The Lovely Bones: It sounds like the big objection to Peter Jackson, as registered by crank internet commenters who granted shouldn’t be listened to much at all, is his 2005 remake of King Kong. This is completely misguided. Jackson’s gargantuan remake/tribute to/insane amping up of a classic monster movie is totally awesome, right the hell in his wheelhouse, and I’d watch it over a Lord of the Rings movie any day of the week. Jackson is great at assembling these big, massive, visually striking productions, but you’re going to be wowed more by the size and the spectacle than by the actual filmmaking technique, which tends to be more of the supersized-B-movie style. Basically, he’s George Lucas, not Steven Spielberg. No one wants to hear this because supposedly the Lord of the Rings movies are so much more sophisticated than the Star Wars prequels, but the thing is, they’re pretty much not, they’re just longer and less entertaining. But let’s not dwell on my surprising indifference to the Lord of the Rings movies. Let’s dwell on how Jackson’s more-is-more, genre-friendly style might not be a great fit for The Lovely Bones.
When I see the fantasy/purgatory/heaven world in The Lovely Bones, where a young girl turns up to watch over her family after her murder, it looks a little too extravagantly imagined, which is rarely the type of criticism I make of King Kong remakes, but of intimate, disturbing family dramas, I’m not so sure, it could be a problem. Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, on the other hand, had a handle on balancing darkness with visual invention, so there’s hope for this yet. But I at least wish someone else chose the music because I’m primed for some sub-Enya crap in that department.
Invictus: I know this looks like a Best Picture winner—Clint Eastwood directs the true story of Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) bringing his country together via rugby (played by Matt Damon), come on. But a word to the wise: when Eastwood’s movies sound like clear Best Picture fodder months ahead of time, they usually do not win. Often they are not even nominated. His winners have been the smaller, darker character studies like Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby that might seem like obvious candidates in retrospect after everyone took a gander at their old-fashioned craftsmanship, but were kind of surprising at the time. He hasn’t as much luck with bigger-canvas works like Flags of Our Fathers (overshadowed by the smaller, darker Letters from Iwo Jima) or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (overshadowed by apparently not being very good). Even the smaller-scale Gran Torino wound up empty-handed following the more obvious Changeling, possibly because awards buzz started too soon, sight unseen, in the wake of the Million Dollar Baby surprise. That said, there are ten nominees this year, and Invictus does have Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Freaking Mandela. Oh, also, it might be good, or it might be sort of clunky—that, too, is an Eastwoodian crapshoot.
A Single Man: Not to be confused with A Serious Man; this one is directed by Fashionable Male Tom Ford, who has rarely been mistaken for Joel and/or Ethan Coen. Colin Firth might get an Oscar nomination for playing a repressed gay dude mourning the death of his lover. Julianne Moore is in there, too; I feel like Julianne Moore is always playing ladies married to or in love with repressed gay dudes. This will probably be one of those movies that’s mainly worthwhile for an intensely focused and quiet lead performance, which is totally cool as long as the movie itself isn’t overpraised, and I’m not getting that vibe about this one.