Sometimes the oldest stories are the most beautiful ones and that's certainly the case in Cold Mountain a relatively straightforward film about a couple in love during the Civil War. Momentous in its scope and stirring in its intimacy Cold Mountain powerfully weaves together the journeys of its two protagonists Inman (Jude Law) and Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) as they endure the hardships of war and await their reunion. Inman a Confederate soldier wounded in the Battle of the Crater (one of the most powerful cinematic battle scenes in recent memory) realizes as he lies in the hospital that he's had enough of fighting and he goes AWOL on a journey homeward that will take him through a series of trials not unlike those Odysseus faced in Homer's epic: He's tempted by sirens tended to by a mountain healer/shepherdess and betrayed by a mountain man he meets along the way. Through it all his thoughts are never far from the faithful Penelope whose picture he keeps with him always--the woman he left behind at the farm on Cold Mountain the beautiful Ada a true Southern belle. Regrettably Ada's schooling in the finer things in life has left her ill-prepared to care for the farm on her own as war rages across the country and the local militia known as the Home Guard wreaks havoc on the home front it's supposed to be protecting. Longing for Inman and weary of the struggle to survive Ada welcomes the help of Ruby Thewes (Renee Zellweger) a spunky hellcat of a farm girl whose friendship and common sense spark Ada's transformation into a self-reliant woman.
Law's Inman a man of few words is a study in silent intensity--there's not a woman alive who would question why Ada loves him despite his rough exterior and slightly odd ways. Kidman's Ada too has a quiet energy and a porcelain beauty that belies the tough stuff she eventually discovers under the ringlets and hoop skirts. Taken separately each performance is flawless; together the chemistry between Kidman and Law is breathtaking. There's no question the leads in this film deserve Academy Award nominations but Renee Zellweger absolutely steals the show with her magical Ruby--she should without doubt walk away statue in hand. Every moment her feisty loudmouthed character is on the screen is an absolute pleasure whether she's sharing her homespun wisdom threatening the Home Guard nasties or worrying about a cow's overfull udder. Philip Seymour Hoffman who's regrettably not getting much Oscar buzz also deserves a mention--he's a wicked hoot as Inman's traveling companion the defrocked (literally) preacher Veasey--and Brendan Gleeson has a nice turn as Ruby's fiddle-playing roustabout father Stobrod. Look also for the elfin Jack White of the trendy White Stripes who's featured prominently on the soundtrack as another of the musicians.
Anthony Minghella has developed a reputation as a director and screenwriter who can take a gorgeous literary book and make it an even better film. The trend started with his Oscar-winning 1996 version of Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient continued with a rendition of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1999 (which also featured Law and Hoffman) and culminates with this masterful adaptation of Charles Frazier's critically acclaimed Cold Mountain which reunites Minghella with his production team from those films including director of photography John Seale costume designer Ann Roth and composer Gabriel Yared. From the opening battle scene--an expansive gut wrenching gorgeous piece of photography from Seale (The English Patient Mr. Ripley)--to the final snowy moments atop Cold Mountain the story captivates the characters seduce and the vast panoramic mountain landscapes (shot in Romania South Carolina and Virginia) inspire. Roth's rich costumes lend even more depth to the visual display and a fantastic score from Yared (produced by T-Bone Burnett of O Brother Where Art Thou? fame) perfectly punctuates the action. Listen too for Sting's moving song "You Will Be My Ain True Love " performed by Alison Krauss and Sting as the end credits roll.
A bounty of buzz-heavy, star-studded new releases will kick off the countdown to Christmas this year, promising something different and special each day of the week.
The holiday movie bonanza commences Tuesday with the limited release of Sony's "Girl, Interrupted." Adapted from Susanna Kaysen's critically acclaimed memoir, the film stars Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie as two iconoclastic young women confined to a mental institution.
Lifting the box office spirit Wednesday are three wildly anticipated films of different ilk. Taking care of the laugh department is director Milos Forman's "Man on the Moon," where funnyman Jim Carrey plays funnyman Andy Kaufman.
For those lamenting the absence of televised sports programming on Christmas, there's Oliver Stone's adrenaline-racing, testosterone-pumping "Any Given Sunday," a homage to the gritty underside of football starring Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid and Cameron Diaz.
And for the romantically inclined, check out "Snow Falling on Cedars," an entangled tale of past love and lingering emotion set in the Pacific Northwest starring Ethan Hawke and directed by Scott Hicks ("Shine").
Christmas Day will see two new wide releases: DreamWorks' family friendly comedy "Galaxy Quest" with Tim Allen playing a passe TV actor enlisted to fight aliens in real life and Paramount's much-lauded "The Talented Mr. Ripley." In the Patricia Highsmith adaptation, Matt Damon plays a gay man hired to track down wayward playboy Jude Law in Italy and ends up assuming his life.
The big names don't stop there, though. Making their debut in limited engagements are three potential award winners and potential hits for the year 2000. They are Paramount's "Angela's Ashes," Buena Vista's buddy boxing flick "Play It to the Bone" with Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson and Fox Searhlight's ensemble drama "Titus" starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange.
Here's a complete list of this week's releases.
Opening Tuesday, Dec. 21
"Girl, Interrupted" (Sony) -- "Copland" director James Mangold adapts Susanna Kaysen's best-selling autobiographical novel to the big screen. Based on the author's brief confinement to a psychiatric ward during her teens, the film follows the troubled detainee portrayed by Winona Ryder as the line between sanity and madness disintegrates. Angelina Jolie co-stars as a fellow patient.
Opening Wednesday, Dec. 22
"Any Given Sunday" (Warners) -- Al Pacino plays a head football coach facing the worst season of his career. With record losses and plunging attendance, his future with the Miami Sharks is further jeopardized by the injury of his aging star quarterback played by Dennis Quaid. Under pressure to win at any cost, the veteran struggles to maintain his integrity on and off the sidelines.
"Man on the Moon" -- (Universal) "The People vs. Larry Flynt" director Milos Forman returns with a biopic on late comedian Andy Kaufman, best known for his role in "Taxi." Jim Carrey stars as the versatile comedian as the film traces various stages in Kaufman's career. Danny DeVito co-stars as his longtime manager, and Courtney Love plays his girlfriend.
"Snow Falling on Cedars" (Universal) -- "Shine" director Scott Hicks returns with a tale of intrigue and love set in 1954 on an island in the Pacific Northwest. Ethan Hawke stars as a reporter assigned to cover the trial of a Japanese man accused of the murder of a local fisherman. Youki Kudoh co-stars as Hawke's childhood flame and the wife of the accused (Rick Yune). Based on the best seller by David Guterson.
"Onegin" (Samuel Goldwyn) -- Set in 1820s Russia, Ralph Fiennes stars as a dashing aristocrat who's brought to the countryside through his inheritance of a large estate. There, he acquaints a doting young woman (Liv Tyler) whose love he refuses. Six years later, the two meet again on vastly different terms -- he's fallen obsessively in love with Tyler while she's comfortably married to another man.
"42 Up" (First Run) -- In 1964, filmmaker Michael Apted began his marathon documentary series about the lives of a group of 7-year-olds in England, each from radically different socioeconomic backgrounds. Since then, the director has continued to chronicle the ups and downs of his subjects at 7-year intervals. The sixth installment is the latest update on these people at the crossroad of the big 42.
Opening Friday, Dec. 24
"Pink Narcissus" (Strand) -- First released in 1971, this erotic phantasmagoria returns to the screen with all its campy outrageousness intact. The cult classic follows a beautiful young man, played by Bobby Kendall, as he journeys through a series of sexual fantasies with total abandon. Throughout the experience, the youth is plagued by one great fear -- growing old and losing his looks.
Opening Saturday, Dec. 25
"Galaxy Quest" (DreamWorks) -- Tim Allen plays an over-the-hill television star in this spaced out comedy. He finds himself responsible for the fate of the planet when too-eager aliens mistake the erstwhile actor and his peers as the "Captain Peter Quincy Taggart" starship crew. Now the reluctant actors must go into space for an intergalactic showdown. Sigourney Weaver co-stars.
"The Talented Mr. Ripley" (Paramount) -- Based on the acclaimed novel by Patricia Highsmith, Matt Damon stars as the gay, chameleon-like Tom Ripley, who is commissioned to retrieve an errant playboy (Jude Law) from Italy. The simple errand turns deadly as Damon develops an unhealthy obsession with the expatriate and his girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow)."The English Patient" director Anthony Minghella writes and directs.
"Angela's Ashes" (Paramount) -- Adapted from Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, this film is a heartwarming document of the author's childhood in Ireland during the 1930s and '40s. Emily Watson ("Hilary & Jackie") and Robert Carlyle ("The Full Monty") co-star as Frank's working class parents. Directed by Alan Parker.
"Play It to the Bone" (Buena Vista) -- Out-of-work boxing rivals and friends (Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas) get the chance of a lifetime to work together in Las Vegas. Strapped for time, they hit the road with their friend (Lolita Davidovich) at the wheel. A riotous road trip ensues as the boxers scramble to make it to their big showdown.
"Titus" (Fox Searchlight) -- In this epic tale of revenge, Anthony Hopkins stars as Titus Andonicus, the Roman general who sows the seeds of vengeance when he executes the son of the enemy queen, played by Jessica Lange. The repercussions of his action are revealed when the vindictive woman becomes the new wife of the Roman emperor. Alan Cumming co-stars.
"The Cider House Rules" (Miramax) -- Directed by Lasse Hallstrom ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape") and adapted from John Irving's best-selling novel, this coming-of-age story casts Tobey Maguire as a young man who has spent his entire youth in an orphanage. Hungry for experience, he sets out to explore the world outside. Charlize Theron, Paul Rudd and Michael Caine co-star.
"Cradle Will Rock" (Buena Vista) -- Based on true events in the cultural and art scenes of 1930s New York City, this film follows various cultural workers -- including Mexican artist Diego Rivera, theater director Orson Welles and propagandist Margherita Sarfatti -- as they defend their artistic expressions in the face of political paranoia and government censorship. John Cusack, Bill Murray and Susan Sarandon co-star.
"Tumbleweeds" (Fine Line) -- Leaving an abusive boyfriend behind, single mother Janet McTeer and daughter Kimberly J. Brown head for the sunny suburbs of San Diego to start anew. Once again, McTeer swif ly enters into a destructive relationship and is tempted to look for an easy way out. However, her headstrong daughter, tired of her rootless existence, refuses to abandon her newly established life.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 9, 2000 -- Film nominations for the 52nd Annual Writers Guild Awards were handed down today, and, with few exceptions, the list was surprise-free.
The usual award-show suspects, including Golden Globe screenplay champ "American Beauty," were honored for their excellence in screenplays.
The most notable surprise nod was perhaps for Lewis Colick's adaptation for the critically lauded (but mostly overlooked) "October Sky."
One notable snub came in the form of "The Hurricane," which last month took University of Southern California's annual Scripter Award for best film adaptation. While a fast-starter on the buzz front, the movie has come under attack of late for flying fast and loose with the story of wrongly imprisoned boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.
The guild's East and West Coast voting bodies decided upon nominees. Like the Academy Awards, award hopefuls are split into two categories -- there's one for best original screenplay, one for best adaptation.
The Guild's TV and radio nominations were previously announced. Winners in all categories will be announced March 5 in dual ceremonies at New York's Plaza Hotel and the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Here's a complete look at the WGA's screenplay nominees:
BEST SCREENPLAY WRITTEN DIRECTLY FOR THE SCREEN
"American Beauty" Written by Alan Ball. (DreamWorks Pictures)
"Being John Malkovich" Written by Charlie Kaufman. (USA Films)
"Magnolia" Written by Paul Thomas Anderson. (New Line Cinema)
"The Sixth Sense" Written by M. Night Shyamalan. (Buena Vista Pictures)
"Three Kings" Screenplay by David O. Russell; story by John Ridley. (Warner Bros.)
BEST SCREENPLAY BASED ON MATERIAL PREVIOUSLY PRODUCED OR PUBLISHED
"The Cider House Rules" Screenplay by John Irving, based on his novel. (Miramax Films)
"Election" Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, based on the novel by Tom Perrotta. (Paramount Pictures)
"The Insider" Written by Eric Roth & Michael Mann, based on the article "The Man Who Knew Too Much" by Marie Brenner. (Buena Vista Pictures)
"October Sky" Screenplay by Lewis Colick, based on the book "Rocket Boys" by Homer H. Hickam Jr. (Universal Pictures)
"The Talented Mr. Ripley" Screenplay by Anthony Minghella, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith. (Paramount Pictures and Miramax Films)