Friday, September 18, 2009

A confluence of 9s

I'm trying to figure out if the reason there's so many movies with 9 or nine in the title this year is because it's 2009.

That seems too easy. But could it really just be a coincidence?

I saw Shane Acker's 9 on Tuesday, and it seems pretty clear that Focus Features embraced the year tie-in once they recognized it. After all, the film was released on 09-09-09. But there's no need for the chicken-or-the-egg debate to start, because Acker's film was based on an Oscar-nominated short, also called 9, which he made in 2005. Because 9 is the name of one of the characters, and the film also features characters named 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8, he could have actually changed the title with the times if that had really been his plan. But then the first movie would have been called 5, and that would have just been silly, because 5 is a relatively small character in the film.

Then there's another film this year called Nine, the latest from director Rob Marshall (Chicago), scheduled for release on November 25th. This too doesn't really seem to be specially timed for the current calendar year. In fact, this film has an extremely serpentine history that got it to this point. The original 1982 musical, with book by Arthur Kopit and lyrics by Maury Yeston, was actually based on an Italian play, and that play was inspired by a movie, Federico Fellini's 1963 masterpiece 8 1/2. Not only that, but in 2003, Nine: The Musical won a Tony for best revival, and featured the likes of Antonio Banderas and Jane Krakowski. The film features such heavyweights as Daniel Day-Lewis and Nicole Kidman. In short, with all this behind it, you'd think that its 2009 release was simply felicitous, though it's hard to be sure.

And then of course there's District 9, likely to be the box office champion of all these. Ironically, like 9, District 9 is also based on a 2005 short film by its director, Neill Blomkamp, whose first film was not called District 9, but rather, Alive in Joburg. The film operates as a (not very subtle) metaphor for Apartheid, and the title itself references a real place in Cape Town, South Africa, called District Six, which was declared a "whites only" area in 1966. One would think that the actual choice of the number 9 was somewhat random -- the movie might have just as well been District 8 or District 11.

So, just a coincidence, I guess.

One thing I can tell you: 9 was a short-ass movie. Slightly longer than its forbear, to be sure, 9 still clocked in at a mere 79 minutes. (There's that number 9 again).

"How short was it?"

Well, it was so short, I had to go to the bathroom before it even started, but decided to just hold it. That's right, I'd filled my bladder up with a Coke on the drive up, then a beer at the theater bar (I met five other friends a half-hour beforehand, expressly for this purpose), and I still said "Ah, fuck it" when I walked in to the theater and the trailers were already playing. Instead of alleviating a known need to urinate, I decided that 79 minutes was short enough to hold it.

And not only did I hold it for those 79 minutes, but I didn't even end up going until 25 minutes after the movie ended, after driving back home.

Now that's a short movie.

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