What WHAP Will Watch

Over at In Contention, a blog all movie buffs should read, Variety’s Kris Tapley spent the day after the Oscars posting one helluva fun column: he’s gone ahead and predicted the awards for next year. Last year, the same experiment only yielded Michael Clayton as an Oscar contender, as he missed the Coen Brothers, P.T. Anderson, and even Atonement as potential Best Picture nominees. It seems like Kris is shooting for a better performance this year, as you can tell he has researched the hell out of this column.

After reading this column, searching far too long on IMDB, and attempting a bit of research on my own, here are the 5 movies I’m most excited to see:

*** Frost/Nixon: I read the play by Peter Morgan — the screenwriter of “The Queen” — a year ago, and fell in love with the story. Somewhere immersed in the Watergate scandal was this struggle, which perfectly displays the quest for journalistic integrity and the political machine that looks to manipulate it. When the theatre version opened to rave reviews for both Frank Langella (Richard Nixon) and Michael Sheen (David Frost), a movie soon followed with the same lead characters.

Now I’m not ready to say this is a true Best Picture contender, but I’ll tell you what: if Sheen is being cast as the “Supporting Actor”, he has as good of a chance as anyone to win that Oscar — Frost is a meaty part.

*** Hamlet 2: As a huge fan of Juno in 2007 and Little Miss Sunshine in 2006, apparently feel-good indie comedies are a hit for me. If anything, it looks like this year’s big Sundance winner is “Hamlet 2”, which Focus Features paid $10 million for. It’s a no-name tale featuring Steve Coogan in the lead role, and the only appearances by actors you’ll know are Elisabeth Shue (playing Elisabeth Shue) and David Arquette. Both are in small roles, according to a less than stellar Variety review.

But it looks like Coogan acted the hell out of an interesting role — a failed actor looks to shake up a high school theatre class by staging a sequel to Hamlet. A self-realized indie comedy tailored for Shakespeare fans? Yeah, this is for me.

*** Milk: I am a fan of Gus Van Sant more than most, as both Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester were movies that resonated with me. But, c’mon, we’re 11 and 8 years, respectively, from those movies. Gus, it’s time to go. It seems like he has all his chips in the “Milk” basket, a story based on truth about California’s first openly gay elected official. Sean Penn is in the lead, the red-hot Josh Brolin signed on to play his main supporting role, and we’ll see appearances from Emile Hirsch and James Franco.

Plus, the screenplay was written by one of the writers from the HBO hit — and Bryan fave — “Big Love”. I think we can so obviously predict Penn gets nominated for the movie, but I’m hoping for more. I’m hoping this is a true Best Picture contender.

*** The Soloist: Another movie seemingly tailor-made for me. Directed by Joe Wright, who’s coming off the direction of his life, and written by Erin Brokovich writer Susannah Grant, “The Soloist” looks to be the music movie of the year. Tapley reports in his blog that Jamie Foxx has lost a ton of weight to play the “schizophrenic, homeless musician from Skid Row” who has big musical aspirations. Foxx has chosen some bad movies since his dominance in 2004, but still, add “Ray” and “Collateral” and “Dreamgirls” together, and we know this man can act.

And guess what? So can the supporting actors. While I hated Zodiac, I was the first to admit Robert Downey Jr. was fantastic. I also was Catherine Keener’s biggest advocate to win Oscar gold for her performance in Into the Wild. So two supporting acting favorites of mine, snubbed by the Academy, turn to Wright and Foxx who seem to be near peak form. This could be a big one.

*** The Dark Knight: Yeah, what, you didn’t think I was going to put it in? If I am looking forward to a single movie this year, it is the Christopher Nolan sequel and newest addition to the Batman franchise. Nolan has turned out to be the perfect director for Batman, he views the character how he should be: dark. While movies like “Superman” and “Spiderman” are fantastical, there is some truth and some realism to Nolan’s Batman that draws me in.

And, of course, Tapley writes that we have to take Heath Ledger as a serious posthumous contender for a Best Supporting Oscar. All early reports are that Ledger is fantastic as the Joker, a part that he admittedly fell too deep into.

* * * * * * *

Of course, there are many other movies that I’m looking forward to next year. “Doubt”, with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, sounds like a dandy. Brad Pitt aging backwards in David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” — an adaptation from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story — has me ready to give Fincher another chance. As a fan of Leo, the prospects of his teaming back up with Kate Winslet — directed by her husband Sam Mendes — in “Revolutionary Road” really excites me. Also, I think Benicio Del Toro is going to have a monster year as Steven Soderbergh attempts Clint Eastwood’s dream of two movies — one foreign and one domestic — about the same thing: Che Guevara. Eastwood himself will be making an appearance with Angelina Jolie in “The Changeling”. Finally, I have good feelings about another Sundance comedy, “Birds of America”, but I’m keeping that under wraps.

Really, I’m just hoping the Coens’ “Burn After Reading” — starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt — sucks. I’m officially sick of Joel and Ethan Coen. But you knew that.

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One Response to What WHAP Will Watch

  1. Jon says:

    I’m pumped for “Che,” as I’m pretty sure Ryan Gosling is taking on a big part opposite Benicio, which is a big break from his three-year streak of fictional characters.

    Also, I’m expecting big things from the Spike Jonze-directed “Where the Wild Things Are.” Tom Hanks is producing the live action/animated mix of the children’s story, and right now it’s got an absolutely stacked cast of voices: Benicio, Catherine Keener, Paul Dano, Forest Whitaker, and others.

    And lastly, Charlie Kaufman (who wrote “Eternal Sunshine”) is making his directorial debut with “Synecdoche, New York” this year — starring PS Hoffman, Tilda Swinton, Catherine Keener and Michelle Williams. It’s the story of a dude (PSH) who tries to build a life-sized replica of New York City, Sound, umm, just like Charlie Kaufman…and maybe a screenplay worth Academy gold come 2009.

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