2009 The Year In Movies: 1-Next Year’s Oscars



ACADEMY AWARDS MONTAGE: A LOOK AT THE YEAR AHEAD.

This year’s surprisingly good Academy awards ceremony ended up with a look at the future, thanks to a montage previewing some of the biggest movies to be launched over 2009. The clip included a mix of well hyped blockbusters and successful franchises next to some hints at potential nominees for the coveted awards in 2010. Among them: Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies”; Mira Nair’s “Amelia” and Lone Scherfig “An Education”.

With another look at that montage we begin a series of posts, looking at the most interesting movies (on paper) that the next twelve months will bring; divided by genres and starting by a deeper look at those movies that look likely to make an appearance in the next Awards season.


THE WOMEN IN ROB MARSHALL’S NINE

Another conclusion to be gathered after the Oscars ceremony is that musical has completed its big comeback -escapism comes timely in difficult times- And this year’s no other film looks better conceived for Oscar glory than Rob Marshall’s new musical, the director of the awarded “Chicago” has adapted former Tony winner “Nine,” based on Fellini’s “8 ½” and with a breathtaking cast lead by Daniel Day-Lewis (as the last minute replacement for Javier Bardem) in the role of a director dealing with the misadventures provided by the many women in his life (as performed by Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Marion Cotillard, Dame Judi Dench and Black-eyed pea Fergie). No other movie will offer more glamour and star power and, if everything goes as planned, it should be coping next year’s nominations.

Not a musical, but based on a legendary music event, Ang Lee will carry on proving his well-tested versatility as a director with “Taking Woodstock”, a comedy set in the middle of the legendary festival from the sixties. Comedian Demetri Martin will have his big screen break, surrounded by a curious cast including British nominee Imelda Staunton (Vera Darke); Emile Hirsh; Paul Dano, etc.

Sam Mendes will also deliver a high profile venture into comedy, giving himself a break from such serious dramas as “Revolutionary Road”, with “Away From Me” starring John Krasinski from the US version of TV series “The Office” and Maya Rudolph from “Kath & Kim”.


CHERI (Stephen Frears)

Hollywood loves a comeback; last year’s was Mickey Rourke’s spectacular turn in “The Wrestler” and this year looks set for Michelle Pfeiffer to have another chance for a much deserved Oscar. She’s teamed up again with Stephen Frears, who directed the star in “Dangerous Liaisons”, one of her most celebrated roles. This time with another classic literary period adaptation, Collette’s “Cheri”, in which the ex-cat woman embodies an ageing prostitute who succumbs to the attentions of her colleague’s son. The movie failed to impress in Berlin, but it’s got enough going for it to have a strong chance with the Academy.

She’s likely to face fierce competition from Meryl Streep, who was left at the doors of earning her third Oscar for “Doubt”. The veteran actress, could be enjoying her sixteenth nomination with one of her two forthcoming projects, in which she wisely combines again box office appeal next to Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in the as yet untitled new project by Nancy Meyers (“Something Gotta Give”, “The Father Of The Bride”) with a more dramatic Academy bait role in “Julie & Julia”, working again with Amy Adams directed by Nora Ephron.

More material taken from literature; Michael Hoffman adapts Jay Parini’s novel “The Last Station” about the last year in the life of Russian writer Leon Tolstoi. The director of “Restoration” has not been in the orbit of the Academy yet, but this period drama looks like it has a strong chance. The cast includes Christopher Plummer, James McAvoy, Helen Mirren, Paul Giamatti and Anne Marie Duff.

Not only Tolstoi’s life will be revisited in movies. France will try to replicate the success of “La Vie En rose” with the biopic of fashion icon Channel, in “Coco Avant Channel”, directed by Anne Fountain and starring Amelie herself, Audrey Tatou. However, this and any other biopic is likely to be eclipsed by Academy perennial Clint Eastwood’s latest project, formerly known as “The Human Factor” but currently back to unnamed status, in which Morgan Freeman is hotly tipped for the Oscar for his forthcoming impersonation of Nelson Mandela.


SHUTTER ISLAND (Martin Scorsese) – Teaser

Eastwood could be again battling against Martin Scorsese in the race for the Director’s trophy, as it happened in 2005 when the former won with “Million Dollar Baby” over the Italo-american master, who was in contention for “The Aviator”. Scorsese’s return after finally being rewarded by the Academy for “The Departed” is the adaptation of a novel by one of Hollywood’s currently most loved writer, Dennis Lehane (Mystic River); “Shutter Island” is a thriller set in the 50’s about the disappearance of a patient from a mental institution based in the island and a troubled US marshal investigating the case. Another star studded cast from which Leonardo Di Caprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo and Michelle Williams’s respective works could be rewarded.

Other directing legends who may figure among the five nominees are Terrence Malick and Peter Jackson. The always unpredictable Malick will showcase his unique ways once more in “The Tree Of Life”, the story of three kids growing in the 50’s with the stellar appearances of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Meanwhile, The Lord of the Rings’ mastermind is adapting “The Lovely Bones”, a critically acclaimed novel by Alice Sebold, narrating a horrible crime with a supernatural twist, in which the victim of a rape and murder watches from heaven and tries to interfere in the reactions of her family. Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon and Atonement’s young star Saoirse Ronan feature on its cast.


PUBLIC ENEMIES (Michael Mann) – Clip

The directing race looks particularly crowded this year. As well as the abovementioned legends, many other critically acclaimed filmmakers are releasing new works. Among them, no one is more due for recognition than Miami Vice’s Michael Mann. And “Public Enemies”, a gangster flick with Johnny Depp, Billy Crudrup and the always controversial Christian Bale, recreating the lives of John Dillinger and his criminal mates, could be his passport to the top Academy honour. With less projects on his CV but equally well received so far, Alejandro González-Iñárritu (“Babel”, “Amores Perros”) will present “Biutiful”, also Javier Bardem’s first project after winning his Oscar, and a potential breakthrough for Spanish actor Rubén Ochandiano, who’s part of the new Almodovar opus “Broken Embraces” too.
Paul Greengrass (United 93) will put his trademark breathtaking pace and camera work to the service of a story about CIA agents chasing weapons of mass destruction, whose dealings are also being chased by a journalist in “Green Zone.” A certain level of controversy mixed with an action packed thriller makes it one of the most eagerly awaited films of the coming months. Matt Damon stars.


THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE (Steven Sorderbergh Interview)

Matt Damon may be heading for a winning year as he is also appearing in “The Informant”, one of Steven Sorderbergh two current projects and the most likely to appeal to Academy voters. Another politically charged thriller narrating the fight against a price-fixing corporation. The always challenging Mr. Sorderbergh, who like Clint Eastwood is used to take projects in pairs, is also returning to his indie comedy origins with a lower budget effort looking at the world of elite’s prostitution through the view of a call girl, “The Girlfriend Experience”.
One of the regulars from his casts, George Clooney, will be busy through the year with two potentially Oscar-worthy projects : “Up In The Air”, Jason Reitman’s new comedy. The edgy director of “Juno” will try to revalidate its enormous success this time taking the piss of the corporate world.
The second of Clooney’s projects is Grant Heslov’s “Men who stare at goats” in which the star returns the favour to a regular supporting actor in his own movies turn director. This one is the story of another reporter in Iraq who meets someone who claims to be part of a special force using paranormal powers in the war. Hollywood darlings Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges will surround Hollywood’s most popular heartthrob for this occasion.


THE BOAT THAT ROCKED (Richard Curtis)

The Comedy genre is usually overlooked in favour of most respected dramas. However, there are always one or two notable exceptions to the rule that sneak into the nominee list. Britain’s fine comedy tradition is highly respected and traditionally fares well in the Academy, that’s why one of the strongest comedies of 2009 could be Richard Curtis’ second feature “The Boat That Rocked”. After “Love, Actually’s” romantic charms, Curtis, an experience writer, returns with the story of an illegal radio station in the North sea; helped by an all Brit cast (Emma Thompson, Kenneth Brannagh..etc) lead by the exception US star and Oscar magnet Philip Seymour-Hoffman.
Another famous British writer, Nick Hornby, is behind the screenplay of Lone Scherfig’s Sundance winner “An Education.” The Danish director of “Italian for Beginners” could be welcomed with open hands by Hollywood, after earning rave reviews for this coming of age tale set in London during the sixties. Carey Mulligan, its lead actress, to be also seen in “Public Enemies”, is tipped as one of the biggest breaks of the season. She will be in the company of Emma Thompson, Sally Hawkins and Peter Sarsgaard.
And not a comedy, but another biopic could earn Mira Nair her first nod as best director and Hillary Swank a record third statuette, becoming the most awarded actress in the story of the Academy. ”Amelia” will recreate the story of American female pilot Amelia Earthard and her famous disappearance while trying to fly around the world. Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor could finally find reward for their respective careers thanks to this high-flying biography.


THE SOLOIST (Joe Wright)

And last, but not least, two projects that were initially considered strong contenders for this year’s edition, but were finally postponed. Even if that’s normally not a promising sign, the two of them got enough Oscar appeal as not to be discarded yet: “The Soloist” tells the unlikely friendship between a gifted homeless musician (Jamie Foxx) and a journalist looking for stories to publish (Robert Downey, Jr.) “Atonement’s” director, Joe Wright, is behind the project.
The second is the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s latest novel “The Road”; set in a post-apocalyptic future where a father and his son struggle to survive in the harshest conditions. The bleakness of the original material has generated doubts about its potential for awards recognition, and John Hillcots previous film, “The Proposition” was also a bleak western. But after the Coen’s take on “No Country For Old Men”, McCarthy’s work is highly regarded. Viggo Mortensen could repeat the success he achieved with “Eastern Promises” and the child Kodi Smit-McPhee could fill the token infantile spot that nearly every year seems to find its room among the full list of nominees.

New works by Woody Allen, Almodovar, Pixar, etc. may as well find their way into next year’s nominees. We’ll talk about them in forthcoming posts.

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