Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Visions of Love: The Fall 2011 Movie Season

Regular readers know that I like to kick off the Fall season with a ranked rundown of what I can't wait to see, what I'm glad to see, what I'll see if I'm somehow forced into it, and what I'm dead set on avoiding. With all the September festivals revving up, including Venice and Telluride at present and Toronto, New York, and Chicago over the next four weeks, the buzz will be pouring in, piling up, and in some cases sputtering out. But as a silver chill threads its way into the Labor Day air, here's where my anticipatory fervor currently falls. Last year's version of this feature was structured in honor of Madonna. I know she's taken enough knocks this week, but nonetheless we are moving on to a different diva.

Dec. 2011: No Top Ten list till I've caught up with boldfaced titles, ca. mid-January

We Need To Talk About Kevin - If I could only buy one ticket this fall, it'd be to this
B– - Early formal rigors must buoy increasingly puerile conceptions. Ends up 30% Ramsay, 70% Sam Mendes.
A Separation - Farhadi's unreleased About Elly impressed. This sounds even better.
A– - Farhadi jewel-cuts another polygon of enigmatic conflict as both a social essay and a prism for refracting psychology
Melancholia - Wholly compelling; gather it won't matter that I abhorred Antichrist
A– - Last Days at Marienbad. Is doom a simile for depression, or disconsolate wedding a metaphor for denying imminent doom?
Drive - I've been a Refn skeptic, but who can resist stars and reviews of this caliber?
B+ - Python coiled around a gator. Lithe muscle. Violence as potential energy. Magnificent, though awe packs chaser of distaste.
Coriolanus - My favorite Shakespeare play is finally a movie! With top-form Vanessa!
B - Worthy in every respect, albeit short of great in all. Credible sprawl of unrest. Potent soundscape and images
Mysteries of Lisbon - Every word I hear about this is a kind of rhapsodic whisper

Pariah - Plot, style, reviews would entrance even if I hadn't befriended the director
B - Sly, sincere, chromatically rich revision/expansion of a strong short, addled only by some on-the-nose writing and plotting.
Martha Marcy May Marlene - Showcase for actors I adore and for hot new talents
B– - Moody Meatless Menacing Morbid Maybe Maybenot Middling Murder Mindfuck Meh Mupstatefolksaresospooky Boo
A Dangerous Method - Reviews and interviews not reassuring, but it is Cronenberg
B+ - Uneven play an albatross, but exquisitely tense images, smart acting lift it. My fav Cronenberg since eXistenZ?
Contagion - I read The Hot Zone. I like movie stars. They filmed in Evanston. Yes x 3.
B - Coolly charts interwoven ripple effects of virus and of individual moral choices. Smart, but something tepid at its core.
My Joy - I relished this so much at last year's ChiFest that I'm frothing to see it again
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Hated novel and first film but yowza, this team!
B - Sleek makeover for Larsson's obese obsession with evil. Textures, rhythms as tight as bondage gear.

Margaret - Could be really iffy, but I'm so itchy to finally see it. And that cast!
A– - Erratic, hilarious, endlessly sympathetic. Semi-wittingly a new kind of NYC film, a free-verse icon of life's untidiness.
Take Shelter - Has built up such a head of festival steam that I'm hugely curious
B– - I See Heavy Weather. Savvy casting and acting down the line, strong hold on milieu, but story idles, then collapses.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Expect to admire more than adore, but that's plenty
B - Atmosphere and ideological prisonhouse richly evoked. Momentum, insight, characterizations more erratic.
The Artist - Love how this went from "Why's that in Competition?" to global cause
B+ - An enchantment, so witty and warm in first half. Settles for just warmth in second, but I'd see it twice. Wiss plezhur.
Weekend - Gay romantic drama with sterling reviews and festival gongs? Do I dream?
A– - Sweet, sad, sexy Brief Encounter between two eligible gays plays just as well as an externalized debate within one of them
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 - Cinema as radical historiography? Yessir!
B - Extant footage impresses more than assembly, but it's potent stuff, stirring as memory and goad
Le Havre - Even non-converts to Kaurismäki are encouraged to give this a whirl
C+ - Way too "Hipster Darling takes a walk on The Blind Side" for me. An overpraised, openly laurel-seeking divertissement.

(i.e., fingers crossed for distribution)
Shame - Could hardly be more eager to follow Hunger team wherever they go
B - Vacillates between moody insight and straw-grasping. Best scene, the date, stuck in patchiest section, the middle. Mercurial.
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory - First installments strong. Gotta hang in. Is it opening?

Like Crazy - Should probably be higher, but Yelchin rarely works out for me
B - Artful précis of shaky/sturdy love between two zygotes, rocked by one dumb mistake. Equal parts skepticism and sympathy.
Albert Nobbs - I've been doubting but Telluride loves it; lauds for Close, McTeer
C - As often with García, delicacy and diffuseness reach a vague stalemate. Appealing empathy, hazily acted and scripted.
My Week with Marilyn - Williams still hard to see as Monroe, but I'm rooting for her
C– - Arc, technique, and characterizations are iffy. Does evoke some tender wisps of thin, fleeting infatuation.
The Skin I Live In - No way I'll miss it, but it's a cold inevitability. Not truly eager.
B - Shots and edits to savor, and Almodóvar's rotted-out men intrigue, but the sum feels both familiar and elusive
Young Adult - Still a Theron fan and skipped compulsory Juno backlash. I'm into this.
C - Fitfully sharp, flatly filmed, misshapen sci-fi about erratically plausible people doing things even they wouldn't do.
The Muppets - Maybe you can hold out on Kermit and Fozzie and Rowlf, but I cannot
C+ - Too stuck in Old Hat jokes, leaving too little time for cutting loose. Still, plenty of chuckles. Quick gags are best.
Gun Hill Road - Intriguing inroad into a solid-looking transgender-themed drama
Thunder Soul - Audiences rejoiced at Chicago Festival; I had a ticket but had to skip.

(i.e., still hanging around in cinemas)
Higher Ground - Vera's motive enough. Even better: serious probe of complex beliefs!
B - U.S. drama of faith minus cheap shots or Crazy Zealots, where a good woman's unsure about her family? Is it 1974??
Senna - Tim Robey and Guy Lodge have gone really strongly to the mat for this doc
B - Patently myth-burnishing and family-approved, but a kinetic mix of color, sound, movement, and story even for non-racing fans
The Whistleblower - I'm so impressed this got made there's no way I'm missing it
C - Bold courage of convictions, tough young actors, but story stutters and visual and spatial execution gets wobbly.
The Interrupters - Hometown documentary sold out all shows for two weeks at Siskel
A– - An achievement fully comparable to Hoop Dreams, with some of the year's most indelible moments and characters.
Project Nim - Intriguing; for some reason, have dragged my non-prehensile feet
B - Tests our patience with vague, imbecilic "scientists." Style rings a bit hollow. But story compels, details provoke.
The Guard - Keep hearing I might like this even if In Bruges wasn't for me
C - Enjoyable lope to Gleeson's and Cheadle's work in self-satisfied comedy. Lighting is coarse, sound anemic. Not my thing.

Warrior - Totally Team Edgerton here, but I gather Hardy and Nolte are reasons to go
B - Three hearty courses at the Steak 'n' Shake. Leonine lunges at emotion pay off even when they cheat. Edgerton best in show.
Moneyball - Again, I'm so impressed they pushed this project through I feel obligated
B - Rich dialogue, smart sound design, a great star performance, but seems more rhetorical than substantial as it unfolds
The Descendants - Never loved a Payne movie, but this one has a lot going for it
F - A total farrago. Ersatz photography, crude script, lobotomized score. Badly needs subterranean albino flesh-eaters.
Immortals - I'm a big Tarsem fan, but I hope this isn't his Watchmen moment
C - I'd like six McChickens, large fry, super-sized CGI, a gold breastplate, and a blender to go. Blood on the fries, please.
In Time - I liked Gattaca a lot, but do I want to see it a second time? Uneven cast.
W.E. - Curious about Riseborough, costumes; shamefully hoping for Royal Showgirls

The Ides of March - Even kinder reviews described just the film I'd hoped this wasn't
B– - Connects strongly with audience, flails at delivering more. Somewhere between Obama and Edwards in movie form.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Moderate trust in Daldry and savory cast
C - Pockmarked by problems, even premised on some, but takes real risks. Unafraid of emotional mess.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - Kicky trailer trumps punctuation nightmare
B– - The Passion of Tom Cruise. Even iffy jailbreak intro is OK. After? Humdingers aplenty. Bliss.
Texas Killing Fields - Curious about director and stars. Waiting on Venice word.
Paranormal Activity 3 - I liked #2, but surely getting ridonk? Catfish helmers?
Carnage - I dislike the play and distrust the casting, and yet, I won't miss it. Why?
C+ - Spry with angles. Rustles some laughs. Winslet my favorite. None of this makes the play less hollow than it's always been.
J. Edgar - Flailing star meets unreliable director in bio of a hateful character?
C - Frequent gaffes of structure, writing, and acting, but odd peaks. The mess resonates more than in other Eastwood misfires.
War Horse - Will wear my Kevlar Anti-Sanctimony Jacket and hope for the best
B+ - Wistful, moving, wise. The I'm Not There of WWI movies, refracting myth through a prism of era-specific national styles.
London Boulevard - I can't remember the reviews I've already read. A bad sign?
Hugo - Hard to imagine skipping, and maybe reviews'll be kind, but I'm not intrigued
C– - Flashbacks to Méliès studio delight, yet film feels both thin and overstuffed, sapped by poor edits, iffy acting, flat sound.
The Iron Lady - Mary Stuart proved Lloyd's credentials, but I still cringe at trailer
C– - A Portrait of the PM as a Vague Blur. Where The Queen was inertly non-dramatic, this one's vigorously noncommittal.

(i.e., late additions to fall itinerary)
Sleeping Beauty - Enticing since Cannes; I adore an Antipodean gal with a strong POV
A - Astounding control of image, color, pace. Tensions grip, enigmas fascinate. Brisseau + Buñuel + Barney ÷ Breillat.
Pina - An inspired choice for 3-D treatment; likely to impress and to inspire
A– - A glorious unbiopic, remarrying cinema to movement, its ghostly temporalities suffused with tension, pleasure, warmth, loss.
House of Tolerance - A film about fin-de-siècle semen-weepers? I'm obviously there.
3 - Not a Tykwer diehard, Venice response tepid, but scenario, cast compel
B - Comic, sexy, somewhat noodly urban fable about married couple banging same man. Tykwer regards humans fondly as loose electrons.
Tyrannosaur - I'm a Considine fan, but really this is about Colman hype
B– - Generic beats, typecast men, and some narrative extremities dull its impact. But impact it has, especially via Colman.
Silent Souls - Venice reviews were stunners, and it's sure to be one of a kind
B - Tender, enigmatic, contentedly odd elegy for a wife, a friend, a father, and a culture; like Auden meeting Kaurismäki
Rampart - Despite divisive reviews, cast and Messenger assure I'll be there
B+ - Roaring blast of paranoid Ellroyan rot, raining coarse-edged, livid-hued slivers. Sound mix, lensing, actors, edits amaze.
Into the Abyss - Herzog has grated on me lately, but this keeps winning good notes
Another Happy Day - Barkin seems proud; ensemble promising, premise less so
C - Good casting. Humor helps. Tonal swerves exciting but unwieldy. Good plane reading, except plane never takes off.
The Last Circus - Pissed off everyone at Venice except the jury; what's going on?
C - Livid, pitiless allegory, hyper-violent and jejune, in which rival maniacs break the back of easily-seduced Spain.
Elite Squad 2 - Bus 174 helmer; Tim Robey can't say enough good stuff about it
If a Tree Falls - Not on my radar till John Waters's Top 10, then Oscar shortlist
C+ - Equanimity derives from both ideological maturity and rather timid assembly. Compels as a story, but not as film.

Margin Call - Festival audiences were unmoved, but I do appreciate the effort
B– - Play material opts shakily for film to reach more folks. Camera plods, storytelling wavers, but it packs a cold sting.
In the Land of Blood and Honey - Potential for soapboxing is high, but fingers crossed
Fireflies in the Garden - Reviews are tepid, and it's been sitting a while, but Roberts!
50/50 - I'm ready for a breakthrough in my dissatisfying relationship to Gordon-Levitt
The Lady - Appreciate gumption of making it and opportunity for Yeoh. But, bad smell.
Machine Gun Preacher - Looking to critics to see if Butler pulls off game-change
Trespass - I don't usually skip Kidman, as long as reviews at least surpass Bewitched
Puncture - Iffy premise, but drew an intriguing cast (Biehn, Martin, Burton...)
We Bought a Zoo - I've been glad to keep the Crowe file closed, but I'm swayable
Blackthorn - Marginally curious for "real Western," but then I paid for Appaloosa
I Melt with You - Wow, where's Pellington been? Inauspicious release date, though.

Restless - I want to trust Van Sant, but I see hipsters with IV drips, chirping, sobbing
The Adventures of Tintin - This motion-capture stuff is so tiresome. Can I say that?
The Rum Diary - I got irritated at Depp about 10 years before everyone else did
Dream House - They make this every year. I still haven't seen the Sharon Stone one.
The Big Year - Doesn't Huston have good buzz for this? Wilson, plot scare me off
Anonymous - Redgrave points. Possible drinking game with English Dept colleagues?

Tower Heist - "We've gotta rob this guy. We're gonna need a black man for that!"
The Sitter - Not sure what's up with DGG, but I'm willing to be cajoled back
New Year's Eve - If only for the science fiction of Ludacris and Swank as a couple
Happy Feet Two - I was underwhelmed by the first, but I'll read the notices
Killer Elite - I go both ways on Statham. Mendelsohn helps. De Niro doesn't.
Dirty Girl - Still waiting for Juno Temple to charm me. Bad buzz dogging this one.
Straw Dogs - Even if I were more curious, I would have to clock the original first
What's Your Number? - Despite cult of Faris, I only got 30 minutes into House Bunny
Red State - Kevin Smith: always up for easy targets and obnoxious ways to sell 'em
Dolphin Tale - Dolphins R Cute? Is Cove guy ready to fire off some rounds?
The Darkest Hour - This year's Day the Earth Stood Still, I'm guessing. Or Skyline!
Puss in Boots - I'm clearly far from the target audience, unless it gets Boltish reviews
A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas - I've tried both films and couldn't finish either
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 - Why on earth would I start now?

Abduction - Why watch a supporting cast this tony slaving for that block of wood?
The Thing - I've never seen the original; there's no way I'm starting here
Real Steel - This looks so. dumb. I assume it must have some kind of ace up its glove?
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - Despised the last one. Is series redeemable?
Footloose - I've never seen the original; there's no way I'm starting here
I Don't Know How She Does It - I don't, either, but I'm afraid I mean that unkindly
The Three Musketeers - 20 years later, I'm still annoyed at the Chris O'Donnell one
The Father of Invention - Kevin Spacey and Heather Graham. A poison dart.
Johnny English Reborn - I ignore Atkinson at all costs. I just can't go there.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked - Only next-to-last to make a point about...
Jack and Jill - I completely, sincerely consider this an attempt on my life. What'd I do?

(i.e., catching up on DVD)
Cold Weather - 2011 title I most regret missing despite two chances; I ♥ indie oddities.
Source Code - As a Chicago boy, I shouldn't have let this pass. Plus, Farmiga!
C– - Affects smarts the way Moon did but with even squishier center and greater sense of stalling out on its own concepts
Fast Five - Worth catching both for action choreography and sociological reasons
B– - Ocean's Favela. Bromances no longer bristle. Livelier actors might help. But: energy high, stunts deft, edits exciting.
City of Life and Death - Premise, aesthetic not my cuppa, but reviews are paeans
Of Gods and Men - For some reason I'm expecting porridge but I refuse to just skip it
Honey (Bal) - Top prize-winner at Berlin and a Turkish change of pace from Ceylan
Rise of the Planet of the Apes - I like how enthusiasm for this has persisted all year
C - Furor eludes me. Tale and unremarkable images adhere to familiar arcs laid down in first 15 minutes.
Armadillo - I liked Restrepo but didn't love it; this sounds even stronger?
A Better Life - Strong notices for Bichir, so good so fast in Che, have intrigued me
C+ - Leans as hard on Bichir as Frozen River did on Leo, with comparable upshot: essential character work, shaky vehicle
London River - Sad this took so long. Bouchareb plus Blethyn a fascinating prospect
X-Men: First Class - Another mall flick I skipped that's really lingered for people
C - Laudable thematic ambition and revisionist brio, but very clunkily directed, visually unappealing, and preachy
13 Assassins - Despite my genre nerves, I'm still eager to see those last 45 minutes
Winnie-the-Pooh - Seemed somehow sacrilegious, but now I'm wishing I'd caught it
C+ - "Pooh left feeling unsatisfied, and a little out of sorts." Me too, Pooh. Amiable, listless pastiche of old gems.
The Double Hour - Venice prizewinner got great notices and healthy box-office
Attack the Block - Sounded fun but skippable, but cult of fans keeps growing
Bombay Beach - In somewhat patchy year for docs, this has among the best notices
B - Like a real-life George Washington, or Dark Days above ground. Aggressively directed yet very candid. Could go deeper?
Rapt - Tim Robey's admiring capsule ran like a decade ago; racking up U.S. fans
Trust - Chicago supported local boy Schwimmer, but I dawdled; Liberato intrigues
C– - Schwimmer hampers able cast with vague ideas about camera and edits, a truncated final act, and discomfort with preteen lust
I Will Follow - I'll walk a mile for a creatively self-distributing black female director
Bellflower - Sounds like I can at least expect a memorable look and an eccentric jolt
In a Better World - Despite what von Trier thinks, Oscar can't be for nothing... right?
Fright Night - Reviews were buoyant, and I need Supporting Actor possibilities
B– - Rhythmic, tonal peaks and valleys. A bit bare-bones but plenty of kick. Poots, Farrell, and Yelchin click like crazy.
Terri - I tread very carefully around Reilly but some notices were really warm
The Devil's Double - Notices veered from elated to poisonous, and I'm still curious
Sympathy for Delicious - Sounded like a truly odd duck, but that in itself is incentive
Miral - Nary a nice word has been uttered, but when you're a Redgrave completist...
Even the Rain - Water-rights drama could get pedantic but it looked enticing
Rio - I honestly have no impulse in this direction except trusted friends tell me to try

(i.e., confirmed postponements)
Wuthering Heights - I'm guessing this is Spring-bound, but a fellow can hope
ALPS - Since I'm advisedly skipping spoiler-ish reviews, please open this soon!
Miss Bala - Mexican cinema continually fascinates; reviews couldn't be stronger on this
A– - Polanski's Pianist remade as ballistic drug-war suspenser, as terrorized, evacuated lead withstands a hellish picaresque
The Deep Blue Sea - Portends sublime match of artist to vehicle, though buzz is quiet
Killer Joe - Word from Venice isn't yet in, but Friedkin, Letts bonded well last time
Safe - Does Statham think he's just making one unending film? Yakin at least intrigues.
Piranha 3DD - They deserve a prize for that title, but I doubt it'll be my $15
Wanderlust - Aniston, Rudd dead set on having "Wasted" carved on their tombstones

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Blogger James T said...

I've already done a list for the whole year but I'm so tempted to make a "fall" one to honor Barbra.

It would be something like that:

(Wo)man in love
Carnage, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Shame

Happy Days are Here Again
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Dangerous Method

Hmm this isn't working out for me.
Can I put I Don't Know How She Does It to the "Guilty" category because I might catch it at some point?
And The Dragon Girl Tatoo or whatever to the "What kind of fool" category because Mara+"nobody I trust likes the original"="Not even Fincher will do"?
But if the reviews are good..
(My writing skills amaze me...)

But the funny thing is that I am watching on youtube (good quality) Taste οf Çherry because you have it in one of your "best" or "favorite" lists and About Elly is in the "related" list. I guess I'll watch that too then!

And to conclude my Barbra kind-of-tribute, I almost don't want you to watch Carnage because you'll totally rain on my Kate parade :p
I do suspect you'll like her more in Contagion.

Anyway, thanks for the list :)

12:40 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

Stellar, hilarious write-up. That Friedkin/Letts reunion makes me wonder what Friedkin would do with August: Osage County, and how it would probably be exponentially more interesting than whoever they gt to direct it. Still, Killer Joe looks aces and the Gina Gershon role is quite plum.

And Rio is really, really not worth seeing other than some occasionally nice animation. It's racially ofensive, and it includes will.i.am in a supporting role.

(Curses on you for mentioning Obsessed and thus forcing me to listen to it on repeat for hours on end and giggle at the fact that MARIAH dissed Eminem.)

12:48 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger Glenn Dunks said...

I have so much to say about all these movies, but I'll just give little feedback on the titles I have already seen:

Drive: Perfect.
Melancholia: Haunting. Opening and final sequences are so deeply affecting.
Martha Marcy May Marlene: Screwed tight, claustrophobic despite the woodland surrounds.
The Black Power Mixtape: For a film with "mixtape" in the title, the focus on music is all of zero. Disappointing, even if it does scrounge up some fascinating doco footage.
Senna: I'd love for this to be the first documentary since Hoop Dreams to get an editing nomination.
13 Assassins: Final 45 minutes is fabulous (on the small screen though?) but rest is familiar and confusing.
In a Better World: Beir is fabulous. Obvious at times, but vital.
Rio: Surprisingly cute and fluffy.
Of Gods and Men: Slow, but rewarding.
Source Code: Big studio budget appears to have somewhat dulled the daring edge of Moon.

Seeing Red State, TTSS, The Whistleblower, The Thing and Higher Ground at local critic screenings over the next 2 weeks, too!

I pretty much agree with your rankings, although I'd bump up Piranha 3DD whilst having little interest in ALPS, Coriolanus and I haven't liked Alexander Payne's male-centric films as much as Ruth or Election so throwing George Clooney's "effortless charm" into the mix isn't really getting me enthused.

One query: Where's The Turin Horse?

1:35 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@James T: Love the Barbra attempt. Surely worth exploring. "Second Hand Rose" begging to be a category, as is "Stoney End."

Even if you can't stand Taste of Cherry, and a lot of people can't, absolutely take a chance on About Elly. The films are about as similar as Van Sant's Gerry and... an artistically mounted but mall-ready mystery-drama that I cannot readily name, because Hollywood never tries those anymore.

@Sam: So! So! SO-o-o!

I kind of can't believe John Wells scooped Osage County, either, but surely he's got more money than God, and with all the Killer Films he's helped to give us, I find it hard to stay mad at him. So far.

1:40 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Glenn: One incentive to offer this feature every year is that your responses to it are always so detailed and so joyous to have in hand. Everything you said only further amplifies my enthusiasms, especially since I wasn't expecting much music from Mixtape and I wasn't such a Moon fan, so Duncan Jones won't disappoint me as easily. Will be eager to hear your thoughts on that odd gaggle you've got ahead of you.

"Where is The Turin Horse?" is a great question for US distribs, though I suspect I know what they'll say. I'm guessing if it doesn't show at the Chicago Film Festival (line-up announced in about three weeks), my only hopes will be the EU Film Festival next March or the adventurous programmers at Facets Cinemathèque.

1:44 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger tim r said...

THE FATHER OF INVENTION - Kevin Spacey and Heather Graham. A poison dart.

Those italics are why I love you.

Still, I'd downscale those CORIOLANUS hopes bar Redgrave. And can I borrow the Anti-Sanctimony Jacket after you?

2:22 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Nick, in the meantime, We Need to Talk About Lionel Shriver's Novel. Or, you need to talk about it. I'll keep quiet. Twitter tells me you reacted against it, but I demand more than 140 characters worth of why. It might hurt me to find out, but damn it, I must!

And that's also my number one film to see this year (closely followed by my beloved Pedro, autopilót or no autopilót).

A Separation is an even more artistically mounted but mall-ready drama than About Elly. This one 'cheats' too, but more forgivably and the tension is unbearable.

I also abhorred Antichrist but I fell hard for Melancholia - there is far less masturbation here (both behind and in front of the camera) and it makes for a much more organic, bewitching nightmare.

I had some reservations regarding Martha Marcy etc (and instinct tells me you might have even more of them) but it did haunt me for days afterwards. Ditto, Take Shelter.

I think Le Havre works a lot better for Kaurismaki non-converts than it does for the acolytes. I'm more inclined towards the latter group and though I only have warm feelings about the film, it's very very familiar. (Very!)

Senna is incredibly absorbing (and he looks very good without a shirt, although of course that would be a very trashy thing to point out), but also very one-sided. The makers go to unnecessary and borderline libelous lengths to paint Prost as some sort of real-life Bond villain.

Of Gods and Men bored me shitless. I realise it's a polished, sensitively acted, prestigious undertaking that has somehow won festival cred, big box office and 80+ on metacritic. But it plays like a parody of noble French arthouse ventures. Method actors in priestly garb gardening for two and a half hours against an African wartime backdrop. To quote the great Homer J. Simpson: "I've seen plays that were more interesting! Honest to God! Plays!"

13 Assassins didn't wow me either. That 45 minute battle just becomes endless, and it doesn't help that the magnificent thirteen themselves are essentially interchangable. After a while, I just wanted them decapitated a little more speedily.

2:31 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger tim r said...

Glenn, you are hilarious.

2:41 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Tim: You have duly tempered my expectations about Coriolanus, but my excitement that somebody made this—and that Fiennes and Ackroyd in particular made this—is harder to snuff. He was my acting hero back when I first started "getting" Shakespeare and when I first read Coriolanus, so this is sort of a heavenly match for a much younger Flick Picker.

The Anti-Sanctimony Jacket is one-size-fits-all, and I'm happy to loan. The only problem with it is that it often doesn't work.

@Goran: All my favorite guests are showing up to my party! These are delicious and encouraging tidbits, to include the fact that I don't feel crazy for having the particular reservations I do about Gods and Assassins. Now, if only they'd combined those movies (but not their runtimes).

The Kevin novel: Every. single. sentence. just feels so arduously worked over, and though the existence of Shriver proves there really must be people who would write this way, I'm just not buying it as epistolary language. Every reason I can think of (she's passive-aggressively dazzling her husband with her eloquence, she's using all this verbal armature as a wall against the pain she's avoiding) feel like specious logic or at least elaborately over-weening choices to aspects of characterization that surely could have been managed with more economy and finesse. I admit I say all this at only 100pp in, and I'm not uncurious what will happen, but my bookmark hasn't moved in three weeks. Plus, given how intoxicating I find Morvern Callar and how much I would never want to get "inside" the head of such a mesmerizingly impenetrable character, I think I'll quite Kevin at least for now in hopes that I'll love the movie's opaque surfaces so much I'll be glad I didn't intrude upon them. Especially with such a pushy, obstrusive tour guide as Shriver.

2:47 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

* Okay, "to communicate aspects of characterization," quit and not "quite," and obtrusive and not "obstrusive." Who thinks I should go to bed?

3:34 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger GlenH said...

Source Code was okay. A nicely propulsive plot which keeps delivering revelations only a couple of minutes after you figure them out yourself and a very hard working cast. Farmiga has just about nothing to work with and she still manages to be the stand out. It's badly let down though, by some generic characters with even more generic relationships (as well as a half-hearted wave at political relevancy). (I can totally understand why Elvis Mitchell thought the academic had a pipe - he's got everything but that.)

Of Gods and Men is very different but probably in the same bracket for me. Some nice stuff in the early going (the photography in particular is really good) which gives way to some really heavy handed stuff regarding why they will stay - even as the reason for them staying (the community) recedes into the background. Also dubious set pieces take up too much time towards the end.

I'm seeing 13 Assassins this week and couldn't be more excited. (Well, unless someone let me see the new Kore-eda, but the premise on that one looks a little dubious.)

5:59 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger Colin Low said...

I can't wait for Drive, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Melancholia (all residual anticipation since Cannes, from which I've only seen the glorious Tree of Life), and Guy Lodge's Venice reports have me praying so far for Shame, Alps and Carnage (intrigued by the Waltz talk), too.

The 45-minute action scene of 13 Assassins, I'm sad to report, feels like the climactic trigger-pull of a Chekhov's Gun that the movie simply hasn't set up: improbable gates spring from nowhere, and as you then start ticking off the eponymous, indistinguishable assassins as they finally get felled one by one, you find the numbers don't compute.

8:02 AM, September 06, 2011  
Anonymous JStor said...

I've seen a few of these:

- The Skin I Live In: Absolutely batshit, even for Pedro's standards. It's fine, but nothing revelatory.
- Senna: Tim and Guy are bang on the money. My favourite film this year, and I'm not a huge fan of Formula One. The politics and the almost-Shakespearean rivalries and the editing are all just divine. Well worth it.
- Cold Weather: Really good, surprisingly understated and doesn't wear its gimmick of Sherlock Holmes in Oregon out at all.
- Source Code: Despite being an exposition dump, Vera manages to knock it out of the park. The film's OK, but Vera's really, really good in it.
- In A Better World: Preachy, yes, and a tad over-obvious, but a lot of the acting is really good, especially the kids.
- Rio: Nice and amiable enough, though nothing tops the opening montage in terms of pure visual splendour.

Love the site and love this feature... although I didn't realise the categories were Mariah songs until way too late!

11:57 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger Andrew K. said...

You already have the wheels in my head turning, turning when you say that "Coriolanus" is your favourite Shakespeare play (now I want a sequential list).

It's possible laziness on my part, but I often use these lists of your to validate my own anxieties about certain films which is one reason I'm so happy you're so happy about Margaret which I way excited for. It still amazes me just how much significance you can put into one non-sentence.

I'm quite interested to see what you'd think of a)The Whistleblower, for example, I think Weisz and Jeannette Haine as a mother of a victim are both excellent but it's not the type of performance you'd expect from the type of docu-drama. The film itself isn't what you'd expect from one of those docu-dramas (a lot more sincere than I anticipated) and b) The Devil's Double which is just an all-round strange experience, doesn't try to be fact but doesn't use itself well enough as fiction even if I think Cooper still has the potential to be fantastic (ever since he was too charming for his own good in An Education)

To continue the Barbra love, if a theme were "Taking A Chance on Love" W.E and Anonymous. In a year where we get not one, not two, but THREE Vanessa Redgrave films - how could I possibly say no to any?

(And what has Yechlin been in that's worth watching? I've only seen him in The Beaver and Fright Night. And, ummm, I'm smitten.)

3:29 PM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger Glenn Dunks said...

"Glenn, you are hilarious."

Wait, what did I say? :|

Fun fact: Goran and I saw Melancholia two seats apart.

As for Red State, which I saw last night, "Kevin Smith: always up for easy targets and obnoxious ways to sell 'em" is a perfect way to describe it. Several movies in one (the best of which is the Coen Bros-lite one that John Goodman is in; the worst of which is whatever Melissa Leo and her wig are attempting) that are all told at the exact same one note as each other. Goodman and Angorano best in show by far. BY FAR.

9:03 PM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger Tim said...

I have learned two very important things from this: one being that A Separation is from the director of About Elly, which has become one of those movies that I've never stopped thinking about even after I thought I had it all figured out, and the other is that Contagion was shot in Evanston. The first thing makes me even more excited, and for some reason the second thing makes me less excited.

I desperately wish I shared your optimism about Martha Marcy May Marlene, which looks a bit too Sundancey from where I'm sitting.

Still and all, this list has just become my primary resource for slugging my way through the rest of the year, for which I thank you with all my hear.

12:34 AM, September 07, 2011  
Blogger MD said...

You've pretty much summed up my feelings about all of these movies. I can't even say how excited I am for We Need To Talk About Kevin. I bought Morvern Callar based on your best of decade list, and it's one of my favourites now. I've already seen a few of the others thanks to our film festival, though.

Melancholia - The first half feels like von Trier playing around, bouncing Dunst off of whoever was available when they were filming. I found it infectiously enjoyable. You're not alone in hating Antichrist, but I loved this. The last shot won't leave my mind.

Martha Marcy May Marlene - Editing, screenplay and direction are just as good as the actors they're showcasing. The way they handle the structure is fascinating. Olsen is probably the best, but I was fixated by Paulson.

Take Shelter - It's not the most ambitious movie, but it was a solid B for me. My love for Chastain grows every time I see her.

Also, can I register friendly outrage and demand you watch the 1982 The Thing? I love it pretty unreservedly.

I don't know what it is this year, but I can't seem to build any anticipation at all for a lot of the year-end movies. We Bought A Zoo, Moneyball, Iron Lady, etc almost never factor into my thoughts. Hopefully the buzz will build a little enthusiasm for me as they approach. Apologies for the rambling. ;)

6:46 AM, September 07, 2011  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@GlenH: It is astonishing how often and ably Farmiga is able to do that.

@Colin: Uh oh. That's got me worried. Is this the wrong time to admit that I'm not even wild about the end of Seven Samurai, or much of anything about Seven Samurai, so I ought to think long and hard about why I'm eager for this set-piece in 13 Assassins?

@JStor: Thanks! Nice to hear some kind words for the weirdly dismissed Better World. I caught Senna yesterday and thought the film was a little too tentative about probing Senna a little more fully and too peremptory and harsh about Prost, but I did enjoy it.

@Andrew: "Sincere" is definitely the word for Whistleblower, for better and worse. I'm glad Kondracki didn't hold back from her convictions, but surely the last 10 minutes ought to have occupied a whole second half of the film? Didn't get as much shading from Weisz as I thought the film could have used.

@Glenn: That pretty much nails Red State down to "Up Out My Face" status. Even the parts you're describing as good I'm not too eager to behold.

@Tim: Coming from one of the reigning kings, with Joe Reid, of the seasonal/monthly preview genre, I'll take it! Contagion wasn't filmed only in Evanston, but we definitely had our share of flu victims splayed out on various squares.

@MD: How great to hear that about Morvern Callar! Thanks for passing that along. I know what you mean about the big Hollywood tentpoles. Beyond not being too excited, I can barely remember they exist. Whereas I'm only getting more eager for Martha... by the day.

9:46 AM, September 07, 2011  
Blogger Dr. S said...

I've seen Of Gods and Men (it's out on DVD here), and I loved it. It's very quiet, but it's also ... not quite *tough*, I'd say, but strong.

8:27 AM, September 08, 2011  
Blogger Dr. S said...

Having just read through everybody else's comments and gotten to Goran's, I'll be more specific: what I loved about Of Gods and Men is that it's a strong and focused portrayal of a monastic community, even though working out that kind of portrayal is almost necessarily going to involve making your audience watch people doing the kinds of work that monastic communities (at least the ones I know) do--cooking, gardening, working with local people, trying to make group decisions, and maintaining the structure and schedule of religious practice. Plus trying to figure out how/whether to keep doing these things against the backdrop of approaching violence. I loved how much of the film was silent, or nearly so.

8:33 AM, September 08, 2011  
Blogger JKlorfein said...

Agreed on KILLER JOE, and I'm really excited to see Gina Gershon back in a decent looking film for once. A

And while I know it's gauche to turn this forum into an fb wall, Nick, I hopez youz doing well, and I'd love to catch up and hear how you're doing.

11:51 AM, September 10, 2011  
Blogger buff said...

Now that the action flicks of summer have passed onto Netflix DVD heaven, it's now time for some serious flicks.

Will definitely see the ones you recommended.

Drive seems to be the critic's fav this season. Also an Oscar early prediction for best film.

8:49 AM, September 13, 2011  
Blogger Colin Low said...

Hey Nick - where can I find Chicago release dates for these movies, especially for stuff like Drive and Melancholia? It can get awfully insular when you live in Hyde Park (and close to Doc Films), so I need to keep myself informed as to which dates to actually leave the campus to, um, hole myself up in a first-run cinema.

10:43 PM, September 14, 2011  
Anonymous PJ said...

I am also a Lynne Ramsay convert thanks to you, Nick! I ran off to see both Morvern Callar and Russian Ark after reading your Best of 00's list, and absolutely love them both now. So highly anticipating We Need to Talk About Kevin (plus, Tilda Swinton. 'nuff said).

I managed to catch Martha Marcy May Marlene a few months ago at my local film fest (The New Zealand International Film Festival!) and it has not left me since. Ruthlessly tight structure deceptively glazed with this quiet, mesmerising surrealness. Olsen is fantastic.

9:24 AM, September 17, 2011  

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