In the months spanning September through December, the major and minor studios will be releasing their year end prestige films, meaning the films they believe could carry them to Oscar glory. At this writing there are precious few Oscar contenders, with only The Passion of the Christ (2004), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Collateral (2004), The Terminal (2004), and Kill Bill Volume Two (2004) looking like they stand a chance to nab a few nominations. I am not sure how the fickle Academy will react to Mel Gibson’s blood drenched Christ film, but I am equally unsure that they can ignore it. The Passion of the Christ (2004) one of the most hotly contested films in recent years was made independently by Gibson for less than thirty million; ands has since grossed in excess of three hundred and sixty million dollars. |
There is much to look forward to in the coming months, as some greatly anticipated films; some of them long awaited will make their bow. Bear in mind release dates are subject to change, and several of these pictures may be pushed back to 2005, depending on the studio’s slate of releases.
THE AVIATOR…At this point the front runner for best picture is Martin Scorsese’s film about Howard Hughes and his early life in Hollywood and fascination with air flight. No one has yet seen this film yet it is rumoured to be astonishing. Leonardo De Caprio is well cast as Hughes and perhaps will get a chance to show why he is considered the most gifted young actor since Brando, and Cate Blanchett brings strong support in her role as Katherine Hepburn. Jude Law is cast as Errol Flynn and in her screen debut singer Gwen Stefani is Jean Harlow. Anything by Scorsese is at the very least remarkable, but the expectations here are that the Academy will finally honour him with an Oscar for best director.
ALEXANDER…Oliver Stone directs the first version of the life of Alexander the Great to make it to the screen in the modern era, finishing ahead of the Baz Lurman film rumoured to be starring Leonardo de Caprio. Stone’s massive film features Colin Farrell as the great warrior who died a young death but led a full and vibrant life. Also in the film are Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins, who alone makes it worthy of a look. The buzz on this one is that it will either be great of god awful. With Stone at the helm I am betting on the former. Stone has tried to bring this legend to the screen for the better part of a decade and finally it will hit screens this year. Could be the two time Best Director’s ticket back to the Oscars…or not.
CLOSER…Mike Nichols, hot off the incredible success of HBO’s Angels in America directs a social drama exploring the marital woes of two couples, including Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman, each of whom is rumored to be Oscar worthy. Nichols has had an up and down career over the years since winning the Oscar for The Graduate (1967) but this could be the film that marks something of a comeback for him. Jude Law and Jake Gyllenhall co-star in what is said to be a slick and sophisticated dramatic comedy.
THE LIFE AQUATIC…Wes Anderson has written and directed another highly anticipated film, again featuring Bill Murray in a performance once again being touted for Oscar glory. There are many in the business (myself included) who believe Murray should have won last year, and for his performance as a famous underwater explorer he might do it this year. The film co-stars Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, and Cate Blanchett. Sounds as wildly original as everything else Anderson has done.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA…For several years Andrew Lloyd Weber has been trying to bring his stage musical to the stage and at various times such names as John Travolta and Hugh Jackman were attached to the project. Under the direction of Joel Schumacher, the film comes to us this December with a cast of relative unknowns, which I think is a great move Gerard Butler will be the masked Phantom with Emmily Rossums as Christine. In the wake of Moulin Rouge (2001) and Chicago (2002) there is great excitement about this one.
FINDING NEVERLAND…Features Johnny Depp as Scottish writer J.M. Barrie, the man who authored Peter Pan, and the film focuses on his life and primarily his writing of that classic book. Using Barrie’s fertile imagination the film plunges the audience into many fantasy sequences hat should delight young and old, but also explores the tragedy that was Barrie’s life. Depp is said to be Oscar worthy (when is he not?), and the film co-stars Kate Winslet band Dustin Hoffman. Directed by Marc Forrester of Monster’s Ball (2001).
RAY…In this biography of recently deceased blues artist Ray Charles, Jamie Foxx is rumoured to give perhaps the performance of the year as the man who rose from poverty, dealt with the death of his five year old brother, suffered through blindness and rose to the top music profession despite many hurdles including a long addiction to drugs. Foxx has had quite a year, and the inside word on this performance is very strong. The only drawback for the film might be the fact it is directed by Taylor Hackford…read the name.
BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON…After earning an Oscar nomination as best actress for her superb comic performance in Bridget Jones Diary (2001), Zellweger was very skeptical about a sequel. When fans kept coming up to on the street and asking she decided that she owed it to them to again gain thirty pounds and play the young English lass who finds trouble. The film will pick up just a few weeks after the end of the first. Colin Firth is back as Marc Darcy and Hugh Grant is along for the ride as well.
BIRTH…Imagine you are engaged to be married and you meet a small child who tells you he is really very old. He tells he knows a great deal about you because he is your father reincarnated. Nicole Kidman stars as a woman who encounters a little boy who possesses the memories of her father in this thriller that should land Kidman in the Oscar circle yet again. Is there a finer actress under forty than Kidman? Her hushed terror in The Others (2001) will be outdone here.
BEYOND THE SEA…Kevin Spacey directs Kevin Spacey in this biopic of teen idol Bobby Darin who died at the tender age of thirty seven of a mysterious heart ailment. No secret that Spacey has been shopping this around for a long time, and is in fact older than Darin when he passed, but ah, the magic of the movies. Features Kate Bosworth as Sandra Dee. Spacey, even in weak films is interesting.
THE POLAR EXPRESS…Robert Zemeckis utilizes a still evolving form of computer animation called performance capture in which the actors act out their roles on a sound stage covered while covered in dots that will later be fed through a computer and give us the results we see in this animated film based on the beloved children’s book. A little boy is whisked away to the North Pole to encounter Santa in a film that stars Tom Hanks in more than one role. Smell blockbuster?? I do.
NATIONAL TREASURE…There was a time when Nicolas Cage seemed poised or at least determined to be the next major action star, but he made a career change back to being a serious actor for Adaptation (2002). Here he is again in an action film, though one that promises to allow Cage to flex those considerable acting muscles. He is an historian hunting down an elusive treasure map that might be written on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Promises to be one thrill after another as he conspires to steal the map before the bad guys get to it.
LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUANTE EVENTS…The first three books in this popular series have been rolled into one magical film that will either be of the Harry Potter vein, meaning hugely successful, or not. Jim Carrey is Count Olaf and Meryl Streep is phobic Aunt Josephine in what could be the major fantasy hit of the fall. The art direction looks extraordinary as the director; Brad Silberling has gone to incredible lengths to create this film. Could be wild.
AN UNFINISHED LIFE…Features Robert Redford as a man who must come to terms with the death of his son after the son’s widow, portrayed by Jennifer Lopez arrives on his doorstep with her daughter, his grandchild in tow. Directed by Oscar favourite Lasse Hellstrom, this one seems poised to impress Oscar voters who have never awarded Redford an acting Oscar. Morgan Freeman is said to be brilliant in a supporting role, and rumour has it Lopez has never been better.
PROOF…Based on the hugely successful Broadway drama which featured Gwyneth Paltrow as a young woman trying to come to terms with her father’s death and his descent into madness prior to his death, the film reunites Paltrow with John Madden, the man who guided her to an Oscar for best actress in Shakespeare in Love (1998). Anthony Hopkins is cast as the troubled father and Hope Davis is along as Paltrow’s fix-it sister. This could be a return to the winners’ circle for Paltrow who has done precious little since her Academy Award winning turn.
MEET THE FOCKERS…Not being a fan of the first, I have a hard time working up any interest for this sequel which features Ben Stiller’s parents, played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand meeting uptight De Niro and Blythe Danner shortly before the wedding. Watching De Niro mug shamelessly for the camera has become embarrassing, though Hoffman is always at least interesting. Streisand? Does anyone really care?
THE WOODSMAN…A huge hit at Sundance this tiny film features Kevin Bacon in an acclaimed performance as a pedophile trying to find a place in society after being released from prison. To say the subject matter is troubling is an understatement, but Bacon’s performance is said to be astonishing. The Toronto Film Festival will be the film’s launch to hopeful Oscar attention.
THE INCREDIBLES…A computer animated film that should challenge Shrek 2 for the Oscar for animated feature. The premise features a family of super heroes going about their everyday business and adventures, which will provide high comedy and many thrills. Voiced by Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson, this one promises to be huge.