14 films eligible for Best Animated Feature

Variety reports that 14 films have been submitted for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Here they are, with release dates, if known, for the films that have not yet played in North America — outside of the festival circuit, that is:

  1. Bolt — November 21
  2. Delgo — December 12
  3. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who
  4. Dragon Hunters — unknown
  5. Fly Me to the Moon
  6. Igor
  7. Kung Fu Panda
  8. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
  9. $9.99 — unknown
  10. The Sky Crawlers — unknown
  11. Sword of the Stranger — unknown
  12. The Tale of Despereaux — December 19
  13. WALL•E
  14. Waltz with Bashir — December 26

The actual Oscar nominations will be announced January 22.

Canadian box-office stats — November 9

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Passchendaele — CDN $3,350,000 — N.AM $3,350,000 — 100%
Body of Lies — CDN $4,720,000 — N.AM $36,944,000 — 12.8%
Zack and Miri Make a Porno — CDN $2,510,000 — N.AM $20,933,000 — 12.0%

Changeling — CDN $2,180,000 — N.AM $20,587,000 — 10.6%
Eagle Eye — CDN $9,230,000 — N.AM $96,401,000 — 9.6%
High School Musical 3: Senior Year — CDN $7,190,000 — N.AM $75,707,000 — 9.5%

Role Models — CDN $1,630,000 — N.AM $19,251,000 — 8.5%
The Haunting of Molly Hartley — CDN $808,221 — N.AM $10,235,000 — 7.9%
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa — CDN $5,010,000 — N.AM $63,500,000 — 7.9%
Saw V — CDN $3,930,000 — N.AM $52,320,000 — 7.5%

A couple of discrepancies: Passchendaele and Body of Lies were #7 and #8 on the Canadian chart, respectively (the former film wasn’t on the North American chart at all, though if it were, it would be #24, while the latter film was #15 on the North American chart), while Soul Men and The Secret Life of Bees were #6 and #9 on the North American chart, respectively (the latter film was #13 in Canada, while the former film was nowhere in the Canadian Top 20).

Newsbites: Noah! Avenger! YouTube! Marco! Carlos! Corpus! Not Another!

Here is today’s batch of newsbite goodness.

1. Cindy Bond, the president and COO of Promenade Pictures, has co-founded a new company called Mission Pictures — but she is still involved with Promenade, and both companies will now be involved in producing Noah’s Ark: The New Beginning, the computer-animated follow-up to Promenade’s previous effort The Ten Commandments (2007). — Variety, Hollywood Reporter

2. Marvel Studios has hired Joe Johnston — who was a special-effects whiz at Lucasfilm before he turned to directing films like The Rocketeer (1991), Jumanji (1995), October Sky (1999) and Jurassic Park III (2001) — to direct The First Avenger: Captain America. Now they just need a script. — Hollywood Reporter

3. MGM is set to join the handful of distributors who are posting legitimate film clips — and entire movies — online via sites like YouTube. — New York Times, Reuters

4. Mongol director Sergei Bodrov will direct The Silk Road: The Adventures of Marco Polo, an epic told through the eyes of Polo’s prison mate, Rustichello da Pisa. — Variety, Hollywood Reporter

5. Edgar Ramirez will play 1970s terrorist Carlos the Jackal in Olivier Assayas’s Ilich: Story of Carlos. Carlos was a significant figure in Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity and at least one of its sequels, and he was played by Yorgo Voyagis (who played Joseph in Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth) in the 1988 mini-series based on Ludlum’s novel, but the recent movies starring Matt Damon have ignored the character entirely. Several other novels and movies have made use of the character, too. — Hollywood Reporter

6. Clark Hoyt ponders how secular newspapers ought to handle their coverage of art that handles religious themes in a controversial manner. Focusing primarily on the ten-year-old gay-Jesus play Corpus Christi, Hoyt notes that most outlets never get beyond defending an artist’s freedom-of-speech rights, but surely, he says, there are other matters to consider, too. — New York Times

7. As if it wasn’t bad enough that we have so many lame movies out there spoofing the latest Hollywood hits, we will soon have to deal with a lame movie that spoofs the spoofs. Or, even better, a lame movie about a moviemaker who makes a movie that spoofs the spoofs. Either way, the upcoming movie is called Not Another Not Another Movie. Seriously. — Hollywood Reporter

Star Wars — a clever a capella tribute

There are so, so many Star Wars tributes and parodies out there, I generally don’t bother to keep up with them all, but this one is pretty clever on a number of levels — starting with the fact that it is based entirely on themes that John Williams wrote for other popular movies — so I had to make note of it here.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk5_OSsawz4]
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

NOV 11 UPDATE: Apparently this video, while clever, isn’t quite as clever as I thought; the guy who appears above is lip-syncing a track that was originally recorded by four other guys under the name Moosebutter. Details here. And here is a video of three Moosebutter members performing the song live:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzfvHUheA4c]
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

The Passionate Friends + Brief Encounter


The David Lean retrospective is upon us. Tonight I caught a double-bill of The Passionate Friends (1949) and Brief Encounter (1945), and was struck by the differences and similarities between those two films.

The similarities, however significant or superficial, include: they both concern adulterous affairs, whether consummated or not; they both star Trevor Howard as one of the two lovers (he’s a doctor in one film and a biologist in the other, two professions that sort of overlap); they both feature voice-overs and brief sequences that articulate and visualize the female lover’s fantasies; they both feature scenes in which someone remarks that it’s socially unacceptable for a woman to smoke on the street; and they both include scenes where a heartbroken woman considers throwing herself in front of a train.

The differences are more interesting, I think. The female protagonist in Brief Encounter is married with children and comes from a small-town middle-class background, while the female protagonist in The Passionate Friends is married to a banker and lives in a rather large house, with no children whatsoever. The husband in Brief Encounter is kept in the dark about his wife’s affair, while the husband in The Passionate Friends — played expertly by Claude Rains, who would reunite with Lean on Lawrence of Arabia (1962) — not only figures things out, but ultimately lets his suspicions get the better of him. And — most significantly, I think — the affair in Brief Encounter happens quite surprisingly and spontaneously, whereas the affair in The Passionate Friends, while aided by chance encounters, ultimately grows out of an old, old relationship.

It is this last detail that gives me pause, more than any other, when I say that Brief Encounter is probably the better, more “entertaining” film of the two, yet I find myself thinking that The Passionate Friends is more plausible and in some ways more interesting.

I suppose it is possible — just possible — that a reasonably happily married mother of two could meet a total stranger once every week and fall so madly in love with him after just three weeks that she would almost commit suicide when their meetings come to an end, as happens in Brief Encounter. But I find it hard to identify with such a person. The early moments between Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard are funny and enticing, and they set up, quite convincingly, a situation in which a series of “innocent” encounters could grow into something far more serious. And the final moments between them, when a chatty neighbour intrudes on their farewell, are also quite devastating, in their own sublimated way. But the story requires this love affair to begin, peak, and end in less than a month, and so, when Johnson says their situation is foolish and absurd, I am inclined not only to agree, but to think that maybe she and Howard ought to get their heads examined.

The Passionate Friends, on the other hand, stars Ann Todd (who became Lean’s third wife shortly after this movie came out) as a woman who was once deeply in love with Howard, but married Rains instead; and then, a few years later, she bumps into Howard again, and they see a bit of each other while Rains is out of town; and then, nine years after that, they happen to check in to neighbouring rooms in a hotel in Switzerland, only a day or two before Rains is due to leave his work and join Todd at the hotel. It spoils nothing to say all this because the film begins with the coincidental booking of rooms in Switzerland, then flashes back nine years, and then flashes back even further — so you know roughly how each phase in the relationship is going to end before you even see it begin. And while it makes for a somewhat complicated narrative structure, the relationship between Todd and Howard is actually more believable — and easier to identify with — because they have known each other for so long, but also because there is the sense, however justified it may or may not be, that Todd made a mistake when she married Rains instead of Howard.

And why did she choose Rains over Howard? Ah, that is one of the more interesting aspects of the film. It is suggested, twice and maybe even thrice, that she married Rains as a way of keeping her freedom — as a way of “belonging to herself” and not to Howard. Rains is wealthy too, of course, but he does not expect stormy passions, just loyalty and a certain amount of affection, and Todd is certainly capable of that. But one of the interesting things about their arrangement is that Rains, upon learning that Todd may be cheating on him, begins to feel and act possessive — which is another way of saying that he begins to feel and act possessed. Maybe Todd and Rains really do “belong to” each other after all. And while Todd may be allowed to steer the viewer’s sympathies with her voice-overs, it is Rains who gets our attention through the sheer persistence of his gaze, and the many times we see things from his point of view: the way he stares at the tickets on the desk, the way he peers through binoculars, the way he glares through the drapes.

If I had to watch one of these films again with a friend, right now, I would probably pick Brief Encounter, just because it is such a splendidly made bit of entertainment; the supporting characters provide some marvelous comic relief, and the film makes delightful use of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, among other things. But I wouldn’t mind watching The Passionate Friends again some day, so I can only hope it will come out on DVD here soon.

One last note on The Passionate Friends: There are some nice, atmospheric touches here which hark back to some of Lean’s earlier films and point ahead to his later, better-known epics. I think of the scene where Howard stands alone in an office, and a gust of wind comes in through the window and scatters some papers on a desk, which calls to mind the howling, or gentle, but always portentous winds of Oliver Twist (1948) and Ryan’s Daughter (1970); I think also of the magnificent mountaintops that we see when Todd and Howard go for a hike in Switzerland, which recall the epic scenery of Lawrence of Arabia and A Passage to India (1984). And there are some fascinating moments where Lean obscures his subjects behind fog or curtains — much as he would do with Peter O’Toole in, yes, Lawrence of Arabia.

One last bit of trivia: The Passionate Friends is based on a book by H.G. Wells. And there is not a shred of science fiction in it. I hadn’t realized he wrote any fiction outside that genre.

And one final, personal note: My best laugh of the evening came during Brief Encounter, when Johnson and her husband are discussing what to do the next day with their squabbling children, who have already gone to bed, and the husband casually says, “We’ll thrash them both soundly, lock them up in the attic, and go to the pictures by ourselves.” I think lines like that sound rather different to me now than they would have done when I first saw this film seven years ago — before I had a wife and children of my own. The line was always funny in concept, but now, as my friend Gavin would put it, I have a common frame of reference, which makes it even funnier. I can relate to it now.

Newsbites: The random-stuff-I-read-today edition!

Definitely no theme to this day’s collection of stories.

1. Paul Gross’s World War I epic Passchendaele is a fairly big hit in English Canada, as these things go, but a flop in Quebec, where audiences have preferred Le Déserteur, a movie about a Quebecois soldier who deserted the Canadian Army during World War II and was shot in the back by the RCMP. — Variety

2. Brett Ratner will direct the Conan the Barbarian reboot before he gets around to Beverly Hills Cop IV. — Hollywood Reporter

3. Chris Rock is developing a remake of Death at a Funeral (2007). Has a movie ever been remade in its own language so quickly before? Even the Hulk reboot took a few years to get off the ground. — Variety, Hollywood Reporter

4. Dygra Films recently held a sneak preview in Madrid of a teaser for the 3-D cartoon Holy Night!, described by Variety reporter John Hopewell as a “Christmas farce, set in a fantasy world, [that] features a sporty-looking Santa Claus, his reindeer, the three wise men, Herod, a swaddling-clothed Baby Jesus, blacksmiths, shepherdesses and Santa Claus security guards.” — Variety

5. Rumours are spreading that the French Noah’s Ark cartoon Rock the Boat may be delayed because of financial problems. This is seen as but one of several signs that the computer-animation industry has hit a “rough patch” in France. — Variety

6. Philip Glass was going to write an opera about the life of Walt Disney, but that project is on hold now, following the departure of Gerard Mortier from his post as general manager of the City Opera. Mortier says he will try to get this show, as well as a musical version of Brokeback Mountain, produced through other venues. — Variety

7. Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster will play astronauts adrift in space in a movie called Pandorum. Sounds good, until you realize the film is being co-produced by Paul W.S. Anderson, of Resident Evil (2002-2007) fame. — Hollywood Reporter

8. Nicole Kidman will produce and star in The Danish Girl as Einar Wegener, a man who went on to become the first publicly-known recipient of a sex-change operation in 1930. Charlize Theron will play his/her wife, Gerda Gottlieb. — Hollywood Reporter

9. Thousands of props and costumes from Battlestar Galactica will be auctioned off in January, including, among other things, a full-scale Colonial Viper. Yowzah. — Wired