Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Fifties for 2011: Fellas and Dames

So we end with a category that I wish I loved a little bit more, and a category that I'm tempted to say I'm already satisfied with. I have total immunity against the possibility of Close being too recessive or Streep too garish or Swinton too severe or whatever, because I could go from here to December revisiting these five performances. The fellas here are quite good, and I don't want to sound unfairly begrudging when I admit that, as in both of the Supporting races, I still find myself gunning for two or three performances that I am really passionate about. Even when it disappoints in other areas, Fall is usually reliable for that, so eyes are wide open.

Best Actor
Rob Brydon for The Trip, whose improvisations and comic riffs are even more uproarious than Coogan's, yet who also evokes his home life in limpid though indirect detail;

Steve Carell for Crazy, Stupid, Love, who can do "schlub in need of sprucing" in his sleep but makes his adoration of his wife so real, his late-born resentment of Gosling so potent;

Grigoriy Dobrygin for How I Ended This Summer, who must scramble past a missing motive in the script but shows us a scared kid, a self-reliant stalwart, and a nervous over-reactor all in one;

Joel Edgerton for Warrior, who yearns to keep his suburban life even more than he wants to escape it, and offers round after round of character details in the MMA scenes; and

Ewan McGregor for Beginners, who is constipated with depression, whose happier moments also incline toward quiet introspection, but who comes alive at odd, revealing moments.

Honorable mentions, many of whom could have taken the fifth spot in this list, to Mimi Branescu for Tuesday, After Christmas, Youssouf Djaoro for A Screaming Man, Michael Fassbender for Jane Eyre, Paul Giamatti for Win Win, Mel Gibson for The Beaver, Ryan Gosling for Crazy, Stupid, Love, and Andreas Lust for The Robber.

Best Actress
Juliette Binoche for Certified Copy, whose lambent yet full-bodied emotional candor seems an odd fit for Kiarostami's eggheadism, but she dazzlingly layers concepts and feelings;

Viola Davis for The Help, who doesn't break faith with the mid-grade film she's in but uses mature understatement and ironbound directness to feed us the film we deserve;

Shinobu Terajima for Caterpillar, who finds herself amid one of the most upstaging styles imaginable but still crafts a careful dossier of the repulsed, dutiful, and bitter wife;

Mia Wasikowska for Jane Eyre, whose processes of moral and spiritual reflection are as tangible as her feelings, via a Moore-in-the-90s-style precision with her subtle face; and

Yun Jeong-hie for Poetry, who must exhibit to us a modest woman receding into her mind even as she's learning to create with it, all amidst new needs to strategize with it.

Honorable mentions, surely worth mentioning but appreciably behind these five, to Nikohl Boosheri for Circumstance, young Morgana Davies for The Tree, Monica del Carmen for Leap Year, Sarah Kazemy for Circumstance, Kristen Wiig for Bridesmaids, and Michelle Williams for Meek's Cutoff.

And that's the Fifties! Thanks for commenting so energetically, especially those of you who shared your own suggestions. Please stick around for Chicago Film Festival coverage over the next month.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kicking Off Chicago Film Fest 2011

The picture at left is not of me queued up early, desperate to buy my tickets to the 47th Chicago International Film Festival; my hijab is a different color and pattern than this one. Still, you get the basic idea from this image: me waving whatever bills I could find, an unseen presence dispensing the goodies, people behind me going, "What's she so agitated about?"

This is the third year running I've popped into the Cinema/Chicago office as the clock struck 10am on the first day of members-only ticket sales, which is how I had a ticket to Black Swan last year and all the angry people at the Will Call at AMC River East didn't. Technically, as an accredited member of the press corps and, this year, a member of the Short Film Competition Jury, I don't even need to buy tickets, but among other caveats of this very generous offer, that only counts if I'm willing to wait until 10 minutes till showtime to know if I have a seat. You know I don't play like that, and besides, supporting Cinema/Chicago is a really good thing to do, if you can manage.

In truth, I'll be taking advantage of those privileges several times during the Festival, allowing myself to be surprised by what's on and available, and obeying my usual practice of avoiding the big fall releases and Oscar contenders as much as I can manage (with, this year, two irresistible exceptions). But in terms of what I've already committed to seeing at the longest-running competitive film festival in North America, cherry-picking hits from Sundance, SXSW, Berlin, Cannes, and Toronto, these are the baker's dozen I've already laid down for. You can count on brief reports, at least, in addition to hot tips about all the shorts and anything that gets pre-screened for critics at a time I can make during a busy season at the office:

Cairo 678 (Egypt, dir. Mohamed Diab; Main Competition)

Goodbye (Iran, dir. Mohammad Rasoulof; Main Competition)

Goodbye, First Love (France/Germany, dir. Mia Hansen-Løve; Main Competition)

Kinyarwanda (USA, dir. Alrick Brown; World Cinema/Black Perspectives)

Loverboy (Romania, dir. Catalin Mitulescu; World Cinema)

Melancholia (Denmark/Sweden, dir. Lars von Trier; Special Presentations)

Miss Bala (Mexico, dir. Gerardo Naranjo; Main Competition)

Natural Selection (USA, dir. Robbie Pickering; World Cinema)

Sleeping Beauty (Australia, dir. Julia Leigh; World Cinema/ReelWomen)

The Slut (Israel, dir. Hagar Ben-Asher; New Directors/ReelWomen)

Snowtown (Australia, dir. Justin Kurzel; After Dark)

Tomboy (France, dir. Céline Sciamma; World Cinema/Outrageous/ReelWomen)

We Need To Talk About Kevin (UK, dir. Lynne Ramsay; Special Presentation)

I might have been weak and bought a ticket to the forthcoming Coriolanus and I certainly would have made a point of catching Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, but they're up against unmovable commitments for my job. I'll also be heading out of town to a conference on closing night, so I'll be seeing The Artist with all the rest of you whenever Harvey Weinstein is good and ready to show it to us. Otherwise, though, do visit my pre-prepared listing of major competition slates or the full festival guide and let me know, as some of you have already started doing on Twitter, whether I'm in danger of skipping anything that I really, absolutely shouldn't. The more unheralded, the better!

(Still images are from Main Competition title Cairo 678, special one-night presentation Melancholia, and documentary short film Grandpa's Wet Dream.)

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The Fifties for 2011: Drivers and Vehicles

We'll finish with the lead actors and actresses. But first...

Best Director
Patricio Guzmán for Nostalgia for the Light, for only seeming to force awkward metaphors, then slowly cajoling us into the full, conflicted logic of the poem he has written to his country;

Abbas Kiarostami for Certified Copy, for folding his usual fondness for metafilmic puzzles within a romantic plot and emotional throughline that feel as immediate as a fond caress;

Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life, for the warmth and immodesty of his daring, for seeing in a man a child, and in a child grief, and in grief and grace the origins of the world;

Mike Mills for Beginners, for making a film about a cartoonist, a kooky actress, a dying gay man, and a chatty dog that is not a sitcom but a roomy, melancholy valentine; and

Aleksei Popogrebsky for How I Ended This Summer, for using image, sound, edits, actors, tempo, and locale so electrically that story bumps don't matter, and the experience brims with energy.

Honorable mentions, filling out an irritatingly male-only roster, are Michelangelo Frammartino for Le Quattro Volte, Cary Fukunaga for Jane Eyre, Benjamin Heisenberg for The Robber, Steve James for The Interrupters, Lee Chang-dong for Poetry, Radu Muntean for Tuesday, After Christmas, and Michael Rowe for Leap Year.

Best Picture
Beginners: Tactful, tender, and generous, rich in humor and characterization. Joins the Junebug Hall of Fame for exquisite modesty;

Certified Copy: Disarmingly lived-in, even warm for a study of romantic skepticism and ambivalence. Concepty, yes, but rings with truth;

The Interrupters: An achievement fully comparable to Hoop Dreams, with some of the year's most indelible moments and characters;

Nostalgia for the Light: Even when forcing analogies a bit, a humbling blend of awe, empiricism, history, reverie, and mourning; and

The Tree of Life: A brother's grief kiln-blasted and glazed into a grand, restless, ecstatic lament for a living and dying world.

Honorable mentions, in order, to How I Ended This Summer, Poetry, Tuesday, After Christmas, Le Quattro volte, and The Robber.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

The Fifties for 2011: Cuts and Cues

Assuming that you know the drill by now...

Best Film Editing
Oliver Bugge Coutté for Beginners, because associative leaps help us feel the work of memory while edits lend the aging an unusual energy and early middle-age a worrisome inertia;

Paul Tothill for Hanna, because Wright and his team once again prove their mettle with set-pieces but also generate electricity and tension in choreographed cross-cuts;

Ivan Lebedev for How I Ended This Summer, because the chilly and bleary-eyed Arctic longueurs, the rhythm of daily tasks, and the escalation of tension all persist and enrich each other;

Benjamin Heisenberg and Andrea Wagner for The Robber, because without losing a hold on the protagonist's alienation, the film keeps coherent pace with his hammering heart, plotting action expertly; and

Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber, and Mark Yoshikawa for The Tree of Life, because edits evince a symphonic feel for when to enter or leave a shot or a sequence, whether cutting mid-action or dilating out to abstraction.

Honorable mentions in alphabetical order by film title to Shûichi Kakesu for Caterpillar, Bahman Kiarostami for Certified Copy, Óscar Figueroa for Leap Year, Patricio Guzmá and Emmanuelle Joly for Nostalgia for the Light, Marc Vives for Putty Hill, Rui Mourão and João Pedro Rodrigues for To Die Like a Man, and Sean Albertson, Matt Chesse, John Gilroy, and Aaron Marshall for Warrior, which people should be buying tickets to see.

Best Sound (Mixing and Editing)
Ahmed Al-Ibrahim, Christopher Scarabosio, et al. for Hanna, for modulations and—where subtlety would hamper the fun—whomping extremities of silence and sound, including delicious flaunting of super score;

Vladimir Golovnitsky, et al. for How I Ended This Summer, for using natural and abstract sounds to establish rhythms, denote aberrations, get inside Pavel's head, and imbue a radioactive hum of tension;

Mandell Winter et al. for Meek's Cutoff, for helping to keep this unplotted exodus somewhere between a dirt-in-your-shoes reality and a folkloric parable of Americans seeking their way;

Craig Berkey, Erik Aadahi, et al. for The Tree of Life, for the gorgeous pastiche of classical quotations, and for boyhood pops and hushes, plus the soft and mighty sounds of worlds coming into being; and

Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr, Koichi Shimizu, Richard Hocks, et al. for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, because although Joe has recorded Thai jungles before, plus Thai offices, plazas, and housing modules, their buzzing soundscapes still entrance.

Honorable mentions to the teams headed by Sylvain Brassard for Heartbeats and Daniel Iribarren and Ansgar Frerich for Le Quattro volte.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Fifties for 2011: Images and Words

Here I continue my yearly enterprise of isolating the achievements I admire most from amidst the first 50 films I viewed from this calendar year of U.S. releases.

Please be advised, by the way, that Tim Robey and Joe Reid have both gifted us their parallel lists, Joe conveniently at the 50-mark as well, and Tim so far past it I wonder if he can remember it. Also, several commenters have got enticing lists to share. Keep reading around!

Best Cinematography
Stéphanie Weber-Biron for Heartbeats, because even if Dolan borrows most of his ideas, his films move gorgeously between swoony, heightened sensuality and deftly deoxygenated dolors;

Pavel Kostomarov for How I Ended This Summer, because faces and framings evince mystery, tension, and texture, landscape evades cheap pathetic fallacies, and Arctic glow is soft but spooky;

Adriano Goldman for Jane Eyre, because all the bounced light sources serve key themes, and moody lensing has a metaphysical severity that echoes Jane's tough, devout outlook;

Chris Blauvelt for Meek's Cutoff, because the palette's dusty austerity and the inspired boxiness of the Academy framing make these dioramas both antique and transcendent of era; and

Emmanuel Lubezki for The Tree of Life, because as in operatic music, Malick's camera is characterization and worldview, a free-indirect means for exploring souls without being of them.

Honorable mentions in alphabetical order by film title to Peter Zeitlinger for Cave of Forgotten Dreams, an atypically uneven but still exciting Alwin Küchler for Hanna, Kim Hyun Seok for Poetry, Reinhold Vorschneider for The Robber, who would have shared the citation with his hard-working camera operators, and the team of Yukontorn Mingmongkon and Sayombhu Mukdeeprom for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Maybe Boonmee should be in for Heartbeats? I'll live with it.

Best Screenplay
Mike Mills for Beginners, because a long chain of short, taciturn, yet revealing scenes can be harder to write but richer to discover than three acts of heavy dialogue;

Abbas Kiarostami for Certified Copy, because Kiarostami has not previously disclosed a knack for probing reality and illusion with such finesse or such stirring emotional depths;

Moira Buffini for Jane Eyre, because not since the mid-90s glories of Hossein Amini has anyone stayed so true to a landmark novel while so aptly condensing and taking risks;

Lee Chang-dong for Poetry, because a few stock scenes and meandering passages are a worthy tariff for such probing and delicate characterization, such breadth of mystery; and

Alexandru Baciu, Răzvan Rădulescu, and Radu Muntean for Tuesday, After Christmas, because to hold shots so rewardingly and lift performances to such heights, you need to start from an acute anatomy of intimacy and its failures.

Honorable mentions to John Logan, Gore Verbinski, and James Ward Byrkit for Rango. The year's funniest movie so far, The Trip, is too heavily improvised to count here, and apparently too much so to even credit a screenplay.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

The Fifties for 2011: Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor

Regular readers might recall that once I see my 50th commercial release in any given calendar year, inevitably in late August or early September, I take stock of what I've seen so far and publish a listing of mid-year bests: hence, "The Fifties". This year, I reached that milestone with the humbling, direct, and deeply moving documentary The Interrupters, which Chicagoans can still catch in the delightful, family-owned Wilmette Theatre (which is where I saw it) unless they want to brave another swarm of sellout crowds when the film returns to the Siskel in October. Block Cinema on the Northwestern campus will also be showing The Interrupters for one night next month, interspersed amongst a great lineup of recent Eastern European breakouts that includes one of the movies nominated below.

As usual, I've picked five favorites in "big" categories plus a list of Honorable Mentions whom I at least entertained for inclusion, if only briefly. A shame I couldn't count Drive, which I saw this morning and would crop up in at least a few races, including a possible mention below for Bryan Cranston. Then again, no one is likely to forget Drive by December, whereas a lot of the jewels of the winter, spring, and summer could use the extra stumping, which is why I keep this feature alive from year to year. That and people seem to like it, and it helps my increasingly Havarti-like brain from losing track of my own reactions. Without further ado, the first few winnerless "races"... and if you haven't seen the films, keep an eye out, or actively track them down!

(Once again keeping my rationales to Twitter length, to keep the verbiage from spinning out of control.)

Best Supporting Actress
Mary Page Keller for Beginners, because she brings the deceased mother to stirring, idiosyncratic life through her sharp economy of playing and her coherent connecting of dots;

Mélanie Laurent for Beginners, because she manages to suggest what is attractive and difficult about her quiet mooninees, simultaneously warm, sensitive, odd, and unreachable;

Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids, because even when scenes are handed right to her, her comic styling feels bold rather than coarse, her gags fresh, and her foregrounding earned;

Mirela Oprişor for Tuesday, After Christmas, for refusing to be too shrill or conveniently lovable, and then balancing poignant and petty reactions to ruinous news, in heroically long shots; and

Maria Popistaşu for Tuesday, After Christmas, for playing neither a naïve nor a cynical mistress, keeping remarkable poise in dentist's office, showing such quiet disillusion at mom's house.

Honorable mentions in alphabetical order to Jessica Chastain for The Help, Jennifer Ehle for Contagion, Vera Farmiga for Source Code, Sally Hawkins for Jane Eyre, Amy Ryan for Win Win, Octavia Spencer for The Help, Marisa Tomei for Crazy, Stupid, Love., and Morgan Turner and Mare Winningham for Mildred Pierce. Yes, I know it's HBO, but I'm counting it, which is an especially good thing considering...

Best Supporting Actor
Brían F. O'Byrne for Mildred Pierce, for quickly itemizing the problems in the Pierces' marriage but helping to develop their relationship into the series' most quietly touching;

Chris O'Dowd for Bridesmaids, because beyond his refreshing casting as the prince we root for, he helps us keep our attraction to and exasperation with Wiig's Annie balanced;

Gustavo Sánchez Parra for Leap Year, for making a subtle entry, ordering the lead around in uncomfortable ways, and signaling so many motives for and feelings about what they do;

Christopher Plummer for Beginners, for showing us a good time and seeing fully and generously into his character without selling him into cutesy comedy or milking the sadness; and

Corey Stoll for Midnight in Paris, because he so wittily maintains that thick and plummy comic line through the Hemingway persona that he almost singly redeems a stunted premise.

Honorable mentions to Marton Csokas for The Tree, Shima Ohnishi for Caterpillar, Guy Pearce for Mildred Pierce, Brad Pitt for The Tree of Life, Sergei Puskepalis for How I Ended This Summer, Markus Schleinzer for The Robber, Goran Visnjic for Beginners, and Burt Young for Win Win.

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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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