a mini "Brothers" screening review

Tobey, Jake, Natalie and Oscar: O 'Brothers' where art thou?

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With Lionsgate understandably basking in the glow of this weekend's $1.8-million, $100,000-per-screen, record-shattering opening of "Precious," the already stratospheric Oscar buzz is likely to soar even higher.

But do they have a second contender looming in the wings, and if so, why is no blogger buzzing about "Brothers" even with its Dec. 4 opening less than a month away?

This powerful and timely story of a decorated Marine, presumed dead in Afghanistan, who comes home to great conflict within his family and within his own head, is a poignant and explosive look at the toll that combat exacts from veterans' lives. It feels especially pertinent now in the wake of the Ft. Hood tragedy and shows that war doesn't really end for some vets once they return. It's an American remake of Susanne Bier's acclaimed 2004 Danish film, "Brodre."

The pedigree of the cast is certainly impressive. There's Tobey Maguire, Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Natalie Portman, BAFTA winner and Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, Oscar nominee Sam Shepard, Oscar nominee Mare Winningham and current awards season "it" girl for "An Education," Carey Mulligan.

The Oscar pedigree of the film's director, Jim Sheridan, is also dazzling. His films have earned 16 nominations, including nods for "In America," "In the Name of the Father" and "My Left Foot." He usually writes his own scripts, but this one was adapted by David Benioff from Bier's and Anders Thomas Jensen's original.

Sheridan received a tremendous ovation Sunday afternoon when he was introduced for a Q&A after a very well-received Directors Guild of America screening. The free-wheeling director engaged in a refreshingly honest and thoughtful conversation about the film's bumpy journey to being remade.

Sheridan pointed out that he doesn't normally like the idea of remakes, but this one seemed irresistible, if full of minefields. In the end he believes it is quite faithful to the spirit of the Danish original and said Relativity Media, which financed the film, even did research screenings on Bier's movie to get a take from an American audience for help in shaping the redo. He also mentioned there were some reshoots as he tried to get a grip on what the movie should be (although he couldn't recall the exact details of what he actually reshot).

The film was finished by November 2008 but Relativity agreed to hold it for a year to get just the right release date. Sheridan says selling any film with a war theme is tricky and fall is a better time for this particular subject matter. With Summit's widely acclaimed Iraq war flick, "The Hurt Locker" opening last summer, it was probably a wise move.

Due to his strong performance, Maguire's name undoubtedly will start popping up on Best Actor lists. Oddly, Sheridan says Maguire was doubtful of his own acting in this role, though he remained dedicated to the film's message. Portman is good as well, and 10-year-old Bailee Madison, as their young daughter, Isabelle, is remarkable in every way, one of the most natural and effective child performances in a long while.

The end credits song, "Winter" by U2 could figure big time in Oscar, Globe and Critics Choice contests as well. Sheridan, who had previous experience with Bono on "In the Name of the Father" and "In America," says the band really took to the movie and worked on trying to get the song just right for about six months.

He also talked at length about two scenes that are sure to be remembered. One is a pivotal moment between Maguire and his friend (Patrick Flueger) after they are captured by the Taliban. The other is an incredibly intense dinner table scene after he returns home. Without giving too much away, let's just say it centers on Madison and a balloon.

"From my experience growing up with my own family every night, I know a lot about dinners and creating tension," Sheridan said to much laughter in the audience.

With Oscar watchers concentrating on catching the more highly anticipated, but still largely unseen December releases, "Invictus," "Nine," "Lovely Bones," "It's Complicated" and "Avatar," could "Brothers" come out of nowhere and join the hunt too?

I wouldn't underestimate the Academy's respect for Sheridan, and if Lionsgate can gain any traction for this tough little movie, it could surprise.


wait, what about Jake? :(
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