I have been working my way through the Oscar-nominated films I had not seen before, and today's selection was "Room," whose nominations include best picture, best actress (Brie Larson), best director (Lenny Abrahamson) and best adapted screenplay (Emma Donoghue, from her novel).
It is a remarkable film, more than Oscar-worthy. I have seen all the best-picture nominess except "Brooklyn" and "Room" had the greatest effect on my emotions. I was shaken from about midway all the way until the end. And Brie Larson's unadorned, deep performance is perfect.
But there was a second reason I wanted to see the film, which is its connection to Akron. I first saw it pointed out in the Devil Strip that several cues indicated the movie was set in Akron and there they were: the "Akron Police" cars, the Ohio license plates on the vehicles; with that in mind, I even thought some of the exteriors -- particularly the view from a high-rise hospital room -- looked Akron-ish.
But I may have been overreaching there. The movie wasn't shot in Akron. As the credits note, it was done on location in Toronto. And, according to my friend Lynne Sherwin, who has read the novel, there's no location mentioned in the print "Room." So I contacted Abrahamson -- he was quite accessible -- and traded some messages about the choice of Akron.
At first, he simply said, it "had to be somewhere." But, in case you were wondering, Akron was not a choice because of its proximity to Cleveland, where the notorious years-long kidnappings were comparable to the story in "Room." Abrahamson said it wasn't a factor,
The filmmakers "wanted a city we could easily double in Toronto," Abrahamson said. "Also a very typical US city. Not huge." The list of possibilities was narrowed to five, with Akron making the cut. While the Akron PD logo is not exactly like the real thing from what I can tell, it's close. And Abrahamson said "as far as I'm aware all best protocols (for permission) were followed."
So we can add it to Akron's onscreen lore. Nor is it the only reminder I've had this week of Northeast Ohio's reach into popular culture, The latest episode of "The Blackist" name-dropped both Akron and Cleveland. And you may have seen this piece on Ohio.com about a former local resident's tragedy inspiring two new movies.