Friday, December 18, 2009

Week of Dec. 18 to Dec. 24 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

The year-end award season is heating up, and the Tropic is sizzling, with three of this year's most talked about movies opening this week.

Leading the parade is PRECIOUS: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire. Yes, that mouthful is the official title, and that's not the only thing unusual about this movie. The eponymous Precious is possibly the most non-Hollywood character ever to lead a major motion picture. She's fat, black, illiterate, abused by her mother and pregnant at age 16 from a rape by her father. But Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry think enough of her to have jumped in big time to shepherd the film's distribution. And it's been nominated for Best Picture by almost everyone, including the Golden Globes, the Independent Spirit Awards and the Satellite Awards.

The movie takes you deep into the life of this troubled girl. You'll be struggling with her and rooting for the few people who try to help her (played by Mo'Nique, Paula Patton and Mariah Carey, all of whom prove themselves to be first-flight actors). Gabourey Sidibe, a first-time actress who gives the term ingénue new meaning, is so convincing as Precious that people are shocked to discover that she's really a dynamic and popular college student.

Put PRECIOUS on your must see list. It could well be the Slumdog Millionaire of 2010.

FANASTIC MR. FOX is quite a contrast. Director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited) has turned to animation to bring us an adaptation of a classic Roald Dahl children's story. It's not Disney/Pixar animation, but rather stop-action using custom-crafted puppets and miniature sets. The details are incredible, with the animators carefully tweaking elements like the direction of the fur on a fox as he moves. Oh, I forgot to mention that the lead characters are a family of nattily-dressed foxes, voiced by George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Jason Schwartzman. As puts it, "Anderson has pulled off the most elusive of goals: He's made a nonchalant masterpiece, a movie that feels dog-eared and loved before it's even reached our hands."

MR. FOX has been nominated as Best Animated Feature by almost everyone - including Annie Awards, Golden Globes, and Satellite Awards. Another must-see, but this is the one to see with your children. You'll enjoy it, too. Please note that the movie will be shown only on Friday thru Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday it moves out to make room for.....

UP IN THE AIR, another Oscar-bound hottie from director Jason Reitman (Juno). George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate hatchet man who travels around the country firing people for employers who are too craven to do it on their own. Bingham has no life. He's more concerned with accumulating Frequent Flyer miles than relationships. Will Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), a sexy female road warrior, change this? You'll have to see the movie to find out.

This flying saga has already won Best Film from the National Board of Review, and has nominations from the Globes and Satellites, as well as a bevy of acting and directing nods.

I guess you'll need two heads next week to catch all this. And don't forget that Tuesday brings another in the live-from-Europe opera series. This time it's Verdi's IL TROVATORE, from Barcelona. Live-live in the afternoon (2:00pm) and a delayed-live broadcast in the evening.

There's more, but I'm out of room. Check for full schedules and info.

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