×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Helmers battle realism vs. fantastical

Film directors tackled the everyday with fantasy

This season’s directing contenders — those garnering critics’ org attention and nominations buzz — in one sense worked within two opposing categories of scope and ambition: Either they took us to a highly imagined “other world” or they planted our feet firmly on our own.

Yet both 2009 helmer groups proved to be on parallel tracks: the fabulists leavening their epics with humanity and the realists incorporating bold cinematic flair.

Avatar’s” fantastical creatures and save-the-planet ethos have been percolating in James Cameron’s head since childhood. A similar core of personal filmmaking runs through Spike Jonze’s insistence on maintaining a 9-year-old’s dark p.o.v. in “Where the Wild Things Are” or Wes Anderson’s determination to exploit stop-motion’s full emotional range in “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

J.J. Abrams reinvented the Enterprise just as Quentin Tarantino reinvented World War II, but “Star Trek” and “Inglourious Basterds” explored the same personal themes loyalty, honor, teamwork; the nobility of self-sacrifice vs. the futility of vengeance — each director had taken up in previous works.

Closer to home, Jason Reitman’s spoonfuls of wryly humorous sugar made a serious treatment of class, joblessness and career fatigue go down easier in “Up in the Air,” just as Lee Daniels’ carefully modulated dream sequences invested “Precious” with a needed dollop of hope.

While “A Serious Man” and “A Single Man” got their 1960s details eminently right, the Coen brothers’ outlandish mythological touches kept “Serious” playful, and Tom Ford’s interest in color saturation as a reflection of mood gave “Single” a singular texture.

Straddling both broad filmmaking categories, in different ways, were “It’s Complicated,” with Nancy Meyers taking up dicey issues of divorce and late-life sexuality within a jaw-dropping architectural Wonderland; and the audacious “District 9,” in which Neill Blomkamp plopped a fully imagined race of alien Prawns into a Johannesburg marked by utter docu photorealism.

If filmmakers continue to meld the constantly evolving technology with a passionate interest in the way we live now, 2009 could turn out to be a watershed year after all.

More Film

  • 76th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS --

    Film News Roundup: Glenn Close Selected for Oscar Wilde Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Glenn Close gets an honor, AFI names its Directing Workshop for Women participants and Teri Polo gets cast in a Christmas drama. CLOSE HONOR Glenn Close will be honored on Feb. 21 by the US-Ireland Alliance at the 14th Annual Oscar Wilde Awards, held at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot in [...]

  • Jason Reitman Ghostbusters

    Jason Reitman to Direct Secret 'Ghostbusters' Movie

    Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman. Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise. Reitman has also co-written a [...]

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    ‘Glass’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Universal Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Glass.” Ads placed for the superhero thriller had an estimated media value of $9.89 million through Sunday for 1,183 national [...]

  • Danny Glover

    Danny Glover Joins 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' Sequel

    Danny Glover has joined the cast of Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” sequel. His role is being kept under wraps, as is the storyline. Glover will star opposite Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, all of whom are set to return. Awkwafina is in final negotiations for a significant part in [...]

  • DJ Khaled Bad Boys

    DJ Khaled Joins 'Bad Boys' Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

    DJ Khaled has rounded out the cast of Sony’s upcoming “Bad Boys” sequel “Bad Boys for Life,” joining returning stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Khaled will also join series newcomers Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Jacob Scipio, and Paola Nuñez. Joe Pantoliano is on board to return as Captain Howard. Production is currently [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    M. Night Shyamalan's 'Glass' to Break January's Slow Box Office Streak

    No plot twist here: M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller “Glass” will dominate the domestic box office. As this weekend’s lone wide release, “Glass” looks to be the de facto choice for moviegoers during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Now the only question is: how big of an opening can “Glass” pull off? Mediocre reviews don’t [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content