes On Me” from “The Shack”
“On The Music Goes” from “Slipaway”
“The Star” from “The Star”
“Jump” from “Step”
“Tickling Giants” from “Tickling Giants”
“Fly Away” from “Trafficked”
“Speak To Me” from “Voice from the Stone”
“Walk On Faith” from “Year by the Sea”

The Academy also announced that 141 films will be eligible for Best Original Score.  In the interest of space, I’m not going to post them all here.  You can check out the list on Awards Watch!

Blade Runner 2049 wins in New Mexico!

Yesterday, the New Mexico Film Critics Association named their picks for the best of 2017!  They also became the first group to pick Blade Runner 2049 as the best film of 2017.

Here are their winners:

Best Picture
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “Lady Bird:

Best Director
Winner: Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Runner Up: Denis Villeneuve, “Blade Runner 2049”

Glenn Strange Honorary Awards

  • Glenn Close
  • Olivia De Haviland
  • John Carpenter
  • David Lynch

Best Actor
Winner: Sam Elliot, “The Hero”
Runner Up: James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

Best Actress
Winner: Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!”
Runner Up: Jessica Rothe, “Happy Death Day”

Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Catherine Kenner, “Get Out”
Runner Up: Maryana Spivak, “Loveless”

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Harrison Ford, “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: Ewen Bremner, “Trainspotting II”

Best Ensemble
Winner: “Raw”
Runner Up: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

Best Original Screenplay
Winner: “November”
Runner Up: “Lady Bird”

Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: “The Disaster Artist”
Runner Up: “Call Me By Your Name”

Best Animated Film
Winner: “Loving Vincent”
Runner Up: “The Breadwinner”

Best Foreign Language Film
Winner: “November” (Estonia)
Runner Up: “BPM” (France)

Best Editing
Winner: “November”
Runner Up: “Blade Runner 2049”

Best Cinematography
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “Song of Granite”

Best Music/Score
Winner: “The Shape of Water”
Runner Up: “mother!”

Best Production Design
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “The Shape of Water”

Best Documentary
Winner: “City of Ghosts”
Runner Up: “Faces Places”

Best Young Actor/Actress
Winner: Garance Mirillier, “Raw”
Runner Up: Sophia Lillis, “It”

Best Original Song
Winner: “The Misery of Love” from “Call Me By Your Name”
Runner Up: “Prayers for this World” from “Cries from Syria”

Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions For January

2013 oscars

Why are these Oscar predictions “way too early?”

Well, unlike every other movie blogger right now, I am not attempting to predict who and what will be nominated on January 24th.  Instead, with this post, I am attempting to predict which 2017 releases will be nominated next year!  In short, I am attempting to predict what movies and which performers will emerge as Oscar contenders over the next 12 months.

Needless to say, this is more than a little bit foolish on my part.  I haven’t seen any of the films listed below.  Some of these films don’t have release dates and others are coming out so early in the year that, in order to be contenders, they’ll have to be so spectacular that neither the Academy nor the critics end up forgetting about them.  For the most part, the true picture of the Oscar race usually doesn’t start to emerge until the summer.

For now, these predictions are, for the most part, wild guesses and they should be taken with more than just a grain of salt.  Each month, I will revise my predictions.  At the very least, next year, we’ll probably be able to look back at this post and laugh.

(Whenever trying to make early Oscar predictions, one should remember all of the award bloggers who predicted Nicole Kidman would win an Oscar for Grace of Monaco, just to then see the movie make its long-delayed premiere on Lifetime.)

With all that in mind, here are my way too early Oscar predictions for January!

Best Picture

All Eyez on Me

Battle of the Sexes

The Beguiled

Blade Runner 2047

Crown Heights

Darkest Hour



T2: Trainspotting

War Machine

Again, for the most part, these predictions are a combination of wild guesses, instinct, and wishful thinking.  It’s entirely possible that none of these films will actually be nominated for best picture.  (Some might even end up premiering on Lifetime, you never know.)  Here’s why I think that some of them might be remembered next year at this time:

All Eyez On Me is a biopic of Tupac Shakur.  Assuming the film is done correctly, Shakur’s life would seem to have all the elements that usually go into an Oscar-winning film.

Battle of the Sexes is a film based on a true incident, a 1970s tennis match between a feminist and a self-declared male chauvinist.  It’s directed by the team behind the Oscar-nominated Little Miss Sunshine and it stars two former nominees, Emma Stone and Steve Carell.

The Beguiled might be wishful thinking on my part but, at this point, wishful thinking is all I have to go on for most of these predictions.  The Beguiled is a remake of a Clint Eastwood film and it’s directed by one of my favorite directors, Sofia Coppola!  Much like Battle of the Sexes, its misogynist-gets-what’s-coming-to-him storyline might make it the perfect film for the first year of the Trump presidency.

Blade Runner 2047 is one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2017 and it’s directed by Denis Villeneuve, who is hot off of Arrival.  The Oscar success of Mad Max: Fury Road proved that a sequel can be a contender.

Every year, at least one contender emerges out of Sundance and this year, it could very well be Crown Heights.  It tells a fact-based story, about a man trying to win his best friend’s release from prison after the latter is wrongly convicted.  That all sounds very Oscar baity.

Speaking of Oscar bait, Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.  If that doesn’t sound like Oscar bait, I don’t know what does.

Downsizing is Alexander Payne’s latest film.  It’s about a man (Matt Damon), who shrinks himself.  It may not sound like typical Oscar bait but Payne is definitely a favorite of the Academy’s.

Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s big epic for 2017.  Will it be another huge success or will it just be bombastic?  We’ll see.  The Academy has a weakness for World War II films and it could be argued that the very successful yet never nominated Nolan is overdue for some Academy recognition.  (It is true that Inception received a nomination for best picture but Nolan himself was snubbed.)

T2: Trainspotting is probably coming out too early in the year to be a legitimate contender but who knows?  The trailer was great.  Danny Boyle is directing it.  And, much as with Blade Runner 2047, Mad Max: Fury Road proved that a well-made and intelligent sequel can find favor with the Academy.

War Machine is described as being a satire about the war in Afghanistan.  Could it be another Big Short?  With Obama out of office, the Academy might be more open to political satire than they’ve been in the past.

Best Director

Danny Boyle for T2: Trainspotting

Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Alexander Payne for Downsizing

Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2047

Again, there’s a lot of random guessing here.  Personally, I’d love to see Sofia Coppola receive a second nomination for best director.  Payne and Boyle are always possibilities and, if Villeneuve’s work on Arrival is ignored this year, nominating him for Blade Runner would be a good way to make up for it.  As for Nolan, he’s going to get nominated some day.   Why not for Dunkirk?

Best Actor

Tom Cruise in American Made

Sam Elliott in The Hero

Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

Logan Lerman in Sidney Hall

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

In American Made, Tom Cruise plays a real-life drug runner.  It sounds like one of those change-of-pace roles that often results in an Oscar nomination.  Gary Oldman has never won an Oscar and has only been nominated once.  The Academy might want to rectify that situation by nominating him for playing Winston Churchill.  And finally, Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum in a big budget musical that’s scheduled to open on Christmas Day?  It sounds like either a total disaster or the formula for Oscar gold!

Logan Lerman is one of those actors who appears to be destined to eventually be nominated for an Oscar and, in Sidney Hall, he ages over thirty years.  Finally, Sam Elliott is a beloved veteran who has never been nominated.  If The Hero is a hit at Sundance, it’s easy to imagine the Oscar campaign that will follow.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper’s Wife

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Nicole Kidman in The Beguiled

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

Naomi Watts in The Book of Henry

As of this writing, Meryl Streep does not have a movie scheduled to be released in 2017, which means that another actress will get the sport usually reserved for her.  But who?  Jessica Chastain could be nominated because she’s Jessica Chastain and the Academy loves her.  Judi Dench plays Queen Victoria for a second time in Victoria and Abdul.  The Academy loves movies about British royalty and Dench has already been nominated once for bringing Victoria to life.  Naomi Watts plays a loving but possibly crazy mother in The Book of Henry, which again sounds like a very Oscar baity role.  If Emma Stone doesn’t win for La La Land, the Academy could make it up to her by nominating her for Battle of the Sexes.

As for Nicole Kidman in The Beguiled — well, let’s call that wishful thinking.  My hope is that Sofia Coppola will do great things with The Beguiled and she will get another great performance out of Nicole Kidman.  We’ll see if I’m right.


Best Supporting Actor

Robert Carlyle in T2: Trainspotting

Johnny Depp in Murder on The Orient Experss

James Franco in The Masterpiece

Bill Skarsgard in It

Kevin Spacey in Billionaire Boys Club

Admittedly, the guesses here are fairly random but there is a logic behind each nominee.  Robert Carlyle was great in Trainspotting so he might be just as great in T2.  In Billionaire Boys Club, Kevin Spacey plays a sleazy con artist and that sounds like the type of role with which he could do wonders.  If It is to be a success, Bill Skarsgard is going to have to be a terrifying Pennywise.  If Heath Ledger could win for playing the Joker, surely Skarsgard could be nominated for playing Pennywise.

As for James Franco in The Masterpiece … yes, it’s more wishful thinking on my part.  Franco will be playing Tommy Wiseau, the director of the notorious The Room.  Wiseau is, needless to say, an eccentric figure.  Not only do I think James Franco could give an award-worthy performance in the role but I also just like the idea of someone getting an Oscar for playing Tommy Wiseau.

Finally, we have Johnny Depp in Murder on The Orient Express.  Why not?  It seems like someone from that film’s huge cast is destined to be nominated so why not Johnny Depp?


Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Aniston in The Yellow Birds

Danai Guirra in All Eyez On Me

Kelly MacDonald in T2: Trainspotting

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Tilda Swinton in War Machine

These guesses are even more random than my guesses for supporting actor.  Jennifer Aniston and Danai Guirra will both be playing mothers who lose their sons.  A lot of people were surprised when Aniston was not nominated for Cake so here’s a chance for the Academy to make it up to her.  As for Kristin Scott Thomas, she’ll be playing Winston Churchill’s wife and the Academy loves historical wives (i.e., Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech and Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything).

As for the last two predictions, Tilda Swinton is listed because she’s Tilda Swinton.  Kelly MacDonald is listed for the same reason that I put Robert Carlyle down for supporting actor.  She was just so good in the first film.

So, there you go!  Those are my too early Oscar predictions for January!  Will they prove to be accurate?  Probably not.

But we’ll see how things change over the next couple of months.  At the very least, you’ll be able to look back at this post and laugh at me for thinking that … oh, let’s say Battle of the Sexes … would ever be nominated for an Academy Award.

As for me, I’ll be revising my predictions in February.  At least by that point, maybe the Sundance Film Festival will have provided some guidance…


Thousand Years of Dreams Day 16: The Hero

“The Hero” marks Day 16 for the 33-day marathon of Shigematsu Kiyoshi’s work aptly titled, Thousand Years of Dreams, which chronicles through short stories disguised as dream-memories of the eternal warrior Kaim in the game Lost Odyssey. This particular dream didn’t affect as much when I first experienced it as it unfolded during the game, but in the years since it’s grown on me.

This remembered dream-memory of Kaim’s posits the question of what makes a hero. We all see what the hero looks like as thrust upon us by the government, the press and the media, but what lies beneath the gloss, glamour and propaganda.  I won’t say that these heroes don’t deserve everything they get and awarded to them, but rarely do we ever know the real person behind the veneer.

This dream-memory shows us that what made these men and women who fight for us turn into heroes was doing the very things we can’t see ourselves ever doing. Heroes on the battlefield and in war become heroes because they must kill the enemy in order to protect their buddies and themselves. Heroes become what they are because they wade through blood and death and come out the other side. What we never learn is how becoming heroes have changed them dramatically and forever.

It’s why heroes are made and not born. We can’t all be heroes and that’s because we cannot make the necessary sacrifice to do what must be done even if it means doing the unthinkable to another human being and the next and the next until there’s no more.

The Hero

The hero was home from the war.

He had performed gallantly on the battlefield, advanced to the rank of general, and made a triumphal entry into the village of his birth.

The villagers welcomed him with a festive celebration. The grown-ups were treated to drinks beginning in the afternoon, and the children received sweet confections. The cattle and sheep in the pastures that supported the villagers’ livelihood, whether because they were excited by the unusual commotion or were welcoming the hero in their own way, sent especially shrill cries reverberating into the blue summer sky.

“General, you are the pride of our village!”

Obviously full of pride himself, the head of the village thrust out his chest as he delivered his congratulatory address in the welcoming ceremony. “To think that the foremost hero in the army came from this tiny village is so incredibly exhilarating and gratifying. I am sure our ancestors are overjoyed as well!” The throng crammed into the village square burst forth with cheers and applause.

“According to the official figures released by the army the other day, General, you brought down at least two thousand enemy soldiers with your own hand.”

A thunderous roar shook the square.

“Come to think of it, the population of this village is less than a thousand. This means, Sir, that you managed to bury more than two of these villages’ worth on your own. How fortunate for us that you were not one of the enemy! If by any chance there had been a warrior of your caliber on their side, we’d be resting in the hilltop graveyard by now!”

A few of the women frowned momentarily at this remark, but the men, full of liquor, responded with and explosive laugh.

Sitting stage center, the general lightly stroked his dignified beard. No one present knew that this was his habit whenever he was perplexed. When he left his village to join the army, he was just and ordinary soldier a long way from growing a beard.

“General, you are truly the savior of our army and, indeed, of our entire nation. I understand you will be leaving for another battle tomorrow, but we all hope that you thoroughly enjoy yourself on this rare visit to your birthplace!”

The village chief ended his greetings and withdrew to the wings, whereupon the village’s number one entertainer bounded onto the stage in the most comical way he could manage.

“Dear General!” he cried, runing over to where the great man was seated and going down on his knees, “Oh, hear my plea!”

The general looked at him uncertainly.

“is there any possibility that you would lend me the sword at your side, if only for a moment?”

Perplexed though he was by all this, the general, impelled by the audience’s applause and cheers, handed the man his tasseled and jewel-encrusted sword.

The man bowed deeply as the sword entered his outstretched hands and again he cried, “My gratitude knows no bounds!” Pretending to stagger under the weight of the sword, he came to the front edge of the stage and held the weapon aloft.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, I will re-enact the event that raised our dear General’s fame to the heights in a single bound–When he hacked eighteen of the enemy into little teeny tiny bits!”

The audience cheered wildly, and the man, with exaggerated movements and commentary, swung the sword in a great arc. The audience knew exactly what he was doing. The general had not only made a name for himself for his strategic prowess but was also widely acclaimed as a warrior on the battlefield. He did not rely solely on his weapons but, in the end, leveled his opponents with his sheer physical strength. This, too, was a matter of the utmost pride for the villagers.

“Here we go! One man down, two men down, flip the sword, three men down, fourth man slashed diagonally right through the shoulder, fifth man’s head goes flying. Oof! Then three at once–sixth, seventh, and eighth man, what a bother! I’ll just skewer you like this…”

The man thrust the sword though three imaginary opponents and the crowd went wild.

The general, too, broke a smile and applauded.

When he was through clapping, though, he stroked his beard again.

“I’m sure you can understand how I felt at the time, sitting up there on that stage,” the old general says to Kaim before taking a sip of water from his leather pouch.

His magnificent beard is completely white, so distant are the past events he is recounting.

Kaim nods in silence, and the general continues, as if mulling over every word, “The more you know about war, the more likely you feel that way.”

“I’m sure the villagers meant well. They just wanted to pay homage to their hometown hero.”

“No, of course. They weren’t being the least bit malicious. My village has the nicest people in the world, which is exactly why I found the whole thing so painful. I couldn’t stand it after a while.”

Hacking eighteen men to bits–

The deeds of a hero are related in numbers.

Surely the man who playfully swung the general’s sword on stage that day could never have imagined the ones who lost their lives on the battlefield: the agonized expressions on their faces, the curse in their eyes as they stared into nothingness.

“But that’s all right, too. People who live peaceful lives don’t have to know about such things. That’s what people like us are for: to keep their lives far away from the battlefields. Don’t you agree? Thanks to us and our killing of enemies, the people we’re supposed to protect don’t have to know anything about the bloodiness of war.

Unless you believe that, what’s the point of killing each other?”

Kaim says nothing in reply. Without either affirming or negating the old general’s words, he stars vaguely at the general’s troops.

“What’d you say your name is? Kaim? I suppose you’ve killed more enemies soldiers than you can begin to count.”

“There is no way I could count them all.”

“I thought so. You have a flawless build, the kind that can only be tempered on the battlefield. Only a man who has survived one battle after another can carry himself they way you do with complete naturalness.”

How does a man like you find himself driving a horse cart over a mountain pass?

Kaim is ready to leave without answering if the old man asks him such a question.

But the general inquires no further into Kaim’s background. Instead, there is a sense of relief in the smile he bestows on the sight of Kaim resting his horses at the pass.

“I was sixteen the first time I went into battle. After that, I just kept running from one fight to another until I made it all the way to general. At first, I remembered the faces of the men I crossed swords with and killed. Even if you don’t try to remember them, they get carved into your memory. I had terrible nightmares. And try as I might, I could never seem to wash off the stench of the blood that splashed on my face and hands. That was a hallucination, of course, but it got so bad once that I spent a whole night in a river trying to wash myself off.”

The general paused a moment to think about his story, then went on,

“But after a while you get used to it. You get used to fighting and killing over and over again. Your body, and your mind, and your heart: you just get used to it. That’s how people are. So I stopped having nightmares. I killed all the enemy soldiers I could lay my hands on, and I forgot every one of their faces. It’s the same for you now, too, Kaim, isn’t it?”

“Maybe so.”

“It’s like a curse. If you don’t get used to it, your heart breaks. On the other hand, if you don’t get used to it, your heart probably ends up breaking someplace deeper down.”

The general casts a fond glance toward his resting troops. Then, slowly shifting his gaze far down to the foot of the mountain, he says, “so that’s what it was like for me back then, when I returned to my birthplace in triumph.”

For the final event in the welcoming ceremonies, several children mounted the stage.

“And now, in honor of our hero, the children will present to the General a floral wreath more marvelous than the greatest medal there ever was!”

The audience went wild again.

When the children put the wreath on his neck, the general favored them with a warm smile–the first honest smile from the heart that he had managed since climbing onto the stage.

“And finally, as a special treat for the General, who has been galloping from one battlefield to the next from his native place, the children’s chosen representative will read his own original composition spelling out the joys of the peaceful life of the village.”

With a look of grim intensity, a small boy barely old enough to go to school unfolded his composition and, gripping it in two hands, begin to read aloud from it, straining to make himself heard.

“First I’m going to write about one of the nicest things that happened to me. At my house, we have a pasture with lots of cows and sheep. One cow had a baby two days ago. I helped my daddy by stroking the cow’s back with a handful of straw while she was having the baby. That makes the cow warm up so it’s easier for her to give birth. The baby was born just before the sun came up. It was a tiny baby, but it could already stand on its own legs. A baby! Wow! I’m going to take care of this baby until it gets big. Dear little calf, hurry and grow up, okay?”

The general had tears in his eyes.

“Now I’m going to write about one of the saddest things that happened to me. That was when my Grandma got sick and died. She was such a nice Grandma. I know her sickness made her feel bad, but she was always smiling when she died. I watched her face the whole time because I knew I wouldn’t be able to see her anymore and I wanted to remember her even after I grow up. She just kept smiling and smiling for me right to the very end. That’s why she is always smiling when I think of her. Are you looking down from the sky, Grandma? I will never forget you as long as I live!”

Tears were streaming down the general’s face.

When the ceremony ended, the general left his village and headed for the town where army headquarters were located.

There, he wrote a long letter to the king, and he gave his sword to his most trusted lieutenant.

The general had decided to retire.

“This was a big surprise to me as it was to anybody. But when I heard that little boy’s essay, it occurred to me: what makes us really human is to celebrate each life that comes into the world and morn each life that is lost. I didn’t need medals anymore. I didn’t need the honor of being allowed into the presence of His Majesty anymore.

I wanted to be a real human being again.

As a result, overnight I went from being the village hero to being reviled as a traitor.”

The general turns to face Kaim and asks, “So, are you going to mock me as a coward who ran away fron the battlefield, or blame me for being a deserter who betrayed his own patriotism?”

Kaim turns a gentle smile on the old man.

“Neither,” he says. “As a soldier, you made the wrong decision, but as a human being you made the right one.”

The general strokes his white beard and says, “My habit has changed, too. Nowadays, I find myself stroking by beard when I’m embarrassed.”

The two men look at each other and smile.

“Okay, back to work,” says the general, standing with a grunt.

He calls out to his troops, “Alright, men, it’s all downhill from here. Let’s give it one last push and get back to the village before sunset.”

The “troops” under the general’s command consist of thirty sheep, not one of whom is likely to take a person’s life.

“Tell me, Kaim, are you planning to go back into battle at some point?”

“I don’t really know,” he replies.

“I’m content with herding sheep for now,” the general says.

“I don’t have the least regret for the decision I made that day. It would make me happy to think this could be a king of lesson for you.”

With this parting remark, the general turns away from Kaim and begins walking.

The sheep amble along after him in newly reformed ranks.

Standing at attention, the general raises his right arm and waves his troops on.

“Forward, march!”

The command he had once delivered to tens of thousands of men in the battlefield now echoes pleasantly among the mountains of his native village.