Oooh, look! All the numbers on the calendar are the same today! It must mean ... that it's the day after September 8!
Significant or not, the symmetry evidently proved irresistible to film producer Tim Burton, whose new animated thriller 9 opened today.
And Burton's isn't the only nine-ish title in the multiplex. Cloud 9, from Germany, and District 9, from South Africa, opened last month and are still playing in some theaters. (I saw District 9, an alien-invasion movie with some very interesting twists, last weekend. Sci-fi isn't a genre I usually favor, but I give this one two thumbs up.) In June, an Israeli movie called $9.99 was released in the United States; it closed before I had a chance to see it ... or was even aware of it.
Ari Karpel of the Los Angeles Times took note of the trend a couple of weeks ago, asking (tongue in cheek), "Is the proliferation of nines in movie titles a coincidence, or could it be part of a mystical master plan?" Naturally, Karpel turned first to a numerologist:
"Nine is considered the number of endings and the number of transformation and completion," says Kay Lagerquist, who ought to know; she co-wrote the book "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Numerology." That, Lagerquist says, may explain the duration of pregnancy ("Nine months brings it to fullness, to fruition") and the number of Supreme Court justices ("Nine is the largest number, allowing you to transcend to a higher understanding").
That theory may clarify the title of the Burton movie, Karpel writes, "in which mechanical 'stitch-punk' creatures made by a scientist and named 1 through 9 are left to sort things out when Earth has been poisoned to the point that humanity is dying."
Another number theory explains Nine, the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical that was in turn adapted from Federico Fellini's 1963 film 8 ½. The film, directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), will open November 25. According to the Times story, the main character becomes creatively blocked while workng on his ninth film. Wikipedia tells it differently:
Fellini had entitled his film 8½ in recognition of his prior body of work, which included six full-length films, two short films, and one film that he co-directed. Yeston's title for the musical adaptation adds another half-credit to Fellini's output and refers to Guido's age in his primal hallucination. Yeston called the musical Nine, explaining that if you add music to 8½, "it's like half a number more."
(Why not just go all the way to eleven?)
From a branding standpoint, the nine-a-palooza poses a bit of a problem. Karpel once more:
Still, one has to wonder if all these nines aren't causing confusion in the marketplace, especially with "9" and "Nine." "['Nine'] couldn't be further from our movie" in terms of plot, explains Acker, who says there was a "conversation I wasn't privy to" among the producers of the two films, setting up a "two-month buffer" between the releases. (Neither Focus Features, which is distributing "9," nor the Weinstein Co., producers of "Nine," would comment).
Other movie and TV titles:
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)
The Whole Nine Yards (2000)
Nine Queens (Nueve Reinas) (2000)
Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986)
Nine to Five (1980; the Broadway musical adaptation, 9 to 5, closed last Sunday)
Nine Months (1995)
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959; widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made)
(Hat tip: MJF.)
Is this why we say "dressed to the nines" instead of the tens?
Posted by: Judyth | September 10, 2009 at 06:31 AM
@Judyth: The origin of "dressed to the nines" is uncertain. It was once suggested that it derived from "dressed to the eyes"--the plural of "eye" in Middle English was "eyne," and through elision "then eyne" would have become "the nine(s)." A somewhat more plausible theory is that "the nines" refers to the nine Classical Muses or the British Army's 99th Regiment of Foot, who were know for their sharp dressing. And there are other theories. See http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-nin1.htm
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | September 10, 2009 at 06:58 AM
A couple of good friends of mine were in a band called Plan 9, and some years later, The Nines.
Posted by: Mark Gunnion | September 11, 2009 at 06:30 PM
$9.99 is a fantastic film; but then again, anything by Etgar Keret is a masterpiece. I didn't care much for "9", since the visuals weren't good enough to make up for the tedious plot.
Posted by: k | September 13, 2009 at 03:02 AM