Renowned fashion designer Tom Ford must have been chomping at the bit to make his jump into feature films, but he was smart to hold out for the right project, because it’s hard to imagine a directorial debut more perfect than “A Single Man.” Based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Isherwood, the film take place over the course of a single day as middle-aged college professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) contemplates suicide following the death of his longtime partner, who was killed in a car accident eight months prior. George spends the day reminiscing about the past, putting his affairs in order, and even enjoying a dinner date with his childhood friend (Julianne Moore) without anyone the wiser, but when one of his students (Nicholas Hoult) takes a sudden interest in his well-being, George begins to rethink his fatal plan.
Admittedly, not a whole lot happens over the course of the film’s 99-minute runtime, but it’s so visually stunning that the anemic plot isn’t a big problem. With Ford’s background in fashion, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the ‘60s-era costumes and production design are flawless, but Eduard Grau’s cinematography is the real treat, transforming the movie into a perfume ad come to life that beautifies the style and sophistication of the period. Colin Firth also delivers a career-best performance as a broken man struggling to get through the day without falling apart in front of his friends and colleagues, and Moore and Hoult offer ample support in limited roles. Though the movie does drag a bit during its final act, “A Single Man” is a poignant drama about love and loss that will serve as the perfect calling card should Ford decide to quit his day job and focus on filmmaking.
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If you compare tonight’s post to what I said on Thursday, you’ll see there were no gigantic surprises this week. Disney’s return to traditional cell animation with “”The Princess and the Frog” performed pretty much completely in line with expectations and earned a very nice, though not gigantic, $25 million over its opening weekend. So says ever jolly Carl DiOrio and also the handy dandy Box Office Mojo chart.
Clint Eastwood‘s “Invictus,” on the other hand, came in third behind the $15.4 million performance of the mega-sleeper “The Blind Side,” to earn a slightly short-of-the-mark $9.1 million. It’s worth noting that the politically-tinged Eastwood film was in a smaller number of theaters and had a very respectable average of $4,275 per screen. That is just a wee bit short of the more commercially successful Sandra Bullock vehicle, which is also a racially themed, fact-based, inspirational sports tale.
Otherwise, recent releases held on in more or less typical ways and there really wasn’t anything too exciting happening. In particular, there where no big break-outs among limited release films. The latest new entry into the late-year Oscar sweepstakes, the festival hit, “A Single Man,” did fine on its opening week in nine theaters earning $216,000, but the directorial debut of clothes designer Tom Ford, based on a book by Christopher Isherwood, will probably need some bigger awards buzz than its currently getting if it’s going to break out of the arthouse ghetto even a little bit.
“The Lovely Bones,” however, managed the week’s biggest per-screen average of $38,000. However, that was only at three theaters. Considering the film’s very disappointing critical performance and its dark subject matter, its commercial prospects still seem even dimmer than it’s awards prospects. Indeed, it looks to be eclipsed in every way by the violent little sci-fi flick film co-writer-director Peter Jackson produced earlier this year for award-winning first-timer Neil Blomkamp, “District 9.” Still, a technical nomination or two might help “Bones” to be a less gigantic come down for Peter Jackson.
Wake up. It’s been a busy day in movie world.
* Plenty of festival happenings up are in the offing up in Toronto, the most high profile of which is the famously award-savvy Weinstein Company’s pick, for a reported $1-2 million, of “A Single Man.” This is a sort of film that would be strictly art-house fare, and low profile art-house fare at that, if it weren’t also potential Oscar fare. From fashion designer-turned director Tom Ford, it’s a drama about a college professor (Colin Firth) dealing with the death of his lover over the course of a single day in 1960s Los Angeles. The film also stars Julianne Moore and Matthew Goode (Adrian Veidt in “Watchmen“) and is based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, the openly gay mid-century English-born writer whose stories about Wiemar-era Berlin eventually became “I Am a Camera” by playwright John van Druten, which eventually became the movie and stage musicals, “Cabaret.” Variety has the details along with more about the activity surrounding a number of other new movies.
The most interesting of these to me is “Harry Brown,” which stars Michael Caine in a film that’s going to be plugged, probably inaccurately, as the Brit “Gran Torino.” I’ve always liked Caine’s movie work, but he became something of a personal hero of mine while I was researching a Bullz-Eye look back at his career not so long ago. If you’ve never seen the original version of “Get Carter,” it’s important to know Caine is capable of being at least twice as tough as Mr. Eastwood or just about anyone else this side of Lee Marvin. That’s largely because he’s an extremely disciplined film actor and also probably partly because his pre-stardom life was, really and truly, no picnic. The man’s known grinding poverty, serious action in the Korean War, and the down and dirty truth of crime in his native London. His acting only gets better as such relatively recent films as “The Quiet American” and “Children of Men” proves. This one really has my attention.
* The new head of DC Entertainment, Diane Nelson, made her rep partly as the manager of the Harry Potter “brand” for Warner Brothers. No word on whether and/or how much she was involved, but Warners is annoucing a deal with the Universal Orlando Resort for a Harry Potter theme park. Nikki Finke has the press release and videos showing the basic layout (it’s essentially Hogsmeade, the town adjacent to Hogwarts from the books and movies), as well as plugs from Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson.
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