Sunday, December 03, 2006

Nearing the End of the Tunnel

We've got about a month left of 2006, and only 20 major releases left for me to consider before I shift into that fifth gear of listmaking that I love so much: the Top 10 of the year, the Oscar predictions and debates, and the Nick's Flick Picks Honorees in all categories. (Here are the esteemed laureates of last year, and the year before, and the year before that.) Some people view the winter holidays as a chance to reunite with family and friends, gather 'round the hearth, feast on stuffing and gravy, or carol in the streets. Exquisite, all of these, but to me, no yuletide is complete without also sitting in the dark before a flickering screen, hemming and hawing about the five best instances of cinematic art direction I observed in the previous year, and paying too much money in cab fare during my late-December professional sideshow as I shuttle amongst the far-flung urban arthouses where the truly eleventh-hour releases are finally coming to light. Here, then, is the remainder of my list to Santa, plus four lost causes and two turtle doves which I expect will elude me, unless I'm truly in the right place at the right time.

JOY TO THE WORLD!
Inland Empire (12.15) - Come back to my cerebral cortex, Davey Lynch, Davey Lynch!
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (DVD) - The reviews couldn't have been better, but the film kept eluding me in its arthouse mini-release; now, the time has come A
Battle in Heaven (DVD) - Extremely divisive reception commercially and at Cannes, which always encourages, plus high ideological and formal ambitions B–
The Good German (12.8) - "Written by Paul Attanasio" is all they had to say; the rest is candy, but terrific candy D
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (DVD) - Technically a small-screen offering, but seems destined to emerge as one of the year's seminal film projects

HARK, THE HERALD ANGELS SING!
Children of Men (12.25) - A tendentious story is to be assumed, but the visual possibilities are exciting
Notes on a Scandal (12.25) - May not add up to much, but when two Oscar-winning actresses start jousting, and getting their Sister George on, I'm there C
Shut Up & Sing (10.27) - A promising documentary with a pointed edge and a legendary co-helmer in Barbara "Harlan County" Kopple B
The Dead Girl (12.29) - Karen Moncrieff's debut Blue Car built confidence, the cast entices, and the Indie Spirit voters took strong notice

COME, THEY TOLD ME, PA-RUM-PA-PUM-PUM
Dreamgirls (12.15) - I know the buzz is high, but the trailers aren't convincing me; still, it's not like I'll be anywhere else when this finally opens
The Good Shepherd (12.22) - Destined either to plod or to surprise, and a potentially good role for Damon
Breaking and Entering (12.8) - Risk runs high for self-involved irrelevance, but the attractive cast and estimable crew deserve a shot
The Painted Veil (12.15) - Pretty scenery, but seems like the White Countess of '06; then again, Nathaniel found much to admire
Venus (12.15) - Redgrave, O'Toole, and Michell: good enough for two hours, even if there's nothing else on offer in the film
Happy Feet (11.17) - Not on my radar for a long while, but the reviews have made a reasonably strong case C+
Letters from Iwo Jima (12.20) - Flags of Our Fathers slashed my confidence, but I suspect this one might have more to say

I WONDER AS I WANDER
The History Boys (11.22) - I was underwhelmed upon reading the play, but I'm intrigued to see the performances C
Blood Diamond (12.8) - Another great subject, doubtless on its way to trivialization C
The Pursuit of Happyness (12.15) - Will Smith's a charmer, but his vehicles so rarely appeal to me B–
Curse of the Golden Flower (12.22) - I'm sorry, but haven't we seen this movie a half-dozen times in the last half-dozen years?
Factory Girl (12.29) - Most of the cast is already dead to me, but you never know when someone will pull a Charlize '03

GEESE A-LAYING
The Holiday (12.8) - The preview trailer is pandering and shapeless, and I can't bear to watch Winslet strike out three times in one year
The Nativity Story (12.1) - I was inexplicably intrigued as the release date approached, but now I can't be bothered
Perfume (12.27) - Sure looks awfully tawdry, in several senses, but if the reviews are there, I'll show
Miss Potter (12.29) - Please kill that Oscar buzz now; Renée and I are still taking time off from each other, and I can't fathom why Ewan and Emily are content to play second-fiddle to her

NO ROOM AT THE INN?
Days of Glory (Indigènes) (12.15) - A stirring premise and good response at Cannes; how hard will the Weinstein Co. push?
Our Brand Is Crisis (DVD) - Perhaps a case history of perverted political economy to set beside The Corporation? Or at least an above-average documentary?
The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (11.17) - I didn't understand Institut Benjamenta, but the Brothers Quay are worth another stab
Sweet Land (12.1) - Adoring reviews and Indie Spirit attention for this micro-indie. Wny not give it a shot? C

Inland Empire isn't scheduled to open in Chicago until January 26, so don't expect a Top 10 before then. Especially in a comparatively fallow year, I'm not moving a finger till I see what that queer one, Mr. Lynch, has brought to the table. In the meantime, what are you looking forward to, and what are you hoping to revisit or catch up on from earlier in the year?

(Image © 2006 Universal Pictures/Strike Entertainment)

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4 Comments:

Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

you know. every year I think I'm doing better about seeing things early and every year right about this time I realize I'm fooling myself: I stop and shudder trying to imagine how to fit them all in.

Oh and you haven't seen Curse of The Golden Flower a hundred times already. Same genre yes but that's like saying you've seen Chicago if you've seen Moulin Rouge! or some such. More palace intrigue than wuxia.

Plus it's kind of a hoot if you read it as a comedy.

7:28 AM, December 04, 2006  
Blogger JavierAG said...

Great list. Personally I can't wait for:

1) Requiem
2) Perfume
3) Inland Empire
4) Good German
5) Lives of Others
6) Notes on a Scandal, for exactly the same reason as you (I don't think anyone expects this to actually be "good" if you know what I mean, but it looks like a first-rate soap opera with the Judi and the Cate. Unmissable, really).

1:54 PM, December 04, 2006  
Blogger JavierAG said...

Haha, I just realized... that's a lot of 'Germany' in there.

1:55 PM, December 04, 2006  
Anonymous goatdog said...

I'm actually most looking forward to being able to revisit Crank on DVD on January 9, sadly too late for StinkyLulu's supporting actress blog-a-thon (I wanted to write about Amy Smart). Aside from that, I'm jazzed about the Siskel's latest noir series, especially the Joseph H. Lewis ones I haven't seen yet. As far as theatrical releases, tops are Inland Empire and The Good German.

10:30 PM, December 04, 2006  

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