Dir. Rob Marshall
(2009, PG-13, 119 min)
★ ★ ½
Nine is a watchable and intermittently satisfying film, but I’m not sure what it’s about. It’s based on the Broadway musical inspired by Federico Fellini’s famed semi-autobiographical film 8½. I saw 8½ a few years ago for a film class; I’m not sure I knew what it was about either.
Dir. Pedro Almodóvar
(2009, R, 127 min)
★ ★ ★
At first I loved the melodramatic flamboyance of Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces, but then not as much. Two hours is a long time to hold such a high level of dramatic urgency; I think the characters must get tired. Take Judit, a talent agent played by Blanca Portillo, who spends the entire running time with the kind of intense expression that’s usually accompanied by a suspense chord on a soap opera. She’s keeping a lot of secrets, and at first it’s exciting to find out the meaning behind her dread, until finally we wish she’d get them all out already.
Nominees: Richard Jenkins (The Visitor); Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon); Sean Penn (Milk); Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button); Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Winner: Sean Penn
After Mickey Rourke won the Golden Globe and delivered his touching speech, it appeared that momentum might have been shifting away from early favorite Sean Penn to the Comeback Kid. Penn’s victory at SAG put him back out front, but this is a tight two-man race.
Penn has other factors working in his favor. First, he plays a real person. Oscar is a sucker for stars transforming themselves for lofty biopics: Forest Whitaker (Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland), Helen Mirren (Elizabeth II in The Queen), Marion Cotillard (Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Truman Capote in Capote), Jamie Foxx (Ray Charles in Ray), Adrien Brody (Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist), and so on. Second, Milk has widespread Academy support that The Wrestler doesn’t have: eight nominations, including Best Picture. But watch out for Rourke if voters decide that it’s too early for another coronation for Penn, who won this award just five years ago for Mystic River.