Posted on 21 October 2009.
Daniel Day-Lewis notched the Best Actor award at the Oscars for his triumphant performance in There Will Be Blood. It appears his next role will certainly have that kind of Oscar buzz again with his follow-up, Nine. This will be the third major film this year to feature the word nine in the title, which is District 9 and 9. This Nine will be a musical adapted from the 1982 Tony Award-winning play of the same name. The play is derived from a book written by Arthur Kopit and Mario Fretti, which is a loose remake of Federico Fellini’s 8½. The original Broadway play starred the late actor Raul Julia (The Addams Family) and netted five Tonys, including Best Musical.
The story is somewhat similar to 8½ and will star Day-Lewis as Guido Contini, a director who’s just turned 40 and has hit a creative slump. He is trying to complete his next project, but his romantic entanglements have halted his process. With the pressure of finishing his movie, he must balance his relationship with his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard, Public Enemies) and his mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona). He must also deal with his lead actress Claudia (Nicole Kidman, Australia), his costume designer Liliane (Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal), journalist Stephanie (Kate Hudson, Fool’s Gold), a prostitute from his past La Saraghina (Stacy Ferguson, Planet Terror) and his mother (Sophia Loren, Two Women).
Rob Marshall directs Nine and this will not be his first musical. He also directed Chicago, which ended up winning Best Picture at the Oscars in 2002. The late Oscar winner Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) and Michael Tolkin (The Player) provided the screenplay.
I thought Day-Lewis was genius in There Will Be Blood and can’t wait to see how he’ll follow it up. I’m not the biggest fan of musicals, although I do have exceptions with Singin’ in the Rain and Sweeney Todd. I also thought Fellini’s 8 ½ was very overrated, but having the similar story in musical format may actually make it an entertaining watch. I liked Marshall’s Chicago, and having him as director will benefit it greatly. We’ve already featured the film in our Oscar Bait post and the film should be successful in the box office, considering musicals have made a comeback in recent years.
Nine will be released in New York and Los Angeles on December 19th, followed by a wide release on Christmas.
Posted on 24 September 2009.
In our continued effort to bring you the unique insight of our team members views on film, we present to you a list of 20 possible Oscar contending films for the upcoming 82nd Annual Academy Awards held in 2010. This list is not entirely comprehensive to be sure, as it excludes films already released like The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds, but it gives some hints at intriguing possibilities for awards contenders that will soon be released into theaters. We primarily focus on the main awards categories of Picture and Director as well as the chief acting slots. Let us know what contenders from the list you think are strong possibilities. We would love to debate them with you. Note: The entire Film Nest Crew contributed to this post. Enjoy.
Amelia is a biopic about the aviation legend Amelia Earhart, who tragically disappeared on an attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world. The film was directed by Mira Nair and stars two time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, as Earhart. As far as the films Oscar chances, a Best Actress nod for Swank seems a strong possibility given her track record. Since the list for Best Picture is now 10 films, Amelia also has a good chance to be on the list, as the Academy loves inspirational biopics. The Academy loves it even more when the lead dies at the end (Swank’s used to this as well, both of her previous wins came from playing ill-fated characters).
Ever since its debut at Sundance earlier this year, Lone Scherfig’s An Education has been primed to make an awards-season run, especially for its young star, actress Carey Mulligan. The film charts the coming-of-age story of a teenage girl (Jenny) growing up in suburban London in the 1960’s, specifically after she meets a rich playboy (Peter Sarsgaard) nearly twice her age. Since January, An Education has been sweeping the festival landscape like a good-natured plague, leaving a bounty of admirers in its wake. Carey Mulligan is already being described as a Best Actress lock, with supporting characters like Alfred Molina and Emma Thompson always giving persuasive testimonials for their admission into awards talk. The Danish helmer, Lone Scherfig has a definitive shot to enhance the female directorial presence at the ceremony in March, hopefully joining Kathryn Bigelow amongst the honored. Without question, this is a major horse in the Oscar race.
It’s been 12 years now since James Cameron released a feature-length film, which we won’t soon forget, as 1997′s Titanic won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Avatar has been in some stage of development since then, but will only now see the light of day as Cameron has been biding his time for special effects to catch up with his vision. The story takes place in the 22nd century on the planet Pandora, pitting humans and Pandora natives, the Na’vi, against one another as the backdrop to a forbidden love. Given Cameron’s prior outing and the every-once-in-a-while dazzling of Academy members by special effects (Titanic, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King), the film has elements that can take it into more Award-worthy categories than just Special Effects.
The true story of Michael Oher, now in the NFL, is one tailor-made to tug at the heartstrings. Oher was a homeless, uneducated African-American child taken in by a white family who helped him achieve mammoth success. Sandra Bullock plays the matriarch of the white family, removing herself from her rom-com comfort zone and placing her in a role she appeared to start in 2005’s Best Picture, Crash. This could be Bullock’s calling card for the future, but the story is so powerful even the trailer invokes emotion. The Blind Side is a dark horse Best Picture candidate with the field now at ten, while Bullock has a chance to deliver a performance worthy of a Best Actress.
Broken Embraces is a Spanish-language film that tells the story of a blind screenwriter, Harry Caine, who gets a visit from someone in his past. This visit in turn brings to the surface several things from his past which he hoped would remain hidden. The film was directed by past directing nominee Pedro Almodovar (Talk To Her), who also directed Volver. The film stars Penelope Cruz, José Luis Gómez García, Blanca Portillo and Lluís Homar. I’m not up on my Spanish language stars so I only really know Cruz’s work, but her last collaboration with Almodovar won her a supporting actress nod (Volver). Embraces certainly has the credentials to get a Best Foreign Language Film nod and Cruz, coming off her win for Vicky Christina Barcelona, can’t be counted out either.
With the oft-delayed Brothers, director Jim Sheridan attempts to get back to his small-scale humanist roots (My Left Foot, The Boxer) with a remake of Susanne Biers’ 2004 Danish-language film of the same name. The film centers on Tommy (Jake Gylenhaal) and his relationship with the newly widowed Grace (Natalie Portman) and her child after Sam (Tobey Maguire) — her husband and Tommy’s older brother — goes missing in Afghanistan. When Sam turns up back at home, he finds that Tommy and Grace’s relationship may have evolved past petty condolences. This is very touchy material – treading through a soldiers’ societal re-entry, post-traumatic stress, love triangles, family tragedy, friendship, forgiveness, etc. I mean, Pearl Harbor basically used this same scenario as its narrative backbone. However, with the pedigree of the cast and the crew and the early December release date, Brothers has significant awards potential for Lionsgate. Even if the film is received coldly, look for possible acting nominations for the three leads.
Even in a downtrodden economy, Michael Moore’s name evokes box office gold, especially when compared to his documentarian compatriots. In Capitalism: A Love Story, Moore brings his typical combative, but highly entertaining non-fiction style, to the tale of how the economy found itself in the toilet. Two of the last three theatrically released features Moore has made have been nominated for Best Documentary (Bowling for Columbine, Sicko), with the one in between (Fahrenheit 9/11) probably being too politically divisive to do so, despite its craftsmanship. He took home the Oscar for Bowling for Columbine in 2002 and there’s no reason not to expect the man to duplicate his efforts this time out.
Adapting Roald Dahl’s book of the same name, Wes Anderson makes his first venture into animation (stop-motion) and it will feature an all-star Oscar cast of George Clooney, Meryl Steep and Bill Murray (at least nominated) providing the voices. Clooney plays Mr. Fox, a fox who must wage battle against chicken farmers who want to rid him and his family from stealing their stock. Wes Anderson, who was nominated for best screenplay for the Royal Tenenbaums (2001), will bring his unique direction to the animated genre and it certainly looks like he will visually bring the book to life. This has the potential for a Best Animated Feature nomination.
Both Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) and Matt Damon (acting nom only for Good Will Hunting but screenplay winner there) are recipients of Oscars in the past, which leads The Informant! to being a possible nominee/winner in both the directing and acting categories for 2009. While I thought the picture left something to be desired, early reviews elsewhere have been strong, and nothing can take away from Damon’s embodied performance in the role of ADM whistle-blower Mark Whitacre, based on a true story (yet another film type that the Academy finds attractive). Damon packed on the pounds to play Whitacre (the notorious health fanatic reveled in chasing McDonald’s with cookies and the like), which evokes another Oscar nominated performance on a very similar topic when Russell Crowe added the lbs. for his whistle-blower in 1999’s The Insider. The much lighter tone of Informant will be critical to seeing how it is received. Such whimsy can often be downplayed as comedy (while it is a dark comedy) and therefore overlooked by the Academy voters as a non-serious piece of work, not worthy of a golden statue. Still, if I had to put money on it, I think Damon is next to a shoo-in for a nomination, even if I felt the picture missed its mark.
Invictus is the story of how South African President Nelson Mandela joined forces with the captain of the country’s rugby team to help unite the divided nation. Invictus is from director Clint Eastwood and stars Morgan Freeman as Mandela with Matt Damon as the rugby captain. This film is sure to get nods in all the major categories. It’s a fair bet to suggest Freeman will get a Best Actor nomination, as might Damon in the supporting category. Best Picture is a no-brainer as the film’s subject and stars are Oscar favorites. This film could see Eastwood win his third directing statue (he also won for Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven). Some have suggested that he should have got one last year, along with a Best Actor Oscar for Gran Torino. He was robbed last year IMO. I hope the academy fixes their oversight and he gets what he deserves this year.
Meryl Streep, who is almost guaranteed to be nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Julia Child in Julie and Julia, will continue her amazing streak with It’s Complicated. Streep plays Jane, a divorced woman who begins to have an affair with her ex-husband, now remarried, Jake (Alec Baldwin), but must also deal with Adam, another man who has fallen in love with her. Streep, who has been nominated an amazing fifteen times (winning two), might have the potential of being up twice in one year. Directed and written by Nancy Myers (nominated in 1980 for Best Screenplay for Private Benjamin), It’s Complicated may get some kind of nomination considering anything that Streep is in turns to gold.
The Lovely Bones is an adaptation of the novel by Alice Sebold. Bones is the story of Susie, a young girl who is raped and murdered by her neighbor. Susie then watches from “the in-between,” as her family tries to comfort each other after her death. While she watches her family, she also sees that her killer, who was never caught, is preparing to kill again. The Lovely Bones was directed by LOTR helmer, Peter Jackson (a previous feted director) and stars screen veterans Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, and Stanly Tucci. Susie is played by Saoirse Ronan, who received a best supporting actress Oscar nod for Atonement. Bones, with its very serious subject matter, looks fixed to be nominated for Best Picture. While Ronan, as the films true lead, could see herself the recipient of a possible Best Actress nod for this too. How does Peter Jackson look in the directing category? Firmly entrenched, we think.
Common collaborators George Clooney and Grant Heslov have joined forces to write, direct and produce films like Good Night and Good Luck and Leatherheads, with Clooney at the helm of both. Now Heslov gets his turn directing with the mad, surrealist black comedy/satire, The Men Who Stare at Goats. The film is based on Jon Ronson’s non-fiction account of the U.S. military’s believe-it-or-not development and research of paranormal activities. The film was received rather warmly at the Venice Film Festival before heading to Toronto, so with past success as a barometer, and 10 slots now available for a certain Academy category, its not unheard of to see something like this sneaking in to the Oscar Best Picture race – it’s basically being described as Dr. Strangelove meets the Coen Brothers. However, it looks to be a tough battle in the big picture with another Clooney vehicle, Up in the Air, a more prestigious, sure-headed and almost certainly finer choice – at least in the view of many to this point – coming out in November. If nothing else, look for this to help Clooney gain recognition for his more buzz-worthy performance of 2009.
Rob Marshall returns to the screen in an attempt to match both the financial and Oscar-season success of Chicago, the 2004 Best Picture winner. Nine is the musical retelling of Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, as originally depicted on Broadway starting in 1982. Of course, Fellini’s original masterwork was about a fictional character named Guido Contini (an alter ego for Fellini himself), a director going through a major mid-life crisis both in his creative and personal life, he must balance the many women who love, torment, and grieve him deeply. Certainly Nine must be taken seriously as an Oscar contender unless proven otherwise given the sheer talent on display. The cast includes – here we go, deep breath – Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench and Ms. Black-Eyed Pea, Stacy Ferguson. With that firepower, Nine could crash the party big-time. Only a mixed response from audiences and critics will stand in its way.
Originally titled, Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, the film – produced by Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey – won three awards at Sundance earlier this year. Two of the awards were for the film itself, winning the Audience and Grand Jury awards, while Mo’Nique took home an award for acting. Precious is a young African-American girl who has endured abuse from her mother and rape from her father, going unloved as overweight, illiterate, poor and pregnant until she enrolls in an alternative school. Director Lee Daniels’ second film has earned him plenty of acclaim and Mo’Nique’s abusive mother could garner some Oscar attention. If Oprah can supposedly help win a presidential election, she’s sure to be able to influence Oscar voters as well.
The Road is John Hillcoat’s adaptation of the acclaimed best selling novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy. Set in a post-apocalytpic world, about a father and his son’s attempt to survive in the desolate landscape, early reviews have been mixed but the footage we’ve seen here at “the nest” has been nothing short of exemplary. Acting powerhouses Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron lend major credibility to the work, as both have been nominated for Oscars in the past, with Theron victorious on one occasion. Directing, acting, and picture nods are all realistic possibilities at this stage, and we can’t help but be eager to see what is presented with the challenging, dark material presented on the big screen. “The Road” may not be one we want to travel in real-life, but if past years are any indication, the subject matter should not be something Oscar finds too difficult to navigate.
Directed by the Coen brothers, A Serious Man follows a middle-class Jewish man trying to keep his life from falling apart and achieving his aspirations of becoming the perfect family man in 1960s Minnesota. Despite not having a well-known cast, the Coen brothers name alone will help make this an Oscar contender. The trailer is fantastic and the Coens are still riding high from their Best Picture winner, No Country for Old Men in 2007. Also look out for Michael Stuhlbarg for possible Oscar buzz since he looks really good in this. The Coens have been on a hot streak since No Country for Old Men and this has the potential of continuing the trend.
Sherlock Holmes might seem a dark horse to be on this list. The classic sleuth is getting a serious makeover this time around, with Guy Ritchie, never close to winning anything golden, behind the camera. But alas, Robert Downey Jr. is the titular Holmes, Jude Law is his compadre Watson, and both are twice nominated for Oscars past. Throw in a generally well received Rachel McAdams (State of Play), a fair amount of hype, a Christmas release date, and the expansion of the Best Picture category, and you might have the makings of an outsider like this finding it’s way into the fray. Of course, beloved actors like Law and RDJ are always strong hopefuls for their roles as well, with RDJ still an outsider for his moving performance in this year’s overlooked The Soloist. The action might turn off older Academy blue hairs, but we’re thinking the expansion means the Academy could think just enough outside of it’s traditional box to make room for a new spin on a classic. Maybe the third time could be a charm for either of the lead actors as well. Just a hunch, but it might be elementary – my dear Watson.
George Clooney, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor with Syriana in 2005, plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate consultant who travels around the country firing people. Things soon change when he meets the woman of his dreams, which drastically changes the way his life is lived. Directed by Jason Reitman, who earned a nomination for directing Juno in 2007, Up in the Air looks like it will showcase Clooney at his best, judging from the trailer. He was fantastic in Michael Clayton and had it not been for Daniel Day-Lewis’ insane performance in There Will Be Blood, Clooney would have easily taken home his second Oscar.
Where The Wild Things Are is the adaptation of the beloved children’s book by Maurice Sendak, where Max, a boy sent to his room for being disobedient, creates a world where he becomes king of the “Wild Things.” A simple enough premise, but the film has possible Oscar aspirations as the field has been expanded to 10 films for Best Picture and there is a strong chance that director Spike Jonze could receive a nomination in that category as well. Early footage has revealed that Spike has created wonderfully imagined environments that are not only Sendak approved, but seem to perfectly capture and expand on Max’s “wild” imagination. Voice work by James Gandolfini and acting by Catherine Keener (twice nominated) certainly won’t hurt its chances at receiving Academy exposure. It has been one of our most anticipated all year and in weeks we will be able to determine if it lives up to the lofty expectations. For the record, it also appears to look strong in the music and effects categories at this point too.
Posted on 09 September 2009.
Review written by The Film Nest “Guest Contributor” Chase Kahn (same name in the “Comments” section).
Five years after director Shane Acker won an Oscar for his animated short film 9, the director is back helming a feature-length expansion of his own premise about a group of rag dolls in a post-apocalyptic setting. The short film is a delightful slice of animation — dialogue-free, inventive, stylized and fun. As it turns out, some things are better left alone. With all of its visual and technical innovation, and intrigue to burn, 9 is nevertheless a bland, repetitive and hackneyed inflation of the eleven-minute short film with as many bad ideas as good ones, until the source material is proven overexposed.
Trying to duplicate the moderate success of Coraline ($75 million domestic gross), Focus Features has an odd blend of genres rolled into a niche package. The PG-13 science-fiction action-adventure animated film is too dark, bleak and humorless for anyone under the age of twelve, yet too undemanding, unpolished and meandering for anyone old enough to carry a driver’s permit.
Beginning with an aged, painful voiceover narration, 9 begins brilliantly with the awakening of its title character (voiced by Elijah Wood) in the workshop of a now deceased scientist. After flipping open the tapping, wind-battered shutters, we’re exposed to a hazy, smog-ridden ruin of what used to be a great city – think 1940’s London crossed with Soylent Green. #9 soon meets a resourceful old “sackboy” like himself, named #2 (Martin Landau), who is quickly snatched up during an attack by a roving machine known simply as, “The Beast”.
Wounded from the attack, #9 awakens under the hospitality of #5 (John C. Reilly) and a band of fellow “stitchpunks” (courtesy of Mr. Acker) led by #1 (Christopher Plummer) who, it appears, has been seeking refuge and solitude from “The Beast” for quite some time. Through various plot devices and tactics, we come to learn that the human race has become extinct at the expense of their own ambition. Through newspaper clippings, a scientist is identified as the man who built an army of intelligent machines for this nameless “State,” who then became self-aware, turning on their creators with unremitting numbers and hostility. This war is depicted briefly during the origin story of the numbered “stitchpunks,” much to the delight of this reviewer.
Unfortunately, 9 can’t sustain its opening passages, nor can it duplicate (not to mention expand on) the wondrous and artistically rendered short film upon which it’s based. It’s quite obvious that Shane Acker and screenwriter Pamela Pettler (Corpse Bride, Monster House) are spreading this premise thin to the point of tedium. It boils down to a series of capture-and-escape, machine-versus-rag doll monster battles spliced with a MacGuffin/post-apocalyptic, “save the world” narrative – a short film on repeat.
Dialogue, all too prevalent here, is a barrage of banal moralistic debates perfectly fitting our archetypical, straight-laced, pint-sized heroes. The voicework by everyone involved is non-essential with the exception of keeping Elijah Wood busy these days. John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly and Christopher Plumber, among others, are given no range here to make an impression, simply a vehicle for the action like everything else. The kind of exacting, strength-building inspiration for the characters and their voiceover counterparts, noticeable in any feature made by Pixar, is plainly absent here.
If there is one thing worth chewing on in 9, it is the animation, a kind of stop-motion/computer-generated hybrid. Interiors are appropriately dark and faintly lit with exterior sequences, which expose the pinkish-yellow beauty of the sky, looking gorgeous. The character design and the imagination involved with the detailing of the environment and the set pieces are undeniably impressive. For instance, the numbers on a calendar serve as a scorecard for which “stitchpunks” are still alive and a saltshaker’s silver top is efficiently used as a jousting mask.
Regrettably, only in this aspect does anything about 9 signal any stroke of inventiveness. In fact, nothing in the film is definably awful, but what you have here is a harmlessly dull and dreary piece of action-animation – stubbornly visceral and tirelessly unprogressive.
Posted on 20 April 2009.
Welcome to a wonderful new week in film. We have a bunch of first looks for you today. I feel it’s a good way to get it going.
[The Movie Blog] has the first shot of Russell Crowe in Robin Hood garb from the set of the new Ridley Scott film. Although I don’t particularly like the guy as a person, he’s a great actor. He looks pretty hard in this pic. It should be sweet.
For those hyped about the new Star Trek film, you might be interested in checking out the virtual press conference what was held earlier today. Director J. J. Abrams and others were on hand to answer questions. It’s a pretty interesting concept. It looks like they used the graphics engine from “The Sims.” You’ll see what I’m talking about. [Star Trek XI Blog]
Channing Tatum is blowing up this year with roles in Fighting, Public Enemies and G.I. Joe, but he apparently regrets not being able to play Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. You may not have formed an opinion yet, unless you watched the bootleg version of that film, but do you regret him not being in it? I’m sure I’m happy with the current state. [Filmonic]
One of our most anticipated films of the year, Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones has its first two pics online thanks to [Ace Showbiz]. Ever want to see what heaven looks like outside of the 1998 Robin Williams film, What Dreams May Come? There are some words from Jackson about the project, as well.
Angels & Demons comes out in just a few weeks and Sony/Columbia has announced a third film in the series is on its way. Dan Brown, writer of two Robert Langdon-starring novels “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons,” just finished the third book in the series, titled “The Lost Symbol.” It will focus on the secret society of the Freemasons. The book is due to be released September 15, 2009. The movie, much later. I’m down. [Fused Film]
Just as we began, we end today’s news with another first film image. This time it’s the Peter Jackson-produced Neill Blomkamp-directed District 9, which has been soaring below the radar, but will be released toward the end of this sumer. [SciFi Cool]