Bring It On: Fall and Holiday Season '09
A completely precise, most-to-least-anticipated lineup is too hard, and the previous eight years of airline travel and American government mean that I don't even know what "Code: Red" or "Code: Orange" or whatever even means anymore. So, as is my past custom, these previews of coming attractions (and repulsions) are scaled according to levels of enthusiasm that would actually make sense in the context of my life. As is equally my custom, I'll update with one-line responses as I "check" these titles off my list, and attempt to keep up with shifting release dates and fluctuating buzz.
The Day My Credit Balance is Zero
Bright Star - Shut it, "comeback" mongers; Jane has Brought It every time
B+ - Occasionally blunt, but mature and irreverent, and very moving
The Headless Woman - Come on, Chicago, come through with a release!
B - Martel's skills still dazzle, but they slide here into mannerism and vagary
The Sun - I've already waited breathlessly for four years
B+ - A few wobbles, especially early, but provocative and moving
Where the Wild Things Are - I hope it's every bit as unusual as they say
B - Snags in shape and momentum, but still an engaging wonder
Antichrist - I might be indignant, but I cannot possibly be bored
D - But I was! What's duller than shapeless, self-diluting provocation?
The Day I Meet Jessica Lange
35 Shots of Rum - Denis, Godard, Descas, Colin: I love when they hang out!
B+ - Almost too low-key, but fully controlled; great last shot
Precious - Almost in the top bracket; all my fingers are crossed
B - An odd, impassioned, erratic, well-acted film with some dubious biases
Nine - I hope it's got more depth than Chicago, but I'm already hooked
D+ - A staggering inattention to whether the audience has any reason to care
An Education - A scrumptious cast, great preview, and star-is-born potential
C - Carey charms, but no one, least of all Scherfig, pushes hard enough
A Single Man - Thanks, Harv! Now let's see what Tom, Colin, and Juli can do!
D+ - A very old boxed wine, embarrassingly masked as a $15 cocktail
Oscar Nomination Day
A Serious Man - I blow hot and cold on the Coens but love the trailer
C - An endurance trial; the Coens at their most stiffly obnoxious
The Road - Inevitably a softer beast than the book, but does that matter?
B - Lighting and music problems, but sturdy and extremely moving
The White Ribbon - The split votes persuaded more than the real raves
B - Crisp b&w imagery can't hide the diffuse, overfamiliar ideas
Whip It - I think this looks like a blast. Plus: Juliette! And Kristen Wiig!
B+ - Bright, pert, very funny, economically edited, specific to its milieu
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee - Miller's stuff usually sounds better than it is
Up in the Air - Sure seems to be affecting people; bonus point: Vera!
C - As evasive and canned as the firing rhetoric in the film
Disgrace - An adult-sounding adaptation of promising material
D - Club-footed, cruddily photographed stab at a very tricky story
Broken Embraces - I'm not as pro-Pedro as some, but I'm sure it's tasty
C - Needlessly convoluted; hard to find a new idea here
The Informant! - Hoping for inspired cheekiness, not Schizopolis
C - Tediously facetious; less revealing of character than it should be
Crazy Heart - Great cast, but I hope this trumps Tender Mercies
C - Trumps it a little, but not by much, though Bridges is great
Invictus - Just hoping it's not too, too on-the-nose with its nobility
C - Eastwood never gets past the surface, maybe because he doesn't try
The Average 3-Day Weekend
Paranormal Activity - If it's as nail-biting as they say, I'll be elated
B - Several structural flaws, but it still scared the @#$% out of me
The Messenger - Strong notices; bonus: from Velvet Goldmine co-writer!
B - Modest but moving; Foster and Harrelson are great
La danse - Wiseman's a legend, and if it's half as good as The Company...
B+ - Splendid; the To Be and To Have of ruthless artistic training
Avatar - It's just so hard to bet against Cameron, but that teaser smells
C - Fine, it "moves," but it's wispy and politically off-putting
Me and Orson Welles - Lots of great names attached, plus McKay buzz
D+ - Dim and diffuse; Linklater never gives it any point
The Average 2-Day Weekend
The Last Station - Sounds worth a look, though I'm not panting
A Woman in Berlin - Still intrigued by Nina Hoss after Yella
B - Important story, polished style, but overlong and a bit too opaque
The Bad Lieutenant... - It'll have to be the right kind of nutso
B - A bit mangy, but gets more interestingly nutso as it goes
It's Complicated - Despite Meyers' record, I'm really holding out hope
B - Kinks more than compensated by three luminous star turns
The Lovely Bones - Could be great, but premise and trailer turn me off
Amreeka - The previews and reviews are selling it to me
C+ - Well acted, some pert details, but the script is much too klutzy
Good Hair - The trailer's a stitch, and I'm interested anyway
C - Good chuckles and tidbits, but too slapdash and superficial
Bronson - Strong reviews from across the Pond; curious about Hardy
C+ - Starts out awfully and over-acted but grows oddly absorbing
Fantastic Mr. Fox - Looks like less of a real stretch than I'd hoped
C+ - It passes the time, but there's just no soul to it
The Average Workday
Big Fan - Confused by what I'm hearing; should I make an effort?
B - Homespun and limited, but savvy moments and a killer climax
Coco Before Chanel - Unsure about Tautou, but few female leads this fall
C - Good work from Tautou and Poelvoorde can't quite elevate the film
Skin - I'd get even more bent out of shape if the UK reviews were better
C - Intriguing, but pitifully disjointed and erratically acted
Brothers - Would it have killed 'em to hire a less callow cast?
The Princess and the Frog - I appreciate the gesture... but how's the movie?
B - Enough high points to count as a more than honorable try
The Young Victoria - I'm just not sure that Blunt is really working out
C+ - Actually, she and Friend do very well, but the movie's still gratuitous
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - Even in good weather, Gilliam can grate
Sherlock Holmes - Many ways to go wrong, but duds and dudes could be fun
F - A crass vandalizing of the brand, and joylessly incompetent as reimagined
The Average Cold
The Blind Side - Mayyyyyybe, unless it's limo-liberal porn
D+ - Plennnty of problems, but enough heart to squeak by
The Average Broken Face
(i.e., And I am telling you... I'm not going...)
The Other Man - If someone you love messed up, would you want to watch?
Motherhood - The dread Uma, forever trying her hand at "comedy"
Ninja Assassin - By the V for Vendetta guy? No, thanks. Really.
Couples Retreat - A genre I dislike, saddled with unenticing actors
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel - That title! [shudders]
Saw VI - Five years ago, I thought this looked like a pip. It wasn't. Go away!
Old Dogs - Only if my other option is to drown in a grain silo
Hope Springs Eternal for...
The Tree of Life - Malick + Penn + Lubezki + Desplat. Please open!
A Prophet - Reviews are dreamy, but looks slotted for February
B+ - Not unfamiliar material, but strongly acted and helmed
Vincere - Apparently has a web-stream release, but big screen?
D+ - An opulent ordeal, empty, static, and weirdly self-monumentalizing
Lovely, Still - I thought this would be a sure thing, with Best Actress so sparse
D - TV-ish at best, tacky, show-offy, and ridiculous at worst
Beeswax - Hasn't bowed in Chicago yet, so I'm hopeful
Creation - I applaud the chutzpah of a mainstream film inclined to atheism
The Vintner's Luck - I'm guessing this depends on Toronto buzz?
(i.e., I meant to go but played myself)
Import/Export - Missed out, despite my love for Lachman
Afterschool - One-night showing sold out before I could get to it
Still Walking - I should've cared more, but it just sounded so tepid
The Box - Can Richard Kelly woo me back after Southland?
The Damned United - Rooting for Sheen after Queen, less post-Frost
Zombieland - Zombie-comedy is getting weirdly rote; neat cast, though
Cloud 9 - Could be a genuine boundary-pusher; lots of strong notices
The Burning Plain - Charlize and Kim entice, but Jennifer's got the buzz
Amelia - Potential for a good story, but the trailer's so kitschy
The Fourth Kind - Wouldn't give it a thought, except the trailer's nifty
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - Who knew? Reviews are bubbly
What's the Matter with Kansas? - I've now missed the book and the film
(i.e., My eagerness has died on the vine)
2012 - So plausible at some core level, it's unseemly as entertainment
9 - I needed convincing, and the reviews didn't achieve that
The Baader Meinhof Complex - I'd hoped for edge, but no one's implying any
The Boys Are Back - Best of luck to Clive, but the trailer oozed
Capitalism: A Love Story - I'm worried he's jumped the shark
Did You Hear about the Morgans? - Review-dependent; Parker's a liability
Disney's A Christmas Carol - I'm guessing sub-Lemony, which isn't good
Il Divo - Not a huge fan of florid Italian drama, but I'll try it
Endgame - Not Beckett, sadly, but is there room for a buzzy performance?
Everybody's Fine - I can be sweet-talked, if De Niro's really "back"
Fame - I don't much care, but several friends might; I like Naughton
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell - For fortuitous personal reasons
The Invention of Lying - My only hook was Garner, and she wasn't enough
Jennifer's Body - Sounds like a missed opportunity, if even that
Katyn - Embarrassed to say, it will be my first Wajda
Law Abiding Citizen - Any film with Viola as mayor works for me
Love Happens - I never was eager, considering the titular allusion
The Men Who Stare at Goats - Promise me it's not just A-list smuggery
My One and Only - Renée buzz only lasted 5 secs! Safe to avoid! YAY!
New York, I Love You - Expecting good bits amid a lot of floss
Pandorum - It all rests on the reviews; I'm not hopeful
Paris - Sounds iffy, but Duris and Binoche have sure been on a roll
Pirate Radio/The Boat that Rocked - New title, same lukewarm reviews
Planet 51 - I'm almost sure to skip it, unless someone really goes to bat
Red Cliff - Loved Face/Off, but often bristle at Chinese action epics
The Stepfather - The original's a cult classic, and the trailer is a snooze
The Stoning of Soraya M. - Intriguing, but sounds like rhetoric > substance
Surrogates - Hate to miss a Mostow pic, but this looks so desperate
Trucker - I actually showed up and couldn't make myself stay
The Twilight Saga: New Moon - I haven't so far; why start now?
Women in Trouble - What is this? Is it for real? A real part for Gugino?
Meanwhile, Titles to Catch on DVD
12 - Some Foreign Film nominees really stink, but I'm hopeful
Adventureland - I wasn't prepared for such strong reports from friends
B - Sober and comical and nostalgic and tough: quite a combo!
American Violet - I was especially sorry to miss this in theaters
D+ - Depressingly soft-headed and hypocritical; mishandled cast
Anvil! The Story of Anvil - I've only heard affectionate responses
A - Could this be the deftest, most rounded film I've seen this fall?
The Beaches of Agnès - Hafta admit, it looked too "cutesy" for me
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) - I'm in it for Kuras but heard few raves
Everlasting Moments - Another film I especially regret missing
B - A poem in light, good perfs, a bit too self-consciously quaint
Funny People - I only heard bad reviews until too late
B - A funny, usefully stilted film about Hollywood hating itself
Goodbye, Solo - Is Bahrani the Real Deal people say he is?
B - Buoyed by its strong sense of place and a gracefully handled finale
Grey Gardens - Sure, it's TV, but I need to have an opinion
B - Unexpectedly moving; a welcome antidote to the doc's coldness
The International - Color me shocked, but I keep hearing raves
C - Bits of flash and punch, but just as often flat-footed
Lake Tahoe - Duck Season was good enough to sell me on the follow-up
B - Unabashedly slim, but some nicely wry, succinct observations
Lemon Tree - Hiam Abbass draws raves every time she shows up
B - Despite overt bias, conjures estimable feeling and tension
Leonera/Lion's Den - I had no idea this had finally opened
Life Is Hot in Cracktown - High hopes for Kerry Washington
D+ - A few moments pop, but it's all risibly pedestrian
Medicine for Melancholy - The second coming of love jones?
B - Tougher and more tender than its slimmish first impression
Orphan - Is this just Joshua again, with anti-Semitic overtones?
C+ - More sadistic, more cheats, but admirably weird, and Vera's great
Séraphine - I meant to catch this; now the LAFCA is rubbing it in
Spread - Missed in theaters, but like Mackenzie, love Heche
D+ - Vacuous, show-offy, and erratic, but yay for Heche and that toad
Three Monkeys - Intriguing, though Ceylan and I haven't sparked before
C+ - Clicks for a while, but awfully overbearing by the end
Tokyo Sonata - Strong buzz in the winter, but it passed me by
Treeless Mountain - A nice change from all the Korean genre stuff
B - Beautifully lit and empathetic with the kids' POV, if a bit soft
Valentino: The Last Emperor - This sleeper hit is getting me curious
B - Glorious clothes, vivid subject, but gauzy and a bit gross
World's Greatest Dad - Goatdog swears by this one, so I'm suddenly curious
C+ - Thrilling, scabrous fun... till the main plot kicks in