This isn’t late at all, is it? Nope, not at all. Moving on now. Reactions to Rain Man, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, Curse of the Golden Flower, Possession: A Romance, The Emperor Jones and more after the jump. And the next time I need to procrastinate, maybe I can get February’s done. ;)
Jeffrey M. Anderson on the Golden Globes. Among other things.
This is an old post (twelve days is really old in blog-world), but I had it marked in my feedreader to mention and I’m just getting around to going through some of those. I mentioned in my brief, ranty Golden Globes post that I was surprised by Babel‘s win. Anderson wasn’t, particularly, because as he accurately identifies, it’s an award darling. It’s calculated for awards, in a way that, say, Pan’s Labyrinth is not. Now, I still haven’t seen Babel, so I’ll let Anderson speak to the specifics, but you can see the difference in the trailers. Babel is Important with a capital “I,” while Pan’s Labyrinth is ethereal and mysterious. Anyway, the point is, as Anderson indicates, it’s become distressingly easy to bait the awards, and the same thing happens at the Oscars, except usually more so.
The Oscar nominations for Best Picture are Babel, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima (which I also haven’t seen, but at least it isn’t nominated in the Foreign Language category this time–another thing Anderson rants about the Globes, just as I did), Little Miss Sunshine, and The Queen. Of the three I’ve seen, I’d pick The Departed, though the other two are good as well. But Babel has A Message, so it may very likely win. However, I’d put both Children of Men (although I wasn’t as enamored of it as some) and Pan’s Labyrinth above all of them, and Volver above many. The fact that Volver wasn’t even nominated in the foreign category stymies me. Pan’s Labyrinth better win it.
Because honestly, Pan’s Labyrinth was one of the most beautiful, most moving, most gorgeous, most heartbreaking, most everything films I’ve seen in a long time. It takes place during the Spanish Civil War (also the setting of director Del Toro’s excellent The Devil’s Backbone), and in fact, the “realistic” sections dealing with the war take up substantially more screen time than the “fantastic” parts, despite what the trailer might lead you to believe. The main character, Ofelia, moves with her mother to a military outpost when her mother marries a captain there (her father is long dead); her mother is very pregnant. The captain is a brutish man, only interested in having a son to carry on his name, and focused on routing the rebels up in the hills above the camp. Hating him, Ofelia’s only escape is into a fairy world, where she may be a long-lost princess–if only she can carry out the three tasks that the faun Pan gives her. But the fairy world isn’t a safe retreat; it’s just as dangerous and scary as the real world. But it’s a world where she has a place, where she has a role and a purpose–unlike the real world, where her step-father would just as soon she disappear entirely. Is there a message? Well, yes. The importance of self-sacrifice and doing the right thing, even when it’s dangerous. But the message is woven into the action of the story; you have to tease out the meaning yourself, as you sit in the theatre and quietly cry while the credits roll. Or maybe that was just me.
The thing is, award-winning films hit you over the head with their messages. That’s probably why Children of Men didn’t get anywhere in the awards, either, despite being critically acclaimed from nearly all quarters. I’m hard-pressed to come up with a single, pithy message in the film. Love people? Care about them? Do all you can to help them? Fight against despair? Oppose fascist governments? The thing that made Children of Men great for me wasn’t WHAT it said, but the WAY it portrayed the world of the not-very-distant future. The care in the set design. The perfect camera set-ups. It was able to show the complete devastation of a world thrown into terror and confusion because of a plague with an unknown cause that led to worldwide sterility, without ever needing any of the characters to describe what was going on. It’s one of the most perfectly designed films I’ve ever, ever seen. But “perfectly designed” doesn’t hit as hard with the awards people as “Has a Really Obvious and Laudable Message.”
I should really stop ranting about awards. Everything I write about awards turns into a rant. I should just resign myself to the fact that awards are dumb and rarely get it right and just go on about my business of watching good films. So ignore the rant portions of this post and take to heart my advice to see Children of Men and especially Pan’s Labyrinth if you can. Do note both are violent, so don’t take the kids.
So my most-anticipated movie of the year (A Scanner Darkly) came out, so I had to pick a new most-anticipated movie, which forced me to catch up on my trailer-watching. You’d think I’d learn that it’s easier to keep up than catch up, but I haven’t yet. (And I started this post like a month ago.) Anyway, here we go: top upcoming movies, at least of those that have released trailers on Apple Trailers.
So Highly Anticipated I WANT TO SEE THEM RIGHT.NOW.
Renaissance (imdb | quicktime trailer)
I’ve been super-excited about Renaissance since I first got wind of the French-language trailer about six months ago. Now that the English trailer has come out, and I can actually sort of tell what it’s about, I’m even more excited. ;) Story is sort of a futuristic conspiracy-theory science-fictiony thing, but the real draw is the highly stylized animation. I’m not sure whether it’s going to be released dubbed or subtitled here, but I hope it’s subtitled. Dubbing always sucks. (9/22 – limited)
Keeping Mum (imdb | quicktime trailer)
I almost fell out of my chair laughing at this trailer. It’s sort of Arsenic and Old Lace meets British comedy, and it looks hilarious. Rowan Atkinson plays it straight for once, as an Anglican priest who takes on Maggie Smith as a housekeeper. Only, she’s actually escaped from a mental institution after a murder spree. And she’d be happy to get you some tea. Looks terribly British, but that’s awesome for me. (9/15 – limited)
Children of Men (imdb | quicktime trailer)
P.D. James is more well-known for her Adam Dalgliesh mystery novels, but Children of Men was actually the first book of hers I read. This was several years ago, but I think I finished in two days. Basically, somehow the whole world has become sterile through some unknown cause, which is emphasized by the death of the youngest person on earth, at age 21. It’s a creepy scenario in any case, and with the recent stories of falling birth rates in places like Italy, it strikes even closer to home. Good book, highly recommend it, and I’m really hoping the movie lives up. Clive Owen is a mark in favor, Julianne Moore is equivocal…she’s so untrustworthy as an actress lately. (9/29)
The Departed (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Scorsese and Di Caprio, together again. Wonder if they’ll ever get separated again? I’m not really complaining, though, because this film looks awesome. Cops vs. mobs, great cast beyond just Di Caprio, the sort of story that Scorsese does so well (and hopefully better than the pseudo-historical Gangs of New York, which was a little odd, to tell you the truth). (10/6)
The Fountain (imdb | quicktime trailer)
This was my new most-anticipated film, until Venice Film Festival audiences booed it off the screen, apparently. But what do they know? Anyway, Hugh Jackman plays a character in medieval times, current times, and the distant future–he’s discovered some sort of fountain of youth, and spans all three eras trying to save Rachel Weisz from dying. I think. Apparently it’s rather confusing, hence the booing. But I like confusing, I love time-bending narratives, I like Rachel Weisz, I think Hugh Jackman is hot, and director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) is a trip. So I’m totally in. (10/13 – probably limited)
The Prestige (imdb | quicktime trailer)
AKA the second magician movie of the year (third if you count Scoop). After seeing the trailer for The Illusionist, I was all over it, but then I saw the trailer for The Prestige, and there was no question of which one had my nod if I only got to see one magician movie this year. It was really the Jessica Biel vs. Scarlett Johansson question. I love Scarlett Johansson, and I wouldn’t care if the last time I saw Jessica Biel was the one episode of 7th Heaven I somehow tuned into like six years ago. Plus, The Prestige is directed by Chris Nolan (Batman Begins, Memento), and it is so hard to get better than that. (10/27)
Stranger Than Fiction (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Can I explain to you just how much of a me movie this is? Will Farrell’s just a normal guy, going about his normal life, right? Until he starts hearing narration of his life…not just describing it, but affecting it. Emma Thompson is writing a book about him. And we get to see both his side, trying to figure out what this voice that only he can hear is all about, and her side, as she struggles to keep her character under control. The blurring of reality and fiction? My single numero-uno favorite plot point. (Time-bending a close second.) And as if that weren’t enough, MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL. Who is enough to make me see ANY MOVIE, as will become clear if you read the rest of these rambling things. (11/10)
Casino Royale (imdb | quicktime trailer)
I don’t tend to advertise this around, but…*glances back and forth to check for eavesdroppers*…I’m a big James Bond fan. I’ve seen all but one of the Bond movies (A View to a Kill, which I’ve heard really sucks anyway, even compared with the other sucky Bond films), I’ve got about half of them on DVD, and I see them all in theatres with my dad. Now that that’s out, I’m even more excited than usual about this one: they’re going back to the books, back to the rugged Bond before he became so suave and debonair (they tried it with Timothy Dalton a bit, but he didn’t last too long), and DANIEL CRAIG is Bond. I fell in love with Daniel Craig in Layer Cake even though I didn’t really understand why. I don’t really think he’s that good-looking, but there’s something about him that’s just…magnetic. I have high hopes that Casino Royale can rescue the franchise from the last few sub-par outings. We’ll see. (11/17)
Eragon (imdb | quicktime trailer)
I haven’t read these books, but my fantasy-loving friends rave about them, and such great films have come from adapating fantasy novels in recent year that I have to believe this one is going to be good. The trailer definitely looks good.
Curse of the Golden Flower (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Let’s see, let’s see: Zhang Yimou (aka best Chinese director ever, Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, House of Flying Daggers), Gong Li (aka one of the top Chinese actresses ever, Raise the Red Lantern and many others), Chow Yun-Fat (aka one of the best current Chinese action actors, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), story set in historical China, with full-on Crouching Tiger-style flying martial arts? I am so there. (12/22)
The Good Shepherd (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Matt Damon, Robert DeNiro, Angelina Jolie, and the founding of the CIA. I don’t even know how to express how much I am there. What can I say, I’m a total sucker for pretty spies. Note my five-year love affair with Alias, despite its ups and downs. (12/22)
Spider-Man 3 (imdb | quicktime trailer)
For the black suit, ALONE. I was a little disappointed by the second one, honestly, though I know a lot of people liked it better than the first. I wasn’t impressed with mechanical spider guy, I guess. Anyway, Spider-Man is my second favorite superhero (after Batman), so I would see this anyway. The awesomeness of the black suit only adds icing to the cake. (5/4/07)
Ratatouille (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Usually Pixar trailers underimpress me, then the films wow me. That’s just the relationship we have. But the teaser for Ratatouille? LOVED. The title character is a Parisian rat who, in the best Parisian tradition, is a gourmet and can’t settle for the garbage the other rats eat, but risks his life to get the good food from the Paris kitchens. Who knows what the whole story will be like–that’s the story of the teaser. Anyway, it looks beautiful and hilarious, and it’s Pixar. ‘Nuff said. (6/29/07)
Ever-So-Slightly Less Highly Anticipated
The Science of Sleep (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Michel Gondry directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is one of favorite films, so I have hopes that this one will at least be very good. The trailer isn’t intriguing me quite as much as I’d like, honestly, and I sort of doubt that it’ll match Eternal Sunshine…for one thing, the cast isn’t as amazing, and the lack of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman may be missed, but I’m still excited to see what Gondry can pull out. (in limited release)
Sherrybaby (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Maggie Gyllenhaal. I swear to you, I would go to see the woman read her laundry list, that’s how great she is. In this indie, she’s recently been released from prison and rehab, and now that she’s clean, she wants to go back and be a good mother to the daughter she hasn’t seen for four years. Except the girl’s father has moved on, and his new partner is less than receptive to Sherry’s return. I don’t really know that I expect to be a great film, but it looks like a good solid role for Gyllenhaal, and that’s really all that’s required. (in limited release)
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (imdb | quicktime trailer)
I have no clue what the title’s all about. The story’s all about a kid trying to get out of the tough neighborhood of Queens in the 1980s, and then having to come back several years later when his father is dying. It looks gritty, harsh, and unyielding…in other words, perfect for the type of story it’s telling. Plus, Robert Downey Jr. plays the man when he returns to Queens, and I have yet to see Downey turn in a bad performance. (in limited release)
Aurora Borealis (imdb | quicktime trailer)
This could be exactly the sort of slight, character-driven piece I like most this time of year. It’s always a gamble with these, but Donald Sutherland looks like a total delight, and I’m excited about Joshua Jackson doing something that actually looks good. It has a very Garden State-y vibe, which hasn’t been working out for me too well, because nothing’s been as good as Garden State, but I never give up hoping, you know? (in limited release)
Zen Noir (imdb | quicktime trailer)
This looks just obviously ludicrous enough to actually work–a stereotypical private detective is faced with a puzzling murder, which baffles him even more because it throws him into the world of zen buddhism. It looks like it’s definitely over the top at times, and perhaps depends too much on stereotypes, but I’m enough into film noir that I want to see it. They seem to be having difficulty getting a distributor, though. (in very limited release)
Babel (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Again with the difficult-to-decipher story–but this time, largely because it’s an ensemble cast, with one of those unrelated people concidentally coming together sort of things. It’s directed by the same guy who directed 21 Grams and Amores Perros, so he’s got a lot of experience with this type of film, which bodes well. Some have suggested that he doesn’t know how to direct anything else, but hey. When you’ve got a good niche… (10/6)
The Queen (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Hello, Academy? Yes, Helen Mirren would like her Oscar now, if you please. It’s almost even clearer this year than usual which films are going hard after Oscar. Mirren plays Elizabeth II in the days and weeks just following Diana’s death. Interestingly, the film isn’t really about Diana’s death, it’s about how Elizabeth deals with the realization that the monarchy isn’t really the monarchy anymore…that not only has the balance of power shifted (it did that long ago), but the whole concept of the monarchy is being lost. It’s an intriguing subject, and one that has been discussed a lot in journalism and books, probably, but which I haven’t really seen in the cinema before. (10/6)
Running With Scissors (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Augusten Burrough’s mother is having a nervous breakdown, or something, and decides to give the teenaged Augusten into the guardianship of her shrink, who’s also a bit odd. I’m up for quirky most of the time, and this looks to be just the right amount of quirky, and a good cast to boot (Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Alec Baldwin, Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow). (10/13)
Flags of Our Fathers (imdb | not on Apple.com, but trailer here)
War movies bring out my inner sap every.single.time. There’s always a part of me that resists them, knowing that I’m going to give into sentimentality and make a fool of myself crying, but then I realize that, you know, if anything deserves my tears, war movies do. So then I see them, and I cry, and I’m glad I did. And this one looks quite good, and it’s on the Pacific front (Iwo Jima and aftermath), which I don’t see as often, so that’ll be interesting. (10/20)
Marie Antoinette (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Oh, Sofia Coppola. I do not know why you have chosen to cast Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette. I like Kirsten Dunst, but I must admit a concern about her ability to pull off Marie Antoinette. On the other hand, I’ve heard that the film looks great, and has a very post-modern angle to it, which intrigues me. And you get at least my tentative support on your films based on Lost in Translation. So I am interested to see how this turns out, but I’m not at all sure it’ll actually work. (10/20)
The Hoax (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Okay, I hate Richard Gere. I mean, I don’t know the man personally, so perhaps that’s a strong word, but I’ve disliked him intensely in almost every film I’ve seen of his. And because of that bias, I fear that I will also dislike this film. But the story is at least superficially interesting–about a man who basically hoaxes his way into publishing books. But what I think is really attracting me? The font used in the trailer. Talk about superficial! But there it is. (11/22)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Is it bad that I mostly want to see this because the title amuses me so much? I also like westerns and am glad to see them starting to try to come back…for decades it’s been practically box-office poison to release a western, and I don’t understand why. Westerns are awesome! (2007)
Just Feel Like Mentioning
Flicka (imdb | quicktime trailer)
How much did I love the book My Friend Flicka and the original movie and the TV show based on it when I was little? I had a stuffed horse named Flicka. My rocking horse was named Flicka for a while (it changed names every time I got a new favorite fictional horse). And you know, it doesn’t really bother me that the boy in the story was changed to a girl for this version. It only bothers me a little that Flicka has moved from being the center of the story to being a catalyst for the girl and her father to rebuild their broken relationship. You want to know what really bothers me? FLICKA IS CHESTNUT, YOU DOLTBRAINS! NOT BLACK! WHO TOLD YOU FLICKA COULD BE BLACK? Honestly. Some people with their stupid ideas of artistic licence. It may sound like I’m joking here, but I’m really not…I probably won’t watch this solely because they frelled up the color of the horse. (10/20)
Lassie (imdb | quicktime trailer)
To start off, there’s no reason in the world to be remaking Lassie Come Home. It’s as perfect a dog-and-family film you’ll ever see, and it not really even dated. It looks they’re being incredibly faithful, though, which I’m actually not sure is a good thing or not…I love the story too much to have them change it around and mess it up, but then again, if you don’t bring something new to the party, why remake it at all? edit: Oh, I just pulled up the IMDb page and happened to see some of the posting board–not usually a terribly good idea–and found out the answer to “why remake it.” PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE ORIGINAL. They’re like, “so it’s just Homeward Bound, but with Lassie and without the other dog and cat?” *facepalm* I can’t believe there are people who haven’t seen Lassie Come Home. Please tell me y’all have seen it? Please? Roddy McDowall? Very young Elizabeth Taylor? Please?
And some I know about, even though no trailers out yet
It’s a sword-fighting movie! I love sword-fighting movies! The author of the book this is based on is Arthuro Perez-Reverte, and I’ve read one of his non-Alatriste books, which was very good and very literate. So if they keep half of the literacy of the book, it’ll have both a great story AND sword-fighting. What more do you want? (12/22)
Hot Fuzz (releasing 3/9/07) – Writer/star Simon Pegg is fresh off Shaun of the Dead, aka the funny British zombie movie from a year or two ago, and while I have no idea, really, what Hot Fuzz is about (I would if I’d take the time to go to the production website and watch the videoblog, but I haven’t), I’m interested. His Britcom Spaced is great, as well.
Grind House (releasing 4/6/07) – I’m a bit worried about this one, in a way–it’s a group project between Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, two very individual directors. Grind House, as currently conceived, will be made up of two short films, one by each director, with trailers and commercials and stuff directed by them in between. I’m not sure how it’s all going to work out, but it has high probability for incomprehensible mishmash as well as high hopeful-bility for awesomeness. We’ll see. edit: Scratch this one. Just saw an early trailer, and it’s pretty much all the horrific/nasty sides of both directors, and not the sides I actually like.
Ocean’s Thirteen (releasing 6/8/07) – First one rocked, second one was rocky, but there’s just too much pretty in these movies not to give the third one a chance. And pretty people carrying out heists is one of my favorite sub-sub-genres.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (releasing 7/13/07) – Duh.
Beowulf (releasing 11/16/07) – Wow. There was a Beowulf & Grendel film released this year, and now there are TWO Beowulfs scheduled next year. This one has particularly exciting people attached to it: Neil Gaiman writing the screenplay, Crispin Glover as Grendel (he is creepy), Anthony Hopkins as Hrothgar, king of the Danes, Angelina Jolie as the voice of Grendel’s mother (should be…interesting). I think this brings the total number of Beowulf films up to…four. That’s incredible. You’d think it would be a popular thing to film.
His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (releasing 11/16/07) – I probably shouldn’t support this trilogy, given that it’s explicitly anti-Christian (although more anti-Catholic-church), but it is well-written and fascinating, and they’ve gone and cast Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter and Daniel Craig as Lord Asrael (perhaps–IMDb lists him as “attached”). I’m intrigued in a way I really wasn’t by, say, The Da Vinci Code film. (Perhaps because Philip Pullman can actually write, and Dan Brown…can’t.)
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (releasing June 2008) – Prince Caspian is my least favorite of all the Chronicles, but still. You know? Gotta get through this one before we can do Dawn Treader and Silver Chair, two of my favorites.