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Changeling

Release Date: October 24, 2008
Wide Release October 31, 2008
Limited release


Movie of the Day for Wednesday, October 8, 2008
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Oh, my goodness. You let him watch Gia?

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
19/52 Sean Collier Far from Clint's best, but handsome and worth a look.
43/196 Max Braden Eastwood's music drags an interesting story. Geoff Pierson is fantastic as the roaring lawyer who sues the city.

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"Something is wrong with you. You're an independent woman."

Make such a statement to a 21st century North American woman and you are likely to get slapped in the face, spit on and stiletto heel-spiked in the groin. And you would deserve it, too. In the 1920s, however, a comment like that was simply an honest assessment of how women were viewed by men. This quote is particularly relevant in that it was by a police officer to one Christine Collins as she was sent away to the psychopathic ward of the Los Angeles County General Hospital. The cause for her institutionalization may shock you.

Christine Collins recognized that a boy was not her son. And she was right.

On March 10, 1928, ten-year-old Walter Collins disappeared from his family’s neighborhood. A couple of months later, Lewis and Nelson Winslow, age 12 and ten, also went missing. All three boys were kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed in what came to be known as the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. On February 7, 1929, Gordon Stewart Northcott was found guilty of the murders of the Winslow children as well as an unidentified Mexican boy. During the evidentiary phase of the trial, testimony was given that indicated Northcott’s killings vastly exceeded three in number. In the 1930s, his mother would later confess to the killing of Walter Collins, an act she was coerced into doing by her son. The fact that she did not immediately come forward is what caused Christine Collins’ incarceration in a mental institution.

Once the scandal of the disappearance of these boys reached the news, the case became infamous nationwide. Arthur Hutchins, Jr., an unhappy runaway, inexplicably attempted to take the place of Walter Collins in his mother’s home. He pretended to be the prodigal son returned home after he noticed in a photograph that he shared some physical resemblance to the boy. With the murders not solved for another several months, he had this brief window during the summer of 2008 to live the good life (by the standards of a runaway) as the latest member of the Collins family. The police, seeking to find some brief respite of positive representation in the media, jumped upon this story. It was one less murder mystery for them to solve.

The problem was that the mother knew her son and refused to go along with the sham. Since this was the 1920s and women were presumed to be hysterical fools, no one would listen to her. Instead, when they failed to shut her up, they decided to lock her away. For ten days, Christine Collins was stuck in the miserable Hell that is an insane asylum all because she could tell the difference between Walter Collins and Arthur Hutchins, Jr. In October of that year, an investigation was launched into the unlawful detention of Ms. Collins, leading to public outrage when the officer responsible was cleared of wrong-doing. In July of 1929, she would get her revenge when she had her day in court, suing the police department for $55,100 in damages, a gigantic amount by the standards of the day.

Clint Eastwood, the director who may do no wrong, is poised to make a movie based on the plight of Christine Collins, and its Cannes reception is indicative of a major end-of-year awards winner. Changeling is considered a spiritual successor of sorts to the similarly themed 2003 release, Mystic River, which also told the story surrounding a community’s search for a missing child. Eastwood was not the first choice to direct this film, as it was originally intended to be a Ron Howard project. Opie chose to do Frost/Nixon then a sequel to The Da Vinci Code before this project, however, so Universal Pictures chose not to wait. The fast tracking of the project meant that they needed a director who could get a project done quickly, and that description fits no one else in the world as well as it does Eastwood.

Angelina Jolie has been cast in the title role, considered one of the best parts for an actress in the past decade. She’s already been pin-pointed as an Academy Awards frontrunner. Joining her in the stellar cast are John Malkovich, Amy Ryan (who has some recent experience in movies about kidnapped children), Colm Feore and BOP fave Jeffrey Donovan (watch Burn Notice or else!). Universal is already demonstrating the same type of confidence for this project that Warner Bros. had with Million Dollar Baby in 2004 as well as Mystic River in 2003. At this point, Changeling is considered to be one of the strongest awards contenders on the 2008 schedule if not the strongest. (David Mumpower/BOP)


Vital statistics for Changeling
Main Cast Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan
Supporting Cast Colm Feore, Michael Kelly, Amy Ryan, Michael Kelly
Director Clint Eastwood
Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski
Distributor Universal
Screen Count 15
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture


     


 
 

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