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Cinematic: Holiday Bruin Films


By David Chute

Published Oct 1, 2008 8:10 AM

In Gil Kenan's City of Ember, two teenagers race to find ancient clues that will help the citizens escape to another world before the lights go out forever in the city.

"There is no such thing as a typical UCLA movie — thank God!" Thus declared a veteran professor of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) during a recent conversation. It's a badge of honor on North Campus that no one particular kind of motion picture has ever been identified with TFT.

Nevertheless, there are certain characteristics of imagination and inventiveness, of stylishness and innovation, that distinguish upcoming movies with strong Bruin connections. Think of it as the Cool Factor, a strong personal vision that enables these filmmakers to keep on surprising us. And this holiday film season brings a slew of big-studio, offbeat and independent Bruin-connected screen gems.

The Secret Life of Bees, written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood '91 (Love & Basketball), opens Oct. 17. Adapted from Sue Monk Kidd's bestseller, it stars Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys in the story of two runaway friends adopted by a close–knit clan of beekeepers.

Animator Gil Kenan M.F.A. '02 (Monster House) transitions into live action with the sci-fi movie City of Ember (Oct. 10), based on the popular children's book by Jeanne DuPrau and blessed with a star cast that includes Bill Murray and Tim Robbins '82.

The latest, extremely raunchy comedy by TFT Visiting Professor Kevin Smith is Zack and Miri Make a Porno (Oct. 31), "a really filthy movie," explains star Seth Rogen.

For fantasy lovers, there's Twilight on Dec. 12, from director Catherine Hardwicke '84 (Thirteen) and edited by TFT Professor Nancy Richardson M.F.A. '96. The film is adapted from the hugely popular series of "young adult" vampire romances by Stephenie Meyer. Its huge following brought 7,000 delirious tweens to San Diego's Comic-Con in July to shriek in unison at smoldering British leading man Robert Pattinson, who plays the dream-date bloodsucker, Edward.

Bruin screenwriter and Oscar-winner Eric Roth '73 adapts the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Dec. 19), the tale of a man (Brad Pitt) who ages backward. The eerie shot at the end of the trailer in which Cate Blanchett, in old-age makeup, walks away from us holding onto the hand of a small boy, is one of the most striking movie shots of the season.

That image is too peculiar to be typical of UCLA in any respect but its freewheeling poetic originality. We can live with that.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno