Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top Ten: Films I'm Most Excited About This Fall (Part Two)

FILMS THAT JUST MISSED THE LIST (with the reasons they were nixed):

-Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger seems like a great filmmaker going back to the well to tackle the same themes he's tackled fifty times. Can't he slow down? One film a year is starting to get tired.

-No End In Sight director Charles Ferguson's newest film Inside Job is meant to be a muckraking piece that will get everyone upset about what really caused the economic downturn. I'm sure it's good, but do we need extra motivation to hate the recession. Knowing who caused it won't chance the fact that it's here.

-Nowhere Boy is a pre-Beatles biopic on John Lennon, one of my biggest heroes. Word has been good, and there's a lot of Supporting Actress buzz surrounding the performance of Kristen Scott-Thomas. But how can this film possibly do justice to such an iconic figure?

-Mark Romanek's Never Let Me Go has a group of fantastic young actors including Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield, as well as veterans Sally Hawkins and Charlotte Rampling. I do become weary, though, with the concept of a film that spends nearly half its time creating flashback backstory.

-The Coen Brothers are reconnecting with The Dude (Jeff Bridges) for their remake of the 1969 western True Grit. With the Coens' current hot streak and Bridges fresh off his first Oscar win, what's not to get excited about? Well, I've actually seen the original True Grit and sitting through anything close to that again is not terribly appetizing.

-Barney's Version is a fictional biopic about Barney Panofsky, as played by Paul Giamatti. He plows through wives (one played by Minnie Driver), hoping to find some form of happiness, but never seems to be successful. He also has a witty, equally curmudgeoned father played by Dustin Hoffman. The supporting cast also includes Rosamund Pike, Bruce Greenwood, and Saul Rubinek. How did this miss the list? The chances of it actually coming out in 2010 are getting slimmer and slimmer.

Alas, I will most likely see all of these films anyway, so their placement (or non-placement) on my list doesn't really matter that much. Speaking of list, here are the top five:

5. 127 Hours
Release Date: November 5

Danny Boyle has been a great filmmaker for close to two decades, but never got his full due until he won the Best Director Oscar in 2008 for Slumdog Millionaire - his least interesting film, by far. Still, with films like Trainspotting, 28 Days Later..., and Sunshine on your resume, every one of your films should be considered required viewing. The trailer for this film has just come out recently. It stars James Franco as the infamous rock climber Aron Ralston, the man notorious for having to cut off his own arm when it became trapped underneath a boulder in the Utah mountains. This happened in 2003 and became one of those great news stories that everyone loved talking about around the water cooler, saying "Man, that would be an awesome movie, don't you think?". Well, here it is. Not sure how awesome 127 Hours will or will not be. It's going to be a particularly tough watch, I assume, if you just consider what it's about. And Boyle has all but said that he hopes that parts of this film will challenge audiences in ways they're not usually challenged. Boyle has always made films that were visual wonders, but what's understated is his talent with actors, and Franco is young actor whose been waiting for that one role to make a real statement with his talent (he'll have a double-shot this year, since he's also playing Allen Ginsberg in Howl - but that didn't make my list, so let's move forward).

4. Somewhere
Release Date: December 22

Sofia Coppola was supposed to be the next big thing in contemporary filmmaking after winning an Original Screenplay Oscar for Lost In Translation in 2004. Since then, it has been mostly quiet, with the exception of 2006's Marie Antoinette, which was appreciable in its audaciousness, even though it was a total mess. Considering that, it probably shouldn't be too shocking that Somewhere came to me as a surprise. I had no idea that this film even existed until the trailer popped up in iTunes. The film stars Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning as a father and daughter. Dorff is a fast-living party boy actor who finds Fanning sitting in his hotel room after his ex-wife (played by Michelle Monaghan) drops her off - for good. It's a pretty tired premise: former lousy parent learns to love his child after they're forced to spend more time together. It's the Kramer Vs. Kramer plot. Coppola, herself, was the daughter of a fast-living Hollywood icon (legendary film director Francis Ford Coppola), which may come as an advantage to her screenplay. Coppola is very good at showcasing personal connections, and it'll be exciting to see how well she works with Dorff and Fanning. Plus, it has Chris Pontius - who will also be in Jackass 3D this Fall. That film would've made the list if I was actually being honest.

3. Blue Valentine
Release Date: December 31

Everyone gushed over this film when it premiered at Sundance in January. Everything from the cast and filmmakers were championed as brilliant. It centers on a young, married couple played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. It showcases how they fall in love and how, over the years, fall out of love. In writer-director Derek Cianfrance's first feature film, he takes a page out of the Annie Hall playbook, showcasing a relationship by shifting through timelines erratically. This blueprint was used in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It may seem a bit dangerous to recycle a process used in two masterpieces, but all word has said that Cianfrance hits it out of the park. Then there is the combination of two young, very talented actors in Gosling and Williams. All notes have expressed nothing but unrelenting love for both of their performances, and early buzz has shown that either has a good chance at an Oscar nomination next year. It does bother me that the film's distribution company has waited till the last possible day to release it. It's very possible that no one will see it, as it gets swallowed by the titanic Christmas releases from the big studios. Perhaps, those are only trivial details, since there is no other film coming out later this year that has gotten more positive feedback.

2. Another Year
Release Date: December 29

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an overbearing fan of film director Mike Leigh (and if you weren't so sure, you can scroll down a couple of posts to see for yourself). His last two films (Vera Drake and Happy-Go-Lucky) were two of his most brilliant, and all good things come in threes (or is that celebrity deaths? Oh whatever, don't crush my enthusiasm). When it premiered in Cannes earlier in the year, many reviews were very positive, with particular good words being written about Leigh veteran actress Lesley Manville. The film appears to center around an upper-middle-age married couple played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, and how they get along with their collection of friends and family members. Once again, Leigh is focusing on middle class England and the mundane lives that roam around it. There is a reason why Leigh's films are always exceptional, and it's because he has the ultimate trust in his actors and the ultimate belief in his characters. When you gain that kind of reputation, you're going to get a good effort from your cast, no matter how talented the actors may be. And this cast is good, including Leigh regulars, Broadbent, Sheen and Manville, as well as Peter Wright and Imelda Staunton. So, here's to another year with an excellent Mike Leigh film.

1. Black Swan
Release Date: December 1

I can't see any surprise coming here. My expectations for Darren Aronofsky's new film have no reached unreasonable levels. So, why am I more excited about this movie than any other this Fall? And why is it not even close? Well, it's a combination of several different things, since my enthusiasm has formed because of a perfect storm of timing and talent. Natalie Portman is probably me favorite young actress and the concept of this being her breakthrough adult role is quite tantalizing (Brothers failed in that regard last year). I've had my reservations about Aronofsky in the past, but since The Wrestler, I've gained new respect for him. If he can combine the visual ambition of Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain with the stunning character development, then he will probably be the greatest filmmaker of all time - but that's not very likely, though it's something to aspire to. More likely, we're going to be greeted with a happy medium, but even that is something very good. And let's not forget a supporting cast that includes Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassell, Barbara Herschey, and (gasp!) Winona Ryder. The film's plot is unique as well, since it's not too often that there is a psychological thriller about ballerinas - in fact, I'm confident in saying that this is probably the first one - and the self-destructive themes that the trailer suggests can be real meaty. One question what the hell is Natalie pulling out of her back at the end there?

I have to watch it, just to figure out what the hell is going on there, don't I?




Heidi Germanaus said...

I read about "Black Swan" awhile back and it definitely seems interesting. However, I can't buy Mila Kunis in any sort of dramatic role. All I hear is "Meg" every time she attempts a serious piece of dialog. Takes me out of it. But I look 4 ward to most of these movies as well.

I disagree about "True Grit" though. It's my most anticipated 4 sure. Seeing what they can do with other people's work (No Country) makes me think they'll jazz it up quite nicely. PLUS adding in Brolin and Damon-giving them the Coen tongue to speak-I think it's gonna be brilliant.

Look 4ward to ur take on "The Town". I used to wince when I heard his name but I was pleasantly surprised with Affleck's performance in "Extract". Have since taken him off of my "actors who I wish would quit" list.

James Colon said...

Yeah, I've talked myself into "True Grit", because I am such a big fan of the Coens and they have accumulated a very good cast. The original "True Grit" with John Wayne is one of my least favorite films ever. It's the very definition of stuffy, dated Western with performances so outlandish that they can only be described as hacky today. Though, by all accounts, the Coens have said that they are doing an adaptation of the book and not a remake of the first film. So yeah, I'll definitely see it.

As for Affleck, he's never been an incredibly talented actor, but he does have his moments of grace on screen. He may be a better filmmaker than an actor, though, and "Gone Baby Gone" was a surprisingly impressive debut. I'd like to see his sophomore effort.

Heidi Germanaus said...

Yeah the John Wayne version was NO "Hang'em High" to be real. But I didn't know they were adapting it from the book. Even more excited now.

I dug "Gone Baby" too and I thought he did fine job directing. Casey is definitely the better actor.I've heard good and bad things about "The Killer inside Me". Wondering how his directing skills are with "The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix" which I'm quite sure ISN'T reality. I'm curious though.