Tuesday, September 1, 2009

fall movie preview: december (part four)

Well, loyal readers, you've made it to the fourth installment of my literary analysis of Entertainment Weekly's fall move preview. Welcome to December, when the Oscar race heats up. This year, there will be ten (rather than the usual five) films up for Best Picture. It was hard to see five films before the Oscar telecast, but ten will be nearly impossible. It's more important than ever to be well read on the books being turned into films this awards season. Bring on December.

The highlight film for December is Peter Jackson's film, The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold's breakthrough novel of the same name. I read The Lovely Bones years ago, and I loved it. I can't imagine how it will translate to film, but if anyone can do it, my faith is in Peter Jackson. The cast also gives me hope. Saoirse Armstrong (will someone please tell me h0w to pronounce her name?) stars with Stanley Tucci (as her neighbor and rapist), Mark Wahlberg (!) plays her father, Rachel Weisz plays her mother, and Susan Sarandon plays her grandmother. Why have Susan and Rachel not been cast in a mother daughter role before? It's perfection. If you haven't read it, you must.

  • It's Complicated - The good: the cast includes Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin as a divorced couple having an affair; Steve Martin plays Meryl's architect. The questionable: it's written and directed by Nancy Meyers. I've loved one movie (The Parent Trap, but it was a remake), hated one movie (What Women Want - so immensely unfunny, sexist and insulting - a bad trifecta), somewhat enjoyed one movie (The Holiday, which was likable despite not being well written), and been unable to form much of an opinion aside from 'it did not deserve to even be considered for the Oscars' (Something's Gotta Give). I have little faith in Meyers as a writer, and her films are usually full of cliches, especially those demeaning to women.
  • Sherlock Holmes - I admit it; I've never actually read any Sherlock Holmes books. I should, but as someone who pays attention to pop culture, I won't feel the need to do so before this film. I hope to see it Christmas Day. Guy Ritchie had the foresight to cast Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams and good and bad fortune to be filming it while Madonna publicly left him, which has only made people like me eager to see it for over a year already. Arthur Conan Doyle's books are available free online.
  • Up in the Air - Although I don't think it's a marketing strategy, I'm amused does not yet have a release date, even though it's slated for December. I take this information to mean it will be released in New York City and perhaps L.A. solely to be considered for Oscars this year, and it will actually open sometime in January or February. Remember last year's Golden Globe nominations? Half the films nominated had not been released yet. This trend will not go away. The film is based on Walter Kirn's novel, which I need to read. Jason Reitman directs it, so of course Jason Bateman has a role; George Clooney headlines the film. I expect Reitman to visually wow the audience to prove he deserved to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar for Juno. Most importantly, I've loved all of his movies that I've seen. Yes, both of them.
  • Invictus - If ever a movie were destined for Oscar nominations, it's one directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela (who gave his blessing). The film is based on John Carlin's book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation, which focuses on the early days of Mandela's presidency and South Africa's experience in the 1995 rugby World Cup. Sports, politics, history, and two of the most revered people working in film will make this the art house favorite this season.
  • Did You Hear About the Morgans? - It's not based on a book, but it is written and directed by Marc Lawrence, a favorite of the romantic comedy genre. His credits include Music & Lyrics, Miss Congeniality (1 & 2), Two Weeks Notice (I really liked that movie for some reason), and 31 episodes of "Family Ties." He's hit or miss with me, and this one includes Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker.
  • Avatar - I have friends who already have tickets for this film. It will be huge. It's not based on a book; it's written and directed by James Cameron. If you don't know what it's about, you will soon, so I won't bore you.
  • Everybody's Fine - a remake of the 1990 Italian film of the same (albeit translated) name.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel - While I haven't seen the first film, I am waiting for the day it happens to be on HBO when I am in the mood to watch whatever is on. I can't bring myself to add it to my Netflix queue, seek it out at Redbox, or check it out at the library. Still, the premise of the new one sounds amusing, if done right: Jason Lee enrolls the Chipmunks in high school, where they meet the Chipettes (sexist name aside, it could be funny or it could make me pull out my hair) and Zachary Levin plays Jason Lee's evil cousin who tries to control the Chipmunks. I need to find a child whose parents don't want to sit through this movie.
  • Brothers - This film is based on the Danish film Brodre. It stars Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal. It will be nominated for Oscars.
  • A Prophet - a French crime film set in an Arab prison. It has serious award potential, if only in foreign film categories.
  • Serious Moonlight - If you're a fan of posthumous Oscars, pay attention. This film was written by Adrienne Shelley a year before she was murdered. Her husband produced it. It's the directorial debut of her costar from Waitress.
  • The Tree of Life - Terrence Malick cast Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in the same movie. Plot details are being very closely guarded, but it's a 1950's period piece (at least partially). It's going to huge for film nerds.
  • The White Ribbon - it won the Palm D'or. It's a creepy German WWII mystery. It will be huge in art houses.
The film year seems to get better each month, and December looks amazing. Only two films based on books, however, so be sure to read The Lovely Bones (if you haven't already) and Up in the Air. I also plan to see Brodre, the Danish film. Let the Oscar handicapping begin....

1 comment:

  1. I'm excited about the Sherlock Holmes movie, too! I've read most of the stories, and I'm a huge fan of the TV series with Jeremy Brett as Holmes, and getting a new movie that looks exciting and well-made (unlike, um, one of the TV movies from a few years ago) is making me very happy.

    It's giving some people fits, though! The normal sort of thing that hardcore canon lovers always get themselves into, but since this movie is based on a comic book and not the original stuff I'm not too worried about getting keep-to-the-canon mania.

    Okay, now that I've written a novel in your comments...


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