Saturday, March 21, 2009

REVIEW: Duplicity

Michael Clayton, Tony Gilroy’s Oscar-nominated directorial debut, was one of my favorite movies of 2007, and it remains as compulsively watchable as the first time I saw it. I love the way Gilroy built and revealed his characters, the structure and delivery of the dialogue, and most certainly the performances.

I like Duplicity for a lot of the same reasons, just less so. Gilroy’s stepped up his compositions, especially the inspired credit sequence in which rival CEOs (Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti), who will drive most of the plot, pummel each other on an airport runway in slow motion, wildly accentuating Giamatti’s expressive face. On the other end of the film, Gilroy knows how to use a last shot unbelievably well; as much as I love the final shot of Michael Clayton, this gives it a run for its money. A lot of his choices in the film – from shots that allow for the actors’ entire bodies to be in the frame to shots that linger after a scene is over – are also choices I just happen to like. It’s purely subjective, but hey, that’s the line of business I’m in.

And I recognize the biggest reason I’m really digging Gilroy’s directorial career – his choices are wildly in tune with stuff in movies I just dig. I love scenes of actors giving big, elegantly-worded speeches. I like the way actors in his two films deliver the lines. I like the framing. I like the pace. I like reversals, so long as they’re done right, and I like plot- and dialogue-oriented entertainment. And Gilroy does these things very, very well.

Taking a fun premise – a man and a woman, both products of espionage, fall for each other and team up to scam corporations for millions, along the way going back and forth on how far to trust the other – and extending it over years is an inspired move, and some of the film’s best moments deal either directly or indirectly with the toll this takes on Ray (Clive Owen) and Claire (Julia Roberts). That this results in a movie that’s not as much fun as I was led to believe (one comparison to Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise was wildly misplaced), but ultimately an immensely satisfying, often breezily entertaining (but never condescending) espionage-thriller-romance. In the day since I saw this film, I’ve only grown to like it more; I like where this is heading.

Scott can be reached at

REVIEW: Sunshine Cleaning

I should hate this movie, but I just can’t. I should hate its truncated screenplay, its stock characters, and its completely unconvincing ending, and I sort of do, but not enough.

There’s no doubt that the script for Sunshine Cleaning is, if not bad, then certainly incredibly uninteresting. Basically the story of two women down on their luck who start cleaning crime scenes to earn extra money, it’s earnestly written, and it’s clear first-time screenwriter Megan Holley loves her characters an awful lot. In a few spots she knows exactly what to have her characters say at exactly the right moment, but otherwise the dialogue is serviceable, but not terribly interesting. Structurally, though, everything is shoved so forcefully into the three-act structure, particularly at the beginning, that it’s more jarring than comfortable.

After awhile, though, the cast starts to win you over, Amy Adams in particular. This should come as little surprise to anyone who’s been going to the movies for the last few years, but Amy Adams is awesome. If the screenplay is earnest, Adams is so wholeheartedly. Completely throwaway moments like Rose (Adams) accidentally running into a friend from high school or her reaction to a compliment on her hair are completely infused with life, and scenes that in any other actress’ hands would be unbearably corny (I’m looking at you, CB radio to Heaven) are genuinely touching.

Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin also do well in extraordinarily stock roles (and Arkin’s is one he’s played before, but as my girlfriend said, it looks good on him). Blunt’s burn-out with a heart of gold and a shot at redemption is less convincing, but not for lack of effort; she just has a lot of ground to cover and make believable.

Walking out of the film, I commented that I liked it in spite of itself, and that holds. It’s a fundamentally flawed film, but the cast and evenhanded direction elevate it to an effective, warm little comedy.

REVIEW: Watchmen

This review contains massive spoilers, but if the box office is any indication, anyone who will see the movie already has.

Watchmen is a bad film with a lot of good elements and its heart in the right place.

That took me a week and a half to figure out. I’ve got to speed up my thought process.

Its heart is set on creating an intelligent examination and deconstruction of superheroes and crimefighters – how they relate to the world, what makes them dress up in outlandish costumes, and why we look up to them. The comic did this beautifully, of course; that goes without saying at this point. The movie works in some of the same respects. It brings up things like power fantasy, sexual gratification, corruption of power, but doesn’t seem invested in them.

First, though, Snyder’s no slouch behind the camera. His frames are elegantly composed, even when he deviates from the comic (which I wish he’d done more). The action scenes, as any smart viewer of 300 would know, are inventive and exciting, though not to the extent that they were there (the prison break comes close, but it was too similar to the hallway fight scene in OLDBOY to not make me remember that particular bit of genius). But Snyder’s too close to the material, too devoted to recreating something rather than adapting it (that said, he should have left the sex scene alone).

I recognize that in the adaptation process, things have to be lost. The problems with this adaptation arise because they cut out a lot of scenes, but don’t adjust, in the slightest, the scenes they keep. So you end up with a lot of Greatest Hits moments with no dramatic build to justify them.

When the film is at its best is when it adapts Watchmen to the medium, bringing in media elements like The McLaughlin Group or the stunning credit sequence, an absolute masterpiece of image, sound, and editing that had me convinced I was about to witness a masterpiece. It’s at its worst when it is absolutely intent on recreating the comic aesthetically, in everything from set design to dialogue.

I hate to rag on Alex McDowell’s production design, first because he’s done so much fantastic work in the past (Fight Club and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas should be good graces enough for a lifetime*, never mind Minority Report), and second because I suppose he did a great job insofar as his instructions went, which seemed to be basically to build some stuff that looked like the comic. Somehow this didn’t bother me in the prerelease stage, as the giddiness for seeing the comic come to life completely blocked basic common sense. Maybe I just had to see it in motion to realize that this world simply did not look real. And for a movie so intent on integrating superheroes in the real world, that’s a big, big problem.

(*incidentally, I’m convinced that the only two people who would be fit to tackle this material would be David Fincher or Terry Gilliam, with heavy preference for Fincher)

The design works in the comic purely for that reason – it’s a comic book. The world can be stylized so long as we accept them as real. In film it’s different. Bending reality in a set allows for greater expression of the way a character perceives his or her world, or just for transporting us to another world. While you could argue Watchmen is supposed to transport us to another world, I don’t buy that the times have a-changed that much.

I don’t buy a lot of other things in the film. I don’t buy Dr. Manhattan’s decision to leave Earth (escape from the TV studio, sure, but there is no build-up there that makes me believe he needed to leave completely). I don’t totally buy Laurie and Dan’s romance, but I didn’t totally buy it in the comic (I certainly don’t buy their sex scene, the new example of the complete destruction of a great idea). I don’t buy any of the makeup or most of the special effects (Manhattan aside). I don’t buy Laurie or Sally as characters.

I sure as shit don’t buy the conclusion.

Don’t chalk it up to fanboy dedication either. When I heard they were getting rid of the squid, I thought it was the smartest decision I’d heard on the film yet (aside from casting Billy Crudup). The squid works tremendously in the comic because it’s the kind of thing that happens in comic books all the time, especially coming out of the Silver Age, but so far the most threatening villain in the modern superhero film has been a guy with clown makeup on. Audiences expect their threats from more human levels.

And on that level, the conclusion is a pretty nifty idea, but it doesn’t make any sense in terms of Veidt’s overall goal to unite humanity. If the idea with Dr. Manhattan is that he was America’s defense against pretty much everything, and that he was always the thing America could just show and be like “hey, don’t screw with us,” there is no way the rest of the world would rally alongside them. Even in a case where parts of America get destroyed, this was a man America built – partly through accident, partly through grooming – and he would absolutely be held as America’s responsibility, even if they bore part of the fallout. There would be months ahead of debating that responsibility, and MAYBE after that the world would find its common thread. But not immediately, not in a world where the Doomsday Clock is set five minutes to twelve. No way.

Billy Crudup and Jackie Earle Haley are incredible in their roles of Manhattan and Rorschach, respectively. Haley was doing a fine job before the prison sequence, but it wasn’t until that sequence that his performance became iconic. There’s a shot when he’s first being introduced to prison where he’s glowering just off-camera and his cheek twitches ever so slightly. It’s a tiny detail, but completely exemplary of the commitment Haley has to this role, particularly when he’s allowed to act with more than his voice and body.

Crudup, on the other hand, is absolutely perfect from his first moment onscreen to his last, and in without a doubt the toughest role in the film. He has to communicate a sense of humanity with dialogue that allows for none. Illustrating the isolation created by being the most powerful man on Earth, all the while being fascinated with the way it fits together, all the while being genuinely in love with a woman, all the while being able to genuinely recognize that she doesn’t belong with him…if the comic is, as TIME Magazine would have it, one of the greatest American novels of the modern era, Dr. Manhattan is without a doubt one of American literature’s greatest characters. And for all my bad feelings about the film, I will rewatch it many times over to take in Crudup’s performance.

Patrick Wilson and Jeffery Dean Morgan do really fine work as Dan Dreiberg and Edward Blake, respectively, hitting many of their notes consistently (Dan’s geeky excitement for adventuring and commitment to his ideals; Eddie’s charm), but falling behind on others. Dan doesn’t really feel as castrated as he did in the comic, and Eddie’s not nearly as much of a bastard, even when committing many of the same actions.

And that’s something I can say about a lot of Watchmen as an adaptation – same actions with so much less behind them. I’m interested to see Snyder’s cut, the full three-and-a-half hour bonanza with the Black Freighter stuff and forty additional minutes of the principle story. There is a lot that could be massively improved by being fleshed-out (Laurie, for example; not the strongest character in the comic, but here relegated to a footnote), but there is so much here that cannot be fixed, mainly the way the world feels much like Carla Gugino’s makeup – fake, a little cartoony, and unconvincing.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

One of Those Things That Makes Me Love Being a Cinephile

Around the 15th of every month, I start to get a little giddy. Moreso since last December, when it was finally officially revealed that The Criterion Collection would be releasing Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad, one of those true great New Wave avant-garde masterpieces that is, as it happens, not currently available on Region 1 DVD (and if you want to hit up Region 2, which is how I saw it, you have to deal with the most massive subtitles I've ever seen).

That waiting was rewarded on Monday, when they revealed the coolest damn set you could ask for. Two shorts by Resnais? New translation? Brand new documentary on the making of the film? Interview with Resnais? Interview with a film scholar? And most importantly, a Blu-Ray transfer? Heaven.

Then I notice a little something updated release of The Seventh Seal? A movie I've been wanting to own for years but couldn't convince myself to fork over the money for a nearly barebones release? Oh, and it includes an 80-minute documentary on Bergman? Oh, and it's ALSO on Blu-Ray?

That's probably enough for me to handle. My inner film geek is overjoyed, and will have much to look forward and much to actually do in June when these are released (thankfully a week wallet and schedule can only handle so much).

And then something...odd...happened. Paramound announced the specs for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with a release date of May 5th. I knew the second I saw the film that, in spite of my misgivings about it, I would absolutely buy the DVD, probably the Blu-Ray. David Fincher almost always gets a great DVD out, even when the films make little to no money (Fight Club, Zodiac). I glanced down to the package art and noticed a familar "C" in the corner.

Yeah...The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and more importantly Fincher, are getting a spine number.

Yeah, the script's a rehash of Forrest Gump, and besides that is massively overwritten with absolutely no confidence in its director or cast. But God, what direction. What images. And what a story. I've defended this film many a time, and even though I still remember every little thing I hate about it, I find I love it a little more each day. Anyone who truly loves films has a few like this in their stash - films that are anywhere from imperfect to irredeemably bad (Button falls somewhere in the middle), but which you cannot help but love. And though there are parts that I hate, there are parts of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that I adore and am hopelessly in love with.

Three hours of special features and a commentary by Fincher? Criterion-supervised Blu-Ray transfer? No hesitation. I am in.

And yes, I know, I spent more time talking about a semi-decent David Fincher film than Bergman or Last Year at Marienbad. Wait 'til those discs come out and I'll gush all over them. Seriously. Big time.

Scott can be reached at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Revisiting the Classics

So last week my girlfriend and I popped Citizen Kane into the DVD player. It's a weird thing to do. Like my girlfriend said, it seems like you should have to do something special when watching THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE, but really we just hung out and watched it like any other movie. And dammit, it might not be the best, but there's a damn good reason it's called the best. Neither of us had seen it in years, and it seems like the sort of movie you should be able to discuss with some authority if you care about movies.

Just watch the way Welles takes absolute command of the film as a performer (his command as a writer and director should be of no contest by this point). Listen to the way the dialogue sings as it bounces from performer to performer. As with so much of the film, nearly the whole scene is done in a single shot. And look at that camera MOVE, man. God, when was the last time you saw a camera move like that? At that pace? For that long? In a movie that old?

Then, a few days ago in New York, we saw Bringing Up Baby at the Museum of Modern Art. It's a film I love dearly, but it was the first time I saw it projected in 35mm. Not that it's a terribly visual film - as was Hawks' way, he mostly set up the shots to get the action. Really, the pleasure is seeing it with a crowd and not feeling like a loon (pun intended) when you burst into laughter.

"Hello? Is that zoo?" It's a tiny line that's given no time to let its hilarity sink in, but it's the kind of touch that makes the movie what it is.

Art and the Cinema, Part 2

Hey, again, for anyone who cares, sorry for the lateness of this. Midterms stacked up and I went to New York for a few days, and though I planned to work on the bus ride, I forgot I can get carsick. So yeah, hope a few of you stuck around and it isn't too little, too late.

As you may recall from Part 1 of this article, I was discussing my personal reaction to an article in Design Observer. Though I agreed with, and was greatly moved by, many of the points made there (especially by Rick Poynor), I did take issue with one section of the article that started all this, and it’s a trend I’ve noticed across cinephile blogs.

The contemporary obsession with “look” is often a distraction: all these numbskull caper and action movies that try to disguise their emptiness and lack of heart with desaturated colors, hyperactive camera lunges, syrupy layers of post-production, and the feverish intercutting of blip-length shots. That’s not what I mean by a concern with visual expression. I’m interested in visual style as a product of vision, not as an end in itself, and that’s what we see in Godard, Herzog, Malick or Lynch.

The more of this “look” filmmaking I see — Domino (2005) was probably the pits: I had to bail out — the more I admire the locked-off shots, long takes and trust in performance, made possible by fine writing, seen in classic American, European and Japanese cinema, where the action is allowed to unfold in its own time within the film frame, after careful planning. The frenetic contemporary shooting style often seems like a denial of the power of the image. It annihilates the image, smashing it stupidly into a series of transitory kinetic sensations that prevent you from looking at anything for very long, or thinking about what you are seeing and why the director wants you to see it.


So, turning back to film, it’s unlikely that many experienced viewers would consider Tony Scott, as “author” of Domino, to be the artistic equal of Bergman, as author of Fanny and Alexander.

Let’s start at the end and work our way back. First, it depends on what Poynor means by “artistic equal.” If he simply means, “Tony Scott doesn’t make films as great as Ingmar Bergman,” then, well…yes. Of course. That’s just silly. I am but a young cinephile, but I consider Bergman to be, if not the finest director who ever lived, then certainly one of the finest; a true master. Bergman is a man almost devoid of “equals,” especially if you consider the accomplishments made over his lifetime and variance of his work (say what you will about tone, though there are legitimate arguments to be made there; I’m talking about variance and development of style). The man simply made some of the best movies ever, and did so stunningly often.

But I strongly object to the use of quotations around “author” in regards to Scott, but not to Bergman. There is little doubt in my mind that Scott’s technique was not only more difficult than many of those Bergman employed, but was equally as inspired in its curiosity in exploring the possibilities of film. Bearing in mind Tony Scott’s process, is his achievement in Domino, in visual terms, really all that different from what Bergman experimented with in Persona?

There’s a fantastic featurette on the Domino DVD that deals solely with the visual style of the film. Basically, they used six hand-cranked cameras for all of the “manipulated” shots. All of those cameras were loaded with high-speed reversal film, which increases the grain and pumps reds, greens, and yellows. They would crank the cameras forward and backward to get images to layer over each other, sometimes shooting at different frame rates. The film would then be processed on machines not meant for that stock, and transfer at a high speed, creating streaking and trails. The ultimate goal was to create texture you can touch, reach, and smell, and to let the mistakes that would happen with reverse-cranking inspire them. Thankfully, the DVD shows some of the dailies, which aren’t so different from the final product, indicating relatively little postproduction work on the individual image.

Upon revisiting the film, I found that there actually weren’t as many “manipulated” shots as I’d remembered. A good number of them are composed, lit, and colored in a pretty standard fashion; maybe a touch high-contrast, but skin tones still look like skin tones.

But Poynor’s after something more fundamental here – this constant insistence that quick-cutting is a lesser form a filmmaking than the long take. I’ll admit my reverence for the long take, both in admiration of its execution and proclivity to be mesmerized by it. Indeed, Poynor’s example of the man in the car wash immediately brought to mind Matt Damon and Casey Affleck’s walk through the desert in Gerry, which – as those who read Part 1 remember – I’m quite fond of.

But I never for one second questioned Domino especially as a piece of art, and it still strikes me as that. For one, it uses the “look” more effectively than any other film that comes to mind to illustrate a character tripping on…I believe mescalin. Second, working on the definition I do, this is a film that constantly transcends what it literally represents, when it’s even representing something literal. And, finally, if the issue is that it’s just hard to follow, I’d ask any viewer to just pay closer attention. There’s no more tired argument, whether it be against Paul Greengrass (the Bourne films), Christopher Nolan (the two recent Batman films), or Tony Scott, but it’s all there onscreen, easily interpreted and deciphered.

Further, the art of Domino IS the editing. A few readers suggested I only saw compositions in film, but here’s an instance where the art is in how the shots relate to one another. Scott’s compositions are fairly standard, with only a few standouts (remember, this is the guy who you could very well credit with the silhouettes-against-the-horizon look that plasters the standard summer blockbuster), but the way the shots end up relating to each other is stunning. First, I challenge anyone to come up with an average shot length for this film; at the very least, it would be a frame-by-frame exercise, and even then I’m not entirely sure it could be done. Second, if you do, PLEASE explain how you decided where some of the shots end. There are several instances where only a few frames are cut to create a jump-cut, sometimes across film that’s already been reverse-cranked, so you have figures and their “ghosts” moving fractionally across the screen.

What you end up with, when the film is at its absolute height, is a revolution of the term “motion picture.” Shots will seem to morph into and around each other, and though you know subconsciously that at some point the set-up has changed and there WAS a cut, it becomes nearly impossible to figure out where and how that happened. Scott’s ability to challenge and subvert the very basics of the language of filmmaking – how one picture relates to another when projected in rapid succession – makes Domino one of the supreme artistic achievements of the new millennium.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Not Just Another Load of Studio Ads: Ten Movies REALLY Worth Looking Forward to in 2009

Hey all. Still working on Part II of the “Art and the Cinema” thing, but I’m in the middle of a busy week and it’s taking a little more work (outside of the actual writing) than I expected, so I figured I should get something up for all the good people who found this blog.

Whenever I’ve thought about doing a “look ahead” sort of piece, it seemed like a pretty dumb idea. I figured everyone kind of knew what was coming out, and there are so many really exciting projects that will be released by December 31st, 2009 that we don’t even know exist yet. And if we do, we don’t know how amazing they will be. Soderbergh’s Che wasn’t anywhere on my radar this time last year – I knew about it, but the subject didn’t particularly interest me at all. Then I read reviews from Cannes, and I saw the movie, and I was blown away. I hadn’t even HEARD of Wendy and Lucy until…November last year? Now it’s my favorite film of 2008. Meanwhile, I was desperately awaiting The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, until the more trailers that came out made it clear it would not be all that it could be. Such is the way these things go.

But then I actually read a lot of those look ahead pieces, and don’t you hate it when you see those “Ten Movies To Look Forward To This Year” and it’s all big-budget blockbusters you’ve heard about since last summer? First, they’re so often NOT the movies worth looking forward to, and second, it’s nothing new. They’re not really making you aware of anything you weren’t already (wait, there’s a new Terminator movie coming out? STOP EVERYTHING!).

So here are ten movies worth looking forward to (organized purely by whatever release date I can come up with), from everything I can divine. Maybe you’ve heard of all of them, but hopefully at least one is new to you so I can feel like I’ve accomplished something today.

Oh, and I am looking forward to Watchmen, but it’s pretty much out already.

AN EDUCATION (dir. Lone Scherfig)
– Whether from Salon – “There's no movie in this festival that's quite as ravishing, as witty, as well-acted or as satisfying overall as An Education” or Jeff Wells’ more blunt assessment – “Lone Scherfig's An Education, a coming-of-age period drama set in 1961 London, is the absolute shit,” I keep hearing such damn good things about this movie. Oh, and it won the Audience Award at Sundance. And the Cinematography Award. And it stars Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams (Rosemary Cross from Rushmore), Emma Thompson, Sally Hawkins, and what everyone’s calling an astonishing performance by someone named Carey Mulligan. Sony Pictures Classics has it, and although no release date has been announced, they’d be very smart to have this out at the end of the summer. October if they feel really, really good about it.

OBSERVE AND REPORT (dir. Jody Hill) – I didn’t see The Foot Fist Way, Jody Hill’s acclaimed 2008 comedy. But I did see the red-band trailer for this film, and it made me laugh in all the right ways. It takes a special kind of something to build humor largely in tone, without specifically funny lines or physical humor, but I was laughing my ass off at Seth Rogen’s entire monologue running over the trailer. The fact that it also stars Anna Farris – the funniest woman in show business, for my money – Ray Liotta, Michael Pena, Patton Oswalt, and Aziz Ansari (whose breakout year is now)…puts this over the top. See it April 10th.

CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE (dir. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor)Crank is one of…at least the five best action movies of the decade. Probably one of the three. It’s consistently inventive, visually stunning, and is somehow able to keep up a breakneck pace from the second it starts to final, unforgettable frame. It is without a doubt the nuttiest piece of mainstream cinema I’ve seen in some time. If the sequel is half as insane as it looks (and to go by that image above, that's a big hells yes), it’ll still be twice as insane as the original. April 17th.

THE ROAD (dir. John Hillcoat) - Directed by John Hillcoat? Check. Starring Viggo Mortensen? Check. Score by Nick Cave? Check. Relentlessly grim? Check and CHECK. Hillcoat blew me away with The Proposition and Mortensen is having an absolutely incredible run. Just stunning. I cannot, can NOT wait for this movie. Whenever the hell it'll come out.

MOON (dir. Duncan Jones) – Every so often, a movie comes out that’s all proud of being “a thinkin’ man’s sci-fi movie!” The only one that’s lived up to that in recent memory is Primer. I have a good feeling about Moon, I really do, which is about an astronaut (Sam Rockwell) and how he’s coped with living on the moon for three years. We’ll see if that feeling is unfounded on June 12th.

THE GREEN ZONE (dir. Paul Greengrass)The Bourne Supremacy was astounding. United 93 ensured I would see everything Paul Greengrass would ever do for the rest of his life. The Bourne Ultimatum made it clear that was a very, very good decision. Greengrass is one of the five or so most exciting directors working right now, and while nobody’s been able to make a halfway-interesting movie about the Iraq War, this is the guy who made a 9/11 film that didn’t feel the least bit exploitive. Release date is TBD, but this feels like a solid October release.

A SERIOUS MAN (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen) – New Coen brothers movie. I don’t know anything about it, and I won’t read available plot synopses. I will simply see it on October 2nd. Because that is what you do when Joel and Ethan Coen make movies.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (dir. Spike Jonze) – I’ve heard things about this movie that pretty much describe why I see movies. Spike Jonze has a solid track record, but nothing so far has felt truly indelible. Things may yet change on October 16th.

AVATAR (dir. James Cameron) – James Cameron is the best big-budget, summer blockbuster director of all time. There, I said it. No other director, ever, has been as consistently innovative technically, while also managing to produce truly compelling dramatic works (or just flat-out entertaining, in the case of True Lies) every single time out of the gate, as James Cameron. Nobody. Now he’s venturing into motion-capture (which he claims is photorealistic), 3D (which, from what I recall, he claims will be presented without the need to wear glasses), and IMAX. This has the potential to be the defining film of the new millennium.

WHATEVER TERRENCE MALICK IS UP TO (dir. Terrence Malick) – So…in late 2007, I think, it was announced that Malick’s The Tree of Life was moving forward. It had Colin Farrell attached for awhile, but when it was announced it starred Heath Ledger and Sean Penn. Then Ledger dropped out and Brad Pitt fell in. Then it was filming for awhile and would undoubtedly be at the top of my most anticipated film of the year by virtue of being the new Terrence Malick film. Then some rumors floated around that it was actually Q, a project Malick was developing after Days of Heaven but the studio abandoned when it got too unwieldy.

Then, just a few days ago, visual effects artist Mike Fink told Empire Magazine he was animating dinosaurs for the new Terrence Malick movie, and that there would be three cuts released, including one in IMAX.

Then, just YESTERDAY, Mr. Beaks reported that Douglas Trumbull is heavily involved in the film, shooting footage himself. Trumbull was instrumental in creating the special effects for 2001, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Blade Runner. Three classics not just of the sci-fi genre, but of film in general, and landmark achievements in special effects. Beaks went further to say that there will be a whole second movie. There’s The Tree of Life, and then an IMAX movie “depicting the birth and death of the universe.”

I don’t live the most exciting life in the world, but I have more than a few things going on. But for me, I live for new Terrence Malick movies. They exemplify what I love so deeply about movies, and if this ends up to be way too much for him and he truly is in over his head – as some have said – the end result will still be nothing less than a joy for me.

It’s important to note that this might not even come out this year. If they do want to do something massive on IMAX, they’ll have Avatar to contend with, because there’s no way a guy like Malick can have any movie, much less one like this, ready before December. But right now that’s the plan, so it’s on the list.

In case you want a tenth film that WILL be released this year…

BROKEN EMBRACES (dir. Pedro Almodovar) – I’ve only seen two Almodovar movies, but one of them was Talk to Her. His older stuff doesn’t interest me terribly, but that was a truly shattering experience. Plus, he’s to my girlfriend what Malick is to me, so honey, this is for you. November 6th.

Feel free to chime in! I’ve totally left out the fact that Steven Soderbergh has two very different movies coming out this year, Martin Scorsese has a new movie, Sam Raimi’s returning to horror, Terry Gilliam has a new movie, Jim Jarmusch has a new movie, David O. Russell has a new movie, Quentin Tarantino has a new movie, Toy Story 3 is coming out, Wes Anderson has a stop-motion movie, there’s a musical adaptation of Fellini, Benecio Del Toro is playing a wolf, and loads and loads and loads of things we won’t know about for months. I love the movies, and I hope you’ll all keep tuning in through it.