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.

1 comment:

b said...

here's hoping its better than 2008! though i still need to see Wendy and Lucy. and Old Joy for that matter. someday i will grow a beard as good as Will Oldham's

i am really excited but also nervous for Observe and Report.

do you think the coen brothers are nice people in real life and they just like to be jerks at stuff like the oscars? because i could understand that, but as it stands i still kind of despise them while being very jealous