Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm Not Finally There...

It only took me six days into its Chicago release, but I finally saw it, and I loved it. A or A–? Not sure yet. Certainly a few cuts and images don't work, and as much as it's a movie that seems to need all of its parts, I could have done without the whole Ledger/Gainsbourg track. But I also love that the movie is bigger than all of its elements, that it's edited with such unbelievable momentum, especially for a long film with such conceptual and intellectual designs, and that it borrows liberally from so many artforms (music, photography, painting, theater, sideshow) without ever once seeming like it could have worked as anything except a movie. Such formal vitality. Such directorial confidence. Clearly one of the year's best, and clearly more to follow (probably after a second viewing).

Oh, and for those of you still waiting, the answer to Saturday's riddle was actually #5. I love The Mist, in spite of and maybe even because of its lapses into stylistic and rhetorical and narrative egregiousness—because it's a top-flight B-movie that actually draws some fuel from its limitations of technique and finesse, and the images, atmospheres, and plot twists that do work are pretty great, including one of the year's most memorable endings. So I'll explain later why I prefer it to American Gangster, to Beowulf, to Margot at the Wedding, to The Savages, to Southland Tales, to Love in the Time of Cholera, even, I'm pretty sure, to No Country for Old Men.

But not to I'm Not There. So my secret's out at the very moment it becomes passé anyway. C'est la vie.

Photo © 2007 The Weinstein Company/Killer Films

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Black Power, Indeed

As my friend put it, "This is definitely the laziest form of activism I've ever encountered," and for that reason alone, I cannot resist telling you about it. Someone apparently informed Google that 750 megawatt-hours per year (whatever that means) would be saved if Google had a black screen instead of its blinding, resource-depleting white one. In response—and whether it's a sincere or a snarky response, or both, I leave you to decide—you can now do all of your regular Googling at Blackle, and also count how much energy you and your fellow Blacklers have saved by visiting this site. To prove that it works, I Googled "Nick Davis Haynes," a future-married name that I like to indite around the web (as well as scrawl in all my spiral notebooks and on the covers of all my binders), and the first 10 responses all referred right back to me! Which ratifies the working abilities of Blackle and also serves as the galaxy's best Magic 8 Ball proving that Todd and I will one day tie the knot. (Blackle doesn't work for image searching, so our courtship pictures are, at present, unavailable.)

Enjoy your Blackling—and congratulate me, in retrospect, for having saved so many megawatt-hours for so many years at this site without even realizing that I was doing so. And go have another listen to "Blak Iz Blak" from Bamboozled, a song even more brilliantly serious/sarcastic than Blackle, and my favorite unnominated Original Song from the whole decade so far. I think we all know now where Mos Def, Mo Blak, One-Sixteenth Blak, and the rest of the Mau Mau's would be handling all of their web-searching needs.

P.S. Oops! The Bamboozled tracks are only available if you buy the whole album... but you should.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Supporting Actress Smackdown: 1955

As always, StinkyLulu is the Anna Magnani of this month's Supporting Actress Smackdown, dedicated to the tier-two ladies of 1955. He is the centerpiece, the star, the grande diva, and he make-a the prom dresses for-a all of us-a. If Stinky could actress at his own edge, I'm sure he would, but you can only be so many places at once, so he invites his own supporting cast. Nathaniel is the Natalie Wood: colorful, wicked, impassioned with his clipreel of the nominated performances. Goatdog is the Jo Van Fleet: marvelous, versatile, and brilliantly concise. His one-line captions for all five performances had me rolling on the ground. I am not accusing anyone of being the Marisa Pavan, or by all that is holy the Peggy Lee (Actress Edition), though Canadian Ken, Criticlasm, and Adam Waldowski could proudly count as the Peggy Lee (Singer Edition), beautifully carrying the tune and shaking up the rhythms of the Smackdown.

I am nominating myself as the Betsy Blair, and not just because I (alone) think she should have won. Van Fleet, as Ken sums it up especially well, is "a submerged mountain of radioactivity" in East of Eden, and Oscar should be proud of counting her among his anointed. And, as you'll see, Natalie Wood has her vehement champions. Still, to me, Blair gives her whole movie a raison d'être—Marty is just loafing along, pleasantly but unimpressively, until she arrives both to comfort and unsettle him with a persuasively wallflowery romance, a girlfriend who is both appealingly bright and almost spookily recessive, but without overdoing the "appealing," the "bright," or the "spooky" part. There's a bookish loneliness as well as an ingratiating decency to Blair's high-school chemistry teacher that I haven't often, or maybe ever, seen evoked quite this lucidly on screen. She eventually becomes a character who, like Van Fleet, is discussed more often than she is seen, and she manages to give a performance that allows everyone's competing opinions to be correct: she is wonderful, she is a threat to an uneducated mother-in-law, she is a surprising and somewhat abrupt choice to be Miss Right. The one thing she isn't, despite frequent allegations, is a "dog," but I also love that Betsy Blair lets Clara be so average in looks and demeanor, and not one of those Hollywood "wallflowers" who's really just a beauty behind big spectacles.

But why else am I the Betsy Blair? Well, again, she is the bookish nerd in the group, and I am bookish and nerdy enough to make webpages like this one, expanding my website's year-by-year archive of past viewings. (None of those other pages from the 50s are live links yet, but just you wait.) From my 1955 Oscar ballot, you'll note that Blair is the only one of Oscar's actual nominees who qualifies. Jo Van Fleet still wins, but for her gruesome stage mother in the Susan Hayward corker I'll Cry Tomorrow, not for East of Eden, though she's a close 6th for that performance. In truth, though you wouldn't necessarily know it from Oscar's list, 1955 was a great year for supporting actresses: there's Shelley Winters' obedient, sex-starved, and vulnerable widow in The Night of the Hunter and Lillian Gish's steely protector in the same film, Agnes Moorehead's acerbic and unsettled friend in All That Heaven Allows (where her slamming of a door on a vacuuming maid is the single funniest thing in Sirk), Jean Simmons' righteous reformer in Guys and Dolls, Ann Doran's angry, inhospitable, and sensationally layered wife-mother in Rebel without a Cause, and Harriet Andersson's lusty servant in Smiles of a Summer Night. Smiles didn't open in the U.S. until 1957, so in more ways than one, my ballot is impossible, but it's all about fantasy anyway.

Lastly, about Blair: she was married for many years to Gene Kelly, which is reason enough to want to be the Betsy Blair. She was later married for even longer to Karel Reisz, an important actressexual in his own right. (Screw Pete Kelly's blues; try Patsy Cline's. No, really: try 'em.) Blair was one of the first to propose and organize a non-discrimination committee within SAG and later was blacklisted for her liberal-radical convictions, which would be awful to live through but easy to admire, on principle. She apparently wrote a hell of a memoir; the reviews were mostly raves a few years ago when it came out. And speaking of books, Betsy came this.close. to being in The Hours; she filmed all of old Laura Brown's scenes opposite Meryl Streep when Julianne had to go leave to make Far from Heaven, though Stephen Daldry & Co. eventually decided that, for emotional continuity, Laura needed to be played by the same actress we'd been watching for the rest of the movie. Even if she was the world's oldest hugely pregnant woman. Which I'm fine with. Still: poor Betsy. Never could get a career break, that one. Wouldn't you love to see that footage somewhere?

And can't you see in Betsy Blair's Clara, in Marty, the possibility that she might marry Marty, but she also might leave him and cut all ties with her children to be a librarian in Canada, alone with her books and her memories? Can't you draw a pretty straight line from Ernest Borgnine's Marty to John C. Reilly's Dan, and even though Betsy isn't playing hesitation or misery in Marty—quite the opposite, in many senses—doesn't this train of thought sort of call into relief that strain of sadness and of craving for solitude that's still there, glinting and upsetting, at the heart of her warm, generous, but frightened Clara? It all comes back to how much I like her in this movie. I am not the Betsy Blair because I wish I could leave everyone I know and go seek solace among my books as a librarian in Canada; as I've just finished explaining, it's Australia that I want to flee to. But I would love to give a performance this candid and quiet and articulate and be remembered for it decades later, despite a truncated career. And if my career is ever truncated, I hope it's for the reason of firm and unimpeachable principles.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

In (Envious) Praise of Australia

Tomorrow, I'll be back on my usual beat, joining the party for another Supporting Actress Smackdown over at StinkyLulu's, and shortly afterward spilling the beans about a major surprise in my filmgoing routine. Consider, for now, that one of these things is true — which do you think it is?:
  • Oscar nom be damned, Days of Glory confuses itself into a failing grade
  • Everything works in Enchanted except Amy Adams' ballyhooed performance
  • Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams, now on DVD, trumps all comers as the year's best film
  • I'm Not There reveals itself as an interesting but maddening letdown
  • The Mist sets a new bar as the best movie of the holiday season
I'm not telling, but I'll fess up soon enough.

Meanwhile, however, the news from the real world is simply too good to ignore. Read this and tell me if you can even imagine the day when an American politician will commemorate a moment of victory with such a cascade of progressive priorities, responding to climate change, refusing the war, insisting on the maintenance of national education and health care for all. The grass looks extremely green from this barren side of the fence, and I'm sure it's all more complicated and ambiguous than it looks, but THREE CHEERS TO AUSTRALIA! May you set the standard for more of the world's democracies! (Stale Popcorn is celebrating in his new digs, with beautiful art on the walls... go drop by and share in the Aussie joy of it all.)


Monday, November 19, 2007

Queer Film Blog-a-Thon: The Joy of Life

The Joy of Life is not just the title of the movie I am reviewing for QTA's Queer Film Blog-a-Thon: it also names the sensation I feel whenever I'm watching a queer film (even, in most cases, a bad one) or writing about queer films or reading about them or just thinking about them and appreciating that they exist.

Queer movies are the most important things in my life that aren't people. They are better than food, way better than drink. For me, they rank right up there with shelter and oxygen. I applied to graduate school so that I could write about them, and I devoted my entire Ph.D. dissertation to queer cinema: an ecstatic pleasure in itself, at least insofar far as "ecstatic pleasure" is the right framing concept for dissertation writing, but also a rare case of actually realizing a clear goal without wavering, after seven years of work. That's how much devotion and renewable wonderment they inspire in me.

I teach courses in queer cinema, around seminar tables and more recently in lecture halls, and many of my most delirious moments of professional joy come from the fresh discoveries of revisiting these movies, and from the ardent and sometimes unexpected enthusiasm—and even, just as much, the frustration and bewilderment and intellectual calisthenics—that these movies inspire in my students. I love that queer movies, truly queer movies, invite the viewer to delectate in style and aesthetics while simultaneously demanding intellectual engagement and exercise. Just like my favorite people, my favorite queer movies are smart and fun, and they never stop surprising.

Anyone in academia has surely had his or her moments of worrying about the potential gulf between scholarly theorizing and everyday life, and another reason I treasure queer cinema is not only that they bridge this gulf, but that they do so by insisting on the overlaps and contradictions and seductive connections between the scholarly and the everyday, instead of diluting them so much that they can neutrally get along. Queer filmmakers were and are often the same people as queer activists, and queer theory and filmmaking have influenced and challenged each other more consistently and more explicitly than one finds in almost any other vein of contemporary cinema, especially the commercial cinema. You don't get Velvet Goldmine or Boys Don't Cry or Brother to Brother or Swoon without Michel Foucault or David Halperin or Kobena Mercer or Judith Butler, but you also don't get, say, Judith Butler without Paris Is Burning—a film that almost single-handedly clarified her field-defining arguments between Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter but also highlighted the continued controversy and ideological aporia within her own thinking.

And I love that there are always more queer movies around than we think. Well beyond the greatest hits that we all think of quickly, "queer" cuts so deep and wide as a concept, in such brilliantly category-shifting fashion, that seemingly "straight" movies, "classic" movies, even "weird" movies can turn out to be queer. Also, sexual daring and erotic insight and intellectual vitality are really inexpensive as far as filmmaking assets go, so queer cinema drives as much energy from local, university, amateur, and do-it-yourself filmmaking as it does from big crews with (comparably) big budgets. To celebrate that legacy of new talents and exciting discoveries, I wrote my review for this Blog-a-Thon about Jenni Olson's The Joy of Life, a movie that's still working out the kinks and limits of a distinctive and promising approach to form, but well worth a rental and a rah-rah for future work by this director.

Enjoy the rest of the Blog-a-Thon (I confess that ModFab's piece is already a favorite for me), thank Queering the Apparatus for hosting it, and thank all the queer films and filmmakers in this universe for giving us so much to love and reconsider and be inspired or angry or gleeful or mournful or informed or enlightened or troubled by.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

That Kind of Day

I have just finished washing and, worse, drying an entire load of my favorite work clothes as well as my Eternal Sunshine Clementine Krusczynski orange sweatshirt with, apparently, a purple pen in one of my pockets. Why, how are you?

Admittedly, this kind of where-was-my-mind and how-much-will-this-cost humiliation on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon is not quite the same thing as being caught in a hellishly intractable temporal loop, reliving the same kitschy and uncomfortable day over and over again, finding that even throwing yourself in front of a truck or off a cliff doesn't break you from the cycle. I still wouldn't recommend the day I'm having, at least so far, but having finally seen Groundhog Day for the first time in my life—and isn't that weird?—I came up with this to say about it earlier in the week. And now, as apropos as it suddenly feels, is a perfect time to share it.

(Photo © 1993 Columbia Pictures)


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Preview of Queer Attractions

Continuing yesterday's thread about inspiration, it's worth remembering that inspiration sometimes comes from looming prospects instead of past or present moments. Which is my way of hyping up the Queer Film Blog-a-thon that Queering the Apparatus, that Wilde of the Web, that passionate scholar and perfect wit, will be hosting this coming Monday. My whole Ph.D. dissertation and much of my teaching are devoted to queer cinema, so QTA knows that this blog-a-thon couldn't possibly be closer to my heart, and I love him for dreaming up this particular shindig. Since a "queer" film to me is politically invested and, even more than that, formally adventurous in a way that a "gay/lesbian" film isn't necessarily, I offer this quick review of the 1982 groundbreaker Making Love, a very earnest "gay" film that hasn't got a "queer" bone in its tastefully conventional body. I just saw Making Love for the first time and am trying to get into the habit of dashing something off after I catch things on DVD, though you know I've promised before...

Anyway: when next week rolls around, start your Manic Monday at QTA's house, and appreciate all over again one of the richest, most challenging, most politically ambitious, and most stylistically varied traditions in contemporary film!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Inspirations and Holy Encounters

Maybe it's the onset of cold or the early darkness of autumn evenings, or maybe it's all the tremors of terrible news coming from the Fed and from Wall Street, or maybe it's every single article in the newspaper: for whatever reason, I keep talking to close friends about seeking inspiration and about how we're all keeping ourselves going amid busy jobs and worries about money and anxieties about how to find the time for the relationships, hobbies, and down time that do inspire us. I'm struggling as much as anyone to keep up with what I need to do and what I want to do, and to do it all without neglecting the people who are important to me. Amidst all of this, I've been lucky to stumble upon some unexpected jolts of pure inspiration lately, and if you'll pardon me, I'd like to write about them so I can hold onto them and also share them—and to invite you to share what inspires you, either lately or perpetually.

It warms my heart that a living genius like playwright Adrienne Kennedy is enjoying a revival in New York City, and that Charles Isherwood reviewed it so lovingly. I don't live close enough to New York anymore to see it, but knowing that it's happening and reading this review inspires me.

It warms my heart that another living genius, Todd Haynes, is rolling out his new film to such a rich and ardent reception by critics and early audiences, the kind of reception that should have greeted his last musical-fantasia masterpiece. This article about Haynes from the New York Sun, written by a good friend of mine from college, enlivens me both because of Haynes' candor and eloquence within the piece and because of the eager support and articulate admiration that the article extends to him. I'm Not There opens in Chicago a week from today, and I simply cannot wait.

In an added and wonderful wrinkle, which began as a frustrating wrinkle, I had to work during the Chicago preview screening that happened last week, where Haynes appeared in person for an audience Q&A. Thankfully, the work itself was invigorating that evening—I am lucky to have a job that gratifies and inspires me—but I was still feeling sorry for myself about missing a one-to-one encounter with a personal hero. So, calling on my inner Eve Harrington, I took a bus after work to the cinema where he was finishing his Q&A, bought a ticket for a movie I wasn't going to see so I could get past the usher, planted myself outside Auditorium #9 as people started filing out, and totally cornered him at the escalator, long enough to tell him that he is a personal hero to me, that I teach queer cinema classes at a university, and that my students invariably love Dottie Gets Spanked and Safe and Velvet Goldmine and Superstar and admire his hard work in creating them. The ensuing handshake was maybe my favorite handshake in my whole life. (And afterward, because I am a cheap rat, I got my unused ticket refunded. Sorry, Michael Clayton.)

A few weeks ago, as the Chicago Film Festival wound down, I had comparable luck (and comparable Eve-ishness) and managed to introduce myself to (The Lovely) Laura Linney at the closing-night screening of The Savages. I was initially so caught-off guard by my good fortune that I couldn't think of anything to say to her, though I did geek out and realized a dream of double-hand waving at her in the same way she does to Mark Ruffalo from inside the restaurant at the beginning of You Can Count on Me. If you've seen the movie, you know what I mean. She was wonderfully cordial and approachable—she even started the conversation, since I was so obviously unable, and she signed my DVD!—but I was even more moved by her response to a question I put to her during the post-screening Q&A. I prefaced to her, so I'll preface to you: I am so touched and gratified by how devotedly this actress commits herself to stories about unique, complicated, reorganized, fractious but tender families that aren't the families we typically see on screen—in You Can Count on Me, in The Squid and the Whale, in Jindabyne, and now in The Savages—and by how adept and precise she is at communicating entire and unbelievably specific histories with her screen siblings and children and relatives. I truly don't understand how she conveys all this depth of information, these lifetimes of mutual knowledge and bonding, so I asked her whether she prefers to spend more rehearsal time than normal with actors to whom she will have to relate persuasively as family, or whether she likes instead to be surprised by these actors (since her screen families do tend to be full of surprises). I also wanted to know whether she likes to collaborate with the actors or the screenwriter or director on forming articulated, comprehensive backstories for these characters or if it's more creatively exciting for her to go only on the evidence of the script, to hold in mind whatever makes sense to her about the characters' histories, and to assume that her fellow actors are doing the same thing. Here's what she said, and I love it:

I do think some actors have a particular process that they prefer to use and that works for them on every project. I don't. I like that each piece of work is different. Sometimes, my process is completely textual, and I can do the exciting job of sitting down with every line and every action and saying, 'Okay, why this? Why does that make sense? How does that fit?' And as you probably know, sometimes the answer is in another line, but it might also be in an action the character takes earlier or later in the script, or it might be somewhere else between the lines. Sometimes the process is textual because it's all you've got; I've been on projects where maybe I haven't liked the actor so much who I have to have a family relationship with, but it's okay, because the writing has enough to go on. [Ed.: !] But at other times, things do happen collaboratively or spontaneously on the set, or you engage in a different back and forth process based on the people you're working with and the mood of what you're doing.

Because you mentioned those movies, I do want to tell you that I am very, very lucky, because my two fictional brothers [Mark Ruffalo and Philip Seymour Hoffman] truly are two of my favorite people in the whole world, and if you knew them you would see why. And now I feel like you do in a family, like you have a sort of invisible string connecting you to that person wherever you are and whatever you're doing. And I love that audiences for those films think of us that way, too. It can actually be dangerous for the acting: I felt like they were my brothers, and you can sort of fall into that easy relationship and just relate with them as people instead of keeping it about who you're playing. So you need to be vigilant.

And really, despite what I said earlier, all of those four movies you named were wonderful experiences for me, and the scripts were so great that I'm sure that's why everyone chose to do those projects, including this one [The Savages]. So – thank you!

Of course I was thrilled to be "talking" with her, even across a stage/house divide and from within a huge public audience, but I was also inspired by the generous length and detail of her answer; by the idea that people I admire really do interact and take care of each other with the kind of sensitivity and mutual joy that I feel when I watch those movies; and, too, by her willingness to take each experience as it comes and bend her own rules rather than sticking to comfort zones or insisting on A Way To Do Things. It's a lesson I've thought about a lot in the weeks since, and I'd love to emulate the flexibility and adventure of her work life as well as her personal grace and the evident blend of seriousness, responsibility, playfulness, and passion that she brings to what she does.

This is as gushy and fanboyish as it gets around Nick's Flick Picks, but like I said, 'tis the season when a little gush won't hurt anybody. In response to another recent conversation, I don't agree with the conventional wisdom that critiquing movies or artworks entails a contempt for them or an air of superiority toward them; I think if you love movies, you take it personally when they're shoddy or misused, and more than being entertained, you are grateful and rejuvenated when they're good, and you want to be able to say why, specifically, this is so. Still, having said that, it's true that I don't always make the time (and do any of us?) to express that feeling of giddiness and awe and eager impressionability that we feel in front of our role models or in front of work that stirs up our spirits.

Setting aside, then, what's been "good" or "bad" in the movies lately, when have you felt encouraged, gratified, enthused, appeased? Who has said something, in print or on air or in person, or stuck with a project, or nailed a role, or challenged themselves in a way that resonated with you and made you glad, gave you energy? Who or what do you read for this kind of inspiration? (For example, the abundance and detail and inclusiveness of the posts at GreenCine are a constant spark to me to learn more, see more, think more carefully, and share more broadly.)

Chime in below: we can all use the tips. And go see The Savages! And be there for I'm Not There, though I expect I'm preaching to the converted on both points.

(Photos © 2007 New York Times/Gerry Goodstein; © 2003 WireImage/Jason Nevader; and personal archive)

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

I Feel Pretty





I've been marketing the main site to some new audiences lately and inviting more eyes to check out my digs, so I've been busy making style and format upgrades. This process has involved buffing up my existing year indexes back to 1995 to fit the new frames-based layout of the overall site as well as adding brand-new indexes all the way back to 1984. Some of those movies are so far away from me now that it seems silly and indefensible to cling to grades I assigned more than 10 years ago. Thus, the movies are grouped in general categories: Top Ten (ranked), Fetching, Fair, Feh, and Flotsam. You'll also find (I hope) spiffy new graphics, easier navigation, and quick indexes of my own top five picks in the picture, directing, and acting races for each year. Let me know if anything seems particularly user-unfriendly.

Soon enough, I'll get on to telling you how I think No Country for Old Men has been terrifically written and terrifically directed but—here's the kicker—the styles of shooting and writing don't finally complement each other all that well. And how American Gangster is almost insistent on distinguishing itself as the least visually interesting picture Ridley Scott has ever helmed, though in its own watchably mediocre way, this may be preferable to the gratuitously fussy mise-en-scène of something like Matchstick Men. And how Lions for Lambs strains for 88 minutes to say something meaningful about The War and The Media and The Military and All Of It, and the best it scores is one spontaneous actorly aside about menopausal hot flashes. Thanks, Meryl, for tossing that in before going down with the rest of the ship. (And Goran, I know I still owe you some words about my problems with Atonement as a novel; more to follow in that Comments thread.)


Sunday, November 04, 2007

There Will Be Movies. Margot at the Movies. Movies in the Time of Cholera. P.S. I Love Movies.

Daylight savings is upon us in the U.S., we're less than a month away from Thanksgiving, it's finally cold in Chicago, and I've just seen my 100th new release of the year—as it happened, the hilariously overripe and overlit "courtroom" "thriller" Fracture. Could've planned that better. Still: after taking 8½ months to see 50 movies, I managed to see 50 more in about six weeks, and only two of them were on DVD. Consider this a plug for having a day job that invites you, that requires you, that pays for you to keep pace with your hobbies and private manias. And now, the end is nigh. We only have so many tricks and treats in store before Movie Year 2007 has shown us all it's got to offer.

In the interest of suspense, with only two months to go before it's time for Ten Best lists, I won't update or emend the midterm progress report that I published at the end of the summer. I will, however, update my viewing agenda, shuffling the categories a bit and making room for winter- and spring-quarter titles that I'm scrambling to find on DVD. If something knocked your socks off in 2007 and I haven't already seen it or listed it here, please give it a plug in the comments section. Otherwise, this is the pool... and though my year-end awards aren't as comprehensive or as devoutly followed as some people's, I hope to keep you interested as we head into the mass hysteria and delicious gratuitousness of awards season!

I'm Not There, There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men

Redacted, Southland Tales, Margot at the Wedding, Youth without Youth, Persepolis, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains (missed it), Starting Out in the Evening, I Am Legend, Darfur Now (missed it), The Price of Sugar, Atonement, Juno, Sweeney Todd, Honeydripper, The Orphanage

American Gangster, Enchanted, Love in the Time of Cholera, Charlie Wilson's War, Lions for Lambs, The Kite Runner, The Mist, Grace Is Gone

Black Book, Ten Canoes, The Exterminating Angels, I Don't Want To Sleep Alone, Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams, 12:08 East of Bucharest, Offside, Private Property, God Grew Tired of Us, Broken English, The Namesake, Fay Grim, Days of Glory (Indigènes), Crazy Love, Paris, je t'aime

The Great Debaters, For the Bible Tells Me So, The Golden Compass, P.S. I Love You (missed it), Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, The Walker (missed it), The Lookout, The Simpsons Movie


Before anyone asks, my Atonement problem springs from having read the book a week or two ago and finding it emotionally unpersuasive and arrogantly technical: it struck me that McEwan was pawning some of his own limitations as a writer onto his characters, so that his tendencies toward aridity and schematics become their foibles instead of his—symptoms of the writing passing themselves off, sometimes interestingly and sometimes not, as subjects of analysis. He spins a good yarn, with some evocative set-pieces in a French barn and a war hospital; unfortunately, though the writing is best in these passages (and because he's Up to Something, there are reasons for this), I wish the prose and the narrative logic were as gripping in the first half of the novel, where its heart seems to lie (in more ways than one!). I'm quite curious how Joe Wright will bring off certain characters and narrative turns, but the high-romantic pitch suggested by the trailer seems worrisomely wrong. Mainly Movies, who harbors the same misgivings about the book, has registered a lukewarm-at-best response to the film. I'm nervous. But I'm also compulsive, so I'll certainly see it, and I wish I could do so right. now. And if Vanessa Redgrave can do for the epilogue what she did for the prologue of Howards End, I'll have gotten my money's worth.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Trailer Heaven

From here until the end of the year, give or take a couple of exceptional performance possibilities and technical gambits here and there, I'm basically living for I'm Not There, No Country for Old Men, and There Will Be Blood, the last of which just released an unbelievably nervy and gorgeous trailer. We've all seen sensational trailers yield limping movies, but this one sure seems to augur really, really, really well, don't you think? (Yeah, really well! Ha-ha! Mwa-ha! Mwaaa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaa....!!!)

(Photo © 2007 Paramount Vantage/Miramax Films)