Thursday, October 1, 2009

Weekly Top Tens: My Most Anticipated Films for the Rest of 2009

I know I have been lax in putting up my weekly top ten lists since the Film Festival. It’s because I’m spending so much time catching up with everything, that I have not had the time to do any, in addition to the fact that no real inspiration has struck me for one of these lists that I simply have to do. In an effort to get me more excited about the fall movie season (usually my favorite time of year, but this year I am feeling somewhat apathetic about it for some reason), I decided to make up a list of the films I most want to see between now and the end of the year. It may just be exciting to me, but oh well. Some of the films I considered but didn’t make the cut include – The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Invictus, Precious, Where the Wild Things Are and The Men Who Stare at Goats. Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life would have ranked very high, but apparently it has been moved to 2010.

10. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Terry Gilliam)
Gilliam is one of the crazy geniuses of the movies – as likely to give you an absolutely terrible movie like The Brothers Grimm or Tideland as he is to give you a masterwork like Brazil, 12 Monkeys or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I have to say though that The Imaginarium of Doctor Pernassus has always struck me as a rather interesting concept, and the reviews out of Toronto this year were actually quite good. Sure, part of the curiousity factor is to see Heath Ledger’s final performance, but there’s more to it than that. Gilliam has a wild visual imagination, and his films always look distinctive and wonderful. With a cast including Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Tom Waits, I hope this is one of the best fantasy films in memory. I will hope for the best, yet expect the worst.

9. Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodovar)
The reviews for Almodovar’s latest have not been among the best the director has ever received, yet I am much more excited by this film than I was for his last – Volver – which turned out to be great. I think it’s because the last time I read reviews like this for an Almodovar film – that it was merely a “genre” exercise where he tries too hard to imitate Hitchcock, the result was Bad Education, which was far and away my favorite Almodovar film ever. While I love Almodovar’s melodramas (All About My Mother, Talk to Her and Volver among them), I really like it when he goes into a darker, thriller mode. This may not be as big a hit with the critics as some of his films were, but I still cannot wait.

8. Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie)
As a kid, I think I read just about every single Sherlock Holmes story. I absolutely loved them. The few times I tried to watch those old movies with Basil Rathborne, I was never able to quite get into them. While the banter between Holmes and Watson was enjoyable, I knew the outcome of the case, and the movies, in my mind anyway, took some of the darker edges off of the Holmes character. This new version looks nothing like the old movies, and also nothing like the books I loved as a child. And yet, it does look really, really entertaining. I will watch anything with Robert Downey Jr., and he seems to be in top form here, and with a supporting cast including Jude Law as Watson along with Rachel McAdams and Mark Strong, I cannot wait for this one. I cannot say that the fact that the film was directed by Guy Ritchie – who hasn’t made a good film in almost a decade – fills me with confidence. Yet, still, I cannot help myself.

7. Avatar (James Cameron)
If Sherlock Holmes got on this list in spite of its director, than the only reason why Avatar is on this list is because of its director. There was a time when James Cameron was among the best Hollywood directors around. The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, True Lies and yes, even Titanic, are action spectacles the way they were meant to be made. But we lost Cameron for a film, and in the 12 years since Titanic, all we’ve gotten are a couple of 3-D under water documentaries, that looked amazing in IMAX, but I felt anyone could have done. They are definitely positioning Avatar as THE big Christmas movie this year, but I will be honest – I have so far been underwhelmed by what I have seen. But with Cameron, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

6. The Lovely Bones (Peter Jackson)
I have been waiting patiently for years for Jackson to go back to the type of movie that made him a great director in the first place. His Heavenly Creatures, about two young girls bizarre, obsessive relationship that leads to murder, still may be his best film. I did love The Lord of the Rings movies, and remain a King Kong defender, yet I wanted Jackson to return to a more intimate story. In adapting Alice Sebold’s debut, best selling novel, he appears to have done that. The story of a murdered little girl who narrates her story from heaven – what happened before and after she was killed – is the perfect vehicle for Jackson. The great cast includes Saroise Ronan (the youngest, and best Briony from Atonement), Stanley Tucci, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon. Really looking forward to what Jackson does with this one.

5. Capitalism: A Love Story (Michael Moore)
As both a film buff and a political junkie, I have to see the films of Michael Moore, if for no other reason than to remain in the conversation that his films inevitably inspire. No matter what the actual impact of his films are, and I think it’s debatable although Health Care has certainly become more a hot button in America issue since the release of Sicko, all of his films enter the national conversation. The odd thing about Capitalism: A Love Story is that Moore is getting praise from BOTH sides of the aisle. No one is a fan of the bailout money last year going to huge banks who screwed Americans over. Could this be a sign of growth for Moore? So although I will see this film this weekend, I still needed to include it on this list.

4. An Education (Lone Scherfig)
I have been hearing about this film since it debuted at Sundance in January, and unfortunately I could not see it when it played at the Toronto film festival in September. The book is a funny, unsentimental look at a young girl who falls in with a con man in 1960s England. The casting of Peter Sarsgaard and Alfred Molina in two key roles has me excited, and newcomer Cary Mulligan already has people saying she’ll win an Oscar. The screenplay is by Nick Hornby, one of the best writers around, and although I do not director Scherfig, her handling of the movie has received nothing but praise. Hopefully this comes out soon!

3. Nine (Rob Marshall)
As anyone who knows me can tell you, I have never been a big fan of movie musicals. I have suffered through many of the “classics” the genre has to offer (shoot me if you ever catch me watching Gigi, Oliver or The Sound of Music ever again), but have come to have a begrudging admiration for the musicals that are done well. I have even fallen in love with some of them – Singin’ in the Rain, All That Jazz, West Side Story, anything with Fred Astaire. And I’ll admit it – I quite enjoyed Chicago a few years ago. So Rob Marshall returns to the genre, after taking an ill advised detour to Japan for Memoirs of a Geisha, with Nine a musical I am actually dying to see. Based on the Broadway hit, which itself was based on Federico Fellini’s masterpiece 8 ½ , Nine features one of the best ensemble casts of the year – Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren all circling around Daniel Day-Lewis as the director in creative crisis. I already know that Cotillard, Cruz and Kidman can sing – and I just assume that Dench and Loren can do anything – but I am really curious to see the greatest actor in the world singing and dancing. The sight of Day-Lewis doing that alone makes this a must see.

2. Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)
In just two films – Thank You for Smoking and Juno – Jason Reitman has established himself as one of the best comedy directors in the world right now. His films have both been whip smart and hilarious almost from beginning to end, but also with a undercurrent of something more serious. Up in the Air got great reviews in Toronto, and will almost assuredly be among the Best Picture nominees come January. The book by Walter Kirn is a poison pill of a satire, but from what I have heard, Reitman has softened it a little bit. George Clooney is a fine actor, and with a supporting cast including Anna Kendrick, Vera Farmiga and Jason Bateman, I hope that this movie really is Reitman’s best yet, like many critics are saying.

1. Antichrist (Lars von Trier)
Lars von Trier truly is one of the most interesting filmmakers in the world today. In each one of his films he tries to do something completely new and different stylistically, and also wants to provoke a response from his audience with his subject matter. Is there another filmmaker in the world who would have attempted Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark or Dogville? I doubt it. Antichrist has been the talk of the film world since its premiere at Cannes. Some love it, some hate it, many do not know what to make of it. But it is the type of film that if you take film seriously, then you have to see. You have to have an opinion on it. Personally, I am hoping that it proves to be von Trier’s masterpiece, but I am not sure whether it will turn out that way or not for me. It is a film that everyone seems to take some different away from. I cannot wait to join the conversation on this one.

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