BOP 25 of the Holiday: Selections 10-6
10. A Very Long Engagement
The French beauty stole our hearts before we even recognized what was happening. With her feisty determination and optimistic pluck, this actress took the character of Amélie of Montmartre and turned the role into a work for the ages. Since then, the inscrutable, winsome goddess Audrey Tautou has taken on much darker work, but her fans still see Amélie trying to return.
With a Very Long Engagement, that time is now. While certainly a more dramatic epic than the tender comedy Amélie, this project shares the same director and actress as the film which introduced North America to Tautou. As such, there is cause for optimism - if not out and out celebration - from Tautou's western fanbase. It's not a sequel, but it is the next best thing.
9. House of Flying Daggers
Any Zhang Yimou/Zhang Ziyi performance is cause enough for celebration. But anyone who kept up with the critical reception of movies at the Toronto Film Festival realizes that the bar has been raised significantly higher here. Already the recipient of several Golden Rooster Awards (China's answer to the Oscars), House of Flying Daggers now finds itself in the rarefied air of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's a legitimate Best Picture contender.
With Zhang Yimou's last film, Hero, recently tearing up the North American box office after an *ahem* unfortunate two-year delay, the director is poised to twice imprint Western cinemas in less than six months. Anyone who reads BOP regularly knows how passionate we are about the auteur. House of Flying Daggers is poised to be his masterpiece.
Director Mike Nichols, fresh off his triumph with Angels in America, teams up with a playwright who adapts his own award-winning play and puts together a stellar cast including Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen. The project should have been a no-brainer. Admittedly, Closer wasn't even on the radar until the trailer hit, but oh, what a trailer it is. It's a textbook example of using music to set a mood and the interspersed snippets of dialogue forecast a sexy, wry, darkly funny film. The play and film revolve around the various sexual and romantic entanglements among four individuals (two couples). Playwright Patrick Marber says when he wrote the play he had come to the conclusion that "there is no such thing as an honest relationship. The best you can hope for is an honest relationship with yourself." So it's pretty safe to assume that Closer doesn't take an optimistic view of the chances of a romantic relationship lasting. After perhaps creating some doubts that Nichols still had it (his last film was 2000's What Planet are You From?), it's interesting that his foray into television (Wit, and the aforementioned Angels in America) seems to have reinvigorated his career. Closer looks to be a return to form for Nichols on the big screen and a heavy Oscar candidate across the board.
7. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Imagine, if you will, a film in which the flamboyantly costumed Jim Carrey mercilessly torments three small children. That, in a nutshell, is the concept here. Based on the insanely popular Lemony Snickets series of novellas, A Series of Unfortunate Events is exactly as described. A trio of recently orphaned children are taken in by an ostensibly well-meaning uncle who in reality wants to steal their inheritance. Carrey, riding a critical high from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, has found the perfect project here. It combines the comic sensibilities of Almighty Bruce with the biting satire of The Cable Guy, but the package takes the shape and offers the wide-ranging appeal of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Effectively, this film is Harry Potter-lite with Carrey cast in the role of Professor Snape. What a package.
6. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Seeing the trailers and previews for this film has made one fact abundantly clear: Hugh Grant and Colin Firth should get into a fist-fight in every film they do together. Wouldn't it have just been spectacular to see Firth's character in Love Actually haul off and punch Grant's Prime Minister for no good reason?
Back when we first became familiar with Bridget's diary, the BOP staff voted Renee Zellweger as our favorite actress in that year's Calvin Awards. She imbues the character with a certain sauciness; still, Bridget is full of those lingering self-doubts that nag at all people who are in similar situations. She's vulnerable, yet tough; smart, yet totally liable at any time to make the worst decision of her entire life. It's a terrific, meaty role the likes of which is rarely available to actresses in modern film and we can't wait to see what Renee does with it this time around.
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