Monday, February 16, 2009

Oscar countdown: Day 6

So about day 9...

Hopefully by now everyone's caught on to my little gimmick of using a movie poster with the number of that day's Oscar countdown in the title. For instance, today is day 6, so I dug up a poster image for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Anyway, it was fairly easy going for most of the numbers, since I already had a movie in mind: "Seven" for 7, Dudley Moore's "10" for 10, and so on. I kind of had to cheat with 8, using Fellini's 8-1/2, but so it goes.

Nine kind of had me stumped, though. In doing a Google search, I came up with that rather amazing poster from "9". I'd never heard of such a movie, but something about it was familiar.

I put the pieces together at a Sunday showing of "Coraline." There was a preview for "9," which is being released on, you guessed it, 9-9-09. It's a visually stunning film, with a dystopian and marvelously creepy vision, about beings made out of bits of cloth fighting some kind of apocalyptic war.

What's the connection to the Oscars? I'm getting to that.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a terrible memory for names. Large parties are torture for me, because I forget new names 30 seconds after I've learned them. I take copious notes at review screenings so I can remember the names of characters, places, etc.

But my visual memory is quite good. While we were watching the preview for "9," I turned to Jean and said, "I think this is based on a short movie that won an Oscar a few years ago."

Long shot, right? And yet I was right.

Writer/director Shane Acker won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2005 for an 11-minute version based on the same characters and storyline. It also was titled "9." I only know it from the 20-second clip they show when they show you a bit of all the nominees at the Oscars. But I remember how arresting the images were, and hoped I'd get to see it someday. I haven't -- Academy Award-nominated short films are hard to get ahold of.

Filmmaker Tim Burton, who's worked on several stop-motion animation movies, obviously liked what he saw and got behind Acker to make a full-length version of his film. The results look very promising.

Swing your browser here to watch a hi-def version of the "9" trailer.

This sort of thing is not without precedent in Hollywood. For example, Billy Bob Thornton won an Adapted Screenplay Oscar for his screenplay for "Sling Blade," which was based on a short film with the same character and story called "Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade." There was some controversy at the time about it. Thornton directed the feature length version, but not the short one, so it may have been about a screenwriting credit, and thus shared glory for the Oscar. I can't remember, and my Web searches have come up for naught.

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