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By Gire, Dann | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 20, 2008 | Go to article overview

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Gire, Dann, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Dann Gire * Daily Herald Film Critic * dgire@dailyherald.com -CLMN-

Up to now, 2008 has been a fairly dismal year for really exciting movies that scream "I deserve an Oscar!"

Not anymore.

As if to make up for lost time, Hollywood will dump an avalanche of aspiring Academy Award nominees into theaters for the next six weeks. Well get Frank Langella as President Nixon in "Frost/Nixon." Meryl Streep as a nun in "Doubt." Mickey Rourke as "The Wrestler." Sean Penn as an assassinated public servant in "Milk."

Well get Oscar-bait movies such as Clint Eastwoods race drama "Gran Torino." David Finchers "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Baz Luhrmanns epic "Australia." Ron Howards "Frost/Nixon."

These, and others, will join the only two other surefire Oscar contenders from earlier this year, "The Dark Knight" (the villainous Heath Ledger is a shoo-in) and the animated "Wall*E."

In the movie lineup from Thanksgiving week through Jan. 2, 2009, weve got all the telltale signs of Academy Award-winner wannabes: remakes of classics; adaptations of best-selling books; dramas based on Broadway hits; historical epics; cute animation; even thrillers gleaned from graphic novels.

Why the disparity of Oscar-wooing films during the years final month and a half?

First, audiences are obviously off work and away from school for a good chunk of the holidays. They can see more movies more often.

Second, and more important, studio bosses think the 5,000 voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences possess very short memories. So, pulling out their best stuff as close to the voting period as possible makes sense to them.

One thing is certain. The bulk of this years Oscar nominations are likely to come from movies that havent even opened yet.

So, with great pride and fanfare, we present our annual preview of holiday movies, many of which will likely win that little naked gold guy with the strategically placed broadsword.

Oops. I almost forgot the required caveat: Studio executives sometimes think of their release schedule as a giant pinball game where they can knock out, replace or add titles whenever they feel like it, just for fun.

So, keep faithfully reading your Daily Herald for updates. Enjoy the shows!

Nov. 26

"Australia" Baz "Moulin Rouge" Luhrmann directs a "Gone With the Wind" for his home continent. During World War II, an uptight Englishwoman (local talent Nicole Kidman) arrives Down Under and falls for a rough-and-tumble cattle hand (local talent Hugh Jackman). Ive seen about 20 minutes of footage, and it looks darned impressive. The ending reportedly was reshot because test audiences didnt like a major character dying.

"Four Christmases" A married couple (Chicagos Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon) are forced to spend the holidays with both sets of their divorced parents and their extended, distended families. Oh, the horror. Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight and Robert Duvall co-star.

"Milk" Sean Penn has created Oscar anticipation for his titular role as Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco city supervisor gunned down in his office in 1977. Gus Van Sant directs with a mainstream style.

"Transporter 3" Action star Jason Statham returns in this second sequel in which the unreliable, highly paid delivery man Frank Martin falls for his newest "package," the kidnapped daughter of the Ukraines EPA chief.

Nov. 28

"My Name is Bruce" Cult horror movie star Bruce Campbell gets mistaken for his demon-fighting character Ash (from "Evil Dead") and is forced to fight a 9-foot-tall sword-wielding monster in Oregon. Im not making this up. Ted Raimi, Sams bro, co-stars.

"Sing-Along Sound of Music" Get out your wimples and warm woolen mittens, put on your white dresses with blue satin sashes. Dress as your favorite character (prizes for best costumes! …

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