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This article by Kam Williams was prepared for the December 11, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

For Movie Moguls, It’s Visions of Oscars

When the magical holiday season rolls around, you can

count on finding most movie executives nestled all snug in their beds,

while visions of Oscars dance in their heads. It’s no secret that

the studios hold back their best films for December release in order

to attract the attention of the Motion Picture Academy. For some reason

— short memories perhaps — come Oscar time, Academy members

rarely consider a movie unless it was still in the theaters after

Thanksgiving.

The upcoming crop features films from many already familiar with Academy

accolades, names like Spielberg, Denzel, Scorcese, Liam, Hanks, Streep,

Nicholson, Fiennes, Redgrave, Zellweger, DiCaprio, and Benigni. But

there are also offerings from some highly-regarded hopefuls who have

never landed an Oscar nomination, such seasoned pros as Ray Liotta,

Cameron Diaz, George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Bullock, and

Hugh Grant.

In the coming weeks, word of mouth and marketing blitzes will quickly

separate the pretenders from the pretenders, but till then everybody’s

an Academy Award hopeful, even Rob Schneider for his transvestite

turn in "The Hot Chick." Don’t laugh, cross-dressing did the

trick for Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie" (1982) and Jack Lemmon

in "Some Like It Hot" (1959). And don’t count out Adam Sandler

just because he’s made the first Chanukah comedy. Remember that Roberto

Benigni won an Oscar just a few years ago for a lighthearted look

at the Holocaust.

In the Theaters:

Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights. Guess who stars in

the first full-length Chanukah feature, a musical cartoon comedy about

a wild guy who opts for community service over prison?

Extreme Ops. Action drama about a trio of extreme sports

fanatics roaming the Austrian Alps for an avalanche to ride who accidentally

cross a border and run afoul of Serbian war criminals.

Solaris. George Clooney stars in a Steven Soderbergh remake

of 1972 Russian sci-fi flick about bizarre occurrences aboard an orbiting

space station.

Treasure Planet. Disney Imax format animated feature,

a remake of Robert Louis Stevenson’s"Treasure Island," and

its 1950 movie version, updated as a tale about a boy searching for

treasure buried in outer space. `Houston, we do have a pirate.’

Just Opened

Analyze That. Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal are back

for more Mafurbia mayhem, as the "crazy as a fox" mobster

godfather is paroled from prison on the condition that he is cared

for by his ever-exasperated shrink.

Empire. Latino-flavored crime drama with John Leguizamo

as a drug kingpin trying to go legit who gets tricked by his two-timing

moll into turning all his ill-gotten gains over to a smooth swindler.

The Hot Chick. Gender-bender teensploitation flick about

a shallow, spoiled cheerleader whose karma has her awaken as Rob Schneider.

Maid in Manhattan. Mistaken identity romantic comedy with

Jennifer Lopez as a Cinderella to Ralph Fiennes’ princely politician.

Opening Soon

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Middle three-hour

installment of the simultaneously produced Tolkien trilogy taking

place in Middle Earth.

25th Hour. Eleventh-hour Oscar-qualifying run for Spike

Lee joint about the last day of freedom for a convicted drug dealer

before being sent up for seven years.

My Kingdom. Oscar-qualifying run for Liverpool-based modernization

of Shakespeare’s "King Lear," starring Lynn Redgrave and the

late Richard Harris.

Drumline. Campus comedy about a matriculating street musician

from Harlem who adds a little urban flava’ to his alma mater’s marching

band.

Antwone Fisher. Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington

makes his directorial debut with an adaptation of best-seller "Finding

Fish" about a sailor who needs help with anger management.

Gangs of New York. Star-studded, Martin Scorcese Academy Award-hopeful,

set in the mid-19th century, tells tale of power struggle between

Irish and Italian mobsters for control of New York City. With Oscar-winners

Liam Neeson, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Jim Broadbent, Oscar-nominee Leonardo

DiCaprio, plus Cameron Diaz and David Hemmings.

Star Trek: Nemesis. Tenth installment of the infinitive-splitting

franchises promises to boldly go where no man has gone before, namely,

the planet Romulus. Why? In order to prevent an alien invasion of

Earth, of course.

About Schmidt. Death of an actuary. Jack Nicholson enjoys

title role in screen adaptation of the Louis Begley best-seller about

a widowed insurance agent searching for the meaning of life while

working on his strained relationship with his daughter.

The Guys. Oscar-qualifying run for first film about the

9/11 tragedy, this adapted from a play performed near Ground Zero,

about a fire chief who had to write eulogies for his fallen heroes.

Two Weeks Notice. Two hours till smoochville. Romantic

comedy pits attorney Sandra Bullock against her overbearing billionaire

boss Hugh Grant until the two wise up and fall in love.

The Wild Thornberrys. Tame adaptation of the Nickelodeon

TV cartoon about a family of nature-lovers trying to save endangered

African species from poachers. Crisis involves daughter who will lose

her ability to talk to the animals if she reveals her secret.

Narc. Platformed, Oscar-timed rollout for grisly crime

vehicle for Ray Liotta as a vengeful, bloodthirsty Detroit detective

hunting the drug dealer who killed his partner.

Opening December 25

Catch Me If You Can. Expect an awful lot of Oscar buzz

around this Spielberg 1960s crime caper based on the real exploits

of master of deception Frank Abagnale, Jr., the youngest man ever

to make the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Star roster includes Tom Hanks,

Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Sheen, and Christopher Walken.

Pinocchio. Italian superstar Roberto Benigni directs and

casts himself as the wooden puppet who wants to be a real boy in this

update of Collodi’s 1880s classic tale.

Coming late December

Chicago. Overdue adaptation of 1975 Bob Fosse musical

features Rene Zellweger, Queen Latifah, Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas,

Richard Gere, Taye Diggs, and Lucy Liu. Tabloid Roaring ’20s tale

about a felonious flapper who lands in jail after shooting her cheating

beau.

The Hours. Oscar-eager ensemble drama with Meryl Streep,

Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Allison

Janney and token male Ed Harris. Adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s

1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about several women all influenced

by the writings of Virginia Woolf.


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