Friday, September 10, 2010

I'm Breathless: Fall/Holiday Season 2010

One more early fall tradition, and then we can actually get on with things! Typically, after The Fifties have passed, I provide a sort of almanac of what I'm eagerly anticipating, less eagerly anticipating, and not so much anticipating in the coming months—perpetually ballyhooed as the season when "all the good movies" open, though I think regular readers will know how seriously I take that adage. Probably Nine and The Lovely Bones cemented that point on my behalf last year (sorry, Andrew!), even though I was anticipating them as much as anyone. With Telluride and Venice both having kicked off and Toronto set to go commence momentarily (or maybe by the time this post goes live, it will have?), we're starting to hear a little more about several of these titles, and the release calendar is always volatile, so of course these classifications are subject to change. But I'm always surprised how much readers respond to this list, it's a fair confession of my early biases, and it's a handy one-sheet for me. So, with a somewhat arbitrary tip of the hat to Madonna...

White Material - Easily one of our greatest filmmakers and greatest stars
  A– - Agonized and fearless, eerily sympathetic, formally electric

Black Swan - Requires a lot of trust in Portman, but who isn't fascinated?
  B– - Works as schizo freakout, but resorts to too many cheap tactics
The Illusionist - No such thing as a review of this that isn't a heartfelt paean
Inside Job - No End in Sight rocked, and this seems even mightier
  B+ - Strong! Just as compelling as No End, if more testily self-righteous

Another Year - I'm guessing I'll like but not love it, which is plenty
Blue Valentine - Could collapse in flames of pretense, or could invigorate
Buried - I am all for a well-played gimmick, and reviews have all been kind
  C– - Enervating and implausible in all the wrong ways
Enter the Void - Inevitably self-indulgent, but his visuals entrance
  pass - Inconvenient length and showtimes plus bad word-of-mouth kept me out
The Fighter - A sharp cast and a director who's always worth trusting
For Colored Girls - I like Perry, and I love this text, and many of the women
  C+ - Very worth seeing for power of best bits, but troubling and ill-integrated
Last Train Home - Everything I've read is a rave; Up the Yangtze redux?
  pass - Saw first half and had to leave on work-related emergency! Was going fine...
Monsters - Came sailing out of Edinburgh fest; seems genuinely unusual
  B– - Excitingly odd, great lensing and production, but ratios way off
Mugabe and the White African - A buzz builder for over a year
  C+ - Both essential and disappointing (full review)
Rabbit Hole - Somebody buy this! Seems ideal for Kidman, especially
  B– - Uneven and limited, but affecting and smartly performed
The Social Network - Very intriguing, but lots of room for error
  B+ - Fleet, sharp, engaging, impressive, just a bit too deoxygenated
The Town - The promise of Gone Baby Gone, minus the cheese?
  B+ - Muscular, absorbing pulp; unexpected tenderness and humor
Valhalla Rising - I'm all for nutso, heightened historiography
  C+ - Gruff, deadpan, and proudly bizarre (full review)
The Way Back - I didn't get Master & Commander right away, but now I'm sold

The American - The studio just knows we'll hate it, so I'll probably like it
  B - A bit clichéd but subtle and insinuating (full review)
Burlesque - Cher in a film is an event. One of our most underused actresses
Carlos - Festival notices hadn't been raves, but Assayas is unmissable
Fair Game - Cannes notices didn't inspire, but the story bears repeating. Sean!
Love and Other Drugs - Zwick and all, but Hathaway shimmers in the ads
Never Let Me Go - I'm mystified by the book, but I still feel drawn to the film
  C+ - Mix of pros and cons re: already shaky book (full review)
Night Catches Us - Mackie and Washington; surely one has to go bonafide soon?
Somewhere - I'm curious, but will her next be called Deck Chair? Drifting?

Country Strong - Welcome back to the 5 & dime, Gwynnie P, Gwynnie P!
Easy A - Emma Stone charmed even in Superbad, and this looks scrumptious
  C+ - Stone's aces, plus some good sidebar moments; film's a breezy mess
Hereafter - Clint whiffed three in a row, but it's an important career
  pass - I'll see it eventually. Maybe. Probably. It just sounds so lame.
How Do You Know - I'm not a Reese guy, and I still found the trailer inviting
Howl - Neither of Franco's pics looks like a sure thing, but I'm curious
  C - Ginsberg on Ginsberg, a trial about Ginsberg, all indirect and choppy
It's Kind of a Funny Story - Boden & Fleck compel respect, but are we suuure?
  pass - Sounds increasingly clear like they're off their game, and I don't want to see that
Leaving - Could be juicy vehicle for Scott Thomas, who says final cut surprised her
Nowhere Boy - I'd avoid it if the reviews for the actresses weren't so strong
Soul Kitchen - Please tell me this is genuinely winning, and not just pandering
  pass - Had every intention, but I, like the distrib, thought it would catch on longer
The Tempest - Taymor isn't trustworthy, but the elements still scintillate
The Tillman Story - My brother took this story really hard, so I feel compelled
  B - Sober, effective storytelling with many-sided characters
The Tourist - Wasn't a Lives of Others fan, but this could be smart, or taut
True Grit - Dubious match of Coens to shaky material, but can't be ignored
Vision - Von Trotta's an interesting case, and I work with a Hildegard expert

127 Hours - I'd put it lower, but I'm sure I'll still wind up seeing it
  C+ - Very capable with local details but awfully fuzzy on larger ideas
All Good Things - Much delayed, but Gosling, Wiig, Venora are big draws for me
Biutiful - I don't think González Iñárritu or Bardem has lived up to potential
Bran Nue Dae - Glenn at Stale Popcorn has been beating this drum for a while
  pass - People who saw it doubted whether it was my thing; I'll wait for DVD
Conviction - We'll know from the first reviews if we really need to bother
  C+ - Unremarkable filmmaking, hugely patchy script, but leads sell the heck out of it
Down Terrace - Tim Robey gave it a very admiring review in the Telegraph
Jackass 3-D - Call me a groundling, but I loved the first, seems perfect for 3-D
  pass - ...though not enough, apparently, to get me to commit another $15
The King's Speech - It reads sort of ludicrous, but I might feel obligated
Let Me In - Unlike most others, I don't hold the original sacred
  pass - Sympathetic as I was to chance of improvement, I didn't care to investigate
Making the Boys - The subject can't help but move me, but how's the film?
  pass - Never came anywhere near me, assuming it opened at all
The Next Three Days - Crowe is always worth it, and Haggis retains potential
  C - Embarrassing start, watchable and sometimes great in middle, infuriating end
Paranormal Activity 2 - I might not have learned my lesson at Book of Shadows
  B - Enjoyment predicated on fondness for first movie, but I went for it
Waiting for 'Superman' - Even if it overstates the obvious, I feel implicated
  pass - The critics I care most about seem all but agreed that this is thin soup.

Barney's Version - The IMDb plot précis gave me a genuine twinge of acid reflux
Machete - I still can't decode the reviews. Should I go? For Trejo?
  pass - I'd have gone in a different season, but fall's too crowded as is
Morning Glory - An inspired grouping of cast members, but ads are groaners
  D - Some yuks, but a sinkhole of incoherence. McAdams deserves better
Stone - Wouldn't stand a chance, but written by Junebug scribe!
  pass - Sounds mildly unusual, but not enough to entice me back to De Niro or Norton
Welcome to the Rileys - These three actors are a tough combo to ignore
You Again - Seems like something I'd skip, but lotsa great ladies
  pass - Oh, so it's Mean Girls meets Bride Wars with dumb jokes? Oh.

The Company Men - If it's "Up in the Air but 'not quite as good,'" I'm out
Due Date - I chuckled once or twice at the trailer, but mostly groaned
  pass - Reviews, especially A.O. Scott's, didn't tell me anything I want to hear
Heartbreaker - Reviews and business in France have been pretty spectacular
  pass - Couldn't see appeal, but imagine what French think of Hitch
I'm Still Here - I am not fascinated by the shenanigans of the weird and privileged
  pass - Some praise mixed with the pans, but nothing turned me around
Made in Dagenham - Maybe if Sally Hawkins is the real deal, but awfully light
Mademoiselle Chambon - Seems pretty anonymous, but it's got Lindon and a César
  pass - In a very crowded season, I just couldn't justify the time
Red - Only if reviews signal it as more than an arbitrary stunt
  pass - Reviews confirmed worst fears, and I'm Mirren'd out at the moment
Secretariat - Only if I'm having one of those pint-of-Häagen-Dazs days
  pass - Critical scuffles have been intriguing, but I haven't bought a ticket
TRON: Legacy - Only if the reviews are above Speed Racer
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - Carey Mulligan and Josh Brolin, but still...
  pass - Checked in on Carey for Never Let Me Go. Why visit twice?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt.1 - Dropped Harry, don't regret it
  pass - Exactly what I already said
I Want Your Money - And I want a doc that doesn't just preach things we know
  pass - I don't think this ever showed up, and I think Inside Job satiated me
Jack Goes Boating - Loved Synecdoche but can't take much more schlub
  pass - Reviews more encouraging than I expected, but I'm still just not ready
Legendary - What will I do for Patty Clarkson? Attend a wrestling pic?
  pass - Only opened in northern suburb! I'm not traveling for this thing
Megamind - Only if the reviews are above Despicable, and doubtful even then
  pass - If anything, reviews are more muted than for D-Me, so I'm out
My Soul to Take - For Wes Craven, I need Freddy, or else Meryl on fiddle
  pass - Already clear this won't be my thing
The Sicilian Girl - Ever hear about the Sicilian movie about the Mafia?
  pass - Preview even more rote than what I had imagined; no peep from critics
Skyline - This seems Dean Koontzy to me. Is it Dean Koontz?
  pass - I thought so.
Tangled - "Alex, I'll take 'Completely Charmless Trailers' for $1000..."
The Warrior's Way - An unexpected cast, but I bet I'll still pass
Wild Target - Nighy? Blunt? Everett? Atkins? Enough to reserve judgment
  pass - Can already tell from trailer that this won't be my cuppa
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Still haven't liked an Allen in 13 years
  pass - Reviews, especially A.O. Scott's, have confirmed all my fears

Case 39, Faster, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Gulliver's Travels, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, Life As We Know It, Tamara Drewe, Unstoppable, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Yogi Bear

(i.e., confirmed postponements)
Brighton Rock - Unless reviews curdle, I'll want to see if they nail the nastiness
The Conspirator - Forget box-office poison; Robin is like distributor poison
The Debt - I liked Munich, twice, but will this measure up?
Hesher - Gordon-Levitt indifference persists, but script by Animal Kingdom guy
London Boulevard - Lots of potential but are we positive it's opening?
Miral - I'm expecting a bit of a slog, but I'm curious to follow Schnabel
Passion Play - Rourke's first post-Ram gig that offers real opportunity
Red Dawn - Must every damn thing be remade? Now, if it were Red Sonja...
Tree of Life - As if anyone needs me to explain my hopeful ardor
What's Wrong with Virginia? - Rare gig for scripter behind camera really hooks me



Blogger Glenn said...

I haven't seen many of these, but...

Bran Nue Dae is very slight and your enjoyment will come out being able to enjoy actors hamming it up and songs that are so light they're fairy floss. But it looks great, there's a few really nice performances and, hey, musicals don't come around that often!

The Illusionist is truly beautiful. Stunningly so.

Wall Street 2: Armed & Fabulous is basically porn for suit festishists and fans of Shia LaBeouf wearing suits. So, basically, I had a fun. It's ridiculous - comically so at times - but is enjoyable at times. Actually works more as a romantic drama than anything else tbh.

And that's it.

I agree on many of your little captions. I'm really hoping For Coloured Girls gets some sort of release here. Only about half of Perry's film have and they've all been Direct-to-DVD (and usually a long while after their US release). That cast is to die for though!

1:48 AM, September 10, 2010  
Anonymous GlenH said...

White Material was my first Denis so I can't say how it stakes up against her others but the editing had a strange and entrancing rhythm and a self-deluding heroine always makes for good drama in assured hands.

I think Soul Kitchen is genuinely winning but I suspect peoples' mileage while vary and it doesn't truly take off until the gonzo final act (at which point I was howling).

2:06 AM, September 10, 2010  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

Um, are you sending us a hidden message by linking to Love and Other Drugs when we click on White Material? Please tell me you don't consider Edward Zwick one of our greatest filmmakers.

I'm also a little confused over your excitement of Monsters. It strikes me as a desperate attempt to mooch off the success of District 9 and Cloverfield.

And it floors me to hear you proclaim that Paul "Audiences Are Idiots Who Have to Be Told What to Think" Haggis retains potential in your eyes, while the excellent Javier Bardem has failed to live up to it. Why, Nick, why?

2:16 AM, September 10, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Glenn: Bran Nue Dae just opened for its short Chicago run today, but it's a terrible week for me, so I hope I catch it. The romantic drama bit is the bit that will get me into a cinema for WS2, *maybe*, so I'm glad you're stumping for that aspect. Meanwhile, Tyler Perry just got his first full theatrical run in the UK (I think for Why Did I Get Married, Too?), so hopefully that bodes well for the Antipodes.

@GlenH (if you're Glen Hansard, I'm pretty excited, but I'm still happy if you're not!): Strange and entrancing rhythm is pretty par for the course for Denis, and in the best sense: her films are all fascinating, and they only get better as you rewatch. Nenette et Boni is the only one whose appeal eluded me, but if you liked White Material, I'd suggest Beau travail, I Can't Sleep/J'ai pas sommeil, and No Fear, No Die/S'en fout la mort as follow-ups. And of course, her great debut Chocolat.

Thanks for the encouragement re: Soul Kitchen, which also opens here today.

@Robert: Now granted, AGI and Bardem falling short of their potential still puts them significantly ahead of Haggis retaining some potential. The former two have disappointed me a bit considering the huge scale of what they have seemed ready to offer in their best moments, whereas Haggis is just someone I'm not ready to count out. I like his earnestness, and I was impressed at his candor in admitting how much fonder he is of Elah than of Crash. As for AGI, I think the case makes itself if you compare Amores perros or even his 11'09"01 short to anything he's produced since.

Bardem is tougher, because he's always highly watchable, but I actually find that extraordinary face and presence and huge Mt. Rushmore head of his to be a little bit of a coasting mechanism at times. I still think he was overhyped a bit in No Country, despite being good in the role, and I always like his performances less upon revisit. I hope he's terrific in Biutiful, but if he's just numbly, entrancingly compelling, like an Easter Island statue having his glummest day ever, I won't be hugely surprised.

2:35 AM, September 10, 2010  
Blogger MD said...

Prepare yourself for a very long and rambling comment.

White Material - I was actually going to ask you if you'd gotten around to seeing this yet. I haven't seen any of Denis' films, and we're going to be studying this one next term at uni. Looking forward to it.

I'm actually excited for most of these movies, except I won't get to see most of them. Even the high profile ones will probably struggle. According to my cinema's website, Never Let Me Go will be out in February. Stupid NZ. Probably most excited for Black Swan, though.

For some reason, I'm really looking forward to Easy A. Emma Stone really irritated me in Zombieland. That may just have been a side effect of the movie in general.

I felt guilty for not being scared/liking Paranormal Activity, for some reason. It was probably my friends telling me it was the best movie they'd ever seen before they put it on.

And it will probably be awful, but I will go see Legend of the Guardians, because I read the books when I was younger, and I feel like I owe them something.

This comment basically boils down to me being excited for everything. I'll learn brevity someday.

4:54 AM, September 10, 2010  
Blogger Calum Reed said...

The Illusionist and Black Swan are both essential viewing. Don't worry about Portman - she's blinding!

I much preferred The Town to Affleck's first film as he seems to know a lot more about what he's doing, although I wouldn't call it a huge breakthrough. By contrast, Coppola seems to be on a slide, which is really difficult for me to say given that I loved her first three.

The rest of 2010 looks promising!

7:39 AM, September 10, 2010  
Blogger Colin Low said...

I don't recall the reason why I missed Last Train Home when it was screening at our local International Film Festival, but I hope both the reason and the movie were good. The synopses certainly make it sound more focused and less playing-to-Western-audiences than Up the Yangtze was.

Of the movies you've listed I'm probably most excited for Black Swan. Currently, the movie I most want to see is Scott Pilgrim, because Michael Cera hasn't been overexposed on this side of the Pacific and I have this incipient theory about gay sidekicks in popular film, but I'm caught in this sad sinkhole between it not opening yet here and it winding down in the States. Oh well.

On a side note, I'm only learning to use Twitter again, so I just caught the unfortunate news about the OFCS. I won't be so glib as to say it's their loss, since more readers from their end discovering you can't be a bad thing, but I can at least proudly say that your reviews are life-changing, in the way I suspect more than one critic came to appreciate criticism after their first encounters with Sarris or Kael. Please keep writing!

8:28 AM, September 10, 2010  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

I vote for "genuinely winning" on SOUL KITCHEN though i'm curious what you define as 'pandering'

this is one of my favorite features of yours each year. Genuinely funny and one of those rare blogposts anywhere that bears MANY repeat visits (updates!)

I can't really recommend you see BRAN NUE DAE primarily because you're not a musicals guy and that's the only reason to see it i think (it's really silly/sloppy but i had fun because of the musical numbers)

i'm curious why DUNST is not listed as one of the draws of ALL GOOD THINGS

9:54 AM, September 10, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@MD: I still haven't learned brevity after a lot longer to practice, and my own post "basically boils down to me being excited for [almost] everything," so no worries!

@Cal: Very reassuring on all three of those counts. I wish I felt a little more sanguine about the next few months. Lots that I'm eager to see, but oddly little that I'm dying on. The three "Like a Prayer"s, especially Inside Job and Illusionist, could have been slotted one rung lower, but it made me sad to do that, especially after Malick got postponed.

@Colin: Very kind of you! I won't stop. I keep forgetting how not into Up the Yangtze you were. Maybe it'll warrant a re-watch before Last Train Home. Don't you arrive here sort of any day now?

@Nathaniel: I hope you dug the Madonna bit; don't imagine I wasn't thinking of you. People always say this feature is funny, and I never think it is, so I'm always glad to read that!

Soul Kitchen: I'm super glad you liked it. I just don't want the comedy to be too broad, or Akin to seem too clearly like he's dulling down his talent because his tougher movies haven't quite "splashed" commercially in the way they deserved. And I always get nervous when filmmakers start shoving our noses in delicious-looking food, but I'm hoping this'll be more Big Nightish, i.e., warm and funny and wonderful.

As for Dunst: I like her, but she's not an inherent lure to me like the other three are. I mean, I saw frigging Fracture, and I would not have seen it if Dunst had been in the Gosling role.

11:35 AM, September 10, 2010  
Blogger Andrew K. said...

I've been a real funk, movie-wise, lately so despite my initial anticipation for many of these titles I'm feeling really bleh at the moment towards the year's offerings.

Against my better judgement I read the script for Black Swan and now I'm not that anxious to see it, though I'm still hopeful. Really, the movie that I'm anticipating the most is The King Speech which seems wrong because it's HBC's presence alone that's making me feel all anxious. The rest I'm anticpating in parts like Nicole in The Rabbit Hole or Keira especially in Never Let Me Go, Collin in London Boulevard etc.

(No apologies necessary for Nine and The Lovely Bones, your love of Duplicity last year made up for it.)

"If it's "Up in the Air but 'not quite as good,'" I'm out"
Ha, if it's Up in the Air: I'm out.

4:28 PM, September 10, 2010  
Blogger Colin Low said...

@Nick: So soon. I arrive on the 16th, Chicago time, and from moment to moment I re-enact that scene from Little Miss Sunshine when Olive gets the phone call.

I think Up the Yangtze deserves a second look for me, too; I had to watch WALL·E upwards of five times before I was charitable enough to admit that many patches of it work marvelously. I guess unanimous praise makes me grouchy when I'm not feeling part of it. But Yangtze only appeared for a one-time screening here (courtesy of the invaluable S'pore Film Society), so I'm already counting my blessings in that regard.

argh. so excited

7:54 PM, September 10, 2010  
Anonymous GlenH said...

Just thought I'd confirm I'm not that Glen - I suspect that he, being older and wiser, would use fewer malapropisms :).

5:26 AM, September 11, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Andrew: Sorry about the moviegoing funk! I get into those, too, but hopefully something will surprise you back into excitement. The raves coming out of Telluride and now Toronto for The King's Speech seem encouraging.

@Colin: I can go both ways. Feeling outside of unanimous praise sometimes reassures me that I'm not just thinking as I'm told, but yes, it sometimes makes me grouchy, too. I like that we both feel actually compelled to revisit the films in question. So many people react with mystification when I tell them I'm going back to re-see a movie I didn't like.

@Glen: And yet, as promised, I'm still glad to have heard from you!

9:59 AM, September 11, 2010  
Blogger Andrew K. said...

Nick: Well seeing Inception certainly didn't help with the funk (though I liked it more than you...your tweet review was kind of brilliant in its vagueness, though...I'm kind of hoping - hopelessly- that you review it.

But....though Cairo Time helped, somewhat. Patty Clarkson is so lovely.

6:27 PM, September 11, 2010  
Blogger Glenn said...

Oh! I've seen Soul Kitchen. It's not very good. All kinda lifeless and ladida with no point. Purchase the soundtrack though, it's the best of 2010 (until Burlesque, obviously.)

4:16 AM, September 12, 2010  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

Yay! I've seen your most expected. White Material is classic Denis, but it's so very different than what she's done before. It's also Huppert being better than she's even been since The Piano Teacher. It's a truly devastating piece of film making.

Also: Are you looking forward to Lee Chang-dong's latest, Poetry? I'm not sure if it's being released your side or not. It barely got a festival screening over here.

7:23 AM, September 12, 2010  

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