Wintry Mix

The holiday film forecast

Wintry Mix

Oscar Contenders


Hollywood's inability to come up with anything on their own without casting Rob Schneider or Adam Sandler in it continues apace with this Americanized version of Alejandro Amenábar's stunning 1997 feature Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes). Amenábar wowed audiences this past summer with the classic(al) spook show The Others, but his name was already familiar to many filmgoers from that previous film, which told the story of César, a bed-hopping partyboy who bounds into one sack too many when he falls for his best pal's gal and ends up spurning the advances of a deranged ex-lover, who promptly kills herself and him. Or does she? The new version reportedly hews closely to the original's vision, with Tom Cruise in the César role (here called David), the lithesome Penelope Cruz cast once again as the object of his obsession, Sofia, and Cameron Diaz essaying the crazy-jealous ex. The original was one of the most audacious and original romantic suspense films since Hitchcock's Vertigo and left more than a few folks scratching their heads over its intentional ambiguity -- was it murder or madness, love or death? Hopefully this remake, helmed by the generally excellent Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous), won't dispense with the surreal anxiety in favor of a more domestically palatable obviousness. Advance word from various and sundry test screenings has been downright rapturous, with comments coming in that Crowe's remake actually manages to surpass the original in terms of its heady mix of unease and noirish unpredictability, two suspense hallmarks that have been sorely lacking in theatres of late. With a supporting cast that includes Kurt Russell, Jason Lee, Alicia Witt, and Johnny Galecki, the triple threat of Crowe/Cruise/Cruz might end up being one of the few Americanized remakes that doesn't degrade its source material for cineplex dunderheads. And the film's tagline -- "LoveHateDreamsLifeWorkPlayFriendshipSex" -- pretty much sums it all up, for once. Consider our fingers crossed. (Dec. 14)


Ocean's Eleven ... Rat Pack Redux: Fresh off last year's Oscar win, Steven Soderbergh directs a cast of stratosphere stars who need no last name -- George, Julia, Brad, and Matt -- in this re-vision of the 1960 martini-heist pic. (Dec. 7)

The Majestic ... Funny-faced Jim Carrey pushes again for dramatic recognition in Frank Darabont's(The Shawshank Redemption) overt tribute-to-Capra period piece about a blacklisted screenwriter. (Dec. 21)

The Shipping News ... Miramax's best shot at Academy gold -- best English-speaking shot, at least -- combines the studio's usual suspects: Oscar-winning and/or-worthy talent (Kevin Spacey, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore), a dependable director (Lasse Hallström, The Cider House Rules), and solid source material (Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel). (Dec. 25)

Gosford Park ... Robert Altman's latest all-star ensemble piece, a 1930s British manor whodunnit, takes a very American jab at the British class system. (Dec. 26)

Monster's Ball ... Heath Ledger, Billy Bob Thornton, and Peter Boyle(Everybody Loves Raymond) make up three generations of executioners at a Georgia penitentiary; Sean Combs plays a death row inmate who alters their lives. (Dec. 26)

I Am Sam ... Taking its title (loosely) from Seuss' belovedGreen Eggs and Ham, I Am Sam boasts Sean Penn in a much-buzzed-about performance as a mentally impaired father fighting to regain custody of his young daughter. (Dec. 28)

Charlotte Gray ... Wartime love drives this Cate Blanchett vehicle based on the Sebastian Faulks bestseller and directed by Gillian Armstrong (Little Women). (Jan. 11)

Black Hawk Down ... Ridley Scott (Gladiator) directs an impressive ensemble cast (Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore) in a film about a U.S. military unit under siege in Somalia. (Jan. 18)

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