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Heart attack: Jeff Bridges is the bridesmaid of acting awards. Sure, he's beloved by both the industry and audiences, and, sure, he gets noticed. Prior to this year, he'd been nominated for four Oscars, three Golden Globes, three Independent Spirit Awards, three Golden Satellite Awards, a SAG award and, hell, he even got a nod from the Teen Choice Awards for Iron Man. You know how many of those he won? Just one, the 1992 Spirit Award for his role in American Heart.
His long dry spell might change this year, because Bridges is all but guaranteed a Best Actor Oscar nomination for playing Bad Blake, a broken-down country singer with a serious drinking problem in Crazy Heart, a role that's already garnered him nods from the Globes, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Independent Spirits, SAG and the Satellites.
The first time we see Bridges in the film, he's pulling into the bowling alley where he'll be performing that night and dumping the bottle he's been using as a urinal during the long drive. The road hasn't been kind to Bad Blake, a solitary, onetime middleweight C&W singer whose protégé, Tommy Sweet (a miscast Colin Farrell), is now the big star on the circuit. These days, he's fat, broke, usually drunk and frequently a drunken asshole.
But what Bad (he goes by Bad, not Blake) isn't—and this is why Bridges is so good in the role—is mean, at least most of the time. He understands that his fans deserve a solid performance, even if it's in a crappy bowling alley or a dank bar. He tries to give his pickup bands props. His heart is surprisingly warm and, at a certain point, you understand why single mom and wannabe music writer Maggie Gyllenhaal falls for him. And he falls for her, too, and finds himself thinking that maybe he's finally found what he's been looking for.
Crazy Heart is, at its core, a clean-and-sober movie. You know his drinking is going to screw that up, just as you know that, at some point, Bad's going to have to sober up. The execution is solid, though, and the music, which Bridges performs, has a nice, old-school country feel. And yes, we've seen this role before. Robert Duvall (who served as a producer and has a small role) played it in Tender Mercies, and Mickey Rourke did the same thing in The Wrestler; both created aging, faded stars trying to find their way in the world. Will this be enough to get Bridges a walk to the podium? Duvall won the Oscar. Rourke came in second. For Bridges, playing a character whose own life would make a good C&W song, those are even odds.
Daybreakers: A virus has turned the bulk of the population into vampires, the human blood supply is dwindling and the only man who can save us is Ethan Hawke. Yes, we're doomed.
I Love You Goodbye: The latest entry in the Filipino film series at Horton Plaza.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: Terry Gilliam's latest is also Heath Ledger's last. It's a strange, fascinating and flawed piece, an examination of good (Christopher Plummer) versus evil (that'd be Tom Waits) with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law filling in for Ledger, who died midway through shooting. See our review on Page 17.
Leap Year: Apparently, here's an Irish tradition that says a guy must accept if he's proposed to on Feb. 29. So Amy Adams goes to Dublin to try to snag Matthew Goode in the year's first stupid romantic comedy.
Mr. Hulot's Holiday: A newly restored print of the Jacques Tati 1954 slapstick classic.
Youth in Revolt: Michael Cera is Nick, the antihero of this adaptation of C.D. Payne's novel, a sex-obsessed teen desperate to hook up with Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). When she rebuffs his advances, he creates Francois, a mustachioed player who is also his alter-ego.
One time only
Garbage Dreams: Documentary about three boys born into what's called the “trash trade,” living in a city literally made of garbage outside of Cairo. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
The Fall: The visuals in Tarsem Singh's film are extraordinary, but the story, about a depressed stunt man (Lee Pace) spinning tales to a hospitalized young girl, can't quite sustain them. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Short films: The Escondido Arts Partnership Municipal Gallery will highlight the work of local filmmaker Derik Faith. Screenings start at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8. Find more details on Page 11.
Black Dynamite: Sure, this new blaxploitation film starring Michael Jai White as a pistol-packing, nunchuk-swinging badass taking on The Man deserves a theatrical run. Instead, you get one chance to see it on the big screen, as it kicks off the Ken Cinema's new midnight series on Saturday, Jan. 9.
Merry Gentlemen: Michael Keaton is a down-and-out hitman hoping to find redemption in his screwed-up new neighbor, Kelly McDonald. Keaton's directorial debut never made it to San Diego, but it screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Harold and Maude: Film editor Anders Wright's favorite movie has had a recent resurgence. Death-obsessed young Harold (Bud Cort) falls for Maude (Ruth Gordon), an almost-octogenarian who's all about life. Screens at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10, at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park. Free.
Gigante: In this Uruguayan film, a grocery-store security guard falls for a janitor whom he knows primarily from watching the surveillance cameras. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Inglourious Basterds: Christoph Waltz is all but guaranteed a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in epic Tarantino's WWII revenge fantasy. The DVD's out, but it's worth seeing this one on the big screen. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Farmingville: This PBS documentary examines the murders of two Mexican day laborers in a small Long Island town. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Institute of the Americas on the UCSD Campus. Find more details on Page 11.
The Birdcage: Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are a Miami couple who have to pretend to be straight lest they freak out Williams' son's future in-laws (a terrifically uptight Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest). Presented by FilmOut, it screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Good Morning Vietnam: Another Robin Williams joint. This time, he's real-life deejay Adrian Cronauer, whose stint in Vietnam galvanized the troops and pissed off the brass. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
In Deep: The latest ski flick from Matchstick Productions screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Price Center Theater on the UCSD Campus.
3 Idiots: The enormous Bollywood comedy blockbuster finds its way into American theaters.
Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman: Dustin Hoffman narrates this documentary about Julius Shulman, the world's greatest photographer of architecture.
Sherlock Holmes: Robert Downey Jr. is great, as usual, even if his Sherlock Holmes is more brawn than brains.
A Single Man: Colin Firth delivers on the role of a lifetime in fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel: Another sign of the pending apocalypse.
Broken Embraces: The new one from Pedro Almodovar stars Penelope Cruz as the former mistress of a blind film director musing on his past.
It's Complicated: A romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. Yet another sign of said pending apocalypse.
Nine: Rob Marshall, the guy who brought you Chicago, goes back to the Broadway trough for Nine. And even though this film adaptation of a stage adaptation of Fellini's 8 1/2 stars Daniel Day-Lewis as a film director dealing with all the women in his life, it feels long, boring and lifeless.
The Young Victoria: The Devil Wears Prada's Emily Blunt stars as, well, a young Queen Victoria.
Avatar: James Cameron's sci-fi magnum opus is too long and has an inevitable love story. But, for once, when they say you've never seen anything like it, they're right. This is a film and a truly rendered alien planet that must be seen on the big screen and in 3D.
Did You Hear About the Morgans?: Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant cash in on the lack of mainstream date films this time of year.
Me and Orson Welles: Christian McKay is fantastic as Orson Welles, who's in the midst of directing and starring in his legendary 1937 production of Julius Caesar in Richard Linklater's new movie. He's so good, though, that the rest of the movie flags when he's not in it. Ends Jan. 7.
Invictus: You might think Morgan Freeman would be the perfect guy to play Nelson Mandela in a film directed by Clint Eastwood about how the South African rugby team, led by Matt Damon, united the country shortly after the end of Apartheid. You'd be wrong.
The Princess and the Frog: Two notable facts here: 1) Disney has returned to 2-D animation and 2) the new film, set in jazz-era New Orleans, features an African-American heroine. Both are admirable, but the new movie doesn't live up to the Golden Age of Disney films.
Up in the Air: George Clooney is at his charmiest (charm + smarmy) as Ryan Bingham, flown in to fire employees at companies he has nothing to do with and aspiring to little more than more frequent flier miles. He's a lock for a Best Actor nomination.
Fantastic Mr. Fox: Wes Anderson's adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic story, which features stop-motion animation and performances from George Clooney and Meryl Streep, really is fantastic.
The Road: The last time someone made a Cormac McCarthy book into a movie, No Country for Old Men won the Best Picture. And this one, about a man and his son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic U.S., won the Pulitzer. Ends Jan. 7.
The Blind Side: The book this is based upon is about the economics of football and an enormous, poverty-stricken young black man—adopted by a white family—who has the potential to be a highly paid professional athlete. So, of course, they turned it into a Sandra Bullock movie.
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire: Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry helped produce this film about an obese Harlem teen in the 1980s, which is being talked up as a Best Picture possibility.
Twilight: New Moon: Either you dismiss the Twilight franchise as being for tweens and their moms or you've been drinking the blood-red Kool-aid.
Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day: The sequel to the cult classic. This time, with more guys getting shot!
An Education: Nick Hornby of High Fidelity fame wrote the script and does a 180 by writing about a girl who desperately wants to grow up and thinks she may have found a shortcut in a good-looking charmer twice her age.
Where the Wild Things Are: Let the wild rumpus begin! Only at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
A Serious Man: The Coen brothers offer up an examination of faith that moves in mysterious ways.
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center Space Theater: After undergoing significant renovations, the Fleet is re-opening its dome Imax theater, complete with a kick-ass new screen. Films vary week-to-week. Showtimes and prices can be found at www.rhfleet.org.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: No, it's not a time warp—the love-it-or-hate-it camp classic continues its midnight run in its 37th year of release. When the lead character of the film is a transvestite scientist named Dr. Frank-N-Furter, you know you're in for some seriously trashy viewing. And, of course, this is the one movie where you want the audience shouting at the screen. Screens Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theater in Encinitas.